The recent announcement of the first stage of the New Economic Model (NEM) by the prime minister led to a number of reactions. The NEM is a two-stage approach formulated by the independent National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC), with the second stage to be announced at the tabling of the 10th Malaysia Plan.
Recognising the need to discuss issues pertaining to the NEM, The Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) along with SEDAR Institute and Wawasan Open University (WOU) organised a forum on the first stage of the NEM at the WOU campus in Kuala Lumpur.
In his welcoming remarks, CPPS chairman Tan Sri Dr Ramon Navaratnam said the government and the prime minister deserved credit for conceptualising the first stage of the NEM as a shift from the New Economic Policy (NEP).
Senator Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, explained the importance of the NEM in this period of Malaysia’s history, for its balanced approach towards achieving high incomes, sustainability, and inclusiveness.
The three themes spearheading the NEM - high income, sustainability, and inclusiveness – were echoed continuously throughout the forum which was divided into a two-panel session. The first session on “Enhancing Economic Competitiveness and High Income Economy” was moderated by Dato’ Dr Michael Yeoh, CEO of Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute (ASLI). The panel comprised Datuk Nicholas Zefferys, President of American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce, Dato’ Dr R Thillainathan, Past President of Malaysia Economic Association, Aimi Aizal Nasharuddin, President, Co-Founder and Group Exco of Skali, and Teoh Kok Lin, Founder, Chief Investment Officer of Singular Asset Management Sdn Bhd.
The second panel discussion focused on “Developing Creativity and Innovation, Rethinking Human Capital Development” with the Director of CPPS, Ng Yeen Seen, moderating the session and U K Menon, Deputy Vice Chancellor of WOU, Prof Norma Mansor, Secretary to the NEAC, Tunku Alizakri Raja Muhammad Alias, Deputy Director of Strategic Management Department, Bank Negara Malaysia and Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria, Member of National IT Council and Principal Research Fellow of KITA (Institute of Ethnic Studies), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia as the panelists.
The first session discussed how the NEM could be seen as a courageous effort to address issues such as human capital development, Malaysia’s brain drain, and talent management, in order for the nation to compete with its neighbours. The panel also discussed how the NEM could build a more competitive Malaysia and improve living standards (currently, 40% of Malaysian households at the bottom of the earnings pyramid survive on less than RM1,500 per month). The need to identify the role and importance of institutions especially with regards to judicial independence, reinstating the role of Parliament, and promoting a freer media was also brought up. The panelists noted that positive steps in these directions could support and sustain the country’s growth holistically.
The idea of language as a factor for development was discussed, as one possible reason behind the declining standards of developing talents in Malaysia is the fall in English language usage. To nurture talent, the panel suggested that the process of recruiting talent should transcend borders and nationalities, and that experienced people should be brought to Malaysia. Since the successful implementation of the NEM could create a stimulating environment for entrepreneurship and innovation, it is important to focus on the areas Malaysia wants to develop, as the nation has limited resources and limited time.
The lively session attended by over 120 participants came to an end after concluding remarks by Dato’ Mah Siew Keong, Chairman of SEDAR Institute.