We, G25, express our support and admiration for “ekonomi madani” (a civil economy) as announced by the prime minister on 27 July.
In launching his visionary approach to the country’s economic development, he strongly emphasised that he wants to make Malaysia a leading country in South East Asia, not only in terms of achieving sustainable gross domestic product (GDP) growth, but also in ensuring the equitable distribution of the expanding economic cake to all levels of Malaysian society.
G25 finds this focus on equitability very appropriate and timely. This is linked to at least two of the six core values of the masyarakat madani (civil society) concept – sustainability, prosperity, innovation, respect, trust and compassion.
Ensuring equitability directly contributes to prosperity and compassion. This is so that the lower income groups and the less fortunate families and individuals will get their fair share of the economic opportunities arising from the fast-expanding economy.
We believe that this economic vision is consistent with Anwar Ibrahim’s longstanding belief that growth by itself does not create fairness and justice for the people. The PM believes that the government itself must act decisively to bring about the distributive objective. We agree with Anwar on his vision that in strengthening the growth process, the poor must also benefit from the expansion of job and income opportunities.
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As widely acknowledged, Malaysia has achieved much progress since our independence. Income levels and employment have risen to bring about remarkable progress in reducing absolute poverty across all states.
On the other hand, it is also true that the share of wages in GDP has not risen as fast as it should. As the PM himself said in his speech at the launching ceremony of ekonomi madani, this can be attributed to the over-reliance on cheap foreign labour in the commercial, industrial and service sectors of the economy. When companies want to expand their operations, they will just import cheap foreign labour, depressing wage increases in the private sector.
The low wage levels in the country have also caused many Malaysians to migrate to look for better paid jobs overseas, leading to much loss of our skilled and professional personnel to our Asian neighbours and other foreign countries including the Middle East and the West. Among those going abroad are nurses, doctors, university professors, research scientists, engineers and accountants. This brain drain needs to be addressed urgently. We, therefore, agree with the PM that this problem of low wage culture needs to be given priority attention.
Ekonomi madani plans to achieve over 5% GDP growth in the next few years, compared to the more modest 4-5% growth rate projected in most forecasts for Malaysia. As exports are not expected to be strong because of the uncertainties in the global economy, the ambitious madani GDP growth target will require government budgetary spending to be expanded to play a bigger role in raising domestic growth momentum.
We in G25 hope that in order to ensure the sustainability of the government’s expansionary budgetary spending, the PM will take stronger measures to deal with ‘leakages’ arising from corruption, rent-seeking practices, mismanagement, cronyism and favouritism among politicians and civil servants in the ministries and implementing departments. Measures to strengthen the revenue base and cut down on the wasteful subsidies should also become part of the financial reforms to keep the fiscal deficit ratio under control.
Ekonomi madani would do well to prepare its human resources to capitalise on the rapid development in high-tech, knowledge, industrialisation, service and gig economies moving forward. The shift towards such high-tech businesses means that our youths must have the technical and language skills to be able to get employed in these new exciting jobs. The skill sets required will definitely include proficiency in English.
We assert that the learning of science and maths in English from a young age, starting at primary schools, to secondary and tertiary education would provide a seamless learning path and knowledge transition to get them well prepared for such jobs and to capitalise on these rapid developments.
Reducing the dual language programme (DLP) in schools, when the parents clearly prefer the programme to remain is a sad day for social justice. It is depriving the child’s right to a proper education and is regressive in nature. There is no evidence that such a move would improve the students’ educational performance. In fact, it would only confuse and demotivate the learning child.
Children of the elites have the money to send their children to private schools or to give them extra tuition at home, whilst children from less well-off families get no chance to compete for the high-paying jobs in the private sector since they are deprived of the opportunity to learn science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in its lingua franca as the resources are currently in English. This does not augur well with the concept of the inclusive economic policy. The fact that English is a global language is something even the die-hard nationalists in the country cannot argue with.
At the same time, we are confident that as the PM, Anwar will show strong leadership in implementing the various institutional reforms for good governance in the administration of law and justice.
These reforms – such as removing the prosecutorial function of the attorney general and creating an independent office of the director of public prosecutions, the creation of the independent police complaints and misconduct commission (IPCMC) to check on the conduct of the police in enforcing the law, and revamping the Judicial Appointments Commission Act as a safeguard to ensure that the judiciary would be free from political interference – are not new proposals.
The present PM himself, when he was in the opposition, was a signatory to the reform agenda agreed to with the previous PM, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, two years ago.
We maintain that in trying to achieve the growth and distributive objectives under ekonomi madani, these development objectives must also be accompanied with reforms for fundamental liberties or human rights of the people as enshrined in the Federal Constitution. The reforms are fundamental so that the business community, local and foreign investors, and our talent pool of skilled and professional personnel will be more confident about the country’s future as a stable multi-racial country.
We are pleased to note that the ringgit is gaining strength recently, an indicator of growing confidence in Anwar’s leadership of the country. We believe that ekonomi madani will further consolidate the political strength of the “unity government” to achieve the prospects for peace and stability in the country, despite all the toxic speeches about race and religion from the PM’s political opponents.
We call upon everyone in Malaysia to support ekonomi madani as the blueprint for making Malaysia a successful country in providing for the basic needs of its people, irrespective of race and religion, whether they live in the urban or rural areas, or whether they are in the peninsula or in East Malaysia. We are all Malaysians. – G25