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Malaysia Plan must contain a blueprint to redress serious
under-representation of Chinese and Indians in the Malaysian civil service –
a glaring restructuring failure of NEP
Speech (8) on the Ninth Malaysia Plan
Such a commitment was made routinely in every five-year Malaysia Plan but invariably disregarded as it was no more than lip-service as non-Bumiputera participation in the public sector had worsened over the decades.
The statistics given by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz in Parliament last month bore out my contention in my speech during the debate on the Royal Address last Wednesday (15.3.06) that after nearly half a century of nationhood the Malaysian civil service “is increasingly regarded by many as a Malay civil service than a Malaysian civil service”.
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
As the biggest employer in the country, the government should set the lead and example in achieving this important prong of the New Economic Policy to reduce and eventually eliminate the identification of race with vocation and location, but the reverse had taken place with regard to the racial composition in the Malaysian civil service.
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.
It is too simplistic just to blame the non-Malays for not wanting to join the civil service as the causes for the grave under-representation of the Chinese and Indian in the Malaysian civil service must be found in misguided recruitment polices. This is particularly the case as there is no aversion among non-Malays to joining the public service.
Malaysians expect the government to announce a blueprint to rectify such under-representation of the Chinese and Malays in the Malaysian civil service – a glaring restructuring failure of the NEP - in the winding-up of the debate on the Ninth Malaysia Plan.
I visited the Petronas website and found that its Board of Directors is 100% bumiiputra. Isn’t it time for Petronas and all GLCs to set the example of being more reflective of the country’s multi-racial population and serving the Malaysian Agenda instead of Malay Agenda in all aspects of its operations and functions?
The solutions to the issue of income disparities between groups cannot be resolved through setting targets and postulating restructuring and broad notions of human capital development in the manner proposed. There can be no denying of the fact that reform of the educational system at all levels is a first and fundamental step.
Standards must be improved, merit in selection must be a factor; the curriculum reformed, our institutions of tertiary learning need to be urgently restructured (including the pattern of employment). The focus on quantity must stop and be replaced by quality. It is most telling that our educational institutions are producing graduates to swell the ranks of the unemployed and the unemployables.
The Plan projects that 1.1 million net additional jobs will be created over the five years with just under 400,000 of these requiring some form of tertiary qualifications (certificate, diploma, degree, masters or a PhD).
However, the figures reveal that there will be over 250,000 local graduates from both private and public institutions of higher learning per year. This would mean, taking into account exits from the labor market through deaths, retirements, emigration etc, up to two-thirds or 66 percent of new graduates will not find graduate-level employment.
The secondary system performs no better. Many of the students emerging from the system with only a religious education become unemployed or enter the job market at low paying jobs. This was one of the key findings of the World Bank study that I have cited earlier. The Plan provides no indication that there is an intention to address these compelling issues.
The emphasis placed on developing smart schools and attracting increasing numbers of non-Bumiputra students into National Schools, even if successful, is unlikely to address deep seated problems connected with the curriculum, the quality and orientation of the teaching staff, race polarization. We need to remind ourselves that parents and students who have options will seek alternative avenues to gain an education that better equips them to enter the job market. The Government cannot dictate choices. It must pay heed to demand.
A nation's competitiveness is in part determined by the quality of its human resources. That in turn is determined by the excellence or lack thereof of the knowledge and skill levels of the work force.
For a generation or more, Malaysia has had the misfortune to have pursued educational policies that have impacted negatively on the creation of a dynamic, motivated, and skilled labor force. Our institutions of secondary and tertiary education have become sausage factories producing graduates unfit and unemployable in fields that hold a key to our future.
The consequent loss of competitiveness is beginning to manifest. Despite the clear and present danger signals, the BN administration continues to ignore actions that are needed.
Meritocracy in the selection of those that are taught and those who teach cannot be substituted with less than open and transparent processes. It must be recognized that upgrading the educational system demands more than money; throwing money at the problems will not resolve matters. There is an urgent need to move resolutely towards reforms that will improve the quality of the system, produce graduates that are equipped to meet the challenges of a harshly competitive world.
I would like to refer to the remarks of the UN Resident Coordinator and Representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, Richard Leete, who highlighted Malaysia's crisis of unemployment among university graduates. He said:
“Despite Malaysia's impressive record in employment, the unemployed rate among persons aged 20-24 has risen markedly since 2000, and is now around ten percent.” He further observed: “Of particular concern is the rising level of unemployment among Malaysians with tertiary education, which in 2004 for the first time ever, was at a higher level for Malaysian graduates than for those with secondary or primary educational attainment”. He added that the problem indicated the need to reconcile the needs of the market with the education system currently found at the tertiary level.
These issues are hardly addressed in the Plan.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission