Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Employ adequate public officers

We need sufficient people working in the public sector to deliver public services to the people. We need adequate numbers of  teachers, nurses, doctors and policemen, in proportion to the population. If the population increases, we have to employ more public officers. In particular, we need more people in the police force to keep law and order, to investigate crime and fraud and to prosecute criminals. If the increase in public officers is in line with the popular, the total cost of public service will still remain at the same share of the national spending.

We should not try to keep down cost by employing insufficient public officers. We need sufficient manpower to maintain the standard of public service. We cannot expect over-worked officers to deliver the expected standard of service.

If we do not provide sufficient employment in the public sector, there will be insufficient jobs in the private sector to absorb the excess manpower. We should not have too many people selling insurance, property and financial products, as they do not add to the real wealth of the country, although they may create false wealth through asset bubbles.

We should also avoid paying high salaries to the top levels of the public sector to match the salaries in the private sector. The private sector salaries are likely to be excessive anyway, and should be moderated in some suitable way, e.g. to impose a high rate of tax on extremely high earnings. If we remove one top earner, we may be able to create jobs for 50 people at the working level.

Let us have a fair balance. We need adequate people in the public sector to provide an adequate level of service while keeping the cost at an acceptable level.

Tan Kin Lian


Anonymous said...

I think in the last few years, the govt cut expenses by 3% resulting in reduction in headcount. That is probably why may be many complaints are not acted on as there is inadequate manpower.

Tan Kin Lian said...

It is useful to find out how many people work in the public sector as a ratio to the population.

If the number has reduced and the population has increased, we have inadequate manpower, leading to lowering of standard.

The worse situation is for salaries at the top end to increase, while the manpower has dropped, leading to high cost and poor service.

Can someone do the research?

Anonymous said...

Police and enforcement agencies are sleeping again ? Percieved to have gone worse in the past few years. I think life is too good for senior civil servants, that is why. Totally no accountability from the leadership if anything cocks up. The whole civil service is so caught up with policy (where they are rewarded with writing good papers)rather than practical operational issues concerning the normal people in the street. They do not see themselves as normal persons, that is why (e.g., HDB flat prices hikes is not a problem because they do not live in them). Can happen to any company or organisation if management are filled with bunch of academics or scholors rather than business or operational people. At the end, very little common sense but lots of ideal theories and responsbility pushing.

Anonymous said...

There are so many people in the PM office all earning millions.

It is time they set good examples to manage costs. So that the savings made could be uilized to employ more level staff to serve the public in a meaningful and useful way. Especially the older unempolyed people to join the civil service, govt don't just give lip service on employing older people. Do the right thing to set up a central govt dept to coordinate employing people for 50and above to meaningful work, not just telling them be cleaners....

Anonymous said...

The question of whether is there sufficient people working in the public sector depend on which level we are talking about.

At the ground level where the officers are dealing directly with the people on a daily basis such as the police, there is definitely a shortage of manpower. Every time there is a large event being held, you can be sure that a significant portion of the police manpower are supplement by the reservist units. I knew because I was recalled during the IMF/World Bank Meeting and other events. I am sure some of you readers are also from the police reservist and you may want to confirm my observation.

As for the top level of the public sector, in my opinion there is definitely a lot of excess fats. We have 1 MM, 2 SM, 1 PM, 3 Ministers in the PMO office and not forgetting the numbers of minister of states and senior minister of states. The number of ministries has remain constant but there are many number of ministers without portfolios.

Why? Is it because if these top level public officers are made to leave, they will not be able to find a company able to pay the kind of obscene salary that they are getting in the public sector? Hence, they don't want to cut the excess fats so they have to keep creating new posts to fill them?


Anonymous said...

Kin Lian,

I am not clear what the real issue is? It is about lack of public officers in the government or is it you are unhappy about top public servant with fat salaries?

You were a CEO before right? Would you be prepared take a salary of $20,000 per month with no perks. Look you also enjoyed a fat salary of $50,000 per month plus big expense account and a E200 white Mercedes with driver. Think again Kin Lian when it comes to you it is OK. But what it comes to others that is high cost.

I bet you will not publish this but will accuse me of attacking you and being rude. That has you style day one!

Anonymous said...

Too many visionaries at the top.

Not enough hands and feet at the working level.

This "brain-heavy" & deaf dinosaur is headed for early extinction.

Anonymous said...

Singapore government/civil service is unique. It placed too much emphasis on manpower productivity. Hence whatever can be 'sub-contracted out' will be left to subcontractors and consultants. In this way, the headcount of government/civil service is low when compared with other countries. For example, if 10 persons are required to do a backroom function, it may be subcontracted out. The subcontractor may use 13 persons to handle the function.

Ask any civil servant. They will tell you they work very hard and are all stressed out. But in reality, a lot of work do not add value, for example, writing reports and amending them again and again and again as the reports travel up the organisation heirarchy. During budget season, budget submissions are amended again and again at each level, to and fro - a lot of work, but mostly unnecessary work.

But let's face it: it's not Singapore alone. In any country, where there is bureacracy, there is unnecessary work. PC

Lye Khuen Way said...

Again, I totally agree with what has been written.
The Government & the Civil Service is Top heavy- very heavy. Not enough limbs- strong or long ! Their mantras are :- Out-source , Not enough statistics ; cheaper-faster-better ...
Would have love to see them Out-source the various Ministries or trim their own salaries ( Super Scale Officers & above) and respond in triple-quick-time.

jamesneo said...

i am in favour of adequate people in the occupations that you mentioned "teachers, nurses, doctors and policemen" because they provide real value in serving the ordinary people.

But i am totally against the increase in other bureaucratic positions like secretaries, legislative officers, Permanent secretary, town council people etc

It is important to ensure we do not follow the way US has become, a government that have gone too big and fund their big government by borrowing and printing money.

Ex-Con said...

PSD instituted manpower cost-cutting programme in 2003 to reduce manpower costs by 3% each year until 2006 or 2007. Objective is to outsource as much as possible to contractors who are able to provide lowest bids. Objective stated in Straits Times was to reduce govt manpower expenditure and promote business for private sector especially for SMEs. The masses all approved, as they felt that civil servants still enjoy good life after dot-com-bust/911/SARS, and the economy at that time (2003/04) was in the doldrums.

So HR strategy, especially for stat boards, agencies and polytechnics, was head-count freeze, natural attrition, early retirement, hiring of all staff on 2- or 3-yr contracts, reducing retrenchment benefits, shutting down of non-core depts and re-deploying staff --- younger staff can redeploy; older staff encouraged to retire.

Having said this, I suspect that much of the "inefficiency" we encounter and feel may be due to change in job scope, or sphere of responsibility of many public offices. Many issues or incidents that would have been taken up by authorities in the past are now pushed back to you. Common excuses are this is commercial & private matter, engage lawyer, go to court, etc. Even when somebody punches you, the police will not arrest that person unless you are obviously grievously hurt (e.g. deep cuts, open wounds, lots of blood). If just minor cuts & scrapes, black eye, bruises, even minor broken bone that is not obvious --- you have to first go to doctor or specialist, get treatment, get X-ray, get doctor's report to certify extent of damage, AND THEN take up PRIVATE lawsuit against the feller. I remember back in 1970s or 1980s, the police would have immediately thrown that feller's ass into a cell (but then, you may also be thrown inside too if the police thinks both are at fault for fighting).

Again with regards to police, they are no longer being sent out as ubiquitous presence in public places or housing estates -- not like in the past with police on bicycles or motorbikes. Last time, even policeman were guarding the bank branches and post offices. Now is mostly once in a blue moon they will just cruise by in patrol car, and a lot of functions outsourced to Certis Cisco and Aetos etc.

That doesn't mean that overall staff figures have been reduced. I feel is more of job scope and addressing what is deemed more important at high levels. I am not able to get staff figures for overall public service. So I just select police to review.

Police full-time strength:-
Mar 2007 = 12,516.
Mar 2009 = 13,802.
Increase in police strength = 10.3%

Singapore population:-
2006 = 4,401,400.
2008 = 4,839,400.
Increase in s'pore population = 9.95%

So increase in police staff is largely in line with overall population increase. But how come many feel that there is less police now? Is it more a case of less enforcement? Less REAL police presence and less exercise of regulatory powers?

SPF Annual 2007

SPF Annual 2009

Statistics - Time series on population.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Tan

It's a million dollar issue which top ppl in government will not want to resolve. As your projection suggested: one top earner = 50 workers. The final decision is definitely to cut the 50 workers in order to save the decision maker's job. Because of the expensive ministers, more jobs have to be cut to make up a nice looking balance sheet.

If we hope to have more workers (e.g. police) to enforce the law, it is like a dream to the citizens. The proposal is against the current policy and interest of government.


Tan Kin Lian said...

Reply to 12: 55 PM

Your comment has nothing to do with the topic under discussion. You only look for an opportunity to attack me. And you do not have the courage to state your real name.

Unknown said...

Could there be a reason why top earners in the private sector are earning so much? I think we should not leave out the possibility that perhaps they deserved to be paid what they are worth. Taxing the highest earners so as to "create jobs for 50 people at the working level" means creating 50 jobs that are not in demand while siphoning away that amount of money away from private transactions, which would have created jobs which are actually in demand. There is no creation of employment at all, just destroying jobs in demand to create public service jobs pretending to be in demand.

I remember reading about people shocked over estate duty in the US, although it doesn't apply to us in Singapore. Why can't we think of taxing the highest income earners the same way we think of taxing our own estate?

If jobs are in real demand, the private sector will exploit this opportunity. Teachers in private institutions, nurses and doctors in private clinics and hospitals, auxiliary police officers from Certis will, believe it or not, match the demand. Salaries will increase, like for taxi drivers from $2000 to $2500, to reflect the demand.

With that said, public sector pay should not be matched to private sector pay. Public sectors are not subject to the rigours of profits and losses, and I believe we can reasonably say that the risk of losing a public sector job is remote compared to working in the private sector.

Word verification is kinky. "bedmi"

Anonymous said...

When the private sector retrenched the news gets around eventually. How about govt sector?

Anonymous said...

REX comments as follows,

I noted that 12.55 pm said that Kin Lian's salary was $50K per month and by implication the writer is indicating that Kin Lian was also one of the culprits earning fat salaries. By implication he also indicated that TKL is not exactly sincere when he comments on other's salaries.

Let us be very clear, it is perfectly find to pay the CEO, the minister, the President, whatever, millions dollar = but in exchange they must deliver something special, CONSISTENTLY, something REALLY special, different and original with proven tangibles to the paying party (the customer, or the Electorate) and not abstract promises. And please don't cite the two casino's. They are the most despicable things brought into Singapore.

From what i understood, in TKL time, his company really paid out more than other companies to the ordinary people. From what I read, it paid commission to its own people less and in lieu of that it was able to give out more payouts direct to customers promptly. Therefore, assuming these things are true, it is not necessary to discuss his salary.

In contrast, our honorable MM is paid $3m a year, and the other 3 dummies PM, SM, President,DPM also thereabouts. What did they do to deserve the salary?

It's perfectly fine if they get fat salaries, even very very fat salary. BUT we want to see results. We don;t want to pay them and then after that get scolded for being "daft", "lazy", and most ridiculous, we are told SINGPORE is NOT A COUNTRY. 50 years of nation building and we are not a country? What is National Service? Why we are taxed to pay 4 civil servants when one LKY is good enough? I think this kind of question is at the back of EVERY thinking Singaporean's mind, some express it some politely don't mention it.. To pay them very high, a lot of revenue has to be generated via taxes, etc. We have been robbed in broad daylight even to this very minute you are reading this; and you, anon 12.55, are complaining about 50K salary of ex CEO? Save your breath for bigger things, pal.


Anonymous said...

TKL. Bravo ! Gutsy observations.

Grateful said...

Anon: April 06, 2010 12:55 PM

I visit this blog daily for free financial lessons, and hv been benefiting immensely from it.

If u think u still hv unfinished business, why don't u go start ur own blog?

Instead of "shooting poisonous arrows from the dark", let ur fans prove u.

Anonymous said...

I have seen several cases where the public sector staff are unmotivated and unhappy with a poor working attitude. This will affect their productivity and in turn lead to slow or poor service. These staff are usually with the public sector for a long time and are look to be passing time waiting for their retirement/pension or taking for granted that their job is an 'iron rice bowl'

Such staff should be identified and weeded out before we look at employing more people into the public sector.


Tan Kin Lian said...

My reply to wjsim

My observation is that the high salaries in the private sector come from a free market that exploit consumers and workers, e.g. banking and near monopolies and from building asset bubbles. There are some cases of genuine value creation, but more cases of the bad types.

There are many jobs in the private sector that are bad for the people, e.g excessive numbers of insurance agents, property agents and marketing of doubtful products, e.g land banking.

But, many of these people do not have any choice of a productive job as teachers, nurses and policemen.

I believe that the public sector should create more meaningful jobs and not push too much resources to the private sector, where they are more poorly used.

There are many people that hold your view that the private sector is the solution. I hear them in TV talks in America all the time. I hold a different opinion.

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