19 October 2007

Ambassador: Improved civil service a boost to investor confidence

The Sun
Terence Fernandez

KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 18, 2007): The Chief Secretary to the Government's threats to wield the big stick against errant civil servants will boost investor confidence.

Revelations that Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan has taken action against several high-ranking officers for dereliction of duty and insubordination is also proof that this time the government means business.

European Union (EU) ambassador and head of delegation of the European Commission to Malaysia, Thierry Rommel said a task master like Mohd Sidek who wants to bring about accountability by introducing penalties, is what the service needs to improve.

"A clean and efficient civil service will assure investors they can do business in an environment free of encumbrances," said Rommel when met in his office today.

He said European investors have shied from doing business here, even having packed up and left, as they found it unbearable to deal with bureaucracy in the public service.

Rommel said an exemplary civil service is one that has transparent rules with no room for arbitrariness.

"If everything is in black and white, then there will be no avenue for lackadaisicalness, corruption and abuse of power," he said, adding that e-government will eliminate face-to-face meetings which can be open to abuse.

"All queries and complaints must be replied within two days. Once the deadline passes, a red alert must go off somewhere in the hierarchy and action taken."

Rommel said the quality of the response is also crucial in ensuring investors that their problems are dealt with urgently.

"The replies to my queries have taken a long time. When I do receive a response, it is a three-liner asking me to re-send. It is not enough to expect a reply within a reasonable time frame. The reply itself must be reasonable," he said.

He likened the malaise in the civil service to an infection that has been festering for too long.

"Which is why it is very frustrating at times to deal with them. It gives the impression that they are just buying time so that people will lose patience and forget about it," said Rommel who returns to Brussels next month after a four-and-a-half year stint here.

He said ongoing efforts to improve the public delivery system including the setting up of Pemudah puts Malaysia on the right track in making itself more attractive to foreign investors.

He hoped the establishment of one-stop centres eliminates the need to issue licences for almost every component of business.

"There must be licences for things like security, but licences for everything may create avenues for preferential treatment and abuse or power.This does not promote a secure business environment as today you may have the licence, but tomorrow you may not!"

Rommel is optimistic that Mohd Sidek will achieve a certain measure of success but remains realistic that it will take time. He stressed that the quality of the public service is not merely an internal issue.

"Malaysia is important to Europe and ironing out these issues will benefit both parties," he added.

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