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Meritocracy, A Culture Of Excellence And Good Governance Are Pre-Conditions Towards The 3rd Industrial Master Plan (IMP3) Goals Of Improving Competitiveness To Achieve Vision 2020 Of A Developed Nation.

Speech During the Political Retreat of DAP Selangor

by Lim Guan Eng


(Klang, Sunday) Meritocracy, a culture of excellence and good governance are pre-conditions towards the 3rd Industrial Master Plan (IMP3) goals of improving competitiveness to achieve vision 2020 of a developed nation. The 15 year final push in the IMP3, running from this year to 2020, will not succeed in improving the country’s global competitiveness in the manufacturing, services and agriculture sectors if rhetoric is not matched by action.


Malaysia must learn from developing countries that successfully made the transition to developed country status how they strengthened competitiveness. Experience from these countries such as South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan have shown that  quotas were rejected. Emphasis was always on developing human resources to ensure the best and brightest are chosen. For this reason even though these countries lacked natural resources, they progressed more rapidly than countries blessed with abundant natural resources.


A culture of excellence was necessary to propel the country forward to ensure that the whole nation can follow the lead of the talented ones. A country can only move forward as one nation. A nation that adopt a culture of excellence to maintain the progress will be able to attain a first-class mentality along with the first-class infrastructure. This is the Achilles heel of Malaysia’s economic development in that our physical hardware is not matched or accompanied by our human software.


For this reason, the billions spent on infrastructure have been wasted or deteriorated because we do not have the human capability to utilize or support it. A look at the expensive billion ringgit buildings shows poor maintenance or a dirty mamak teh environment in its canteens.


The triple sectors of manufacturing, services and agriculture can only attain its full potential when there is good governance not only in terms of full accountability and transparency but also an able, capable, effective and efficient civil service. In terms of skills and knowledge the civil service must be on par with the private sector. Otherwise how can the public sector handle or understand proposals for development made by the private sector?


DAP regrets that the civil service is used as sort of a “dumping ground” or employed of last resort for unemployed graduates. There is a likelihood that the 30,000-80,000 unemployed graduates(depending on whose figures one uses) will be absorbed by the government in the 2007 Budget tabled by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on 1 September 2006.


The inefficient state of our civil service can be shown by the 2005 World Bank Report on a survey on the ease of doing business in 155 countries. Malaysia ranked 21st behind Thailand’s 20th in terms of ease of doing business. Under ease of doing business there are 10 other categories such as Starting a Business, Dealing with Licenses, Hiring and Firing, Registering Property, Getting Credit, Protecting Investors, Paying Taxes, Trading Across Borders, Enforcing Contracts and  Closing a Business.(see below)


Comparison of the ease of doing business

Ease of...

Malaysia Singapore Thailand Indonesia China
Doing a business 21 2 20 115 91
Starting a business 57 5 29 144 126
Dealing with licenses 101 7 8 107 136
Hiring & firing 34 7 23 120 87
Registering property 53 14 22 107 24
Getting credit 6 8 59 63 113
Protecting investors 5 2 33 58 100
Paying taxes 19 9 34 118 119
Trading across borders 36 6 89 49 48
Enforcing contracts 61 11 49 145 47
Closing a business 43 2 37 116 59

Source: World Bank


Of particular interest is that Malaysia ranked 101 in getting licenses. There are 25 steps requiring 226 days to get a license in Malaysia as compared to the average of only 18 steps and 158 days in the East Asia & Pacific region. DAP fails to understand why should there be so much red tape that requires more than 7 months and 25 steps to get business licenses?.


Unless the civil service can improve its performance, such pre-conditions as being business friendly must be established. How can Malaysia be competitive if businesses do not want to invest due to the inefficiency of the civil service in processing applications? The Malaysian civil service should be service oriented and be friendly and helpful to businessmen, not impose hardships and difficulties that hamper business.


A civil service dominated by one race is not only unrepresentative of the population, it is unhealthy and not conducive towards national unity. As of June 2005, there were 899,250 public servants, of whom 77.04 per cent or 692,736 were Malays.  The rest were: 84,295 Chinese (9.37 per cent), 46,054 Indians (5.12 per cent), 69,828 other Bumiputeras (7.77 per cent) and 6,337 of other races (0.70 per cent). Before the launch of the New Economic Policy in 1971, the racial breakdown of the Malaysian civil service comprised 60.8 per cent Malay, 20.2 per cent Chinese, 17.4 per cent Indian and 1.6 per cent others.


Some 35 years after the NEP, the already under-represented Chinese percentage in the Malaysian civil service had fallen further from 20.2 per cent to 9.37 per cent, while Indians who were somewhat over-represented with 17.4 per cent before the NEP are now under-represented with 5.12 per cent. The government must be serious in finding out why the Chinese and Indians have become so under-represented in the civil service 35 years after the New Economic Policy, with the Chinese falling by 10.8 percentage points and the Indian by 12.3 percentage points from 1971 to 2006.


If Datuk Abdullah is serious about genuine collaborations, including joint ventures and strategic alliances between Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera entities, then the civil service must represent the demographic of our country’s multi-racial population. Otherwise it is a gross injustice to only blame the non-Malays for non-collaboration without redressing the unhealthy and unfair imbalance in the civil service dominated by Malays.



* Lim Guan Eng,  Secretary-General of DAP

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