WHEN Perikatan Nasional (PN) took over power about a year ago, the foremost thought among the 1.7 million civil servants were whether there would be downsizing of the public service due to tough, difficult times wrought by Covid-19.Everything, including the economy, was brought to a grinding halt. Contract staff employed in ministries and agencies were even more worried.Will their contracts be terminated? Will there be downsizing?Weeks after taking over as prime minister in the midst of the pandemic, Muhyiddin Yassin reassured them that there would be no downsizing of civil servants while those on contracts, would remain.The assurance came as a huge relief to many.Their worries were understandable, following Pakatan Harapan’s rise to power in 2018.When he took over office from Najib Razak, then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government had started the initiatives to reduce national spending – beginning with the private sector.At that time, the PH government alleged that the government inherited a ballooning national debt of more than RM1 trillion from the previous BN administration. Among the steps PH took were the termination of political appointees’ contracts, a pay cut for ministers and the dissolution of several federal agencies.Dr Mahathir also approved the termination of some 17,000 contract workers whom he alleged had “obtained positions within the government without being included in the list of public servants”.He also dissolved three agencies that reported to the Prime Minister’s Department – Land Public Transport Commission, Special Affairs Department (Jasa) and the National Council of Professors.PH also abolished the Federal Village Development and Security Committee. Unlike PH, Muhyiddin’s form of administration, which entails “all-of-a-government” and “whole-of-society” approach, in many ways, is polar opposites to its predecessor.He always gives his assurance that the public sector would not be downsized despite the ongoing implementation of an electronic government system (e-government) as well as the pandemic. Muhyiddin has also reaffirmed that while an increase in productivity and public service effectiveness is important, this must not be at the expense of shrinking the civil service workforce.When it was in power, PH’s first “vindictive mission” was to downsize the public service, but now, when it was out of the picture, it started to say something else. Take this as an example.When Budget 2021 reduced funds for several ministries with greater allocations to fight Covid-19, PH was quick to put the blame on the government, saying the latter wanted to reduce the number of civil servants.Now, close to one-year in office, the public sector under Muhyiddin remains resolute, transparent and accountable in working hand-in-hand with the people and the nation in sailing through bad, tough times. The challenges to eliminate the pandemic do not seem to be able to hamper any of its efforts to empower all levels of civil servants.* Mohd Saiful Safaruddin reads The Malaysian Insight. * This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.
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