Some people think that the recent cases of food poisoning in the markets reflect slackness in enforcement of cleanliness and health by the National Environment Agency.
But, the underlying problem is a deeper one. In recent years, many government agencies have reduced their manpower in the bid to cut cost. We now have insufficient number of people to enforce the law. This applies not only to this Agency but to many other government bodies as well.
It is one thing to cut down cost and manpower on unnecessary activities and red tape. It is a separate matter when the cost cutting lead to cutback in essential services and enforcement of regulations.
Are the reduced manpower put to better use in society? This is hardly the case. Many of the excess manpower find work in the financial and property markets. These financial experts, advisers and agents help to build up a big bubble that has now burst. Many of them have now lost their jobs or face the prospect of being retrenched.
We need to rethink our approach towards the use of manpower in our society. Public service is an essential source of employment. They can do useful work and can be for the good of society.
Does the reduction of manpower in the public sector lead to lower cost for the public? This may not be the case. Too often, the reduction of manpower is followed by huge expenditure on computer systems, management consultants and high salaries for the top people that run the agencies.
We need to reflect on this matter as well. Are we using the public funds properly? Is there a correct balance between employing people to do useful work or replacing them by expensive systems and so-called talents?
Tan Kin Lian
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