Privatisation won’t cost civil servants their jobs

By MARK RAO & NG MIN SHEN / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS

THE privatisation of civil services will not result in job losses for current civil servants, said Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.

“We are not sacking or terminating any civil servants, but we will see how we can transfer them to a privatised entity without causing any of the workers to lose their benefits,” he said during a panel session at Invest Malaysia 2019 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Lim cited the privatisation of telecommunications giant Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) — which was a government entity — as an example.

He said during the exercise, TM’s staff members were absorbed into the corporatised body, a step that also managed to reduce the number of workers in civil service.

“The timeline for this exercise will be dependent on the proposals offered. At the same time, it must also be discussed with the affected workers.

“This is something that is in progress. It will not be done quickly or immediately with disregard to the concerns of all stakeholders,” Lim said.

Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said last month that while the government needs to reduce the size of its civil service, it must also facilitate the development of its officers’ capabilities to ensure that civil servants can be absorbed by the private sector.

Malaysia’s civil service reportedly ranks first in terms of the number of personnel employed, with one civil servant for every 19.37 people in the country in 2017, while the cost to keep these individuals on payroll soared from RM22 billion in 2003 to RM74 billion in 2016.

Dr Mahathir had said the number of administrative staff employed when he first stepped down as PM in 2003 stood at just one million, but this figure has since grown exponentially to 1.7 million today.

He also noted that civil servants earning low wages will be spared and reassigned to different jobs instead.

Meanwhile, the government will continue to pay out RM37 billion worth of income tax and Goods and Services Tax (GST) refunds over the next seven months.

Lim said the RM37 billion includes GST refunds that have not been paid for nearly two years, as well as income tax refunds that have gone unpaid for a much longer time.

“This year, it will be paid back over 10 months. I’m sure some have already received these refunds, and you can expect (to receive) these refunds over the course of the next seven months,” he said.

He said although the government does not intend to release all of the refunds at one go, the commitment that was made last year to return taxpayers’ money will be honoured.

“It is a moral and legal imperative to return the money back to the people, especially when it doesn’t belong to the government,” Lim added.

The refunds are partly aided by Petroliam Nasional Bhd’s (Petronas) additional one-off dividend of RM30 billion to be paid to the government under Budget 2019, which brings Petronas’ total dividend commitment to RM54 billion.

Lim also said Malaysia is on track to become an Asian Tiger again in three years’ time, as the government is committed to implement reforms that will ensure the economic progress of the country.

“I’m 100% confident that we’ll do better than the previous government, because a clean government will always outperform a corrupt government.

“This government is clean and we intend to implement reforms that ensure future governments have to be clean. It will take time. We are projecting three years before we fully get back on track before becoming an Asian Tiger again,” he said.