During this economic slowdown, the government must take steps to ensure that our Malaysia’s economy is more competitive. It cannot be denied that there are structural problem in our economic system. For example, there are over dependence on the oil revenue, foreign workers and on trade and the export of manufacturing goods. In the manufacturing sector, we have been unable to move up the value chain; so, the value added component in the manufacturing sector is small. Today, Malaysia is no more a low cost manufacturing country. We have been unable to upgrade the skills of our workers while most of the foreign workers are totally unskilled. The service sector has been identified as an engine of growth. However, the bumiputra quota has always been regarded as a hindrance in our effort to attract FDI.
The liberalization of the service sector as announced by Najib where there is no 30% bumiputra equity in 27 services sub-sectors, ranging from tourism, transportation to health and computer industry and even the legal profession. I am sure this will attract more investment and also attract more professionals and technology into the country and hopefully it will be a boost to the service sector. Earlier, Najib as Finance Minister has announced the relaxation of the 30% equity for listing in the KLSE board. I am given to understand that major announcement will be made also on the financial sector liberalization sometime next week.
For health, legal, accountancy and banking, liberalization is essential to ensure that we can attract the best technology and also the best talent to our country. It is by exposure and competition that we can upgrade ourselves. Singapore managed to leap frog into the international arena involving health, legal, and banking when they open up much, much earlier. Today, you will find some of the top and the best brain in some of this 3 major fields practicing in Singapore. Removing the quota will create a level playing field. Most professional practices do not like the idea of allocating equity and working with total strangers. Liberalization in the service sector is a move in the right direction and is long overdue.
Over the years, there have also been calls for a total review of the NEP. There is a need to fine tune implementation so that the twin objective of the NEP - eradication of poverty irrespective of race and no race is identified by economic function become a less divisive issue. We have done well in reducing poverty but its second objective of uplifting the bumiputra have led to a lot of abuses. The time has come for the government to take the bull by the horn. I am sure a lot of bumiputra are aware that the tongkat syndrome should not be a Never Ending Policy (NEP). Najib with his wealth of experience should be able to take the lead. Affirmative action should be based on needs. The bumiputra special rights are entrenched in the constitution. Nobody can take that away. So, a review of the NEP should not be construed by some bumiputra as a challenge to their special rights as this is enshrined in the constitution.