It was reported in the media today (24 May) that the new Malaysian government led by Dr Mahathir will be closing down a number of government departments and agencies while consolidating others in a bid to trim government expenditure, as the country grapples with a huge debt of some RM1 trillion left behind by the previous Najib administration.
In particular, it is shutting down those agencies deemed to have played political roles for the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration.
They include the government's propaganda unit called Special Affairs Department (Jasa), the National Council of Professors that groups academicians, the Federal Village Development and Security Committee, Residents' Representatives Committee and the Malaysian External Intelligence Organisation.
Jasa was allocated a generous RM30 million in the 2018 Budget and has often been criticised as being the "attack dog" of BN.
Then, there were Pemandu (Performance Management and Delivery Unit), the National Innovation Agency and MaGIC (Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre).
"Most of these institutions are not actually part of the government and are supposed to 'advise' the government. All these will be disbanded," Dr Mahathir told the media.
It is expected that some RM500 million (S$168 million) annually will be saved following the closure of these government agencies, which affects an estimated 3,000 staff.
In addition, the new government is also terminating the contracts of some 17,000 contract workers appointed by the previous Najib administration. Dr Mahathir said these were "political appointees" of the previous government, but added that those who work in essential services or are lowly paid will be retained.
And to show that the new government is with the people, the new Malaysian ministers also automatically took a pay-cut of 10% each. Their salaries are already lower than that of the high-ranking civil servants in Malaysia, even before the pay-cuts.
The Prime Minister of Malaysia makes RM22,826.65 (S$7,700) a month, while a minister earns a monthly salary of RM14,907.20 (S$5,000).
LKY: PRC officials saw PAP everywhere – in RCs, CCC, CCs
Meanwhile, in Singapore, the PAP government has been increasing the budget of People's Association (PA), a government statutory board, over the years.
According to its website information, PA's mission is supposed to "promote racial harmony and social cohesion" in Singapore and to build communities in achieving "one people, one Singapore". It added that it does this through a "network of 1,800 grassroots organisations (GROs), over 100 Community Clubs, five Community Development Councils, National Community Leadership Institute and Water-Venture."
Even though government statutory boards are meant to be apolitical, it is interesting to note that when Mr Lee Kuan Yew was alive, he once made a comment about the very close relationship between PAP and PA.
He was commenting on what some Chinese officials had observed when they were visiting Singapore. He said, "They (PRCs) discover that the People’s Action Party (PAP) has only a small office in Bedok. But everywhere they go, they see the PAP – in the RCs (residents’ committees), CCCs (citizens’ consultative committees), and the CCs (community clubs)."
And, indeed, in Singapore, all RCs, CCCs, CCs and grassroots organizations fall under the purview of PA, which according to Mr Lee, are linked to his political party, the PAP.
PA's budget skyrocketed after 2011 GE
According to Budget 2018, a sum of S$712 million has been allocated to PA for this FY. It now has close to 3000 personnel working inside.
And over the past 8 years, PA's budget has skyrocketed, especially after the 2011 GE when PAP garnered the lowest percentage of valid votes in the history of Singapore:
After 2011, PA's budgets were mostly more than half a billion dollars, hitting more than $1 billion in 2015, which of course coincided with 2015 GE. And all these monies are supposed to be used for promoting "racial harmony and social cohesion".
In any case, PA's budget is the largest inside the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, which is headed by Minister Grace Fu. But the Chairman of PA is PM Lee with Chan Chun Sing as the Deputy Chairman.