How can Malaysia become a developed nation? –Practise meritocracy

January 15, 2019

How can Malaysia become a developed nation?

-Practise Meritocracy.



2020 will soon pass us by. 2050? Maybe. If we Practise Meritocracy

On June 12 last year, while delivering his keynote address at the 24th Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia could achieve developed nation status provided that the right policies were in place, and that Malaysians worked very hard.

When he stepped down as Prime Minister back in 2003, he believed that Malaysia could attain developed nation status by 2020. But the policies put in place were changed by the succeeding Prime Ministers. Even if we work extremely hard, we cannot achieve this by 2020. Maybe by 2025.

In 1970, when the New Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced, our GRP per capita was the same as Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. After 49 years, the GDP per capita of these countries respectively is four, three and 2.5 times bigger than ours. These countries do not even have timber to build houses. They import almost everything.

At one time, we were the world’s biggest producer of tin, rubber and palm oil. We also had petroleum. Yet we could not become a developed nation. Why?

The biggest albatross was the implementation of the NEP. The policy of helping the Malays become competitive was very good, but it was poorly implemented.

Of late, many government officers including former Prime Minister Najib Razak have been charged with corruption over huge sums of money. Najib, as 1MDB chairman, had RM2.6 billion supposedly channeled into his personal account. He said it was a generous donation from the Saudi Royal Family.

Corruption is ruining Malaysia, which is now branded as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, worse than many countries in Africa.

My proposal: Practise Meritocracy.

Managing the country is like managing thousands of companies and conglomerates. Mahathir must appoint the best people as Ministers and Deputy Ministers, irrespective of race. If these leaders are really good, they would know how to make rules and regulations to help the people do better than before.

The government must always appoint the best people in its civil service. It must also practise meritocracy in promotions at all levels of management so that the whole machinery can operate efficiently.

Image result for Krishnan Tan

This reminds me of an experience I had when I was on the Board of Directors of IJM Corporation Bhd. All the Directors were engineers, and our Chief Financial Officer was WHO practiseD meritocracy ( pic above Krishnan Tan). When we wanted to borrow huge sums of money from the bank for some projects and expansion, Krishnan suggested that a more effective and less costly way would be to issue irredeemable convertible unsecured loan stocks or ICULS.

As engineers, we did not know anything about ICULS. We all agreed that Krishnan was the best man to manage the company. So we appointed him as CEO in 1984. His management was so efficient that the company continued to make more and more profit every year. As a result, the company’s share price continued to climb. The current market capitalisation of IJM Corp is about RM12 billion.

The private sector knows how to practise meritocracy to make a profit. If the government also practises meritocracy, Malaysia will become a developed nation.

The key to success is to practise meritocracy.

Koon Yew Yin is a retired chartered civil engineer and one of the founders of IJM Corporation Bhd and Gamuda Bhd.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

14 thoughts on “How can Malaysia become a developed nation? –Practise meritocracy

  1. Mahathir argued that wealth in Malaysia should distributed equally among all races. You cannot make everyone equal in materially in a society, you cannot make wealth equally distributed among races. Like it or not, there are differences in people, there are differences in races. Hence one race will have more than others – it does not it mean will always be Chinese or non-Malay BUT, its just simply against law of nature to have such absolute equality..Its not the business of govt to be in such precise social engineering..It can never be done.

    Until we can come to that conclusion, we will never achieve meritocracy and hence will always be short of joining the status of the most developed countries.

  2. Singapore imports 100% of its needs. Can you imagine what will become of Singapore if the exchange rate stands at SG5 to the US Dollar.

    • At 1USD=5SGD, it will be business as usual. Exports will be very competitive; but imports will be very expensive. Net, net, Singapore will become Singapore. Singapore is almost a straight-through processing economic. What it produces for exports is almost 100% dependent on imports. So, its exchange rate does not figure greatly.

  3. The 61 years of BNs indoctrination of Ketuanan Melayu and PAS primitive Islamic ideologies may take time to rectify. 10,15 years perhaps.Eradicating and eliminating PAS wil be a humongous task but it can be done. Until then Msia is curse

  4. I doubt very much the statement of the writer that the gdp per capita of Singapore was the same as Malaysia in 1970.Singapore was an urban centre back then and it was a leading trading and port in the Malayan peninsular since the 19th ycentury.Therefore you would expect the average income of Singapore to be significantly higher than Malaysia whose economy at that time was agrarian in nature.Even now if you take the gdp per capita of KL,its going to be much higher than the gdp per capita of the rest of Malaysia.

  5. Even if Malaysia’s goal were not be developed, but a more Godly one.. practice empathy. Melayu ought to be helped, but so should many second caste who called Malaysia their mother land. With ability comes responsibility … let those who are most able shine, so that all get to live a worthy life. God does not discriminate capabilities based on race. What one deserves minimally should not depend on race also.

  6. Now please let me a country that has an exchange rate of one US Dollar to five or six of its currency that that is up there and profitable.

    • You are barking up the wrong tree. Exchange rate can be changed overnight. Indonesia can easily knock off 3 zeros from its currency if it chooses to do so. The Japanese Yen has high denominations – does that mean it is very competitive or very uncompetitive? It is quite irrelevant.

  7. In any case I am informed by usually reliable sources that devaluation of currency is not necessarily good national economic policy.

  8. The problems lie with the government of “divide and rule” attitude to have peace what the British masters did to Malaya with so many sultans to manage under the drawn-up boundary. At that time, the political situation was to stop fighting among the warlords. When it comes to managing people and country of Malaysia, it cannot flourish under priorities for one race but the bottom line is to allow politicians to win many elections due to major support from one single race. It is a killing word to the bumiputras when meritocracy applies in the government administration. It is a fact that Malaysia needs more years of politicians running the government to catch up with other countries. We need strong characters of powerful leadership to chart the destiny of the nation of a free democracy and not afraid to kick out from political objectives with strong economic reforms for the country. We don’t need politicians to warm the seat of racism.

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