Take salary, dear ministers, but deliver us a darn good job

Anwar and his new unity govt will have to find ways to clean up the act and deliver the goods

THERE has been talk about not taking home salary. No less than the newly-anointed prime minister (PM) himself has said it.

Well, I beg to disagree. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his team of Cabinet ministers should take their salaries.

This blessed nation is rich enough to pay them a decent salary for the job. We should pay people for the job they do. So, ministers and lawmakers are no different.

If Anwar takes a fancy to giving away his PM salary, we applaud the move. Gesture appreciated, sentiment noted. But that should be just the beginning.

The real deal is in the delivery. We want these newly-minted ministers and deputy ministers — some of them repeat appointees — to deliver in the respective jobs assigned to them. And deliver value for the job entrusted.

As ministers, they will be responsible for the effectiveness and efficiency of the agencies within their portfolio. We expect them to be on top of the job.

They should not take up the post if they are not up to it, or if not willing to put in the required sacrifices. You are taking this job with your eyes wide open. So, we expect you to perform.

Talking about delivery, one of the low hanging fruits is leakage. It is common knowledge that we only get a fraction of what we spend. A good portion of taxpayers’ money simply disappears in the maze of corruption, mismanagement and wastage.

One of Anwar’s early calls after being made the 10th PM was to decline a spanking new Mercedes S600, probably an armoured car that will keep you safe in potentially life-threatening situations. Apparently, somebody in the previous administration had signed off for this

beauty. Anwar said he would settle for any car ready and available.

We applaud the move and recognise the gesture. Fellow ministers and civil servants should take a leaf from this action.

We need to stop unnecessary expenditure. We need to curb wastage. We need to push back rampant fund abuse.

So, when we order ships and services worth RM6 billion, the minister should ensure that the entire machinery is swinging in tandem to deliver to the nation ships and services worth that amount.

Barisan Nasional (BN) has been the political coalition in power for the longest time in the country. Rightly or wrongly, they had become synonymous with cost overruns and leakages.

Getting a slice of inflated government contracts became a favourite topic of discussion when the party circle caught up for meals. In the process, they had allegedly enriched themselves, at the expense of the rakyat and the nation. If rumours are to be believed, those traits had rubbed off on subsequent administrations, as well.

This has to stop.

Some of the abuses came to light with the change of government in 2018. That year, Pakatan Harapan (PH) surprised everyone when they managed to overpower BN in the contest for the federal government.

But that administration did not last long when the rug was pulled from under their feet before they could celebrate their second year of being in government. But we had seen enough to get a sense of the extent of the abuse and mismanagement of public funds.

Now, PH gets a second act. They have a chance to show the people that they can truly make a difference.

This time around, though, the PH-led coalition government is propped up by the BN and Borneo blocs. Anwar and his new unity government — that’s what they are calling it — will have to find ways to clean up the act and deliver the goods.

All eyes are watching.

Habhajan Singh is the corporate editor at The Malaysian Reserve.

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition