‘Civil service is too big’, says Malaysian PM

By on 25/02/2019 | Updated on 24/09/2020
The Malaysian PM, pictured last year

The prime minister of Malaysia has said he would like to see a reduction in the civil service workforce, which has grown from one million in 2003 to 1.7 million today.

“I am of the view that the size of the civil service is too big and needs to be 

reduced,” news website Malaysia Kini reported him saying during a question and answer session at the Ministry of Defence in Kuala Lumpur last week.

The introduction of digital technology and automation would allow the government to shrink the civil service in the coming years, Mahathir bin Mohamad said.

Boosting business

Responding to a question from a navy officer about downsizing the civil service, Mahathir bin Mohamad told the audience of 600 civilian and military personnel: “By using information technology, computers and so on, we could reduce this size. But if we reduce the size, there would be unemployment problems and this would cause social problems for us.

“So, we need to develop our country, in manufacturing for example, so that more of our people could switch from working for the government to working for the private sector, and raise their earnings above that of an ordinary government officer.

A direction, not a plan

Following the prime minister’s comments last week, Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin explained that the PM was not proposing a rapid reduction in the civil service’s workforce. Yassin said he believed the prime minister was talking about reducing employee numbers over a period of time rather than all at once.

“I will not agree if Dr Mahathir wants to reduce the number of civil servants straightaway because I believe that civil servants are still important,” he said, according to FMT News. “It will have to be done in phases, but not in a year or two.” This was Dr Mahathir’s first visit to the Ministry of Defence since becoming Prime Minister for the second time in May 2018. He previously served as Malyasia’s longest running Prime Minister, from 1981 until his initial retirement in 2003.

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

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