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Setting Civil Service Standards

Myanmar has consistently been treated as a pariah state by the West in the recent past and now is following the same path. May be the is genuinely misunderstood or grossly incompetent in , yet we were treated as if the government as well as the country is a danger to the world. Quite on the contrary, in fact.

In this article, MI looked at one of the statistics that made that world determined that we are short on governance and ways to overcome this sentiment through improvement in . Through looking at the World Governance Indicators, we can see that Myanmar is at around 20% percentile mark, indicating the % of the country of the world with a lower ranking than Myanmar. It has improved significantly between 2011 to 2016, during the boom years of President Thein Sein administration, yet the numbers dropped by more than 50% at the end of Su Kyi rule. The thin black lines just indicate 90% confidence interval.

Looking further into the measures, in the table below, it was quite obvious that every single indicators that has improved during the 2011 – 2016 administration has gone downhill under the so called democratically elected government under Su Kyi. What a performance!

One way to push the indicators back up again would be improving the civil service performance.

This critical issue has to be addressed sooner rather than later. Civil service is distinctly different from private sector. The measures such as profits and returns on capital do not exist. The government monopolies on the provision of merit and public goods, that private sector is unable or unwilling to provide at nil or affordable prices. Here all the unacceptable characteristics of monopolies come up onto the surface, including bad customer service, very low efficiency and quality and lack of innovation.

Especially in Myanmar, having civil service standards would do everyone good. It would have resolved the majority of the current issues between the public and the government. The issue that we all encounter, e.g., in areas of permit and license applications, is that there is not standard time horizon to get a reply. The approval or even a reply, may take a week, a month, a year or forever (no reply from government). The applicants have to call the government department or civil servant many times during these waiting periods, wasting everyone’s time and resources.

By setting standards, e.g., the standard waiting times, they won’t be bothering one another, till the end of the processing period. This would undoubtedly increase trust in government and civil service. Without standards, there would be no improvement in efficiency and productivity in civil service.

What standards do we set?

Most of the standards for civil service would be non financial standards, such as productivity, waiting time, customer service, etc. Typically all over the world, the civil service performance is measured by three Es, namely, economy, efficiency and effectiveness. We all know that this cheap, fast and good combination is close to impossible to achieve, but the process has to start somewhere by someone. Otherwise, Myanmar would forever be left behind, in the world of governance rankings.

All we need is a belief that we can be better. With the push from the top and the will to drive through, we can set our mind and hearts at incremental improvements in civil service quality standards. A small step for the civil service, but a giant step for the country and its governance!