Articles by: Jana Kunicova

Vietnam studies Malaysia’s experience with facilitating state relationships

Vietnam studies Malaysia’s experience with facilitating state relationships

Photo: Sasin Tipchai/bigstock

Vietnam has a vision. By 2035, it aspires to become a prosperous, creative, equitable and democratic nation. Achieving this ambitious goal has set Vietnam on a path of transformation on multiple fronts – economic, social, and political.

At the core of this transformation is the re-orientation of the state’s role in economic management.  This requires adapting Vietnam’s economic governance so that the state becomes a skilled facilitator of three types of relationships: among government agencies, between the state and market, and between the state and citizens. 

Not too long ago, Malaysia walked in Vietnam’s shoes, implementing its own wide-ranging transformation. In 2009, Malaysia embarked on the National Transformation Program (NTP) that included focus on both government and economic transformations.  Malaysia had also adopted good practices that simplified regulations, which made it easier for firms to interact with the state.

Through the international conference on “Economic Governance for a Facilitating State,” jointly organized by the Government of Vietnam and the World Bank in Hanoi earlier this month, Malaysian officials shared their experience to contribute toward Vietnam 2035 aspirations. These lessons focused on strengthening institutions so they can facilitate better development outcomes.
Here are some lessons that Malaysia shared with Vietnam:

  • Coordinating interactions between agencies from the Prime Minister’s Department improved policy implementation in Malaysia. Although the NTP was implemented by line ministries and agencies, it was coordinated and rigorously monitored by the Prime Minister’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU). Coordination of the NTP from the center of government raised the profile of these initiatives and increased stakes in their successes.
  • Malaysia’s transformation program had a manageable number of high-level priorities, which were broken down into detailed tasks.  PEMANDU then helped the implementing ministries create implementation routines with deadlines, assigned responsibilities and measurable performance indicators. The importance of this lesson was emphasized at the conference by Ku Kok Peng, Executive Vice President of PEMANDU, who said that transformational leaders are ruthless about prioritization and executing it through the discipline of action. Driving this process from the Prime Minister’s Department, he relies on ministries, departments and agencies to implement the NTP, which in turn creates commitment, coordination and collaboration among government agencies to deliver the outcomes to citizens.
  • Malaysia’s government worked closely with business leaders to improve the regulatory environment. Malaysia enabled effective interactions between the government and businesses through a joint task force called PEMUDAH, a Malay acronym for “Special Taskforce to Facilitate Business” that took charge of the regulatory reform.  Made up of government and business captains, PEMUDAH has helped re-engineer business processes and reduce the steps required to provide licenses and business permits. Dato’ Latif Abdul Abu Seman, Deputy Director General of the Malaysia Productivity Corporation, spoke passionately at the conference about how this process has helped businesses focus on productive activities rather than spend time on filling forms.

Both PEMANDU and PEMUDAH, besides being acronyms, are also Malay words with symbolic meaning. PEMANDU means “driver,” as this unit was tasked with driving the implementation of the NTP.  PEMUDAH means “easy” or “simplification” in Malay, reflecting the role of the task force to make things easier and smoother for businesses in Malaysia.

These lessons resonated with the Vietnamese counterparts, who requested follow-up briefings on both PEMANDU and PEMUDAH’s experiences. The participation of the Malaysian officials at the Vietnam 2035 conference was facilitated by the World Bank Group Global Knowledge and Research Hub in Malaysia.  One of the key roles of the Hub is to analyze, curate, and distill the elements of Malaysia’s experience that can serve as valuable lessons for other countries. 

The Hub has recently completed an assessment of Malaysia’s experience with PEMANDU and is embarking on an assessment of Malaysia’s adoption of good regulatory practices, including PEMUDAH.  We look forward to working closely together with the World Bank Vietnam country office in Hanoi and further sharing the Malaysian experience to aid Vietnam in its path toward achieving its 2035 aspirations.

by · Saturday, 1 July 2017 · Malaysia, Vietnam
Second-generation capacity development: A story of Malaysia-Laos knowledge exchange on reforming civil service

Second-generation capacity development: A story of Malaysia-Laos knowledge exchange on reforming civil service

What do you imagine when you hear the words “capacity development”? Most development professionals associate capacity development with training, seminars and perhaps study tours.  Most of the countries the World Bank works in require a significant boost in their capability to implement policies, programs and projects, especially in countries supported by the Bank’s fund to the poorest, International Development Association (IDA).

For training to be sustainable and have high impact, it should be targeted to a particular public sector problem, and coupled with initiatives to improve organizational and institutional capacity. 

There is now a model of capacity development via knowledge exchanges. The World Bank Knowledge and Research Hub in Malaysia specializes in bringing the country’s development experience to other countries, both in the ASEAN and globally. This works best when the Bank has an existing engagement in a country, so that the knowledge exchange can be tailored to a particular issue that the government is trying to solve.

Using this approach, the World Bank Governance and Macro Fiscal Management teams conducted a knowledge exchange between Malaysia and Lao PDR. 

Our Lao counterparts are grappling with how to improve the management of the civil service, contain their wage bill, and create a more performance-oriented civil workforce. The wage bill currently represents an estimated 8.4 percent of GDP, which is significantly higher than its ASEAN peers. At the same time, public sector employment reached an estimated 2.8 percent of the population, which is well above the 1.1 percent global average for developing countries. With the current fiscal challenges, including a fiscal deficit of around 6 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2015-2016 and a public debt increasing to around 70 percent of GDP, such a large wage bill is unlikely to be affordable.

The World Bank is providing advice in this area through its ongoing Public Expenditure Analysis, and during this process, the Lao PDR government specifically requested to learn about how other countries have dealt with similar problems. 

The World Bank team in Vientiane reached out to the Kuala Lumpur-based colleagues to see if Malaysia could offer a relevant example for Lao PDR. Over the past decades, Malaysia has instituted a number of reforms focused on increasing performance orientation of its civil service.  It has also introduced measures such as early exit for civil servants to help constrain the high wage bill.  Today, Malaysian authorities continue to face many issues similar to those of their Lao counterparts, while having experimented with various reform measures and gleaned valuable lessons.

To better understand the civil service reform issues in Lao PDR, the World Bank’s Malaysia-based team met with the team in Vientiane. They then worked with the Malaysian Public Service Department to identify the right officials to travel to Vientiane to share their experience with the Lao PDR Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) and Ministry of Finance (MOF), as well as to adapt their presentations to suit the Lao context.

The knowledge sharing workshop took place in Vientiane with about 40 government officials actively participating.  Three Malaysian officials presented Malaysia’s experience in reforming pay and compensation, job analysis, performance appraisal, and human resource management information systems, while the World Bank team provided global references and helped moderate the workshop.

The energy in the room was palpable.  There were many probing questions, follow-ups, and animated exchanges. The value of this exchange was the wealth of knowledge shared by actual practitioners who faced similar challenges in the past and were able to offer lessons of how to tackle them – and which pitfalls to avoid.

As a next step, the World Bank discussed a follow-up knowledge exchange visit by the Malaysian officials that would go even deeper:  a week of coaching where they would work with the Lao counterparts on specific issues such as developing job descriptions or rolling out the HRMIS to subnational levels.  Moving forward, the World Bank will now be able to discuss a more detailed plan in order to continue to support the government of Lao PDR on its civil service compensation and performance agenda.

The proof will ultimately be in the ability of Lao PDR to adapt these lessons to their own civil service reforms.  These results will take time to materialize.  However, this particular event was successful in that it facilitated a very targeted, problem-driven knowledge exchange of the experience from Malaysia to Lao PDR.  This generated excitement to build capacity for reform, as well as create momentum for concrete next steps. 

by · Monday, 27 March 2017 · Laos, Malaysia