Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Direct Entry into the Civil Service.

PM’s announcement that the ‘best brains’ will be brought into the civil service to fill in key posts signifies the opening up of the civil service to direct entrees from the private sector. The Public Services Department and the Administrative and Diplomatic Service personnel ( the former Malaysian Civil Service elites) have opposed this move since after Independence.

The recent appointment of RTM’s Director-General from someone outside the broadcasting services, seems to herald this new move. We can be certain that the RTM’s staff will protest for it takes away the highest position in the service from their reach. It will stall several upward movements in the service, thus affecting many and not just one person. The staff of many departments in the government such as the Department of Health, Printing, Forest, Environment etc will be certainly be subjected to this fear.

As an ex-ADS personnel, I only support this move as a remedy to overcome the failure of the civil service to get their men trained and ‘developed’ in the best way possible. We have seen many cases of the best candidates for certain posts being sidelined and given to less-than-capable favorites. Understudies are not given the best of training and exposure so that they will be more than ready when the time comes for them to take over from their bosses. It’s often that favorites of the power–that-be will be lined up to take over a top post while capable subordinates are passed over.

The current need is the result of a failure to train people for the right job projected well into the future and giving them the best of conditioning and exposures. The whole program for specialization in the civil service failed because personnel trained for certain jobs are pushed around elsewhere to accommodate certain favorites.

It is this which had affected the higher civil service very negatively. I hope the injection of fresh blood from outside the service would break the rigid adherence to the scheme of service with meager remunerations, and block the incompetents from occupying the cushy jobs at the top of the services. But the demotivating effect of the direct entry system must be overcome by adjusting the salaries of the subordinates when a new boss comes in with a fat pay. It will be preposterous if he alone enjoys anincome far in excess of that enjoyed by his subordinates who belong to the regular service.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

How Do You Evaluate a Minister/Wakil Rakyat/Politician?

Everyone's talking about the PKI that NTR will use to evaluate the performance of his Cabinet members.But no one seems willing to spell out some of the basis of evaluation. NTR says that Khazanah Nasional and ICU will develop and implement the task with
TSK as the Minister in-charge.

Wouldn't the public want to say something about how Minister's should be evaluated? Many critics are so vociferous in condemning Ministers and Wakil Rakyat. But the basis of their evaluation can be so flimsy, emotional and subjective. This is the time when they can state categorically what they expect from the Ministers and Wakil Rakyat. What do you want of them? Ca you measure those results that you want from their work? No point in saying that we want them to be effective. To do what? If they turn down your request because if affects the rights of others, are they effective?

Evaluation must relate to the goals expected to be achieved.Expectations can run into thousand but political scientists grouped them under four brought categories viz. (i) interest articulation or putting forward the interest s of the people they represent (2) interest integration or moulding the interests of various groups into an acceptable whole (3)policy formulation, and
(4) policy implementation.

This is basic knowledge but must be stressed to enable a more objective evaluation covering all the areas of a politician's work, not just how popular he is with the crowd, how loyal to the boss, how much money he can bring to the party, how many friends he can enrich (including himself) etc.

Interest Articulation can include: capability in identifying and voicing the problems of his/her constituency, identifying causes of problems that make people unhappy, pacifying them, avoiding protest movements, difusing conflicts and potential conflicts
especiall among racial groups etc. It should not be based on making public statements in the papers, playing up to the gallery, and self agrandization.

Interest Aggregation is the real mark of a stateman. It's the ability to integrate conflicting interests and make the solution acceptable to everyone, recognize everyones interest and find a way to satisfy as many if not all, represent all interests fairly without fear or favour, dicuss issues, horse-trade, do everything possible to pacify pressing demands wothout favouring some and marginalizing others, find solutions to tight problems and dissipate sizzling issues etc.

Policy Formulation includes all contributions towards shaping up a new policy or identifying the weakness of existing ones and suggesting improvements, removing the thorns that hurt many people, making the policy more palatable and acceptable by the people, getting their suppport for it, including explaining and making people appreciate its short and long term benefits.

Policy Implementation of course involves getting things done. It's not enough to just explain a policy. Find ways on how to get peolple involved in implementing it, roping in as wide a particvipation as possible, getting them involved and not just become a spectator, giving everyone a piece of the action to make him/her feel that he/she is not left out, ensuring that everyones's participationand contribution is recognized. It should not be based on the ability to give away money, either in terms of funding or bribes.

Any form of political evaluation should take into account these factors. If the PKI is to be based on just what the boss likes and what he doesn't, or on emotions, broad and unmeasureable political interests such as bringing back the good image of UMNO,
regaining peole's confidence, or making Barisan/UMNO win the election ( no one leader can do it), then many effective leaders may be lost and the 'pretenders' or ' bottom-fanners' put in charge of important national matters.

Perhaps all the political scientists in the local universities should be consulted in drawing up a valid and raliable list of Key Performance Indices while the public be given a chance to say what they expect of their Ministers and Wakil Rakyat.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Najibian Lineup

The new Cabinet lineup has certainly a lot of surprises, to make one smile or frown.In it we've leaders who have been rejected by the voters or by their own party to fill in key positions, unfamiliar names, ten ladies, some so-called jokers, and, of course, the more solid national figures. All are to be given a 6 month efficiency test based on certain Key Performance Index (KPI).

But what really will the performance evaluation be based on? What are the criteria used? How measured? If the criteria are so amorphous, so wishy-washy, like bringing back BN/UMNO's credibility, giving the government a good name, or regaining the confidence of the public ( these may take years anyway), what can be achieved in 6 months. What can be achieved in 6 moths will be solid, objective, and measureable goals like bringing down the prices of consumer goods, cutting down the cost of government projects to a more reasonable level ( not marked up for high commissions), reduce cronyism and giving projects to family and friends, ensuring that the financial rescue packages go to the needy not the greedy entrepreneurs, seeing that the private companies handling privatized public services are not overpaying their executives, incurring sky-high overhead costs etc., reducing crimes, corruptions and debauchery etc. The things to be achieved in 6 months must be clearly set up so that any evaluation will be made on a valid and measuraeable basis.

If the things government performance would be evaluated on turn out different from what the public is concerned with, a satisfactory 6 months evaluation by the PM may not be so to the people. Hence I would prefer to see a candid discussion on what the priorities of government action should be at this point of time.I'm sure there're lots of divergent views and streamlining them is by itself a time-consuming task. It's callled interest integration. a condition for outlining an acceptable
agenda for action. If the Cabinet is going to work on its own on this matter then the attitude that 'government knows best' in solving the national problems has not changed at all, contrary to what the new PM is preaching.

What the priorities for government action at this point of time are, must indeed be discussed with the public for the rejection of BN/UMNO in recent by-elections seems to indicate that public expectations are not being met. The changes promised by the new leadership might not also cover all that the public would insist on. They appear to be many divergent and conflicting goals
among the multiracial public and the ethnically based political parties which comprise the Barisan. Integrating and streamlining them may even be the first task of the new government. Otherwise everyone will again be pursuing its own specific interest which, incidentally, is the cause of the current ineffectiveness of Barisan.

Well, everyone will be waiting to see what will happen in the next few months. First thing is to see whether the new Cabinet lineup will start working as a team for obviously many members are themselves not familiar with the colleagues they have to work with. Remember the saying. One bird may only be able to fly to a certain height. But tying up two or more birds together might not enable them to fly at all. The PM will have a tremendous task of sychronizing their initiatives and tendencies.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Why BN/UMNO Continues to Backslide...

The results of the by-election in Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau show that BN/UMNO has not regained it former popularity/credibility in spite of the change in its top and second echalon leadership and the promises of change. Only the victory in Batang Ai saves BN from a total washout. If there's any more by-election after this, BN/UMNO would have to do more to regain the confidence of the rakyat.

Certainly BN/UMNO must do a lot more of soul-searching analysis, even as Dato' Seri Najib pursues the changes that he wants to make as the new PM. What appears to be so obvious is that the changes that have been promised and are seen to be pursued, involve some policies and the attitude of the top leaderships. Even if the Cabinet itself is thoroughly reshuffled and all tarnished characters are removed, BN and UMNO might not be able to immediately regain the trust and confidence it has lost. Why? Because THE TRUST AND CONFIDENCE OF THE PEOPLE ARE SHAPED AT THE GRASSROOTS LEVEL. The ordinary people in the kampungs and countryside look at the local leaders, the JKKKs' chairmen and the Ketua-Ketua Kampung - all appointed by the BN/UMNO leadership- as the power that affects their lives. What these local leaders, especially the Ketua-Ketua Kampung- do and how they treat the people, determine their attitude towards the BN/UMNO.

A brief look at how these local leaders have "feathered their nests", turn their homes into little palaces, drive in cars which their
normal allowances would not be able to cover, help their friends over the needy and destitute, bring development to some some parts of the kampung but neglect the rest, turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to those whom they don't like, and become little feudal lords in their own right, will explain why many kampung folks 'detest' these local leaders. These are seen as BN or UMNO men and their failings or blantant 'unfairness' in the villages can undermine people's trust and confidence more than the failings of the top leaderships themselves.

There are thousands of these local leaders whose attitude and show of authority and power, the top leaderships do not effectively supervise. The Ketua Kampung can do almost anything that he likes in hiskampung and many don't appear to be very popular with the people, depending on who you ask for an opinion. It is these local leaders who had shaped the grassroots' perception of BN/UMNO. Until the top leaderships in BN/UMNO give immediate attention to this issue, the effort to rebuild BN/UMNO's image might not bring the expected result.