Chinese businesses grill Jala on economic reform

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid, Free Malaysia Today

Minister in the Prime Minister Departement Idris Jala was greeted with cynicism from Chinese businesses apparently sceptical towards the government’s “grand” reform efforts. Many of those participanting in the MCA-organised Chinese Economic Congress here today wanted to know if the government has the politicial will to implement the various new economic initiatives under the Najib administration’s New Economic Model (NEM).

There were also signs that the vigorous campaigning efforts to promote the NEM, a model Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak claimed would elevate Malaysia from its shoddy middle-income economy, have not been succesful when some questioned the need for a high-income economy.

“All the programmes sound good but the hard part is the execution: how to implement the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP) and the NEM. The public perception is that the public sector is corrupt and incompetent. Is there political will to change this?” asked one participant.

Another participant criticised the contradictory policy of the Najib administration: on the one hand, it promotes free trade but on the other, it practises interventionist policy.

For example, he said because of its interventionist policy, prices of basic goods had increased, thus hindering their profits.

“Businesses are like this: not everyday is a Sunday. Sometimes we make more and have to save it for a rainy day. So when there are times to make money, we want to. If you want free trade, make sure it goes all the way,” said the participant.

Another took the government to task over what he described as poor planning in terms of utilising key sectors to the country’s economy such as oil and gas and tourism.

“An example is tourism. My foreign friend asked me where to go, so I told him to visit the museum and to take the rail transport. But there is none that goes straight to the museum. He has to cross the highway… there’s no connectivity,” he said.

Another participant had doubts about the willingness of the top leadership to implement thorough reforms. He said one of the key drivers of economic growth is a performance-based stewardship.

Hence, he questioned if the government is willing to replace none-performing leaders given that their appointments are politically-driven.