Implications of GTP on ETP-2: Government facilitation

By Dr. Daphne Loke | May 18, 2011
The Malaysian Insider

May 18 — This article concerns the numerous private sector projects proposed for development and have been left to languish indefinitely in the hands of government departments at the proposal stage.

I remember applying for an IPTS license many years ago. The department concerned displayed on a notice board the list of applications which could not be processed due to lack of certain documents still pending from the applicant. Each applicant was provided with a complete checklist of documents required and a process flowchart for this activity.

There are pros and cons in this action. The positive side would be to clear the department’s name should it be blamed for delays in approvals. The downside is the unnecessary publicity to the applicant.

How then should the government deal with applications for development projects? Pemandu has done a good job in asking the private sector to inform Pemandu of the “road blocks” that they have encountered. This proactive step received much admiration. Unfortunately, Pemandu does hold the final authority of approval.


The Prime Minister has made it clear that the role of the Government is to facilitate private sector development. This has raised the morale of companies looking forward to shortening the process of project approvals, particularly those proposals which require the special opinion of other agencies. These applications used to be passed from one agency to another. On some occasions, the project proposer would be told to get approval from a certain agency first, and then only return to the rest.

The issues I would like to raise here are:

1. Inter-agency respect

Specific reference is made to State approvals. When a federal department, e.g. the environmental department, refuses approval for a project, due consideration must be given as to why the State government endorsed it in the first place. I have personally come across projects which were approved at State level for some 10 years but could not take off due to a lengthy process of romancing Federal departments.

2. Awareness of changes in the globalised economy

Malaysians are rather used to receiving out-of-date statistics. The departments which produce them need to be aware of the changes, major ones in particular, which had transcended those years and had impacted global events. Even after 9-11, there have been incidents such as civil wars, financial crises, natural disasters, changes in government regimes and not to forget enormous ethical events which have impacted production and trade performance. Those once hard-to-get time series had lost their lustre in forecasting roles. It would be misleading to apply eight-year-old statistics in forecasting economic activity of any kind.

3. Out-dated restrictions

Every year government officers are sent to attend international conferences whether as participants or as speakers. These government efforts of upgrading public employees should produce positive outcomes. The updated techniques and methodologies should be seen to benefit the country. Guidelines and subordinate legislations enacted more than 10 years ago should be reviewed. Great care should be taken when using a set of 30-year-old guidelines as a basis for rejecting a project application. I was once reprimanded for challenging a government agency on factual matters. Here, I wish to reiterate that mere possession of power is no reason to regard its use as proper.


Judging from the above, what extent of transformation should we expect of these government facilitators? In trade facilitation, the government is expected to ensure that goods have complied with international standards and followed procedures before they launch on the export route. Yet, there have been occasions when containers of goods were detained in foreign ports for being short of critical certification. Losses suffered were not just the exporters’. It was the government’s, too.


Should government facilitation be limited to mere basic matters such as arranging for meetings, setting agendas and leading in meetings? In the example above, it may appear to be degrading to the chief executive of the State should the federal department make a decision to reject the project. The State had expected the federal facilitator to be aware of State plans and strategies, and not to make decisions regardless of them. When met with “road blocks”, both the project proposer and the State had expected the federal facilitator to provide assistance, or at least direction, to overcome those obstacles in order that the project could take-off as soon as possible.


With SMEs making up 99 per cent of all establishments in the country, the government should seriously look into cluster facilitation. Government departments should be in constant communication with NGOs and expert groups. These groups, too, receive funding from the government for research and development in their specific fields of activities. It was utterly incomprehensible to read a 20-page report from an expert organisation detailing why a project should be rejected but not a word was uttered as how to overcome the problems highlighted. Such negative attitudes should be transformed such that the expert knowledge they harbour can be channelled to the development needs of the masses.


Public officers should understand the need for sharing risk. For a RM10 million project, it would be prudent to expect that at least 20per cent of this sum had been spent on research, design modelling, consultancy services and the like, before being submitted for approval. Facilitating agencies come across project studies day-in and day-out. These officers should be trained to spot opportunities where the expertise of multiple organisations can be pooled together for specific development rather than to reject them on basis of individual insufficiencies.


The few points highlighted here definitely require more than the two words “working together” to overcome. In a networked world of coalitions and alliances, there is a definite need for a change in mind set among not just the public sector, but some segments of the private sector as well. Last but not least, the most important component in successful facilitation is whether one’s heart is in the job.

  1. #1 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Thursday, 19 May 2011 - 8:49 pm

    My sympathies with investors.
    My disgust with facilatators and facilitating agencies.

    My question: should we even be surprised at all at the erosion of the nation’s competitiveness?

    Aiyah, Najib, if u can’t do the job, just shove off and let some better guy do it.

    Oh, and 1UMNO should just close shop and transfer all its assets to Merdeka Review which is so in need of funds.

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