The Indonesian President will reduce the number of civil servants to save costs, with underperforming employees asked to retire early.

“We want our spending on civil servants to be more efficient,” Joko Widodo said, according to the Jakarta Post. A third of the government’s budget goes to salaries and allowances for the country’s 4.5 million civil servants.

Government staff will be cut over three years starting from 2017. “The President noted that the policy would not be executed in a drastic way, especially during an economic situation like this”, said Yuddy Chrisnandi, the Minister of Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform.

If 200,000 civil servants retired every year, the number of civil servants would decline to around 4 million people in the next three years, he said.

His ministry will assess civil servants’ performance to see if they are qualified for their jobs. “We will determine a standard mechanism to assess them, with unproductive or incompetent civil servants being offered early retirement,” he added.

Recruit of new government officials will continue in education, health, infrastructure and food and law enforcement.

Currently, spending on government staff accounts for 33.8 percent of the total budget, he said. His ministry is concerned that if the government continued to recruit more civil servants, there would be a “budget explosion”.

The country’s development agenda emphasises infrastructure spending, and a large civil servant expenditure would burden its plans, he added.

The ideal number of civil servants in Indonesia should be about 1.5 percent of the total population, or 3.5 million people, Chrisnandi said.

Image from President Joko Widodo’s facebook page