Since the finance minister and deputy prime minister Najib is asking for more feedback, I would like to urge him to consider giving direct stimulus to the people. Let them decide their own consumption pattern.
Already, governments in Australia, Taiwan and Singapore are doing the same. Give cash coupons to the people to enhance domestic demand. If the government is serious in promoting buy Malaysian products, these cash coupons could help to raise domestic demand. Different people have different consumption needs. Hence, the direct stimulus will help to cushion against a sudden drop in consumption after the Chinese New Year period.
I have spoken to several senior executives in Penang and they informed me there is still job but mainly from last year's order book. They have not received any solid order yet this year. Hence, many of these manufacturers are likely to close down once the order backlog is cleared.
Second, the government should consider using the financial stimulus to create new jobs, new industries and new markets. There are a few areas we can do well e.g. food production, new agriculture products, services and hospitality, public transportation and light manufacturing.
Malaysia's food import bill is still very high, RM30 billion a year. It is time we focus on promoting local production and at the same time lower our import bill. Afterall, Malaysia is known as a food haven.
There are approximately 600,000 new job seekers every year. Unfortunately, less than 20 percent of companies are still hiring. Adding this figure to the unemployment numbers, we could be seeing jobless rates climbing to a record high by the second Q of 2009. Focusing on reskilling and retooling is not going to take these workers anywhere. The government could create new jobs and new industries for them to seek employment. It is time to create agriculture entrepreneurs.
Malaysia's hospitality and tourism industry has a huge untap potential. Imagine Penang, there is hardly any inbound tour specialists to help and assist tourists. Simply, we are not branding our tourism right. We can shore up our hospitality industry by creating more supporting jobs. Get these people to help enhance our infrastructures, amenities and become tour consultants. What is the point of being blessed with the best geographical wonders but doing nothing to promote and preserve them?
The lack of public transport is a sore point for the country. Since we do not need to protect the national car, Proton, anymore, the government should use the stimulus to build more public transport for the people e.g. buses, taxis, special inner city automobile (tuk tuk in Thailand) and others. The logistics and public transport sector should be able to create more job opportunities. There are many more social benefits - we get to reduce traffic jam, pollution and enhance mobility.
Najib should seriously reconsider giving the allocation to the ministries to build all types of nonsense e.g. Dewan Serbaguna, parks and more lamp posts. Half the allocation will be lost somewhere. A quarter more goes into the pockets of foreign workers. Infrastructure building will take a longer time to ensure money trickles down to the people.
It is time for the finance minister, both of them, to wake up from their slumber!