14 AUGUST 2010
Yang Amat Berhormat Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Haji Abdul RazakThe Right Honourable Prime Minister of Malaysia;
Distinguished Guests, Distinguished Speakers, Ladies and Gentlemen; and a very good morning to all of you.
Welcome to the “Chinese Economic Congress” with the theme “Role of the Chinese community in achieving the NEM and 10th Malaysia Plan targets”. We are honour that YAB Dato’ Sri Najib is with us today to officiate this event. His presence here says a lot about the importance of the matters that will be discussed in this economic congress.
The NEM and the 10 Malaysian Plan are two of the 4 pillars of national transformation that will enable Malaysia to achieve the goals of Vision 2020, that is, to be a high-income economy and developed nation by 2020. The other pillars are the 1Malaysia concept and the Government Transformation Programme.
Much thoughts and efforts has gone into crafting the NEM and 10MP, and, of course, far more work needs to be done for the actual implementation.
Let us bear in mind that these are national plans, and not just the Government’s plans. This means the nation as a whole has to come together and pull in the same direction in order for the NEM and the 10MP to succeed. Our immediate priority is to jointly grow the economic pie, instead of noisily debating over which slice we deserve. Make no mistake, failure is not an option.
Sir, you have in the launching of the NEM in which you have clearly stated that the nation is need of a dramatic transformation in order for all Malaysians to achieve the next level of growth driven by innovation and competitiveness. And, I would like to congratulate the Prime Minister for his vision and far sightedness in wanting to make a better future for all Malaysians for generations to come.
We are here to ensure that the transformation is successful and the targets for both the NEM and the 10th Malaysia Plan are met. The end result will be beneficial to the rakyat in general and in the process to further improve the rakyat’s confidence in the Government.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1)Liberalization of the economy
For a country to achieve accelerated growth, one needs to liberalize the economy. One of the better examples of sectors is the liberalisation of the oil and gas sector which encompasses areas as such shipping, distribution of gas, petrochemicals, education and vocational/technical training, and so on. Our oil and gas sector has reached a stage in which we are already an established player in the global stage. Yet the opportunities for the SMEs are still small compared to other countries including non-oil producing nations like Singapore. Therefore, given the maturity of the sector, the opening up of the sector will boost the country’s GDP by many folds.
As such, sir, I sincerely urge you to consider liberalizing the Malaysia’s oil and gas sector, and allow many more of our non-Bumiputera investors to be joint-venture partners, contractors and sub-contractors in areas such as exploration, platform constructions, logistics, deep-sea operations and others.
Another area that needs to be liberalized is also the telecommunication sector. The incumbent players have been operating for a few decades now. With the full opening of the sector, increased in competition actually augurs well for both the operators and the consumers. With protectionism, rates of telecommunication services offered are high. Thus the country’s broadband usage is less than desired. We are hardly touching the 40% penetration rate as compared to the higher levels achieved by other countries. Full liberalisation of the market will see competition bringing down telecommunication services’ rates. This provides a better business environment for foreign companies especially the MNCs to set up their businesses here.
2)The Role of the GLCs in the NEM
The GLCs make up nearly 40% of the value of the Bursa and there is no denying that they dominate the private sector in the economy terms of their assets and capitalization. GLCs has been instrumental in helping the Bumiputera Business Community to flourish – to give them a head start to form a core cluster of Bumi entrepreneurs to which it is to spin off, mentor and nurture others to be equally competitive and to be confident in the global stage.
But at the same time, it must be recognized that Malaysia is just a small market with 26 million people. As such, GLCs must take the bold step to venture regionally and/or globally like CIMB bank. CIMB has expanded its financial wings to Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and is doing very well in South East Asia.
However, to be regionally and globally competitive, we need to make sure that the best talent remains in our shores. I encourage more GLCs to open up their Board of Directors to include more non-Bumiputeras as well as international expertise. It is important also that GLCs open up their procurement system to include competitive SMEs based the quality of their service and products that they offer. Rather than based on race or, equity requirement.
3)Open Tender System
Likewise, we call for greater transparency in our tendering process. Closed tender systems have always been associated with corruption and kickbacks. Quality of projects would also be compromised. This does not go down well with the good governance which the government is trying to project. Vying for open tender system not only remove accusations and talks of corrupted administration but also lowers the cost of projects.
We hold the opinion that all the public procurement should be open to all local SMEs, provided with equal access and opportunities. Under the 9th Malaysia Plan, over RM1 billion was allocated for SME development alone. Bank Negara estimated the number of SMEs in the country at about 600,000.
The importance of the SMEs is recognized by the government. The NEAC report stated that SMEs currently make up 35% of Malaysia’s GDP and 20% of its exports. If the future procurements were to be opened to the SMEs, the SMEs would account for much more than the current 35% of the GDP. If the value of the SMEs were to double, they will account for over 50% of the country’s GDP.
Following upon your decision in relaxing the 30% Bumiputera equity requirement for IPOs as well as the liberalization of the 27 services sub-sectors I urge you, sir in similarly consider to be flexible in implementing the 30% Bumiputera equity in other sectors.
Rather than enforcing the 30% bumi equity requirement across the board, a more flexible system in the form of a Margin of Preference system should be implemented on a sector by sector basis.
In the days of traditional economic structure, when capital and land are the major economic input, we can insist upon a certain percentage of equity distribution and still be fairly successful.
But we are now in the age of knowledge economy, where brain power in the forms of innovation and creativity, is the major (if not sole) requirement. If a talented investor, weather local or foreign, wants to start a new venture to design and manufacture a product based on his innovation for the new IT generation consumers in Malaysia, we cannot insist that he shares 30% of his creativity with us. He is talented and can go to any other part of the world to pursue his dreams. Instead we should offer him all the assistance he needs so that he can come to Malaysia, create high-paying jobs and help propel us to being a high-income economy
Ladies and Gentlemen,
4)Merit –Based and Needs – based System
Fundamentally, the Malaysian Chinese have been and still are very understanding and loyal citizens. Globalization has presented Malaysians many opportunities but it has also forced us to continue to be a competitive nation. Malaysians cannot remain globally competitive unless we go a merit-based system.
On the other hand, we must inculcate a caring society in which, the poor must be looked after. The NEM has pointed out that the bottom 40% of households earn less than RM1,500 per month. Thus, it is clear that preferential treatment must be given according needs rather, than race.
5)Retaining and Attracting Talent
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To achieve high income nation status, the NEM sets out a couple of primary thrust and enablers to move the economy up the value chain and also to address the persistent socio-economic inequalities. Amongst the enablers is to develop a quality workforce and reducing dependency on the foreign labour. In order to retain our talent pool in the country, we must recognize their contribution to the nation – to make sure that they are rewarded according to their merits.
Therefore, at this juncture, I would like to applaud Y.A.B. Dato Sri’s recent decision to offer scholarships to all students, regardless of race who scored 9A+ in their SPM examinations. This is truly in the 1Malaysia spirit.
This shows the Government’s efforts to develop human capital. Dont forget high achievers are in fact hidden talents and assets to a nation. Elevating and improving the level of education in the country also mean paying more attention to vernacular schools.
Approximately 20% of Malaysia’s total trade over the last couple of years is with countries that adopt Mandarin as its main language. Total trades of the primary countries that use Mandarin as its mother tongue have been estimated at over US$2.5 trillion per annum. Malaysia’s trade with these countries in turn accounts for only 2% of their total trade. This goes to show that the importance of this potential to date has been way underestimated. Given our multi lingual and multi cultural society, we believe Malaysia has yet to tap into the full potential of these trading nations.
The great strategist Sun Tzu has been frequently quoted on this where he said that whoever is first in the battle field and awaits the coming of the “competitors” will be fresh for the fight. Whoever trails behind in the field will arrive exhausted, having to hasten to battle.
Thus, with more schools, we would be able to produce more students from these vernacular schools. Only then we are able to generate workforce conversant in Mandarin, in order to be able to seize the opportunities offered in the global markets.
Not only are additional schools required to cater for future demand and population growth but more importantly to ease the current overcrowding problem which we have been combating exhaustively over the last few years.
To add to the problem, the number of students in the Chinese schools is expected to increase by an additional 65,000 over the next five years.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
6)Rationalisation of Subsidy, Minimum Wage and Skilled Workers
In Malaysia, only 23% of workers (11 million) are skilled workers with including those with higher education degree. We are one of the countries with the least qualified workers in the region. Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan have about 40% skilled workers. Lack of skill and qualified workers in Malaysia is impending economic progress and do not attract FDI.
Malaysia is addicted to cheap foreign workers. Study by the Human Resources Ministry show that 34% of 1.3 million works earn less than RM700 per month, below poverty of RM720 per month. What is worrying is World Bank Study on wage trend in Malaysia recorded only an annual 2.6% growth during the last 10 years. The influx of foreign workers depresses the wage increase of local workers.
To accelerate the process of reducing the reliance on foreign labour, MCA here calls for the execution of a minimum wage policy on a sectoral and regional basis. Over 90% of the countries in the world already have legislations in place on minimum wage but Malaysia is still lagging behind.
The setting up of a minimal wage system is in line with MCA’s calls for rationalisation of subsidy. Subsidy cut is a must to prevent distortion in the allocation of the country. Implementation of subsidy reduction schemes cannot stand alone as it needs to be complemented with a minimal wage system, to offset negative impact of the reduction in subsidy.
The activation of the Minimum Wage Council now is therefore looking more and more appropriate as the current situation we are in, seems to be calling for one. At this point, that our businesses can no longer win market share by trying to be the cheapest producers of goods or providers of services. In a globalised world, such an edge is only fleeting.
Lasting competitive advantage today has to come from productivity-led growth and innovation. The 10MP includes Government measures to create an environment in which the creativity, energy and initiative of private enterprises can be nurtured and harnessed.
On that note, I believe the Chinese Economic Congress held today is most timely. We need to ensure we know each and everyone’s role, to be able to tap into each’s forte to ensure that the NEM and 10th Malaysia Plan are executed efficiently to achieve the targets already set out. There is no denying the road ahead would undoubtedly be tough indeed but I have full confidence that under your leadership at the end of the day, we will see bright light at the end of the tunnel.
I acknowledge that the business community has certain expectations of what the Government should and should not do. In the overall scheme of things, 10 years is a mere blink of an eye. But for Malaysia, the next decade may well prove to be a crucial phase in our nation’s history.
As we can see from the audience today that have patronised this Economic Congress, the Chinese community is well represented here with a significant number of Chinese organizations coming out in full force to ascertain its role in ensuring the targets are met as per the theme of today’s Economic Congress.
Yang Amat Berhormat Dato’ Sri, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before I end, I would like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you and congratulate the organizing committee and those involved for the hard work rendered in organising this event successfully.
Also, permit me to end with a couple of ancient sayings by Confucius for you audience to ponder. We should “better be a diamond with flaws rather than a pebble without”. Also, “only the wisest and stupidest of men never change” and for one “to know what is right and not to do it, is the worst type of cowardice”.
So we intend to change for the better and to do what is right. We can start off with this Congress where we can brainstorm, learn of our roles and how we can help in ensuring the target of becoming a high income advanced nation can be met.
Once again, thank you.