The central government’s restructuring plan has so far failed to achieve its goal of streamlining agencies and personnel, Examination Yuan President John Kuan (關中) said.
To improve its effectiveness and enhance flexibility within its departments, the government has launched a plan to restructure its agencies and personnel over the period from Jan. 1 last year to Dec. 31 next year.
However, Kuan said there was a net increase of about 12,000 civil servants in the past two years, amounting to added personnel expenditures of about NT$7 billion (US$234.2 million). The total was equivalent to the NT$7 billion in money estimated to have been saved through the pension reform during this period of time, he added.
“Thus, the money saved was eaten up by the increases in the bloated bureaucracy. This meant the government has wasted all its efforts on financial reform in past years,” he said earlier last week.
Kuan’s warning is an unequivocal rebuke of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) much touted “reform” of the government civil structure, which Ma himself said had achieved what previous administrations in the past two decades were not able to accomplish.
Kuan’s remarks suggested the Ma administration’s restructuring plans not only did not “slim down the government” as Ma has claimed, but have have taken more bites out of the national coffers.
Personnel expenditures for public sector jobs, including current and retired civil servants, military personnel, education sector workers and state enterprise employees, are at exorbitant levels. According to official statistics, personnel expenditures reached NT$1.18 trillion in 2011. The expenditure continued to rise and is now estimated at more than NT$1.2 trillion.
Kuan said the number of new government personnel from those passing the national civil servant examination saw a net gain of 11,885 in the past two years, even after subtracting those who retired.
From this figure, he said he estimated that total personnel expenditures, from average salaries plus benefits and subsidies, came to a net total of about NT$7 billion for the past two years.
“This is a very wrong approach. We must reduce the government’s civil servant structure. The traditional thinking that more people can handle more work is wrong. More people actually will work less efficiently. The biggest problem in the public sector is not having insufficient staff, but in the unequal distribution of work, with some officials having little work,” Kuan said.
Kuan said Japan is facing the same situation as Taiwan, with an aging society and declining number of children per household. However, the Japanese government not only pushes through financial reforms, but has also reduced its civil service system, by outsourcing work to outside companies and cutting back on public sector personnel expenditures, he said.
Japan has a population of about 130 million and it added only about 3,000 government jobs last year, Kuan said.
“In Taiwan, we have a population of about 23 million, yet we have a net increase of between 5,000 and 6,000 government jobs each year,” he said. “We have one-sixth of Japan’s population, yet our overall increase of civil servant jobs is double that of Japan.”
“Some people think the bloated bureaucracy is due to the expansion of the civil service arising from formation of the five special municipalities. However, this is not so, because government statistics indicate that while 1,761 government jobs were expected to be added for the five special municipalities these past two years, the actual number filled was 1,341 during this period,” he said.