Govt is also reviewing the contract on the search for the missing MH370
By P PREM KUMAR / Pic By BERNAMA
The government slashed ministers’ salary, purged propaganda machineries, sought the resignation of political appointees and repositioned overlapping departments as the new administration rushed to trim the burgeoning national debts.
These major shake-ups and spending cuts came just two weeks after the Pakatan Harapan coalition ended Barisan Nasional’s 61-year rule. Expenditure slashing has been widely expected after it was revealed that the government’s debt has spiralled pass the RM1 trillion mark. The Cabinet, which met for the first time yesterday, agreed that ministers’ basic salaries be trimmed by 10%.
The Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) is disbanded and its tasks are transferred to the Transport Ministry. SPAD chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad has been asked to resign or face dismissal.
Agencies which are allegedly the previous government’s apparatus — the Village Security and Development Committee or JKKK, the Special Affairs Department or Jasa, the Prime Minister’s Department, the Performance Management and Delivery Unit or Pemandu, and the National Professors Council — are also dis- banded with immediate effect.
The government is also reviewing the contract on the search for the missing carrier — MH370.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced the wide-ranging, but initial cost-cutting measures at a press conference after chairing the Cabinet meeting in Putrajaya yesterday.
Dr Mahathir said such steps had to be taken as the government’s actual debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio is actually 65%, higher than what was claimed by the previous administration.
The previous government claimed the ratio was 51% at the end of 2017 and within the self-imposed ceiling of 55%.
“I’ve been informed that our debt is actually RM1 trillion. Today we were able to study and look for ways to reduce this debt,” he said, adding that streamlining federal agencies and contain- ing costs are major focuses of the Cabinet.
“Agencies which were set up by the previous administration to advise the government will all be disbanded because of political leanings and irrelevance,” said Dr Mahathir.
Agencies which are redundant, he said, will be absorbed into the related ministries to avoid additional expenditure.
Dr Mahathir said it is becoming “a habit” for him to trim ministers’ salaries. He did the same when he first took office in 1981.
“This is a habit of mine. When I was first appointed as the prime minister in 1981, I had cut the salaries of ministers and senior civil servants,” he said.
Dr Mahathir, however, stopped short from demanding the country’s top civil servants to follow suit in taking salary cuts, to help the government wrestle the rising cost.
“As you know, the senior civil servants are better paid than the ministers. So, it is up to them, if they feel they want to contribute towards lessening the costs in running this country, they can do so. We will not force them to do,” he said.
On the termination of the staff of the disbanded agencies, he said the government will re-engage “essential” government employees and those from the lower salary group who had their contracts terminated.
“Most of them (who were dismissed) were politically appointed and they were mostly contract officers. What we will do is that we will terminate their contracts.
“But we will re-engage those who are essential and also those of lower pay,” he said.
The government had recently issued service termination letters to some 17,000 politically appointed civil servants.
Dr Mahathir also announced that the government will review and may decide to terminate the contract on the search for the missing MH370 aircraft.
“We want to know the details of this (search), the necessity of this, and if we find it is not necessary, we will not renew. We are reviewing the contract and we need to terminate it if not useful,” he said.
The previous government agreed in January this year to pay Houston-based Ocean Infinity up to US$70 million (RM278.79 million) if the firm is able to find the plane.
Dr Mahathir was flanked by his Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and other Cabinet ministers at the media conference.
Before the meeting, Dr Mahathir at first clocked into his office on the fifth floor of the complex, almost 15 years after clocking out from the same office on Oct 31, 2003.