Malaysian voters made history recently when they elected a new coalition government after sixty-one years of one-party rule. While many factors played a role in this unprecedented political shift, the desire for better governance played a central role in shaping public opinion and influencing voter sentiment. The governance deficit here is not simply about high profile corruption scandals but about increasing concern with perceived weaknesses of the economy and the continuous decline in the quality of public service performance.
Several scholars have highlighted important structural issues faced by the Malaysian economy and policy which include rent seeking behavior coming from large natural monopolies and weak market competition; ethnic dynamics including the longevity of the affirmative action policies and ethnic/race dynamics; the role of GLCs and GLICs in the economy; and questions around the planning mandates of the federal-state authorities in sectors such as water.
However, the relative lack of accountability of the public sector to citizens and its effect on the delivery of public services have received less attention even though they are an important component of ongoing debates in Malaysia.
In this policy note we provide a framework for understanding the changing landscape of public administration in Malaysia and propose that it is time to re-balance its focus from the supply-side to the demand-side of public service delivery.
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