BNM: Govt policy should be flexible to change


Public officials must learn to be more agile and open to public opinion in their approach towards policymaking, said Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Datuk Seri Muhammad Ibrahim.

Muhammad said achieving the objectives of national development requires strong coordination across all parts of the government machinery.

“The approach towards policymaking will need to be more flexible. In a fast-moving environment, we must allow ourselves more room to fine-tune our policies, or change course where necessary,” he said in a speech at the National Public Sector Accountants Conference 2017 yesterday.

“This is not ‘policy flip-flopping’.” Instead, policymakers should be bold enough to reverse or change policy direction if it is no longer serving the public interest effectively. The expectation is not for the public sector to be infallible, but for it to be agile enough to respond calmly and assuredly to unintended outcomes,” he said.

Coordination among policymakers with a focus on integrity, agility and validity of measurement are the necessary steps for national development.

The weak global growth and economic uncertainty have given rise to protectionism, while technological progress continues to influence the way public policies are formulated and communicated.

Demographic shifts must be accounted for as well, with an estimated 26.3% of the local population aged between 25 and 40 years old — a group of better-educated individuals used to unfettered access to information and likely to have higher expectations of public service.

“The era of ‘government knows best’ is a past participle. Our engagements must therefore adapt and respond to evolving norms of our society,” he added.

Muhammad stressed that wider and more frequent engagements with the public and key stakeholders will help maintain public confidence in an age where technology has empowered every individual to spread knowledge or false- hood within seconds.

In a constantly changing world, a long-term strategy that prepares for the industries of the future is warranted, thus the public sector must be willing to re-invent, re-skill and re-adapt.

The duty of public servants lies in serving and protecting public interest, with moral courage, integrity and transparency more important than ever.

Muhammad said public officials must be brave enough to do the right thing, unpopular as it may be in the short term.

“We must also be accountable for our decisions. This requires that we engage and communicate with the public as never before, explaining clearly the rationale of our policies.”

In implementing and making successful these transformational initiatives, it is imperative that public officials take a long-term outlook and focus on the social outcomes.

“It is important to eradicate silo mentality and turf protection. Cross-collaboration will generate unique and fresh policy perspectives. Collaborative ownership will also increase the probability of policy success, and minimise unnecessary and costly overlaps,” Muhammad added.