Friday 21 September 2012

Who ends up footing the bill? — Lim Mun Fah

SEPT 21 — Two months ago, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy introduced new austerity measures, including public sector wage cuts and tax increases, to improve the country’s fiscal deficit problem.

To express their dissatisfaction, eight firemen in the northern town of Mieres near Oviedo, wearing only their black helmets and boots, lined up side by side against a wall with their backs to the assembled press. A banner hung on the wall above them wrote: With so many cuts we have been left naked.

It showed the situation in the heavily indebted Spain. How about our prosperous neighbour, Singapore? A report in the end of last year said that as the economic growth of Singapore had decreased compared to the previous year, the bonus distributed to the 76,000 civil servants would also be reduced by 0.25 months to 1.85 months.

In contrast, civil servants in Malaysia have received one after another in terms of good news.

Last year, in addition to the half-month or at least RM500 bonus announced by the prime minister, at least seven state governments, including Pahang, Terengganu, Perak and Negri Sembilan of Barisan Nasional, as well as Selangor, Penang and Kedah of the Pakatan Rakyat, had also announced at least a half-month bonus for state civil servants.

On the Women’s Day this year, prime minister again gave away a candy to civil servants by announcing the withdrawal of the Public Service New Remuneration Scheme (SBPA), while the Malaysian Remuneration System (SSM) will be reintroduced with improvements.

Also, a salary increment of 7 per cent to 13 per cent was promised with an additional RM50 of living allowance. CUEPACS president Datuk Omar Osman later announced that the exit policy, which allowed the authority to dismiss civil servants with poor performance, will also be cancelled.

On the eve of Hari Raya this year, the federal government redoubled its efforts by giving away a half-month or at least RM500 bonus to civil servants, while the Penang, Selangor and Malacca state governments also distributed a half-month or at least RM500 or RM600 bonus to their state civil servants respectively.

The 2013 Budget will be tabled soon and we are waiting to see what kind of surprises will be given to civil servants. CUEPACS has issued a six-point wishlist for the government to consider in the Budget, including asking the government to give more than a month of bonus and increase the existing RM180 monthly housing rental allowances.

How could there be free lunch in the world? I am afraid that the generosity of the federal and state governments is actually meant to win votes in the hands of civil servants, as well as their family members.

What we wonder is, could our weak national treasury afford it? Have members of the public received anything in return? Shouldn’t bonus be linked to productivity and efficiency?

We do not really care about whether civil servants are willing to put in additional 30 minutes of work daily to “repay” us. What we want to say is, you pay for whatever you are given.

One after another round of bonus distribution, one after another sum of subsidy, are of course, paid by the governments.

However, the people are forever the one who pays the bill! —

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