Rally in Kuala Lumpur

Running a country is serious business

Which is more important – running a country or a company?

This may be a tough question to answer depending on what factors you are analysing. If you look at Fortune 500 companies, they are said to employ about 26 million employees, almost the population of Malaysia.

These companies are responsible for the incomes, living standards and the material lives of their employees and their families. In this sense, companies are very important in our lives and ought to be run efficiently so that they can continue to support families.

Companies therefore have strict standards of employment, taking into consideration the relevant qualifications, experience, age and expertise of their employees since they are driven by efficiency and productivity objectives.

The shareholders or owners of the companies are well aware of the limited resources they have and hence are very careful how they allocate these resources. They will at all times make great efforts to prevent losses. Successful companies have systems in place, a proper reporting procedure, production quality controls and so on.

What about running a country?

It is no secret, though many are still unaware, that it is the civil servants that run the country on a day-to-day basis through the various government agencies. The ordinary citizen deals with civil servants on a daily basis – the police, the judiciary, enforcement agencies, to name a few.

Hence, it is clear that the quality of service provided by these civil servants will directly impact the quality of life of ordinary citizens. An inefficient, lazy or corrupt civil servant will cause hardships to ordinary citizens and impact their ability to improve their quality of life.

Imagine a poor soul who wants to set up a pisang goreng stall or start a small business has to pay bribe money to get his licence or consent for this signboard.

Civil servants and enforcement officers have wide discretionary powers. How they use this discretion – whether justly or unnecessarily harsh – may also cause untold sufferings and hardships on the ordinary rakyat.

Therefore, the people must be critical of how discretionary powers are used and discuss the necessary limitations to the use of such discretion.

While companies and businesses provide employment, a poor quality and inefficient civil service can disrupt employment efforts and businesses, thereby affecting the quality of life of ordinary citizens. The argument I am making can be applied to the various other sectors of our life including education, the practice of one’s religion, housing and transport and so on.

Every single aspect of our lives is touched by the civil servants. The government is supposed to provide the leadership, guidance and of course formulate the macro policies of the nation.

It is my view that our citizens, generally, have yet to understand the true role of political leadership and have been pulled, unfortunately, into the political games of the politicians.

The games that politicians play are only self-sustaining and distractions from what they cannot deliver. The quality of the political leadership which is manifested in the form of the Malaysian cabinet is very crucial.

Outsiders who deal with us judge our political government by the quality of the leaders who are in the cabinet.

If we have weak, unintelligent, and lazy cabinet members, then we cannot expect outsiders to take us seriously because they will not have confidence in our ability to formulate effective economic, legal, social and other policies that can create a stable and prosperous environment. If this happens, the economy will fail and the people will suffer causing a chain reaction of sufferings among the ordinary citizens.

we are still hanging on to the third world mentality of “giving politicians the chance” to squander our time and resources while they are figuring out what to do. Probably a hangover from the six decades of Barisan Nasional rule which has solidified into the Malaysian mindset which has yet to be broken.

We forget that in the real world, probationary periods are usually three months only and in some cases, it is contractual. We misunderstand or never understood that the mandate for five years is not a mandate to be inefficient and it is certainly not a blank cheque for the cabinet members or even the prime minister to do as he or she pleases.

The cabinet is given a mandate with the legitimate expectations that they will uphold the constitution, rule of law, are accountable to the people and transparent and will serve the people with effective policies.

As a lawyer, I believe that the law allows us to challenge the Executive. The fact that in our country prominent politicians have been charged and even found guilty proves that the law is certainly larger and more powerful than the politicians. It is always beneficial to the people that they support and ensure the independence and integrity of key institutions like enforcement agencies and judiciary.

This is one of the key ways by which ordinary people can be a check and balance to the political executive.

Civil societies and stakeholders are important check and balances which require the full support of the ordinary people.

Citizens should always remember: Politicians will only act when there is people pressure with the exception of the rare statesman.

The other rule to remember is: People in power will definitely begin to think they are God-like if the people keep treating them like demi Gods and not as the servants of the people.

Main image by H. Berbar/HBL Network