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Singapore bureaucracy best in Asia, India worst - survey

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore’s civil servants are the most efficient among their Asian peers, a business survey on 12 economies released on Wednesday showed, but they tend to clam up unhelpfully when things go wrong.

A view of the Indian parliament building is seen in New Delhi in this July 2008 file photo. REUTERS/B Mathur

The island-state was ranked first for a third time in a poll of 1,274 expatriates working in 12 North and South Asian nations on the efficiency of bureaucrats in those countries. The poll was last held in 2007.

“During normal times, when the system is not stress-tested, it operates very well,” Hong Kong-based Political & Economic Risk Consultancy said in a 12-page report of Singapore’s bureaucracy.

“However, during difficult times - or when mistakes are made that reflect badly on the system - there is a tendency among bureaucrats to circle the wagons in ways that lack transparency and make accountability difficult,” the report said.

India’s “suffocating bureaucracy” was ranked the least-efficient by the survey, which said working with the country’s civil servants was a “slow and painful” process.

“They are a power centre in their own right at both the national and state levels, and are extremely resistant to reform that affects them or the way they go about their duties,” PERC said.

Thailand, despite four years of on-off street protests and a year of dysfunctional government was ranked third.

“For all the country’s troubles -- or perhaps because of them -- respondents to our survey were impressed with the way Thai civil servants have been carrying out their duties,” PERC said.

It said state offices associated with corruption presented the most difficulties for Thai citizens and foreigners.

PERC managing director Bob Broadfoot told Reuters that the controversy around huge investment losses by Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek was a good example of how things could become less transparent in in the island-state.

The Singapore government has come under fire from lawmakers and its citizens over several investment losses, particular its exit from Bank of America which resulted in a loss of over $3 billion, according to Reuters calculation.

The survey ranked Hong Kong second. China, which has been campaigning to fight corruption in its bureaucracy and improve efficiency on the civil service, was ranked 9th in the 2009 poll, two places down from 2007.

Ranking by most efficient to least efficient economies:

Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, China, Philippines, Indonesia and India.