Acronym soup swamps Malaysia reform drive

Global News Journal
Aug 25, 2010

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak says he has embarked on a series of radical economic reforms. In reality it feels as if he has unleashed a barrage of incomprehensible acronyms on the unsuspecting public of this Southeast Asian nation.

The charge for economic reform is being led by the snappily named PEMANDU. As well as being the Malay word for “driver” it stands for the government’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit.

PEMANDU is in charge of formulating and implementing NKRAs (National Key Result Areas), MKRAs (Ministerial Key Result Areas) and getting “Big Results Fast”, according to its website, although it singularly failed to win political backing for a radical revamp of Malaysia’s costly subsidy regime.

It is also helping to formulate the 10th Malaysia Plan, 10MP for those in the know, a communist-era sounding 5-year plan that aims to help lift this middle income country to developed nation status by 2020.

PEMANDU is part of the GTP, the Government Transformation Programme, which also involves the SITF (Special Implementation Task Force). Throw in the NKEAs (National Key Economic Areas), another thinktank known as the EPU (Economic Planning Unit) and you haven’t reached the end of the alphabet spaghetti dreamed up by Malaysia’s civil servants…. There’s still the ETP. the NEP (sometimes good, sometimes bad) and the NEM (New Economic Model).

To be fair to Malaysia, it is not the only country in the world that is wallowing in economic acronyms, the U.S. gave the world TARP, a $700 billion bank bailout programme, and the even more mind-numbing ABCP MMMFLF (don’t ask), but it is fair to ask what Malaysians have got from all of this.

While it is true that Malaysia has had a “good” global downturn with economic growth of 10.1 percent in the first quarter of 2010 and 8.9 percent in the second quarter, it is also true that Najib hasn’t quite managed to transform Malaysia in the way he promised.

Najib told a conference run by investment bank Credit Suisse earlier this year that he “must execute or be executed”. He has also spoken of Malaysia’s economy being a “burning platform” based on low skill and low cost labour that is increasingly losing out to the likes of China, Indonesia and Vietnam in the race for investment and growth.

For all the rhetoric and the welcome mat being laid out for foreign banks and insurers by Najib, Malaysia still looks sickly compared with its peers.

Private investment is 12 percent of gross domestic product compared with 30 percent prior to the Asian crisis and is among the lowest in Asia, according to the World Bank. Productivity growth has halved to 3 percent since the 1998 Asian crisis and the World Bank says Malaysian firms innovate less than those in Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Foreign direct investment has fallen off a cliff since the glory days of the early 1990s when Malaysia accounted for 39.8 percent of Southeast Asia’s total, in part reflecting Malaysian companies investing overseas in faster growing economies like Indonesia. In 2009, according to UN data, Malaysia accounted for just 3.8 percent of the region’s total.

Najib’s reform momentum appears to be stalled, with liberalisation being attacked by conservative Malay groups who fear their special economic, social and political privileges are under threat.

Malaysians and the global investment community are now waiting for another stir of the acronym soup when the final details of the NEM and 10MP are unveiled in September as well as a public consultation run by PEMANDU.

Worryingly for the prime minister and his reform drive, local wags have started to mock his acronyms, dubbing NKRA “Najib Kerja, Rosmah Arah” (Najib works, Rosmah directs) in a pointed reference to Najib’s highly visible wife Rosmah Mansor.

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 12:48 am

    ///Productivity growth has halved to 3 percent since the 1998 Asian crisis and the World Bank says Malaysian firms innovate less than those in Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.///

    The drastic drop in productivity is expected as Malaysia relies heavily on unskilled, untrained and ill-educated cheap foreign labor to drive its industry. How can Malaysia firms innovate when its talents leave for greener pastures overseas because of racial discrimination and sweatshop salaries back home? It was reported that salary rise was only 2.6% for the past 20 years! Which Malaysian wants to do difficult innovation jobs with so little pay? Can the unskilled, untrained and ill-educated foreign labor take up such jobs?

    NKRA “Najib Kerja, Rosmah Arah” (Najib works, Rosmah directs) is not a new “phenomenon”. A flip-flopping Najib is known for his indecisiveness, and lack of political will to bring new ideas and new development to pass. In fact, some political analysts claimed Najib is no better than his flip-flopping predecessor Tun Abdullah Badawi.

    With reforms and economic liberalization being attacked by conservative Malay groups who fear their special economic, social and political privileges are under threat, Malaysia will continue to be locked in the middle-income trap and will soon be overtaken by fast-developing countries like Vietnam and Indonesia.

  2. #2 by raven77 on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 2:04 am

    This Najib fellow is living on borrowed time…time he hopes to use optimally to rob this nation to its bones so that the PR gets only the carcass..


  3. #3 by gofortruth on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 2:11 am

    With TDM & his tool Perkasa stirring up racial fears while BN gomen is busy looting (1.3 billion Ringgit on sub marine service contract; 8 billion Ringgit on Armoured Vehicles etc etc ), our land has become too volitile for any foreign investor to come in. What a nose dive of FDI from 39.8% to a dismal 3.8 % of South East Asia’s total. Now we know why other weaker countries are over taking us.

  4. #4 by House Victim on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 4:12 am

    Every PM came with slogan of Reform. Put in more Departments, Bureau or Offices when those “old” and fundamental ones were/are clawing in their jobs. Flip-flopping on their duties, ignoring what they are for but giving more “block” to provide information or service in time. Having more power than necessary or even imunity for not doing so.

    How many PM or ministers had done their job?
    Public Compliant Bureau directly under PM Department cannot even dare to confirm the receipt of Complaint on Police/KUP/AG’s silence and not-acting on Lawyer cheating and assaulting cleints cases!!

    BNM (Bank Negara) set-up a so-called FMB (Financial Mediation Bureau) but cannot even give simple answer to
    1. If credit-card holders are liable for transactions incurred after date of Report of Stolen?
    2. Are such transactions being accountable without investigation? Press the cardholder to pay and cancel the credit card on reason of Default payment even before investigation.
    3. What else can the bank charge other than late charge and interest?
    4. Can interest be counpounded daily so as to be over 18% per annum?
    5. Any Ruling when Bank practice malice and violations of BNM or Bank’s own terms and regulations?

    An enquiry was post to FMB but was answered by BNM to tell the client to contact FMB!!

    Except taking Clients into a Merry-go-round, what else can the Government do? Hiding facts and laws, twisting interpretation or misleading clients, deaf to complaints or blind to act…..

    Reforming is WASTING NEW BOTTLES ON Rottened Stuffs on account of Tax-payers!!

  5. #5 by undertaker888 on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 7:38 am

    Just one index is enough. Get MACC to prosecute big whales like taib. Don’t think they can do it.

  6. #6 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 8:41 am

    U know things have failed once the international journalist start poking fun at your programs…

  7. #7 by HJ Angus on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 9:09 am

    In Malaysia P is not for productivity but “POKAI”

    P is for Plunder
    O is the Officials who do it
    K is Korupsi at high levels
    A is the AG who misplaces files and
    I is the Inability of Courts to administer justice

  8. #8 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 9:48 am

    The PEMANDU (driver) is actually Rosmah. Najib’s a plain pussy cat.

    NKRA = Najib kucing, Rosmah Anjing.

    Najib Kecut, Rosmah Atas.

  9. #9 by tsn on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 12:39 pm

    Very complicated, with impressive growth rates for the past 2 quarters, yet all the comments are -ve. Cracking head, how are these 2 glossy rates came from? Could it be due to booming high-end property sector? Heard that they are selling like hot potatos, inching towards bubbles.

  10. #10 by johnnypok on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 11:31 pm

    Most people think about making enough money to migrate elsewhere, while foreign-investors avoid us.

    We will close shop even before 2019

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