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Government Efficiency, and why I am proud of Malaysian Government Services.
A friend just lambasted his experience in JPJ to me. They made him waited for 2 hours before he got his driving license renewed. The words he used were harsh. They include “idiotic… Stupid… Fxxk them… Waste my tax money… Inconsiderate”. At first glance I am too very tempted to jump into his bandwagon and initiate another round of government bashing. After all it’s only human that we seek joy and pleasure in venting our dissatisfaction and anger. He concluded that the Government is inefficienct and “useless”. That got me thinking, on how a simple incident of JPJ officers making him wait for 2 hours would made him conclude that the Government is inefficient. I zoomed out a little, and started to place all the premises in separation, and attempt to view them more subjectively. When we judge the efficiency on Services, what are the parameters, standard, and benchmark that we should use and deploy? FINDING the common denominator The most natural comparison would be of a parallel direct one, ie the apple to apple rule. When you want to judge the speed of a fast food joint serving your meal, the most intuitive comparison would be another fast food joint. If you are to judge the taste of Thai food restaurant, you compare it with another Thai food restaurant. For the sake of this argument, we can call this “comparison of premises with same service nature”. Next, you compare cost factor. When you are to compare between two brand of cars, you try to compare cars from the same range of pricing. You compare efficiency of Vios with City or Almeera. You compare Civic with Altis or Mazda 3. You compare 3Series with A4. Similarly when you compare say bags, you look at the price range too. You compare Long Champ with Coach. You compare LV with Gucci, Or Burberry. If you compare two products from different price range, you will then realize no one will concur with you. “Dude, how can you compare Vios with BmW 3 series?” “Babe, how can you compare Braun Buffel with LV?”. Another common denominator for comparison is of course the price range. Then, you also look at Labour. When you compare the waiting service in Mamak, you compare it with fellow Mamak or hawker. Service in LV store, with those in Burberry store. Service in Mazda service centre and Toyota Service Centre. DHL services with Fedex services. Cambridge Professors with Oxford professors. When you try to cross compare without factoring labour cost and choice, you have a missed matched comparison. “Dei, how can you compare the waiting service in Shangrila Hotel with those from Tune Hotel?” “Bro, seriously you are comparing Mamak service with Nobu service?”. Labour cost is a factor too. GOVERNMENT Products and Services So when it comes to Government products and services, what would be the common denominator you should deploy for your comparison? We have established 3 premises above : First – Apple to Apple comparison Second – Same product cost range comparison Third – same Labour range comparison The three premise applied, when we want to judge a comparison on Government services, we should compare with similar service of such, by other government with similar socio-economy background and system like ours? It reminds me greatly during my days in London. I’ve spent almost 4 years in London studying my degree. The Government services there, to my surprise, was way worse in certain aspects than ours. Let’s take some anecdotal examples that I’ve personally experienced. Post office in London A fine day 3pm on a weekday, I went to Q up at the Royal Mail office to post some stuffs at the Strand. There were more than 8-10 counters, with only 1 counter opened. The Q was so long that I waited for almost an hour before my turn is up. The service I received was substandard, the person attending to us was rude, and never did respond to any greeting whatsoever. British Telecom The Internet broke down. We called for the person to fix it. Waiting period? 5 working days. So we endured 7 days without Internet. The person came to do some troubleshooting, and told us he needs to change some wirying. Another 3 working days. It took them 2 weeks to fix it. In Malaysia, Telekom came to fix my internet in my old place in Subang, in 2 days with all equipments readied. Clinic and Hospital True, like Malaysia, UK government offers cheap healthcare for its citizens and also students through the NHS Scheme. But if you think you can just walk in to get a number and see a doctor just like that, I am sorry that you are all wrong. One fine day during winter, I had such a bad couch and sore throat that I can hardly swallow any hard food without enduring great pain. Midnight I couldn’t even sleep. So I went to St Thomas hospital which was near to where I stayed (county hall). I am directed to the A and E department. When it was my turn, a nurse attended me, after which she told me my case was not A and E. She asked me to go to my GP the next day in the panel clinic. Ok. I endured the pain until the next day, walked to the clinic. The reception then asked what time was my appointment. Like a malaysian I said I didn’t make one. She then checked her diary, and told me the next available slots is three days later. Dang. I went back three days later, and was prescribed …. Nothing. The nurse (I was attended only by nurse, not even doctor) asked me to drink more water , and I will heal myself. I asked for painkillers but she said she wouldn’t think I need it. She however said if I can’t bear it I can go and buy it in a pharmacy. I just endured terrible dry couching for 4 days just to be told to get some general medicine in the Pharmacy. How great is that. Philippine and other countries passport I was told by a Pinoy friend that it takes them 1-2 months to renew their passport. In Malaysia, it’s 1 hour or at most, 1 day in certain places. In fact, where else can you get a 1 hour Renewal? MALAYSIA In Malaysia, we suffer from this syndrome if “mismatched comparison”. Instead of applying the logical three premises of comparison, we always compare it with out own “imaginary” expectations out of no where, when it comes to government services. First, civil servants are not highly paid like those in private sector, in average. But yet we set an expectation on them, comparable to those from private sectors. A JPJ officer’s service should not be compared to a serviceman from, say, Robinson departmental store when they renew your membership card. They have less to serve and their services are premium. That’s why you only wait for 5 minutes to renew your Robinson membership card. Why then do we set such an unrealistic and unparalleled expectations of JPJ service ? It’s similar to expecting a Mamak waiter, in all his perfect state of mind and professionalism to serve you like a waiter from Nobu restaurant in KLCC tower 3. It’s like expecting the Honda serviceman to serve you like one from Porche. The denominator is all wrong to begin with. We should look at the bright sight of good policy. With UTC or RTC, at least all services are congregated under one roof. Never happened before. You can pay a lot of your dues online through MYEG or Maybank2U. 1 hour passport renewal, same day IC renewal. Same day medical treatment with extremely low cost by government. It’s only then you realize that there is a reason why World Economic Forum ranked our Government service as Top 10 most efficient. It’s simply because they got their common denominator right! They compare the same services across different country. When you are blinded to good policy and good services and only bad mouth or get frustrated at it just because it doesn’t match your expectations, you are sending the wrong signals to everyone about Malaysia. You made people who didn’t know our efficiency to assume to worst out of it. That is very wrong and inappropriate. We must learn how to judge and compare correctly and accurately to ensure that our opinions are fair and reflective of the actual state of things. Be kind to the Government servants. They are human too! And they deserve much better respect for their efficiency that those harsh words uttered by my friend.

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