World won’t wait for Malaysia to catch up, says Bloomberg columnist
William Pesek said the real issue was Malaysia’s policies to raise its economic game amid growing competition from its Asian neighbours.
“The world won’t wait for Malaysia,” he said in an piece on The Ticker, Bloomberg’s commentary on economics, politics and the world.
Pesek urged Najib (picture) to take bold action now and declare an end to policies that were holding Malaysia back, adding that doing so “would cheer investors” who were growing increasingly sceptical of his pledge to reform.
“It’s high time for Prime Minister Najib Razak to change the story, to shift the focus toward reforms, not tabloid scandals. Announcing the end of affirmative-action policies that hurt Malaysia's competitiveness might be just the thing,” he said.
He pointed that the government’s “New Economic Policy” continued to favour the majority Malay community had outlived its usefulness after more than 40 years and urged Najib to remove this hurdle to economic growth.
“It limits investment, stifles competition and keeps the economy from becoming a meritocracy,” Pesek said.
He noted that China, India and Malaysia’s Southeast Asian neighbours Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam were evolving swiftly and would be able to outstrip their competition within a few years.
He further warned that developing economies needed to “watch their backs”.
He said Malaysia’s huge 5.8 per cent growth potential deserved attention as it stood to join the ranks of Asia’s top economies, but foreign investors were being increasingly sceptical that the country could live up to its promise with the Najib government being constantly distracted by other issues.
He listed Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s recently-concluded sodomy trial; the religious tensions between Malaysia’s Muslim majority and its minority Christians; and “murder investigations involving high-ranking officials” as examples in his opinion piece.
He advised: “It’s time to take ‘CSI: Malaysia’ off the air. An unscripted bout of economic change could be just the thing.”
Malaysia’s other observers have been saying the same thing.
“The public is looking for leaders who are able to manage Malaysia through economic turmoil,” Bridget Welsh, a political science lecturer at Singapore Management University was quoted as saying this week by Bloomberg.
Najib must persuade Malaysia’s 28 million population they are the right choice to overhaul the country’s US$238 billion (RM749.75 billion) economy laden with economic policies that are seen to benefit only one race and which the World Bank has warned is holding back the country’s growth.
Worried local economists have warned Putrajaya that federal revenue was growing too slowly compared to its sovereign debt and urged him to quicken the pace of his economic reforms to claw back foreign investor support.