My visit to Chennai, Salem, Bangalore and New Delhi has reinforced me in my belief that Malaysians must buckle down to deal with the economic and educational problems which have hampered the country’s growth potential.
As former Finance Minister and Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) chairman, Tuan Daim Zainuddin said early this week, Malaysia must fix the education system and move ahead to ensure that the New Economic Policy was implemented on a needs-basis rather than race-basis.
He said that the NEP has polarised sections of society and it would be to Malaysia’s peril to disregard this.
He warned that there were groups who had managed to sabotage the NEP with race, religious and linguistic rhetoric.
Daim’s advice should be heeded by all Malaysians:
Daim said: “While we look forward, it is also imperative that we look back. Are we getting our basics right? Are our fundamentals solid?
“Let us not be under any illusions. We are still far from being out of the woods.
“We are far from being ready for the changes happening around us. We are far from being a united people. We are far from being able to compete at the global level.
“We are far from being able to embrace differences and changes. And underpinning all of this unpreparedness is education.
“If we do not first get education right, all these other challenges will suddenly become insurmountable.”
As Daim rightly pointed out that while Malaysians bicker about English or Malay for Science and Mathematics in schools, the world was learning coding, which was in neither language.
Daim’s speech is in line with the statement by the PKR President, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim at the recent Malaysian Economic Symposium in Parliament on the need to accelerate the transition of NEP from a race-based affirmative economic plan to one that is needs-based.
My Indian visit bore out these sentiments and strengthened my belief that a good start would be the review of the New Malaysia objective of the Pakatan Harapan Manifesto in the 14th General Election.
We set out together with Bangalore to be the second Silicon Valley with the launching of the Multi-Media Super Corridor (MSC) more than two decades ago. We failed but Bangalore succeeded. Why?
The rapid economic growth and developmental strides of India in the last five years had been described as “transformational” and the country is all set to emerge as a US$5 trillion economy in the next five years.
Malaysia had not been so successful in the past decade, apart from the international infamy of becoming a global kleptocracy, which we are trying to shake off.
Based on available data dating back to 1980, the size of Singapore’s economy had exceeded that of Malaysia in five out of 38 years. Three of the five years occurred from 2015 to 2017.
The time is indeed long overdue for Malaysians to unite and move purposefully to make the country a top world-class nation in as many fields of human endeavour as possible.