Fri, 22 Aug 2003

Govt cancels dismissal of civil servants

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government has canceled a plan to cut the number of civil servants by up to 60 percent, but will adopt a stricter recruitment process for new state employees.

"There will no mass dismissal of existing civil servants but we shall limit the recruitment of new employees," Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Jusuf Kalla told a media conference after a Cabinet meeting on Thursday.

He did not disclose the specific reasons behind the cancellation, but many have feared the plan would spark nationwide protest that would be detrimental to political stability.

The country's bureaucracy currently employs four million civil servants. State Minister of Administrative Reforms Feisal Tamin revealed that only 35 percent to 40 percent of state employees were productive; therefore the government had proposed the mass dismissal for the sake of efficiency.

A few schemes were designed to reduce the number, such as a golden handshake for those who had been working for at least 20 years and who were older than 45.

The plan came to the fore after Indonesia's bureaucracy was rated the worst in the world according to an international survey published in July last year.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri once likened the country's bureaucracy to a trash can.

Speaking at the same conference, Feisal admitted that despite their below-standard quality, the ratio between civil servants and the general population in Indonesia remained below that in neighboring countries.

Citing examples, he said that in Malaysia, the number of civil servants was 3.68 percent of the total population and in Singapore the figure was 2.48 percent. Indonesia's civil servants make up only 1.8 percent of the country's population of 215 million.

"We need more civil servants but unfortunately the state employees we currently have do not live up to the standards. What we need to do, therefore, is to improve the quality of the bureaucracy," Feisal said.

He said 72 percent of civil servants were high school graduates and only 0.5 percent held masters degrees or doctorates.

"We should set a new standard of education for civil servants; they should hold at least a bachelor degree, for example," Feisal said.

Kalla said along with new recruitment standards, the government would improve the salary and allowances of all civil servants.

"We consider that positions that carry high levels of responsibility, such as lighthouse keeper or railway crossing guard, should receive better allowances," he added.

The minister said that currently the government was devising a new remuneration system for civil servants.