There is one simple way to describe the spiralling cost of government in Malaysia in the last few years, it is a compounded effect of years of an approach which is part silly and part mad by Umno led BN.
The natural averseness to deal with issues and deliberate on them, has led to parallel efforts that leads to both redundancies and worse contradictory messages.
The think is to increase and create new means without reconciling and considering what to do with the present structure, and what it means to the bigger picture.
It is almost like there is a collective voice when you look into the practicality of any measures to go “Bah Humbug!”
The classic example would be the aftermath of the 2004 elections. We all heard about the feel factor that led to Badawi’s colossal win, but what followed was just abject.
Since there were way too many BN MPs the pm decided to increase the cabinet. Just like that. It was not like the country needed for governing, just that it would not look good to have so many legislators not running ministries – so 33 ministries resulted.
Not thinking that these ministries need more than just ministers. There will be a whole bureaucracy to hire, from drivers and clerks to your secretary generals. And then the ministry actually has to be doing something, they might be moving about the first few months looking for something to do.
Like the ministry of women’s affair. Which was considered inadequate, so they extended the ministry to family and community. They might as well call it the ministry of people.
But that would overlap with the ministry of human resources, since they are about people too. So how about the ministry of community harmony?
That works until you realise there is a ministry of unity.
And you can’t emphasis young people inside the ministry since there is the ministry of youth and sports.
So the surfeit continues.
The home ministry seemed too unwieldy so it was split up to home and security. In 2008, they have been reconciled since there were too few BN MPs from the election.
So now for the past six months, the various buildings, offices, staff of the two ministries are brought together again. The amazing redundancies likely. We are always going to be in a flux.
Therefore it surprises me that people complain that the government in power is not governing – and blaming opposition for it.
The Malaysian civil service because of gross negligence has become some kind of culture left inside a large test tube with excessive moist and darkness – a whole republic of no-purpose.
Our ruling class don’t think of resource as being finite, they just decide and adjust things as they go along.
That is why holidays can be declared haphazardly, organisations formed on hunches and things done on blind promises.
The prime minister identified three corridors for growth ( south – khazanah, north – sime darby and east – petronas), but as soon as the Borneo states showed disdain about being left out, without much care of the how, when and if the pm gets on with the Sarawak and Sabah corridor.
Mind you, I would not mind for a ministry that gets clean water, school uniforms and full meals to all our children as much.
Or would it please if we look at our road transport problems and the various bodies in it, puspakom, road transport department and the Commercial Vehicles Licencing Board. You should ask taxi drivers the frustration they have in keeping all of them happy, and still smile and not overcharge everyone, especially foreigners.
The previous prime minister guaranteed a public university in every state, so off everyone went, building them. Most often institutes were made into universities and let to survive.
My professor said the eligibility to enter university was based on who can best leverage the volume of learning inside the university. Yet we build universities without asking whether we have the students to attend them.
And we end up with thousands unemployed who were given degrees because the universities were available and they were willing to attend them. Universities where the medium of instruction is English and their second class students unable to put a sentence together. If you can’t speak the English how did you pass a whole business degree in English?
Or the building of universities already inundated with universities. Chuck a stone in Shah Alam and you are likely to hit a university student.
They got Universiti Selangor and KL going even though the region was not barren of places of higher learning.
The guiding principle
I am tempted to say none, but there is one.
Just look at what is asked, and if we can do it do it, and at the same time look at a revenue stream for the main sponsors.
It is opportunism.
Need a school, ok. If the money is there, then we can make a lot of money from the construction, and other supplies.
A government is not elected only to spend, it is elected to think about the spending. Spend we must, but we must look at what we get back in return. Decisions have to be consistent and follow general principles.
We are a joke when we have a department for national unity going all over the place talking about multiculturalism and at the same time Biro Tata Negara going about selectively telling people the dangers of multiculturalism and how racism is a great nation builder.
The redundancies or the contradictions don’t matter. Always point to what we have.
“prime minister, what is your commitment to national education”
“ Everything. We think a common education policy is most crucial to real nation building.”
“ prime minister, what is your commitment to religious education?”
“All our efforts in the last fifty years has been about making religious education important, we have spent as necessary and above it.”
And the list just goes on. Since we spend on everything that may be politically explosive, and since everything is explosive in Malaysia since we don’t talk about it, so we just spend on anything damaging.
The end is nigh to this think, because our cheques are beginning to bounce. The years of oil money financed these wastages – which could have been used to create a safety net for our next generation.
That is why I laugh when our government asks us to have financial discipline, I ask them, where is theirs?