Civil service inept and pro-Umno, US envoys told
KUALA LUMPUR, June 6 — A former senior government official has said that the country’s bloated and overwhelmingly Malay civil service was “completely loyal to Umno” and was the main stumbling block towards economic reforms, according to a leaked United States diplomatic cable.
The confidential report sent to Washington from the US embassy here was leaked by whistleblower website WikiLeaks and published in the Malaysia Today news portal today.
According to the cable, former Economic Planning Unit (EPU) deputy director general Datuk K. Govindan said the civil service has a “narrow worldview” and believed that affirmative action reforms will erode the Malay community’s interests.
“Govindan sees Malaysia’s huge and largely ethnic Malay civil service, completely loyal to Umno, but increasingly incompetent, as PM Najib’s largest obstacle.
“He commented that the civil service has a very narrow worldview and will oppose, even refuse to implement, reforms perceived as damaging ethnic Malay interests, even if convinced of the long-run gains for Malaysia,” it said.
Govindan also continued to say that although Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was sincere in implementing necessary structural reforms, certain Cabinet ministers were against the New Economic Model (NEM).
“K. Govindan, who briefs PM Najib and the Cabinet weekly on Malaysian economic performance and economic policy, told us he believes PM Najib understands in general terms the reforms needed to improve human capital and productivity, increase trade and investment, and reduce corruption.
“Nevertheless, Govindan said he does not make specific economic policy recommendations at those meetings for fear of offending other ministers in the meeting who oppose the reform agenda,” said the cable.
It also quoted Govindan as saying that politics continue to plague the country’s economy and education system.
“Govindan agreed that major structural changes are needed for sustained economic growth. He added that a series of small reform programs will eventually limit Malaysia to an unacceptably low three to four per cent annual growth rate that will keep the country trapped in middle income status until politics are removed from education and the economy,” the cable added.
Govindan was appointed as group deputy chief executive officer for RAM Holdings Bhd in April this year.
Malaysia is said to have the highest civil servants-to-population ratio in the Asia Pacific at 4.68 per cent, topping Indonesia’s 1.79 per cent, South Korea’s 1.85 per cent and Thailand’s 2.06 per cent.
Najib has embarked on an effort to sell his NEM to sceptical Malay voters, arguing that a new direction is needed to pull the ailing economy out of its middle-income trap by freeing the market of the crippling Malay largesse.