Permanent Secretaries

Someone asked if there is a 'Permanent Secretary' how come there is no 'Temporary' Secretary? And why do we have Permanent Secretary in the government when the other type of secretary is the Confidential Secretary? In the government payscale, that means a difference of about $15,000 a month between the two there. Nowadays another creature emerges in the Brunei Civil service - the Deputy Permanent Secretary, at first there was only a few in Foreign Affairs, but now every other ministry seems to have it. Not only do we have to live with Permanent Secretary, we have to live with his Deputy as well. Man!

First and foremost, Permanent Secretary is fairly common in the Commonwealth world, being the legacy of the British, who left quite a large number of things behind including their governmental system. In fact, when I was at Harvard, I and my fellow students from India were able to speak the same language and quote the same regulations! You will be surprised. Remember our old Policemen uniform, the light blue and khaki? That's the police colours in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan and used to be the colours in Malaysia and Singapore as well.

But I digress. In the British system, the executive is run by the party who won the most votes. They will appoint their own politicians to be Secretaries of Departments - Secretaries being Ministers and Department being Ministries. Under the Secretaries, there will be appointed a number of ministers and junior ministers.

There will also be appointed a Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the duration of the government who will assist the Secretary. At the same time there will also be a Permanent Under-Secretary who is permanent because he is a civil servant. The two titles are shortened to Parliamentary Secretary and Permanent Secretary. The latter is the guy who actually runs the Department as governments in UK changed every 5 years. This is the post that we copy in Brunei even though we do not have Secretaries of Departments but Ministers of Ministries. Why did we do it? You have to ask someone who was in Government in 1984 as I am old but I was not yet appointed in the government then to be able to answer your question.

What is the equivalent of Permanent Secretary in other governments? Singapore and most other Commonwealth countries used the same title. Malaysia uses the Secretary General (Ketua Setiausaha or KSU) and Canada uses Deputy Minister (similar to most other non-Commonwealth countries such as Japan). Thailand, Denmark, Finland, Malta despite not being Commonwealth uses Permanent Secretary. Hongkong despite being handed back to China now also uses Permanent Secretary. Permanent Secretaries are fairly common creatures and if we were to abolish the post then we really have to find another job title and since the whole world is using Permanent Secretaries, that looks set to stay for a number of years yet. Now, what shall we do with Deputy Permanent Secretaries?


Unknown said…
Tuan BR.. I know this has been a while but Malta is part of the Commonwealth hehe
Rozan Yunos said…
Haha. Yup, You are right.

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