subpage banner

Parliamentary Replies

Productivity Growth of The Government

24 Mar 2016
Parliamentary Question by Ms Foo Mee Har:

To ask the Minister for Finance about (a) the productivity growth of the Government over the last 10 years and (b) the areas which showed the most improvement.

Reply by Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat:

The Public Service is constantly seeking to be more productive, doing more with the same or less resources, and ensuring that we continue to be effective and efficient in delivering our services.  However, unlike the private sector, it is difficult to measure productivity growth in public services, as the outcomes achieved and value created from the diverse range of public services are often intangible and not easily quantifiable. 

Nevertheless to give a sense of the numbers, our population and real GDP grew by 2.6% and 5.3% per annum on average over the past 10 years. During the same period, we have maintained our public sector manpower growth at an average of 1.8% per annum to serve the population and support the economy. The lower public sector headcount growth is a result of a deliberate policy to constrain Ministries’ headcount growth under the Manpower Management Framework. As a result, the public sector’s share of the total labour force has also decreased from 4.30% in 2006 to 3.97% in 2015. This is one of the lowest internationally; it is the same as that in Hong Kong (4%) and lower than in countries such as New Zealand (7%) and the UK (12%) -- in all these cases, the numbers exclude defence personnel. 

To drive productivity and innovation in the Public Service, our agencies have been tapping on technology and ICT extensively.  Compared to 10 years ago, there are now more e-services on multiple channels, which have made it more convenient and efficient for both the users as well as for the agencies.   For example, through electronic tax-filing and the no-filing scheme, IRAS has saved time for taxpayers. It was also able to redeploy 100 officers to doing new and other areas of work, despite the tax base growth of 32% from 2009 to 2014.  Another example would be ACRA’s Bizfile which has enabled businesses to be registered and companies to be incorporated online in just 15 minutes or less, compared to the manual process which would have taken 24 hours for businesses and 5 days for companies.  

We have also sought to drive productivity gains through organisational restructuring.  For example, we setup the Municipal Services Office (MSO) in 2014 to improve the Government’s overall coordination and delivery of municipal services; often, these services involve multiple agencies. Since its establishment, MSO has worked with these agencies to improve inter-agency work flows, processes and SOPs to reduce the average time taken to respond to feedback, especially for complex cases. MSO has also worked with agencies to improve the adoption of structured digital channels such as mobile apps and web portals. This has allowed feedback to be routed quickly and automatically to the correct agency for attention. 

Beyond tapping on IT and organizational restructuring, we have also started to harness data analytics to innovate and improve services. For example, the National Library Board analyzed borrowing data to understand library users and their borrowing behavior. This has enabled the NLB to determine the type and number of books it should purchase, and improve its mix of book collections to make library services better.