KPI Minister & Pemandu CEO Idris Jala has dismissed the need for proficiency in the English language to achieve the Vision 2020 goal of becoming a high-income nation.
"You can be a high income economy with the national language,” said Idris at the CEO Forum organised by the Perdana Leadership Foundation.
He cited examples like Korea and Japan that became high-income nations without mastering the English language. “We need to remember that Korea became a high-income nation without using English. Japan went without that too,” he added.
As a KPI supremo in the Najib administration, it is a shame and a sham for Idris not to understand the underlying KPIs which had helped both South Korea and Japan to become industrial superpowers in the region.
Language is merely a medium. What both the Japanese and Korean governments did right was to promote meritocracy, innovation and knowledge acquisition as something very crucial and critical to their national pride. It was not a question about language.
However, both Korean and Japanese industrialists and scientists received their headstart from their unique relationship with the USA. Early industrialisation in Japan was assisted and sponsored by the Americans and the Korean war.
What the Japanese learnt from the Americans were put into great use through their unique initiative and ability to conduct 'reverse engineering' to improvise what the technology they had accumulated.
Early manufactures from Japan were knock-offs and did not meet any international standards. But they were adamant to continue improving and had put quality assurance and technical reliability as the most important KPIs.
Korean companies accepted their weaknesses and did a major turnaround in the late 90's to put technology advancement, product quality and creative design as their next competitive advantage. Today, some of their companies such as Samsung, LG, Kia and Hyundai are ranked among the global corporate giants.
It is a fact the two communities benefited from early knowledge acquisition from the English speaking knowledge communities in USA and Europe. In fact, the need to acquire English proficiency has become an important ingredient of success in these societies and other emerging societies in Asia including Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Thailand and others.
As a KPI Minister, it is pertinent for Idris to acknowledge the limited knowledge acquisition available in the Malay language. Intellectuals who had acquired knowledge in some of the best universities overseas should be encouraged to share their thoughts, knowledge and views in Malay. There are easily hundreds of thousands of books on various fields available in South Korea and Japan. These including translated books from the original English writers.
What about Malaysia?
Earlier, I had warned analysts not be too eager to praise Idris for some of his statements. He had merely succeeded in making some statements. It is time to judge him on his ability to turn his ETP into a success. Unfortunately, not many investors are taking his ambitious plan seriously.