Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah made a honest revelation although it was not something new.
Husni (below) said Malaysia's economy has been stagnating the past decade and is now trailing badly behind its neighbours. He is calling for "urgent" and wide-ranging reforms.
Unfortunately, the minister stopped short of telling us what sort of reforms the government is ready to undertake. This is not unusual too.
Since independence, the same ruling government has been governing this country like they know best.
Discussions are held behind closed doors, important reports such as the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide tragedy are made official secrets and people are constantly told to accept their fate without questioning the government.
As a result, we are facing stunted socio-economic development in Malaysia. Malaysia's best brains are still leaving the country. The figure (304,000) quoted by deputy foreign minister Kohilan Pillay is just the a tip of the iceberg.
We should not focus only on the number but the intellectual property, investment, skills and entrepreneurial spirit these Malaysians or ex-Malaysians took with them as well.
Their departure and the many more to follow will only make our reforms more difficult to implement.
Previous attempts to lure these Malaysians back had been unsuccessful. Yet the government is uttering the same mantra again. Prime Minister Najib Razak (right) has urged Malaysians to come back to serve the country.
The other prime ministers had said the same thing. Those who came back, left once again because the government was better at paying lip-service than really make it desirable for them to remain.
Until and unless, the government make all Malaysians feel equally respected, regarded and appreciated, the brain drain flow is going one way - out. Why is the government remaining unrepentantly racist and divisive?
Major problems with BTN courses
Recently, the National Civics Bureau (BTN by its Malay acronym) chief Ahmad Maslan (below) said the BTN courses are merely stating the facts. He said participants are taught about the Federal Constitution, the social contract, the position of the Malays in this country and 60 per cent of the population are the bumiputras.
He added that BTN had incorporated propaganda from the previous administrations too, such as Vision 2020 and Islam Hadhari, and now the 1Malaysia concept.
There are two major problems with the BTN courses and the chief. First, the courses are conducted without a sincere purpose to contribute to nation- building.
The emphasis on the social contract, the position of the Malays in this country and the bumiputeras population in this country has a clear connotation - to entrench the majority rule over the minorities.
Why don't the courses focus on how the different communities in the country could work together to make this country successful?
What about the responsibility of the majority to ensure that the rights and needs of the minorities are not being trampled upon, especially the indigenous people who are largely living in poverty and neglected by mass development?
Second, the chief and the BTN courses are clearly politically linked. The chief is a deputy minister and an Umno politician and the courses are mostly used to promote the administration's propaganda.
The effort to make it easier for foreigners with the desired skills to obtain a permanent resident status could easily be the most dramatic step taken by the government which had previously been quite xenophobic.
The implementation may still frustrate many foreigners who are not from the right race or religious denomination.
The verdict is clear. Malaysia needs these reforms and it needs to be defined and scoped out. The success of these reforms depends on the ruling government's sincerity and political will to end institutional racism in the country.
Most of these reforms need to be colour blind, focus on real needs and nurturing real qualities and values.
There is no other alternative. Half-hearted reforms mean we are wasting more time to empty talk. The point is those who are able, capable and resourceful can avoid the approaching glacier by migrating.
Those who are left behind are the ones who really need these reforms and have better access to opportunities and resources. But how are we going to provide for them if the capable ones are gone?
This government still insists on promoting and perpetuating 'Ketuanan Melayu' (Malay supremacy). We should ask our fellow Malay friends what is the point of feeling supreme if most of them are poor, neglected, uncompetitive, uneducated and unimpressive?
If such is the plight of the Malays despite the nation's most valuable resources firmly controlled by their own leaders, something must be wrong with the concept or the community itself.
The signs are telling. Husni added that Malaysia is trapped in a low-value-added, low-wage and low-productivity structure.
A reliable check-and-balance needed
While Singapore and South Korea's nominal per capita GDP grew within the last three decades by nine and 12 times respectively, ours grew only by a factor of four.
The government has announced its intention to help double Malaysia's per capita income by year 2020. The question is how? Next, we should ask the government when it intends to implement a reliable check-and-balance system to ensure that leakages, wastage and corruption are kept at bay.
Like politics, the decision to invest depends on perception too. The government will have to demonstrate its resilience and will to tackle the biggest financial scandals in the history of the country; the PKFZ, the Sarawak state financial scandal, the Ipoh double-tracking project and many more which do not put the country in the good book of investors.
The federal and state governments, both Barisan and Pakatan, should vet and weed out troublesome personnel and warlords in their ministries, agencies and departments who are frustrating policy implementations and act according to their own whims and fancies.
By now the government should realise that its inability and unwillingness to change and to adapt to the new international economy environment is the single biggest contributing factor to the economic malaise.
In a withering assessment, Ahmad Husni said the services sector is underdeveloped, private investment is half the levels before the 1997 Asian crisis, and the manufacturing sector is suffering from lack of investment.
These are symptoms of a sick economy. Husni should conduct a study to find out why this country has squandered its lead in high technology manufacturing, plantation, services and others within a short period of two decades. Malaysia was once a top ranked FDI destination. Now, it is not even in the top 50 bracket.
Does the government have what it takes to implement these unidentified reforms? Can the ruling party even reform itself?