(function() { (function(){function b(g){this.t={};this.tick=function(h,m,f){var n=f!=void 0?f:(new Date).getTime();this.t[h]=[n,m];if(f==void 0)try{window.console.timeStamp("CSI/"+h)}catch(q){}};this.getStartTickTime=function(){return this.t.start[0]};this.tick("start",null,g)}var a;if(window.performance)var e=(a=window.performance.timing)&&a.responseStart;var p=e>0?new b(e):new b;window.jstiming={Timer:b,load:p};if(a){var c=a.navigationStart;c>0&&e>=c&&(window.jstiming.srt=e-c)}if(a){var d=window.jstiming.load; c>0&&e>=c&&(d.tick("_wtsrt",void 0,c),d.tick("wtsrt_","_wtsrt",e),d.tick("tbsd_","wtsrt_"))}try{a=null,window.chrome&&window.chrome.csi&&(a=Math.floor(window.chrome.csi().pageT),d&&c>0&&(d.tick("_tbnd",void 0,window.chrome.csi().startE),d.tick("tbnd_","_tbnd",c))),a==null&&window.gtbExternal&&(a=window.gtbExternal.pageT()),a==null&&window.external&&(a=window.external.pageT,d&&c>0&&(d.tick("_tbnd",void 0,window.external.startE),d.tick("tbnd_","_tbnd",c))),a&&(window.jstiming.pt=a)}catch(g){}})();window.tickAboveFold=function(b){var a=0;if(b.offsetParent){do a+=b.offsetTop;while(b=b.offsetParent)}b=a;b<=750&&window.jstiming.load.tick("aft")};var k=!1;function l(){k||(k=!0,window.jstiming.load.tick("firstScrollTime"))}window.addEventListener?window.addEventListener("scroll",l,!1):window.attachEvent("onscroll",l); })();

M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Tuesday, July 09, 2024

End The Endless, Wasteful Monthly Ministry Assemblies

 End The Useless, Wasteful Monthly Ministry Assemblies

M. Bakri Musa


It is time for Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to discontinue his predecessors’ practice of having monthly grand staff assemblies. All ministers are now having these wasteful time-consuming assemblies. Those gatherings are reminiscent of my weekly school assemblies of yore, except that mine were brief, with no wannabe poets as masters of ceremony torturing us with their cutesy pantun.


            Watch the videos of these assemblies on social media, and the colossal waste of time and loss of productivity from work interruptions would be obvious. Imagine the many offices and public service counters left understaffed and overwhelmed during those assemblies!


            Prime Minister Anwar’s speech last Tuesday July 2, 2024 at the Finance Ministry was illustrative. While he was mercifully brief (about twenty minutes), but with the long preamble together with the obligatory Qur’an recitation and pantun reading, the event lasted over an hour. Add the inevitable social chatter before and after, and the colossal waste of time would be obvious.


            The Master of Ceremony proudly announced that there were over 700 staff members present. You can bet that they were not lowly-paid time-scale keranis but lavishly remunerated departmental heads and other “Superscale” officers.


            Anwar did not reveal anything new in his speech, nothing that he had not uttered umpteen times before and elsewhere. That is, the importance of combating corruption and rationalizing subsidies. Those should not be news to his staff, nor do they need to be inspired. Instead they should be inspiring the public through their examples. Attending those useless assemblies on government time was far from that.


            I am not against pep talks and rah-rah rallies to inspire the troops but not at taxpayers expense. If done on company’s time, make sure that it would benefit the organization. A classic example of that was Apple’s Steve Jobs showcasing a new product. He used those occasions not only to praise and inspire his employees but also to garner millions worth of publicity and precious advertising, as well as create buzz among technies.


            Anwar is a masterful orator and has an important message to deliver. His target audience however should not be his staff but the general public. His staff should support him in that crusade by themselves being exemplary efficient public servants.


            Unlike him, Anwar’s ministers are not so blessed oratory-wise. I watched a recent Ministry of Education (MOE) Assembly. This time it was its civil servant head instead of the Minister addressing the gathering. He droned on for over an hour discussing mundane issues as staff evaluations! He could have saved everybody’s time and many resources by simply issuing mass e-mails or newsletters.


            Of even greater significance, he said nothing about MOE’s current initiative, announced only a few days earlier, of seeking public input for its forthcoming massive review of the education policy.


            A month earlier the Minister herself addressed the staff. While she did not outdo her civil service head in the length of her speech, nonetheless hers was long enough, more than twice that of Anwar. In her half-English, half-Malay together with gratuitous sprinkling of Arabic (par for the course for Malays these days), she devoted a significant portion of her talk on how much she learned from Stephen Covey’s book on trust. As for her listeners’ attention, the only applause she received was when she announced salary increases!


            Dispense with these wasteful monthly assemblies. Emulate our first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. He used to have a weekly formal press conference following his cabinet meeting where a particular minister (whose issues were the subject of the earlier deliberations) was at his side to elaborate.


            Those were also occasions to showcase a minister’s talent as well as to inform the public of major initiatives. Last week would have been an opportune time for Anwar to have the Minister of Education at his side to discuss the proposed education review.


            These regular press conferences would also preempt the current frenzy of Anwar’s ministers rushing to the nearest microphones at the slightest provocation to comment on some trivial matters when they should be busy quietly doing their work. Let your results do the talking. Those grand assemblies are nothing more than officially-sanctioned excuses for officers not to be at their desks. Nothing said by those ministers that could not be communicated more effectively, efficiently, and at a much lower cost through e-mails or newsletters.


            Anwar’s oratorical skills notwithstanding, he too should avoid frequent public appearances. Those are taxing in so many ways, more so for us in the geriatric group. Focus on a few critical issues. Results and successes would speak volumes and trump eloquent speeches every time. Ponder the fate of that master orator Sukarno intoxicated with his soaring rhetoric,  or the leader Nong in Shannon Ahmad’s short story “Ungkapan” (sloganeering) consumed with his endless political jingles.


            More to the point, Ministers should be the chief executives of their respective ministries, not their cheerleaders or press release officers.



Post a Comment

<< Home