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Description on the three tiers government system of Malaysia.

Identify the functions of local authorities.

Review of real cases associated with decentralization through devolution.

Recommendations and discussion on ways to sustain local governments’ authorities.

The Federal Government

The federal government functions based on the separation of power that are stated on the Article 127 of the Constitution of Malaysia. Therefore, the three branches of the Malaysian government include the legislature, judiciary and executive. While the three tiers of the government system consist of the federal government, state government and the local government.

The federal government- the federal government of Malaysia is considered as the highest authority and the headquarter is located in the Putrajaya. Prime Minister is the head of the federal government of Malaysia. The levels of the government consist of the three different branches (judiciary, legislature and executive). The prime minister leads the cabinet and exercises the executive power as mentioned in the constitution. The Malaysian premier is said to be the member of the lower house. The prime minister is the head of the head of the government along with the other cabinet ministers. It is important to mention that the parliament of Malaysia is made up of the senate, house of the representatives and the lower house. The number of the senate members is 70 and they have a two-term limit and each of the term lasts for about three years. The parliament has a five-year mandate, although it can be dissolved by the King on advice by the Prime minister. The highest court of the country’s judicial system is the federal court of Malaysia and it is followed by the court of appeal and remaining two high courts (Rosli et al., 2015).

State government-Malaysia has a total of 13 states and each of the state forms government under the state constitution. The states have a unicameral state legislative chamber. Chief minister heads are a member of the state assembly and they are a part of the majority party. The chief ministers are appointed by the governors and sultan on recommendation by the prime minister.

Local government- the local authorities are the lowest level of the government and is mainly concerned with the collection of the taxes, permits to the traders, issuing licenses. It also provides basic services, waste management and development. The local government are headed by the civil servants (Rosli et al., 2015). 

The local government is also called as the local government, Penguasa Tempatan, Majlis Tempatan, Pihak Berkuasa Tempatan (PBT). The major responsibilities of the local authorities can be differentiated into the housing, facilities and amenities, planning, water supply and sewage, environmental protection, welfare and health, building roads, control and development of incentives. Housing: this responsibility includes the maintenance of the housing under the area of the local government; assessment of the housing needs (lease and buy dwellings, build and area). Facilities and amenities: provide services, facilities, amenities; the facilities and amenities are related to providing libraries, sports and games, artistic and cultural amenities. Planning: decide whether to refuse or grant the planning permission; creation of the development plan for every 5 years (planning policies). Sewage and water supply: provide essential and vital services like drainage, sewerage services and water services, fire services, bridges and roads; control dangerous buildings, places, structures. Maintain and provide burial grounds or graveyards. Environmental protection: monitoring of the environment for the signs of pollution; collection of the domestic and other types of waste; issuing licenses (keeping dog within its marked area, disposal of waste and controlling emission from the plants); other major functions include animal and pollution control. Welfare and health: local government play an important role in relation to the health within the area. The other major functions include the following: regulating and constructing the road systems, overseeing and planning the development (it includes the structural plans and preparations); controlling and licensing billboards, advertising, night spots, entertainment, hawkers, and trade; beautification of the cities, providing food quality control, health services, control of the contagious diseases, maintenance of cleanliness of the food centers, regulating and constructing the road services, management of the public transportation and traffic systems, maintenance of a clean environment and regulation of the drainage systems, maintaining and providing the public amenities (Abidin, Singaravello & Zakaria, 2015).

The State Government

The four major functions of the local government can be considered as the major responsibilities that can be further categorized into the following:

  • Security- concentrating on the fire station and police station and responsible action taken on the public nuisance.
  • Public service- focus on the turn normal ground into playing fields, badminton courts, gymnasium, town hall, car park and bus stand. Alternatively, it also provides with the sports centers and the community halls in exchange for the council service and planning permission. The buildings also become assets for the council, furthermore the charges and the fees can also be collected for the usage of the facilities into the buildings.
  • Social- The local authorities usually have the traditional functions and it means the it will provide cleanliness activities like the sanitation, sewerage, industrial, and well as the housing garbage collection and others. However, other than that the local authorities also provide the health consciousness and educational facilities so that the obnoxious trade can be controlled. Protection of the handicap by building the shelter, along with-it providing welfare houses for the older people. The housing areas are also built so that it can create cultural activities.
  • Environment- focusing on the flood control, proper culvert and draining systems, recreation park, lamppost, traffic control and road service (Abidin, Singaravello & Zakaria, 2015).

Role of the local government in achieving the UN sustainable Development Goals- in the year 2016, the Prime Minister’s department of economic planning organized a workshop so that it can engage the local government, state, federal, along with the academia, think tanks, private sector, civil society organizations on how to achieve the sustainable developmental goals. Within the Malaysian context, monitoring and implementing at the local level is decided and this will help to achieve the sustainable development goals at the global, national and local level. The workshop also highlighted that a federal state like Malaysia must establish a relationship between the local and the central units. The workshop also highlighted on how the national vision can be integrated with the local government so that the sustainable development goals can be achieved in a better way and it will also help towards achieving the local level results. The process that needs to be emphasized include monitoring, evaluation, and reporting of the various processes (Abidin, Singaravello & Zakaria, 2015). 

1st case: the first case deals with the policies and the local efforts and the efforts put up by the local government in the change in climate and adaptation. A report was put up by the Royal commission of the inquiry and it can be seen as the following:

  • The local government represents as the third tier of the federal structure.
  • The local areas are governed by the councilors that are nominated by the state and also by mayors in certain cases.
  • The local government geographically encompasses a portion of the country
  • The subject that are to be controlled and the subordinates will be limited in terms of the administrative and the financial issues.
  • The local government provides the discretionary and the obligatory services and goods.

A total of the 165 local authorities are present in Malaysia and modified or special local governments. These designated areas are marked as the political boundaries and the political parties select the mayors after winning election. It is also important to mention that the local authorities adhere to the local government Act of 1976 or the Act 171 (Bello & Dola, 2014).

2nd case: The sustainable development plan of the Malaysian government incudes the local governance and it also includes the urbanization policy of the country. The urbanization policy is also called the National Physical Plan (NPP) and this policy itself consists of the state efforts and the local efforts towards building sustainable societies.  The National Urbanization Policy (NUP) requires a strict adherence to the developmental plans through the monitoring and the coordination of the developmental plan implementation at the different levels of the government. It also requires the development of the comprehensive land use database that are present at the local and the state levels. Although the local administration is weak, the adherence to the good governance policies that are outlines in the Agenda 21 led to the effective involvement of communities for the purpose of the sustainable plan at the local level (Hutchinson, 2014). 

The Local Government

3rd case: Malaysia stands out from the other countries in terms of the governance. Unlike the other countries and it led to the construction of the new layers of the government and it led to the creation of the federal structure. The country later on proceeded after the independence to implement the centralization. Theoretically, the federal system processes the potential to provide protection to each and every level of the government. It is important to note that the dominance of the ruling coalition at the nation level have seriously led to a centralization drive. The new economic policy at the same time infused a wide scale if government intervention within the economy through the process of creeping authoritarianism. This has negatively increased the coercive powers of the state by suppressing the opposition. The drive for centralization has deteriorated the proper functioning of the Malaysian government and it later on the government laid its emphasis on the decentralized form of government.

4th case: The local government in Malaysia ranks third and is the lowest in terms of the state and the federal governments. The local and the state governments operate within the framework and is also economically, financially and politically subordinate to the federal government. The Royal commission of enquiry has also highlighted that the redistribution of the responsibilities between the different tiers of the government. The local government remains tightly controlled by the powers of the strong center and they have the role of revenue collection and community participation. The local government is also seen to be experiencing challenges towards the changing nature of the local environment and the communities are aware of the condition and they are well aware of the fact that the local government is unable to deliver what the people of the community wants. Even though the services are sometimes delivered, but still they lack the quality and there remains a gap in the service delivery. It is important to note that there is a gap between the demand and the supply of the service delivery and also the judgements regarding the performance of the local government (Joseph, Pilcher & Taplin, 2014).

the main challenge is that the increase the quality of life is associated with the implementation of the proper quality of life and it will effective and strategic planning. The main aim or the target is the enhance the prosperity of the lives of the people. Different types of the strategies can be recommended and it includes the increased role of the council for the purpose of the development based on the increasing the revenue, the importance of emphasizing on the operational structure. This also includes creation of an environment that will positively contribute to the economic capability of the state. Therefore, it is important to mention that the economic and environmental stability can be reached by focusing on the community participation and focus must be placed on the consortia and the collaboration within the community. Furthermore, a collaboration can be reached by setting a smart collaboration between the Non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, private sectors and the councils. The main strategy will be promoting productive tourism and also promote investment so that it is recognizable and the government is able to achieve the community participation that is seeking for. The strategy will be helpful and on the other hand it will help to improve the environmental quality. The new approach will be based on the concepts of smart partnerships through the application of the local agenda 21 methodology. The set up will integrate the commitments and the roles of all the parties that are associated with the development of the safety and conservation, environmental conservation, increasing the quality of living and the community development projects (Midin, Joseph & Mohamed, 2017).

Empowering: the main goal is to place the final decision into the hands of the public. The main promise is to implement whatever is being decided by the public for the betterment of the public. One of the biggest example is the putting the ballot and it is one of the commonly cited example that provides and facilitates the decision making power of the public. This will allow the public to assess and determine the best decision that will be best for the people. Empowering the public engagement is a resource intensive, time consuming, and difficult to execute. There also exists a possibility where the public relations might break and it might also break the trust of the public if the decision making does not serve the purpose of the general public and also if a consensus is not reached. Due to this and also for the laws the direct public processes in certain cases cannot be used. A phenomenon called the participatory budgeting that gains popularity at the local levels and it can be a form of empowering engagement. This entirely rely on the popular local levels of brainstorming and it develop the proposals of projects.

Major Responsibilities of the Local Government

Predictability- consistency in terms of applicability of the regulations, rules and laws helps in the creation of an orderly society. It is important to mention that there will be plenty of issues if the rules are not followed properly and no discipline is maintained in terms of implementation. Therefore, it is important to emphasize on the important aspect of the four elements including predictability, participation, accountability and transparency, and good governance. There is a need for the value driven leadership and the value based leadership, and along with it there is a need of the a meaningful and a genuine local autonomy provided by the law. True local autonomy can be achieved if the local governance is effective and responsive at the local level (Midin, Joseph & Mohamed, 2017).

Participation and transparency- the principle of participation is anchored at the basic levels and it is the very core and the heart of the development of a nation. Participation is the inclusion of the general public into the different arenas of the governance that include the proper inclusion and consideration of the choices and decisions of the general public. Participation helps the government agencies to take the necessary step towards the implementation of proper policies through an effective way. Transparency can be described as the availability of the accurate information and it includes the articulation of the government decisions, regulations and rules.  It implies that the copies of the guidelines and the rules will be used for the conduct of the business. This will make the information easily available to the stakeholders and also to the other people. Transparency and accountability goes hand in hand and the information that are relevant for the local officials include the matters like the delivery of the basic services, procurement of the equipment, implementation of the infrastructure projects in places where the public bindings will be required. These factors can be considered as an important aspect for a responsive public service (Midin, Joseph & Mohamed, 2017). 


Abidin, N. Z. Z., Singaravello, K., & Zakaria, Z. (2015). Diminishing Obligations of Local Government: Effect on Accountability and Public Trust. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 211, 255-259.

Bello, A., & Dola, K. (2014). Sustainable development and the role of local governance: experience from Malaysian model regions. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 4(1), 268-280.

Hutchinson, F. E. (2014). Malaysia’s federal system: overt and covert centralisation. Journal of Contemporary Asia, 44(3), 422-442.

Joseph, C., Pilcher, R., & Taplin, R. (2014). Malaysian local government internet sustainability reporting. Pacific Accounting Review, 26(1/2), 75-93.

Midin, M., Joseph, C., & Mohamed, N. (2017). Promoting societal governance: Stakeholders' engagement disclosure on Malaysian local authorities' websites. Journal of cleaner production, 142, 1672-1683.

Rosli, M. H., bin Abd Aziz, M. A., Mohd, F., & Said, J. (2015). Integrity systems in Malaysian public sector: an empirical finding. Procedia Economics and Finance, 28, 260-265.

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