The Bionic Prime Minister’s Department (PmD)

July 18, 2010

The RM12 Billion Department

by Liew Chin Tong

The Prime Minister’s Department’s allocation for 2010 is a whopping RM12 billion, not RM4 billion as some people may have perceived it to be. That’s a lot of money for one single department.

In a parliamentary reply by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz to Taiping MP, Nga Kor Ming, it was revealed that RM3.9 billion was allocated to the PMD for its “operations” in 2010. The minister was telling the truth; PMD’s “operating budget” was indeed the said amount.

But he seemed to be withholding another piece of information already in the public domain. Under a separate category of “development”, the PMD received RM 8.238 billion. Thus, the total budgetary outlay for the PMD in 2010 is RM12.1 billion, as revealed by the Federal Budget Estimates.

The PMD’s budget wasn’t so huge not too long ago. In the entire Eighth Malaysia Plan period (2001-2005), the development budget of the PMD was RM7.2 billion, or 4.3 per cent of the Plan’s total allocations. This means the development allocation for 2010 alone (RM 8.2 billion) surpassed the sum allocated for the first five years of the 21st century.

The PMD, which was already relatively strong and powerful compared to other Commonwealth countries, has grown beyond recognition, especially over the course of the last decade.

Its development budget underwent a four-fold increase in the 9th Malaysia Plan , driving its allocation up to RM 29.6 billion, or 13.5 per cent of the Plan’s total.

The huge increases in the PMD’s budget in 2009 and 2010 have never been seen before. The combined operating and development expenditure for 2009 was RM14 billion; nearly double the RM7.1 billion allocated for 2008. The total for 2005 was a mere RM4.1 billion in comparison.

A different way of looking at it is that the development budget for 2009 (RM10 billion) was five times that of 2005 (RM2 billion) while in 2010 (RM8.2 billion), is four times that of the base year.

What does this mean?

The development allocation for PMD is discretional expenditure that allows the prime minister to approve it literally at the stroke of a pen, whereas other ministerial expenditures or treasury payments must pass through more rigorous checks.

The “big push” in the increase of the development budget occurred in the Ninth Malaysia Plan and in 2009. In both instances, the increase occurred during the time when former prime minister Tun Abdullah Badawi’s position was threatened by internal revolts in UMNO and other political challenges.

The big push of Budget 2009 was presented to Parliament in August 2008, amidst talk of defection of Barisan Nasional MPs, especially those from Sabah and Sarawak. Immediately, RM1 billion of the RM6.9 billion increase was allocated to Sabah and Sarawak. The other RM5 billion was for the development of the five corridors, which included Sabah Development Corridor and Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score).

Perhaps it can be said that such a big push managed to fend off the September 16 challenge, allegedly when those BN MPs were supposed to join the Pakatan Rakyat.

Besides the surge of monetary allocations, the staff size of the PMD and the speed of its growth (or over-growth) are completely mind-boggling. In 1981, when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad assumed power, there were 4,414 staff in the PMD. In 2001, there were 9,673; 21,045 in 2003. In 2009, the PMD hired 25,332.

In the same reply, Nazri told Parliament that the PMD has employed 43,544 people in 2010.According to Nazri, the increase in operating allocations and staff were due to the “creation of new agencies” within the department as well as the addition of posts in a few existing agencies.

The powers concentrated in the Prime Minister’s Department in Malaysia certainly have other Commonwealth prime ministers’ envy. Besides the personal offices of the prime minister and his deputy, there are five full ministers, five deputy ministers, a number of ministerial-ranked advisors (which I am still unable to confirm), and 45 agencies under the watch of the Prime Minister’s Department.

Some of these agencies, such as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency, Auditor-General’s Office, Election Commission, Human Rights Commission, Public Complaints Bureau, and Public Service Commission should have been placed under parliamentary oversight.

The Parliament should govern its own affairs, independent from the PMD; likewise for the judiciary and national palace.

It is disturbing that the Prime Minister’s Department is like a messy bazaar with all sorts of agencies under its watch that do not make any practical or coherent sense.

For instance, the dissolution of entrepreneur development ministry did not return the governance of public transport to the transport ministry but instead a new land public transport commission was formed within the PMD. One can only suspect that the licensing power of public transport is too great to let go.

The other agency that is gathering huge staff strength is the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, which is our version of the coast guard. Why should it be housed under the PMD? The right thing to do is to place it under either defence or home ministry, and at the same time merge Marine Police with MMEA. At it is, Malaysia has the navy, MMEA, Marine Police, Fisheries Department and a whole hosts of agencies guarding our waters, yet our borders don’t seem to be less porous.

Something is very wrong with Malaysia’s public finance and governance, especially in these last few years. And the people have to bear the brunt of the current subsidy cuts, allegedly to help the government saves RM750 million this year.–

9 thoughts on “The Bionic Prime Minister’s Department (PmD)

  1. Mah Che Chot’s office is part and parcel of PMD and her allocation alone is more than the GDP of Perak and Penang combined.

    It’s mind boggling how these Umno thieves continue to bleed the country’s wealth dry and yet have the audacity to “reduce subsidies” at the rakyat’s behest. No wonder their determination to hold on to power at whatever cost. It’s bloody lucrative to be in Putrajaya.

    Isn’t it time to boot them out?

  2. The figure for PM’s Dept appears very high. But I don’t think the PMD’s proper would cost billions of ringgit to operate. So we need to analyse the figure of rm12 billion before we jump to conclusions.

    There are a number of agencies like the Research Unit, EPU and ICU, NEAC Secretariat, Pemandu and statutory bodies which are part of his Department. Maybe it is time for the Prime Minister to reorganize his set up, take some of the agencies out of his Department and reassign them to the appropriate Ministries. Some agencies should be closed if they are no longer relevant. At the same time, he should reduce the number of Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Political Secretaries now in his Department.–Din Merican

  3. Kudos to Nazri for successfully playing the splitting hairs game again so swiimingly well.

    How much was the budget?
    $4 billion.
    Not $12 billion?
    Oh, you meant all the budgets, operating and development, did you?

    How many taxi licenses, 15,000?
    Oh, just 12,500!

    How much is APCO’s contract?
    $28 million.
    Oh, $28 million US$. You can check Hansard, I never said RM 28 million!

    How much longer are we expected to tolerate these thieving and lying UMNO/BN Ministers and leaders? Now can you understand where the millions of $ for HS and Sibu, “Wa tolong lu, lu tolong wa, can we strike a deal, chq signed Monday, courier Wednesday” all came from, can’t you? Why, from your pocket and mine, Din, Dr.K and Frank’s and Bean’s and Menyalaker’s et al.

    I bet Obama doesn’t have 43,000 staff and a $12 billion oval office budget. Oh, I meant US$12 billion!dpp
    we are all of 1 race, the Human race

  4. donplaypuks, you are right. The operating budget of the Executive Office of the President of the US — our equivalent of the PMD — is US $394 million, or RM 1,263,000,000.

    The staff is 1,888 people.

    That includes not just the President’s own office but also the US Trade Representative’s office, the National Security Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and so on.

  5. “So we need to analyse the figure of rm12 billion before we jump to conclusions.” Din

    Why not? Does it matter if its RM 4 bil or RM12 bil. The size of the expenditure and the PMD work force is mind boggling. It’s obscene extravagance in the light of subsidy cuts.
    The government is NOT making an iota of change to its spending habits.

  6. This RM12 billion is really peanuts.

    Comes to RM278,000 for each of the 43,544 employees.
    Or only RM771.89 per day.

    So, next year, double the allocation to RM24 billion, triple the number of employees and presto the per capita figure will drop to RM514. A whopping savings of RM257.30!

    At one go provide employment for many many more and reduce the cost of doing business.

    Who says our government is averse to belt-tightening?

  7. Well, if the gomen were to stop all types of subsidies we could be very well paying for supporting all these otherwise ‘unemployable’ graduates.

    The PMD sounds very much like PreMenstrual (or more likely, PostMenopausal) Depression. How did medical acronyms creep into governance?

  8. Menyalak-er
    BN gomen is 50 years old and so is now suffering PMS. Hot and cold flashes. Trying to hold back the clock, Starting to wrinkle everywhere. Need Botox like Toyol did. Always grumpy and having a bad day.

  9. Semper,
    Botox causes motor-neuron deficit; and yes they are way past their prime. Thus the need for extraneous lubrication. in whatever terms they deem appropiate. Ambassador Mallot states it very succintly – all mass and no energy – not even a neuron sparking.
    All that money is obviously going to an infinite pit of corruption and misinformation campaign. Maybe the PMD needs to dough to buy votes, whether directly or by setting up many indirect selling euphemisms.

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