Can Malaysia achieve 9% growth per year? Can we become a high income country by 2020?
Everything is possible in this world, but for Malaysia to achieve a consistent 9% growth, we need completely new thinking in both private and public sectors. We need innovative entrepreneurship, a good environment with minimal red tapes, meritocracy and good workers well versed in the English language.
We need to change our model from a low cost manufacturing centre where most of our industries and businesses depend on cheap foreign labour, to one that is based on knowledge and innovation.. In other words , we need a knowledge based business as well as labour community.
We need an environment that is free from rampant corruption, and a public service that is friendly to the businessesand practises good governance.. We need to have minimal interference from politicians or well connected people, and we need to do away with monopolistic control of businesses.
Knowledge based economy means a shift from the old fashion assembly of goods and products, to one that is based on research, knowledge, skill.
We need to be able to not only assemble the products, but also to have the knowhow to manufacture the products. Even in the profession, we need to innovate.
In a knowledge based economy, you need to have hardware such as properties, technology, equipment and financial resources.
More importantly , we need to have the soft ware — human capital . Human capital means that we must have a workforce that has skills and correct work attitude. Skill is important and more importantly is the correct work attitude which will enable the work force to be resilient, innovative and daring to take up challenges. A workforce that not only works but also think. A workforce that can complete the assigned tasks, as well as ask why the need for such tasks.
So far, sad to say, we may have the hard ware , but we definitely do not have the software (human capital) that can propel us forwards to the forefront of Asia.. Our work force simply does not have the skills and the work attitude to produce innovation that is the key to a knowledge based society.
Our best university is not even in the top 150.. We are mass producing university graduates, but most of them are not really thinking individuals that can work as stand-alone and produce new products or new inventions.
We have plenty of good graduates from overseas but unfortunately these innovative human resources are grabbed up by foreign countries and industries which treasure their expertise and attitude more than our own government.
To produce innovative graduates from our own universities are easier said than done.. We simply do not have the faculties to produce them.. When the teachers and lecturers are mediocre, you get mediocre graduates.
The quality of teachers and lecturers cannot be changed within a day or even a year or even five years. It can be achieved in a decade or 2 perhaps, only if we adopt meritocracy right from our primary schools all the way to tertiary institution now..It is like planting a tree. You need time for the tree to grow and you must provide the nutrients and correct environment for a plant to grow to a tree, and to have a tall tree,you must have all the trees competing for sunlight.
So when I look at all these hurdles, I do not think we are able to achieve the 9 % growth within these couple of years.
Having said so, we need a start somewhere, and if the government is sincere to change our economy to a high income one, we need to adopt meritocratic principles immediately , from primary all the way up …
For a start, perhaps the 2 tiered matriculation must be done away and university entrance must be based on true merits… but I am prepared to accept a reserve quota of 20% for those from poor family background and those from rural areas, irrespective of ethnic origins.– but these 20% too must achieve the minimal standards of entry.
Another important aspect is that we must have freedom of choice to enable healthy competition and meritocracy. By freedom of choice, we must maintain the differing streams in our primary schools, so that parents can choose which is the best .. And with choice come the pressure to do well, and schools of different streams must buck up and compete for enrolments. With choice, we will have meritocracy. With meritocracy, we will have the good softwar that we are so glaringly lacking now.
We have lost so much time and now is the time to act .. Just talk alone will not convince the people that we are serious to become a high income country..
We have been overtaken by Taiwan and South Korea, and if we do not buck up, we will soon be overtaken by Vietnam, Thailand.
If you are skeptical that this will happen, you don’t have to look far; just look at our football team.