07Ogos2020

Agenda Daily

ECONOMIC LIBERALISATION: WEALTH FOR ALL

While the government's efforts to revive and diversify the economy is laudable, it must make sure the wealth garnered is distributed equitably. In recent decades, income gaps among the races have widened.

 

THE MOVES BY PRIME MINISTER DATUK SERI Mohd Najib Abdul Razak to further widen and diversify the base of the nation's economy is commendable.

The Star newspaper, on June 23, reported that the Prime Minister would unveil a number of significant liberalisation measures in the next few weeks.

The target is the services sector. With the new measures, Mohd Najib hopes the share of the services sector will increase from its current 55% to 70%.

`We are not liberalising to conform to some new economic orthodoxy nor is it for the sole purpose of attracting foreign investments and capital,' said Mohd Najib, who is also Finance Minister.

`Our objective is clear: to ensure that Malaysians - our people and companies — benefit from the competitive dynamics that are shaping the global marketplace for ideas, talents and funds so that we can emerge stronger, become more globalised and ultimately thrive in this new world order,' he said in his keynote address at the Seventh Heads of Mission Conference in Putrajaya.

In April, Mohd Najib announced the liberalisation of equity ownership of 27 services sub-sectors, which, in effect, abolished the New Economic Policy (NEP) Bumiputera shareholding requirements.

Mohd Najib's assurance is in line with his `people first, performance now' slogan. Opening up the economy and creating more wealth must go hand in hand with the promise of fairer distribution.

While the dynamics of the services industry as a measure of economic progress is well understood, the government must continue to be mindful of the fact that the same dynamics could lead to a further widening of the income gap among the races.

As a rule, the more mature an economy, the larger is the share of the services sector.

There's no doubt that the services sector is the lynchpin in job creation, but in the Malaysian context, it could also be the harbinger of bad news for those who are unable to participate effectively in it.

Already, the lower end of the services sector employment is being exclusively populated by Bumiputeras in competition with cheap, unskilled foreign workers.

This must stop if Mohd Najib wants to be remembered as the Prime Minister who pioneered the iMalaysia policy. There cannot be iMalaysia if the majority race continues to be left behind and the income gaps among the races continues to widen.

Unless his liberalisation efforts are accompanied by a comprehensive employment policy that safeguards the interest of local workers, Mohd Najib's lofty plans might be hijacked and sabotaged by unscrupulous employers, the blood-sucking employment agents and corrupt civil servants and politicians.

Additionally, the expansion of the services sector should not be at the expense of the existing key sectors, in particular, agriculture, which has time and again proven to be the saviour during hard times.

Special attention must be given to food production as global warming and rising demand are causing widespread food shortages and escalating prices. Malaysia is blessed with fertile land and a suitable climate to became a major food producer.

Unfortunately, in recent decades, the celebration of manufacturing is happening at the expense of agriculture. Ministers and civil servants are paying lip service to agriculture, in particular, the smallholding sector.

This must change if Malaysia is to achieve self-sufficiency in food, and stall the demise of smallholding agriculture, in particular, rice growing.

For example, our rice imports increased from 700,000 tonnes in 2007 to 900,000 tonnes last year.

WHITHER THE IPCMC

ON June 21, the New Sunday Times reported that Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein wanted to revisit the 125 recommendations of the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysian Police.

The new broom at the Home Ministry was quoted as saying that he would be retracing steps to see if the recommendations had been carried out and if they had made an impact.

Without going into detail as to which recommendations he wanted to address, the minister said he was aware that the people still had a negative perception when it came to the force and that police officers still had grievances that had to be looked into.

`I think we need to revisit those recommendations together with the Inspector-General of Police, look at them carefully again.

`If there are proposals that have not taken off yet, we want to expedite them.'

Four years ago, the Commission handed its report to the Government of then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The Commission, among other things, looked into three main areas of reform for the force, namely, crime reduction, the eradication of corruption and observing human rights.

Among its key recommendations was the setting up of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), which is yet to see the light of day.

Last year, the government said it had implemented more than 80% of the recommendations and the rest, which were not taken up, were still being studied.

Asked if he felt the recommendations had not been carried out properly, Hishammuddin said he would be looking at the matter closely.

The next day, the New Straits Times, quoted the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Ismail Omar, as saying that most of the 2005 recommendations had been implemented.

Increasing enforcement

I COMMEND the minister for caring to revisit the work of the Commission. There is considerable uncertainty concerning the implementation and monitoring of the recommendations by the government and the PDRM.

As a member of the Commission, I hope Hishammuddin makes the implementation and monitoring of the recommendations the basis of his efforts to improve the Royal Malaysian Police.

I see the implementation of the report of the Commission as one of the key elements in enhancing not only the image of the police, but also the image of the Barisan Nasional (BN) Government.

There is no need to remind Hishammuddin that the formation of the Royal Commission in 2004 was a key element in the reform package of the Abdullah Administration.

The Commission was announced just weeks before the 2004 general election when the BN received the highest ever mandate in history.

The victory was attributed partly to Abdullah's promises of a more efficient and corruption-free government.

Since then, however, the implementation of the reform package, including the report of the Commission, had not only faltered but in some cases regressed, resulting in the BN being resoundingly punished in last year's general election.

The highlight of the Commission's report was the proposed formation of the IPCMC, which remains unimplemented despite repeated promises by Abdullah himself.

If Hishammudin is serious in his promise, then he has to make sure that the implementation of the Commission's recommendations is accompanied by close monitoring and supervision.

All information concerning the implementation of these recommendations must be shared with the public so that they are aware of the goings-on in the PDRM and are able to cooperate with the force.

Given the faltering law and order situation in the country, due partly to the difficult economic situation and growing civil disobedience, the formation of the IPCMC should be treated with urgency.

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