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by Lim Guan Eng
(Petaling Jaya, Monday): International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz has said she is unperturbed by an article in an Australian newspaper The Age on November 15 “While Malaysia fiddles, its opportunities are running dry” ridiculing Malaysia’s economic policies of wastage and corruption to the extent of calling Malaysia “bodoh” (stupid). Whilst DAP disagrees strongly with the description of Malaysia Bodoh, the articles arguments are valid and justified of the short-sighted economic policies that would not only harm the economy but also deprive economic opportunities and benefits to Malaysians.
In that respect Malaysia Bolos(missing opportunities would be more appropriate than Malaysia Bodoh. Malaysia Bolos(missing opportunities) should be the concern of Rafidah Aziz who should behave irresponsibly and ignore negative foreign perceptions of Malaysia which can worsen already declining FDI. She said that if the Australian writer had followed the Umno general assembly proceedings closely, “he would have seen things differently.”
If the writer had followed the UMNO proceedings, he would have felt vindicated by what he wrote and understand why Malaysia’s 2005 FDI of had declined and for the first time in history Malaysia’s was less than Indonesia’s. In 2005, Malaysia’s FDI inflow contracted by 14.21% to only US$3.97 billion (RM14.63 billion) last year from US$4.62 billion (RM17.02 billion) in 2004.
In contrast overall FDI inflows into Southeast Asia increased 44.7% to US$37.14 billion (RM136.83 billion). Never before as the FDI for Malaysia fallen when the total FDI for the entire region has increased. More alarmingly, Malaysia lost out to Indonesia, whose FDI increased by five-fold to US$5.26 billion (RM19.38 billion) from US$1.89 billion (RM6.96 billion) in 2004.
Rafidah should heed the sentiments expressed in that article that it was time Malaysia grew up and stopped arguing about what proportion of the economy the Chinese and Malays owned.
Abolishing NEP The Only Way
Such sentiments echo former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s contentions that Malaysian Chinese businessmen preferred to invest in China because there are more opportunities there and they don’t find it easy to do business in Malaysia. DAP believes that this sentiment is not restricted to Malaysian Chinese businessmen but all Malaysian businessmen and foreigners as can be shown by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development's World Investment Report (WIR) 2006.
The 2006 WIR showed that for 2005 due to the loss of its competitive edge, Malaysia slipped four notches to rank only sixth out of the 10 Southeast Asia countries in FDIs, from a high position of second a few years earlier. Even the Prime Minister’s department’s National Economic Action Council (NEAC) working group member Datuk Zainal Aznam Yusof admitted that Malaysia had lost its competitive edge.
Dr Zainal claimed the loss in competitiveness was due to Malaysia’s labour sector facing a shortage of human capital and losing out to other countries with cheaper manpower. He said Malaysia must further liberalise its services and manufacturing sectors to make the country more attractive to investors.
How can Malaysia enhance human capital resources when Abdullah stubbornly clings to failed policies such as the New Economic Policy based on ethnic quotas and crony capitalism creating the worst income inequality in South East Asia? Any effort to liberalise the economy to make it more competitive requires a bold step to abolish the New Economic Policy(NEP), remove quotas and replace it with merit and competence.
Clearly the proceedings in the UMNO General Assembly showed that BN leaders have still not grown up by clinging to the NEP and threatening non-Malays and anyone who questions it with death and destruction. That will be the sad consequences of the UMNO General Assembly that that has turned “Malaysia Boleh” to “Malaysia Bolos”.