Media statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, 26th August 2010:
When will Najib and his Ministers wake up and realize that the twin crisis of human talents and investments confronting the country are more than a matter of economics?
The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Nor Mohamed is quoted in today's press as saying that Talent Corporation has been tasked with attracting at least half of the 750,000 Malaysian professionals working overseas to come home as part of its efforts to draw the best brains in the world to Malaysia.
Speaking at the launching of the Public-Private Partnership's website www.3pu.gov.my, he said seeking out the Malaysian diaspora for the top brains was necessary as the Government aimed to hit the target of RM115 billion per year in local and foreign investments to turn the country into a developed nation by 2020.
It is shocking that Nor Mohamed could come out with such an unrealistic and "tall order" not only because of the dismal failure of previous government "brain gain" policies but in the light of recent events when the unchecked escalation of the rhetoric of race and religion would have the effect of giving a major push to greater brain-drain from the country instead of pulling back talents from the Malaysian diaspora to return to serve the country.
It is time that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his Ministers wake up and realize that the twin crisis of human talents and investments confronting the country are more than a matter of economics.
They cannot do better than to give serious thought to the article "FDI - more than economics" by Dennis Ignatius in the Star today.
Referring to the massive 81% plunge in foreign direct investments (FDI) in Malaysia in 2009 as compared to the previous year - FDI declined from RM23 billion in 2008 to a mere RM4.4 billion last year apart from a massive RM25.4 billion out flow of capital - Dennis wrote:
"Dismissing the significance of the precipitous decline in FDI might be politically convenient but it will not hide the arresting message that it sends: a serious loss of confidence in Malaysia and a sign of our decline.
Anyone closely monitoring developments in Malaysia, including foreign investors, cannot but conclude that our nation is now increasingly shaky in several areas. And they must also wonder, given recent events, if we are even up to the challenges we face.
Right now we are transfixed by the staggering RM12.5bil Port Klang Free Zone scandal.
What is really distressing is that such corruption and scandalous mismanagement of public finances keeps recurring with frightening regularity.
We seem to helplessly careen from one major scandal to another. It is a mess, a sordid mess, that must surely cause many foreign investors to simply shake their heads in disbelief and dismay.
And more than that, it tells the world that we still have not found the political will or the necessary institutional architecture to prevent such massive corruption from recurring.
It would be naïve to think that corruption on this scale will not impact investor confidence.
And, given our dismal record of bringing to justice the real kingfishers of corruption, not many believe that things are about to change.
Cumulative scandals affecting other national institutions, including the police and judiciary, have also steadily undermined the perception of Malaysia as a safe and competitive place for long term investments.
And then there is the increasingly strident and racially charged rhetoric that marks so much of what passes for political discourse in our country these days.
It may be just politics Malaysian style to some or a convenient, if morally bankrupt way, to garner support to others but it makes foreign investors, and many locals too, very jittery.
It is not for no reason that more and more Malaysians of all ethnic backgrounds are packing up and moving abroad.
According to the World Bank, the number of emigrants out of Malaysia rose from 9,576 in 1960 to almost 1.5 million in 2005. Over 300,000 left between March 2008 and August 2009 alone.
In this connection, I wonder how much of that US$8.4bil that left our shores last year was simply Malaysians moving their capital to safer shores."
At the end of his article, Dennis pointed out that assurances by the government to take proactive measures to reverse the decline in FDI are not enough, as what is needed are actions which "go well beyond mere economics and fiscal measures" to reverse the decline.
"What is also urgently needed is real and effective political leadership to tackle head on the corruption issue and the growing racial and religious divide.
The Prime Minister's 1Malaysia policy, while constructive and desperately needed, unfortunately already suffers from a thousand cuts. Unless he is able to revive confidence in the Government's ability to bring about its realisation, it will not help turn the tide of slumping investor confidence.
If we ever hope to raise the RM115bil worth of investments to achieve the goals of the 10th Malaysia Plan, we must act now.
And not with half-measures and half-hearted gestures but with credible policies and programmes backed by the necessary political will.
Bearing in mind the turbulent and uncertain global economic environment we are in, our very prosperity, if not survival, depends upon it."
This prescription is not new. In fact, the New Economic Model cries out the same message.
But is Najib and his Cabinet capable of acting on this prescription with Malaysia at the crossroads?
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor