Thursday, October 11, 2018

Malaysia Has The Best Bureaucracy In The World

Forget football, forget meritocracy.

Yes, we may suck in many things in the world. But that doesn't mean we're bad in everything. In fact, we're actually pretty good in not getting things done

Yes, Malaysia is practically the World Champion in Bureaucracy.

It's in our blood. It's ingrained in our culture. Hell, it's even protected under our Constitution.

Yes, bureaucracy is not to be condemned, but celebrated!

Why are we so good in bureaucracy? Here are 5 traditional tried and tested techniques that never fail to make things fail...

Bureaucracy Boleh!

1. Proposal

Want to throw an event? Prepare a budget proposal.

Want to get paid for a job we hired you? Prepare a budget proposal.

Want a pencil? Prepare a budget proposal.

And at the counter, the conversation goes a bit like this:

"Oh, you sent the budget already? Sorry, that won't work. You have to use one of our templates."

"Oh, you did use our template? Sorry, that was last year's template. You have to use the new template. Oh, and you have to provide copies of documents. Hang on, you should get a paper and write it down..."

"Oh, you need a pencil? Sorry, but you can't have a pencil without a budget proposal..."

2. Meetings

Collaboration. Conciliation. Consultation.

You just can't get your way with things in Malaysia on your own. You need to talk to people. Seek advice. Get different perspectives. It's our culture to be inclusive, to work as a team, to embrace diversity... blah blah blah...

Okay, enough of the professional jargon bullshit. Truth is, no one wants to make a decision. No one wants to take the lead. No one wants to be responsible.

So, everything is left to be decided by a 'committee'. The long-term goal is to have meetings after meetings (and of course, reviewing multiple drafts of 'budget proposals') to delay taking any action until (a) the problem gets solved by someone else; or (b) the people who raised this whole burdensome issue gets transferred, quits, or just dies.

At the individual level, the short-term goal is to buy time until your term in the committee expires and someone new takes over your place (and in the unlikely scenario that something does get done in the distant future, you can still claim credit).

Malaysia's national pastime

3. Rules

The average bureaucrat will always tell you 'no' as answer.

But the truly devilish bureaucrat will never say 'no'. Instead, they will set out a devilishly long and complex set of rules for every minor thing. 

Want a pencil? Sure, no problem, please fill up these forms: confidentiality, disclosure of personal conflict, disclosure of medical conditions (what if someone has allergies to graphite?), information on next-of-kin (in case the sharp end pokes someone's eye), etc.

The idea is to make the process so extremely laborious and torturous that people will just give up and go away. Which saves you from being the bad guy who says 'no'.

Bureaucracy isn't the knife that stabs you in the back. It's the poison* in your blood that slowly and silently chills your heartbeat to an excruciating stop.

* probably infected from a contaminated pencil

4. Inaction

Imagine you're a headmaster of a public school. The Department of Education transfers money to the school to pay the gardener. The gardener doesn't turn up for work. When the Department asks for the money to be returned, the headmaster said he had transferred the money over. But it was a lie. He actually kept the money.

Clear-cut case of misappropriation of public funds, right? The headmaster was sacked. Served him right!

But no, it didn't end there. The headmaster went to court. And the Malaysian Court of Appeal in its wisdom held that the dismissal was wrong. Because the dismissal violated his 'right to livelihood' under the Constitution. Every law student knows of this (in)famous constitutional case - Tan Tek Seng.

Moral of the story? It's okay to neglect your duties as a public servant. Don't worry! The Constitution will protect your right to sleep on your job and do nothing!

That's how you conquer the galaxy. Not by fighting, but by bureaucracy

Bureaucracy Boleh

Okay, I'm done. Wait, what? Did I say I'll talk about 5 things? Well, screw that. Too lazy to think of another point. Too lazy to scroll up and edit '5' to '4'.

Did I mislead you? Wasted your time?

If so, what are you going to do about it? Huh? HUH? Report me? Sue me? No can do, amigo. Ain't nothing you can do about it, ain't nothing anyone can do to help you do anything about it.

Haven't you got the memo already? This is Malaysia. I'm entitled to be lazy, incompetent, and an absolute asshole.

'Cause bureaucracy boleh, bitch!

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