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High-powered 22-member Pemudah task force to cut red tape and facilitate business another proof of failure of Abdullah’s “half-past six” Cabinet and raises the question whether it would be another IPCMC fiasco
(Parliament, Thursday) : The high-powered 22-member Pemudah task force to cut red tape and facilitate business unveiled by the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday is another proof of failure of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s “half-past six” Cabinet and raises the question whether it would be another IPCMC fiasco.
Pemudah, the Bahasa Malaysia acronym for Special Task Force to Facilitiate Business, is jointly headed by Chief Secretary to the government, Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan and the President of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers, Datuk Yong Poh Kon. The other members are 12 top civil servants (including six secretaries-general) and nine private sector individuals.
The Prime Minister had announced the formation of the special task force a month ago in his speech to the Sixth Civil Service Premier Assembly where he lamented the failure of the public service delivery system gravely undermining the nation’s competitiveness.
On the "too many laws" in the country stipulating various permits and types of approvals in order to set up a business, Abdullah cited the World Bank report on the high costs of doing business in Malaysia and turning away foreign investors -
· Starting a business in Malaysia required nine procedures completed in a minimum of 30 days, whereas Singapore only required six procedures which could be completed in six days, and Australia, two steps done in two days.
· To set up a warehouse or factory in Malaysia, businessmen had to go through 25 procedures which took at least 281 days to complete - far behind Vietnam, where businessmen had to go through only 14 steps in 133 days, 11 steps in 129 days in Singapore, and nine steps in 127 days in Thailand.
The Prime Minister has not explained why it has taken him over three years to act on the World Bank report on the high cost of doing business in Malaysia as the first World Bank report came out just before he became the fifth Prime Minister on Oct. 31, 2003, and the theme of the high cost of doing business in Malaysia had remained unchanged in the four annual World Bank Doing Business Index for 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.
I first spoke in Parliament on the World Bank report on the high cost of doing business in Malaysia more than two years ago. During the parliamentary debate on the 2005 Budget on 4th September 2004, I specifically referred to the World Bank Doing Business Index and warned that Malaysia was losing out FDIs and the international competitiveness stakes to Thailand and other countries because of red tape and bureaucracy, and I again reminded the government of the World Bank Doing Business Index during the 2007 Budget debate in September last year.
There was no response or reaction from the government.
In contrast, Singapore improved on its “Starting a Business” index from seven procedures in eight days for 2003 and 2004 to six procedures in six days for 2005 and 2006, while Australia was able to maintain its efficiency of two procedures in two days from 2003 to 2006.
The establishment of the high-powered Pemudah to cut down red tape and facilitate business would not have been necessary if Abdullah and his administration had “walked the talk” of his reform pledge and agenda when he became Prime Minister and for which he was given the unprecedented mandate of 91 per cent of parliamentary seats in the 2004 general election.
Abdullah must be reminded that at the first Cabinet meeting he chaired as Prime Minister on 5th November 2003, he directed every Minister to set up a task force to cut red tape, fight corruption and deliver quality public service.
The next day, on 6th November 2003, Abdullah chaired the first meeting of Mentris Besar and Chief Ministers and directed them to establish a task force to reduce bureaucracy in their states.
What is the outcome of such Ministerial and State Government task forces to cut down red tape, root out corruption and deliver quality public service, or have they been completely forgotten after the initial publicity fanfare?
It is clear that the task force which every Minister had been directed to set up in each Ministry to cut red tape, fight corruption and deliver quality public service have been big flops, confirming the strictures of a “half-past six Cabinet” by former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad–or there would be no necessity now to set up Pemudah. The same indictment applies to the task forces which Mentris Besar and Chief Ministers were directed to set up for the same purpose in the first week of Abdullah’s premiership.
If the Ministerial and state task forces for quality public services had been such dismal failures in the past three years, what assurance is there that the new high-powered Pemudah task force would be any different – especially considering the fiasco of the Royal Police Commission whose key recommendation for the establishment of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to create an efficient, incorruptible, professional world-class police service could be derailed by open police revolt despite the initial public support of the Prime Minister?
The composition of the Pemudah task force, with 13 top civil servants including six secretaries-generals, begs an important question – if the top civil servants in each Ministry are incapable of carrying an internal revamp to cut down red tape and deliver quality public service, how could they be expected to come out with the magic formula by putting them in the task force?
Isn’t it better to have a task force which comprise members who are not the civil service heads of the ministries or departments whose quality of public service are the subject of inquiry and reform?