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How Malaysia can become a developed nation   

The biggest culprit standing in our way is corruption

Koon Yew Yin (left) with Anwar Ibrahim

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By Koon Yew Yin

Since becoming Prime Minister last November, Anwar Ibrahim’s performance has been reassuring.

If he continues to implement his policies, especially his anti-corruption policy, Malaysia’s annual economic growth rate should improve rapidly.

Malaysia has improved little economically since independence six decades ago. The average annual growth rate in gross development product (GDP) over the last 70 years is about 5%. In fact, the growth rate has been dropping over the last 20 years, as shown in the chart below.   

Not so long ago, Malaysia was the largest tin, rubber and palm oil producer in the world. It is also the 16th biggest petroleum producer in the world.

Yet, we have failed to achieve developed nation status – unlike Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. Mind you, these countries do not even have timber to build their houses.

The government launched the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1970. Back then, our GDP per capita was about the same as Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. But now, Singapore has a GDP per capita of $66,176, Taiwan’s is $33,011 and Malaysia’s is $10,575.

The biggest culprit is corruption. Just do an internet search and you’ll see that Malaysia is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

What is GDP? It is the sum of the gross value added by all resident producers in the economy plus any product taxes and minus any subsidies not included in the value of the products. It is calculated without making deductions for the depreciation of fabricated assets or for depletion and degradation of natural resources.

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Malaysia’s annual GDP growth rate has been dropping over the last 20 years, especially over the last five years.

  • The GDP growth rate for 2021 was 3.1%, an 8.6% increase from 2020
  • The GDP growth rate for 2020 was -5.5%, a 10.0% decline from 2019
  • The GDP growth rate for 2019 was 4.4%, a 0.4% decline from 2018
  • The GDP growth rate for 2018 was 4.8%, a 1.0% decline from 2017

The Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (KLCI) chart 2018-2022 has been dropping over the last five years as shown below:

Anwar launched my second book New Road Map to a Developed Nation in January 2021. It has 49 pages, a short summary of my first book, which has 400 pages. I will highlight the gist to show how Malaysia can improve its economy and become a developed nation.    

Roadmap for a successful and advanced state

  • Build a psychologically liberated and secure Malaysian society
  • Foster a mature liberal, tolerant and democratic nation
  • Establish a scientific, progressive and ethical society
  • Ensure a fair distribution of the wealth of the country
  • Build an economy that is competitive, dynamic and resilient

Economic roadmap

Stamp out corruption

Leverage on the rise of China, which is one of our biggest trading partners. China buys most of our products, especially palm oil

Educational roadmap

  • Stop the education brain drain. Many ethnic Chinese Malaysians have been migrating to the UK and Australia
  • Guarantee that education is secular-based and does not become a political or religious football
  • Ensure that entry to publicly funded universities is based on educational qualifications, not based on race
  • Practise transparency, fairness and integrity in all aspects of education
  • Reject racial, religious and political agendas to ensure an inclusive and progressive school system
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Political roadmap

Civil service reform. When you do an internet search on “How many civil servants in Malaysia?”, the following appears:

PUTRAJAYA: The number of civil servants as of March 2021 stands at a whopping 1.71 million, said Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Dr. Ismail Bakar. For the core service sectors, he said, the armed forces comprised 152,957 personnel; police had 128,536; civil servants of various schemes (665,068); education (523,226) and health (240,745).

Malaysia has 1.7 million civil servants for our population of 36.5 million. This works out to one civil servant for every 20 citizens. Malaysia has the most civil servants per capita in the world.

Almost all the civil servants are ethnic Malays. We should have more representation from ethnic minorities to ensure diversity, create a competitive spirit and improve management efficiency.  

  • Singapore has 87,000 civil servants for 6.1 million people – one civil servant for 70 citizens
  • Thailand has two million civil servants for 69.9 million people – one civil servant for 35 citizens
  • Malaysia has 1.7 million civil servants for 36.5 million people – one civil servant for 20 citizens

Why should we have more soldiers than police personnel? We are protected by Asean countries and the UN. Our neighbours Singapore and Thailand will not invade Malaysia. To save costs, we should have fewer soldiers.

Managing the country is like managing many kinds of business operations in every city. We need to produce beneficial results and improve our economy.

About three years ago, when I wrote and posted my article about civil service reform, then home minister Mahiaddin Yasin sent a senior police officer from police headquarters to investigate. I was grilled for two-and-a-half hours at the Jelapang Police station.

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I told the police officer that what I wrote was true and, if he arrested me, the adverse publicity would be more damaging and shameful.

I hope all my readers will forward this article to the MPs in their districts so that they can discuss in Parliament how to make Malaysia a developed nation.

Koon Yew Yin is a co-founder of three leading construction and property development companies in Malaysia and is now a full-time investor

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Afiq Aziz
Afiq Aziz
23 Mar 2023 8.37am

“Malaysia has the most civil servants per capita in the world.”

Non sense and such a lie. 15% of all employment in Malaysia are public sector jobs. There is at least 50 countries with higher number than that. Developed countries such as Australia, The UK, Denmark, France, etc all have higher civil servant proportion than Malaysia. Get your facts right.

Orang Ulu
Orang Ulu
27 Feb 2023 4.45pm

After more than three months is now government as usual. It is proven that we are ended with nothing more than a Bomba Brigade led by a NATO chief.

26 Feb 2023 5.43am

There are many govt services, facilities, and works and supplies that can be provided more efficiently by the private sectors. In fact, this could be the way foreword for more Malaysian contractors to participate more actively and competitively to serve society better. Therefore, the government should appoint a royal commission to examine ways and means of trimming the civil service to an efficient one of reasonable size.

Paul lim
Paul lim
26 Feb 2023 3.14am

Yes, corruption is the issue for Malaysia but I like to add that Malaysia should move away from its natural resources-based sector as you refer to South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. It should stop the construction of high-rise apartments for foreigners. This is no évidence of developed country status. It should be building its own indigenous capacity in research and innovation as these Tiger countries have done.

I can see through you!
I can see through you!
24 Feb 2023 4.34pm

‘Our neighbours Singapore and Thailand will not invade Malaysia.’

So you live in what utopia, where people are not greedy and resources are unlimited, ah? Latest example, Ukraine, protected by NATO even though it is not a member and UN too, still invaded by Russia.

Oh yeah, why not we reduce the numbers of teachers too, since now we are in the digital age where people can study online by themselves?

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