PETALING JAYA: Standing at a size of 1.62 million, the question of Malaysia’s civil service being bloated has been raised time and again, while downsizing is not on the cards, digitalisation may be the way to go when it comes to improving efficiency and productivity.
Socio-Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie told SunBiz that while electronic-government (e-government) services have already been in place, there is a need to step up the efforts in that segment. This, he said will eventually lead to the rationalisation of the size of the manpower.
“As we move towards the fast pace of technology digitalisation and anything related to electronic, artificial intelligence or the sharing economy concept … the number of people to serve the population may not be as large as what we are seeing now,” he said.
Bank Negara Malaysia noted in its 2017 Annual Report that transforming the economy to become a digital frontrunner could generate signiﬁcant additional growth dividends of between US$100-US$136 billion (RM386-RM525 billion) annually by 2025.
While the application of technology may be instrumental in improving efficiency, it could also result in job displacement.
In that light, Lee said there is a need for both the government and the corporate sector to relook what is considered as the right and lean workforce size, on the backdrop of issues such as displacement and structural unemployment resulting from the advancement of technology.
He added that while the government has taken steps such as hiring for critical posts only, it should also be considering implementation of performance-based incentives and probationary periods.
Sunway University Business School Professor of Economics Dr Yeah Kim Leng said besides enhancing skills, quality of governance and organisational effectiveness, the adoption of Industrial Revolution 4.0 in the public sector through digitalisation, automation, machine learning, data analytics and big data will help to raise productivity and efficiency and effectiveness of public services delivery.
“We already have a number of internationally acclaimed public service institutions such as the Employees Provident Fund for pension fund management, Bank Negara Malaysia for monetary and financial management, the Ministry of Health for primary healthcare and the Department of Statistics for national statistical reporting. Perhaps we need to focus on efforts to achieve excellence in police, judiciary, immi-gration and education services,” he said.
On the impact of digitalisation, Yeah said the composition of spending will have to be looked into, as more capital investments will be needed for ICT and digital technology.
“Secondly, talent recruitment and human capital development will have to shift towards building digital skill sets, competencies and expertise. Thirdly, manpower requirements will either be lower due to displacement by technology or the excess staff needs to be redeployed to other areas in the civil service as part of the right sizing and rebalancing strategy to build a world-class civil service,’ he explained.
According to Yeah emoluments and pensions accounted for 47% of total operating expenditure in 2017 compared to 38% in 2010. This he said, will continue to rise if the government does not right-size the civil service.
Under Budget 2018, the operating expenditure increased to RM234.5 billion from RM214.80 billion while emoluments rose to RM79.15 billion from RM77.40 billion.
Source: The Sun Daily