If Mahathir wants Malaysia to  emulate Sweden to become world-class , then the government  must be  serious about meritocracy and competitiveness starting with a world-class education system with common university entrance examination and ending of  racial monopoly in top academic posts, such as Vice Chancellors,  by appointing  the best person for the job, regardless of race, gender and later nationality

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(PenangThursday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said in Stockholm that Malaysia should emulate Sweden, which has produced world-class products such as cars and telecommunications despite being a small nation. 

He said Sweden had quality production and competed effectively in the world market because of its commitment to high standards, citing as examples the Swedish car and aircraft maker Saab while Volvo remained one of the world’s biggest car makers. 

But has the Malaysian government and nation the will and commitment to become a world-class nation not only with “First World Infrastructure” but also “First World Mentality and Culture”? 

Discerning Malaysians cannot miss noticing the disguised denial syndrome in yesterday’s mainstream media reporting on Mahathir’s visit to Sweden, whether in the  “QUICKTAKE” of  New Straits Times or “FACT FILE” of The Star, which selectively introduced  Sweden,  about its land area, population, capital, climate, religions, exports, imports, currency, economy, bilateral trade, but not about its gross national income or  per capita income.  

What is the reason for this important omission by the two national newspapers, if the thrust  of Mahathir’s visit to Sweden  is to inspire Malaysians to emulate the small Scandinavian nation’s competitiveness and economic prowess? Or is it because Malaysia fares quite poorly  in such comparisons, viz: 

Year 2001      Gross National Income      Per Capita GNI          Population (GNI)

Malaysia        US   86.5 billion                       US $  3,640               23.8 million
Sweden          US 225.9 billion                      US $25,400                 8.9 million 

(Source:  World Development Report 2003) 

Malaysia also compares unfavourably in areas which make a difference in determining and enhancing a nation’s competitiveness. 

For example, Sweden is ranked fifth out of 102 countries in the 2002 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index topping the world’s least corrupt nations while Malaysia is ranked a lowly 33rd position among the world’s corrupt  – even lower than the 23rd ranking in the first Transparency International index seven years ago in 1995. 

In the Global Competitiveness Report  2001-2, Sweden was given the top ranking of sixth place, while Malaysia is ranked 37th out of 75  countries. 

Malaysia ranked poorly in the various sub-indices  in the Global Competitiveness Report 2001-2002, viz:

                    Innovation       Information and          Public Institutions
                        Subindex          Communication           Index
                                                   Technology (ICT)

Malaysia              50                    33                                   39
Sweden                  9                      3                                     7

Innovation is a product of many factors, but foremost among these are skilled human resources, tertiary education enrolment rates, R & D spending relative to international peers,  well-developed market incentive structures for science, and intensive interaction between scientific and business sectors. The Innovation Subindex is a measure of  innovation, reflecting the technological sophistication in a country which is crucial to economic growth. 

The ICT index is self-explanatory while the Public Institutions Index measures the quality of public institutions, covering questions concerning neutrality in government procurement, judicial independence, clear delineation and respect for property rights, costs related to organized crime, corruption or abuse of public service positions for personal financial gain. 

Malaysia seriously lags behind Sweden in all these measures of competitiveness and must play quick catch-up if the country  is to  emulate Sweden as a world-class nation and not left behind in the forward march of globalization and information and communications technology.           

If Mahathir wants Malaysia to  emulate Sweden to become a world-class nation, then the government  must be  serious about meritocracy and competitiveness starting with a world-class education system with a  common university entrance examination for all Malaysian students and the  ending of  racial monopoly in top academic posts, such as Vice Chancellors,  by appointing  the best person for the job, regardless of race, gender and later nationality.  For a start, when will non-Malays begin to be appointed Vice Chancellors of the 18 public universities in the country?


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman