Friday, January 21, 2011

An Honest Man Digging Through A Mountain Called Malaysia

For the first time, I attended the ETP (Economic Transformation Program) briefing on 19 January at Meridien Hotel by Senator Datuk Seri Idris Jala, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department cum Chief Executive Officer of Pemandu. After two hours, I find him to be quite an impressive man who appears to be honest, smart and committed in driving through the economic transformation program.

... However, if there is one cartoon metaphor that is most accurate in depicting Idris Jala's situation (and I will commission this to some cartoonists if I have not the time to draw it myself), it is this:

With a pick and axe, Senator Jala is digging laboriously a tunnel through a huge dark mountain called Malaysia. Other adjacent mountains like China, Singapore, India also have tunnels but they have already been built and cars are zooming through them at tremendous speed.

At Senator Jala's feet are 4 dynamites which he has forgotten/refused to use. These dynamites are labelled: Abolish NEP, Abolish Cronyism, Bring Back Science and Maths in English, Prosecute and Charge Corrupted Ministers/Tycoons.

The tunnel he hopes to complete is only one third of the actual mountain underpass and it stops at a sign: 2020 ETP target.

Conclusion: He and the PM need to be more efficient and use those dynamites to blow up the way for the enitre tunnel. If he does not hurry and thinks he has until 2020 to finish, other countries like Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, etc will reach their goals faster than Malaysia. All the stated ETP projects may well create the 3.3 million jobs that is estimated by Pemandu. But these jobs may be largely project-dependent (construction) jobs and not long-term, self-sustainable jobs without the requisite insitutional reforms that Malaysia deeply needs.

Unless he embarks on picking the low hanging fruit and removes the heavy shackles burdening Malaysia, we may be truly stuck in the middle income/half-way tunnel hole. And this mountain underpass is the only hope not only for the economy but for the country and its people.

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