I read with incredulity the recent 2011 budget announcement made by PM Najib Razak. So much money will be allocated to several mega projects e.g. 100 storey tower, new LRT lines, 1Malaysia Malls in Vietnam and China (how is this project going to create jobs for Malaysians?) and several others.
Yesterday, he announced several key projects at the PWTC. I got several calls from reporters/journalists asking my take on his announcement. The sheer amount mentioned is mouth watering but can Malaysia really become a high income nation and a competitive economy is something the government has yet to convince us.
The projects are:
* Germany’s LFoundry will invest a total of RM1.9bil to set up five wafer fabrication plants in Kulim Hi-Tech, Kedah. The initial investment is RM214mil.
* St Regis will build a six-star hotel and residence worth RM1.2bil in KL Sentral. The 208-room hotel and 160-unit residence will be built on a 0.88ha plot.
* Mydin is investing RM1bil to open 14 new branches and assisting the Government in its sundry shop transformation programme.
* Schlumberger has invested RM300mil to establish a new Global Financial Hub and shared services in Bandar Utama, Selangor. This is part of the Greater KL New Key Economic Area to attract 100 multinational corporations to relocate to Kuala Lumpur by 2020.
* Premium Renewable Energy will set up a RM124mil bio-oil plant in Lahad Datu, Sabah. It is also investing in 29 bio-oil plants by 2020 as part of the Palm Oil NKEA to commercialise second-generation biofuel using oil palm biomass.
* Mubadala of Abu Dhabi is investing in the RM26bil KL International Financial District on a 34-ha plot near Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur.
* Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd had awarded a 25-year concession to WCT Bhd to build a RM486mil integrated complex at KLIA 2, the upcoming low-cost carrier terminal in Sepang.
* Asia e-University has been picked as the gateway university for international education in distance and on-line learning. It is expected to generate gross national income of RM100mil.
* Genting is investing RM150mil to build Johor Premium Outlets in Genting Indahpura.
Most of these projects are construction/property development related. It is sad that the Malaysian government is still having the build-and-attract mindset. It hopes to build mega industrial zones, regional development zones and mega towers and try to attract multinational companies to relocate to Malaysia.
It is not the question of space availability. It is all about the availability of skilled workers, a proactive government policy which supports the growth of private sector, liberalisation, good education system, credible judiciary, low corruption, efficiency, productivity, good transportation system and other KPIs. KPI minister Idris Jala should be well versed in these KPIs.
The government keeps spending and building as though we have had all these elements in our closet and we are ready to draw them out when asked by potential investors.
Any relevant government cannot continue to endorse and spend multibillion dollars without correcting the processes, systemic failure, wastage and weaknesses of past projects. Do we need to remind this government about the monster of all failures, the PKFZ? The government must be accountable for the lack of success of Cyberjaya and Putrajaya. The new federal territory remains a ghost town at night.
Why rush into building new lines of LRT system when there is no comprehensive blueprint on public transport system? Did the government conduct any study to correct the current weaknesses and identify the best ways to satisfy the public transportation requirements and needs? The current LRT systems do not even connect! It is a shame to travel to cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong, London, Paris, New York and others to find out how inefficient and ridiculous our LRT systems are. Where in the world an LRT station needs a huge carpark to accommodate for private cars? It is because we do not have a proper feeder bus system. We do not even have a proper public bus system!
The same problem - of malaise, mediocrity and inefficiency - is repeated in all sectors e.g. education, healthcare, civil service etc.
This government must be building castle in the air if they think we can be fooled that Malaysia is ready to become a fully developed nation by 2020. Again, which government of the day would spend RM1 billion to build a new palace for the royalty? The government could easily provide 10,000 new homes for Malaysians. It is ridiculous for the government to suggest a two-generation loan or 70 years loan period to buy new homes.
This is classic Malaysian mentality. What we cannot solve we avoid or find another short cut.
What is Economic Transformation Plan if the government speaks nothing about socio-economic reforms to empower Malaysians especially the Malays and indigenous people? There is only a 'commitment' to open tender by the PM and his KPI Minister contradicted him by saying that negotiated contracts can be good. So now, is the government really serious about reforms? Transparency, accountability and good governance are important criteria to attract more investors to Malaysia not new buildings or new industrial zones.
No wonder is certain towns in Johor many SME industrial zones have turned into swiftlet farms due to lack of industrial activities. Maybe the 100 storey Warisan Merdeka could become the biggest swiftlet farm in the world - a new Malaysia Boleh record!
Back to the opposition, their response is equally disappointing. Apart from raining criticism on Barisan Nasional initiatives and budget plan, did the opposition come out with their own alternative plans and budget? Nothing. It shows that there is a lack of thinking activity in the newly minted coalition.
Pakatan is still hoping to coat tail on Umno/Barisan failure and weaknesses to win the government. Most Pakatan controlled states are still working on ad-hoc basis. There is no real coalition framework for parties to work together to contribute to state development. Worse, it is not yet know how these parties are going to work together at the federal level. What is the shadow cabinet doing? Or is it doing nothing since it was formed nearly 6 months ago?
Malaysia is clearly in a dilemma. I do sympathize with those who are choosing to migrate rather than hoping for this country to change. It may or may not happen in our life time.