In his speech to the second Global Knowledge Conference yesterday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia must reach out into the world to attract the best brains, "we must take them wherever they are from".
Speaking about a policy for a "brain-gain" infusion, he said the country must reduce the number of foreign workers by 100,000 a year, reducing the number or low-knowledge workers by 95,000 annually while accepting 5,000 "extraordinary world citizens".
A K-Government is an essential prerequisite for the success fo any K-economy masterplan to create a knowledge-driven economy.
No K-economy master plan in Malaysia can succeed unless there is also a K-Government commited to an open and transparent governance and implementing "smart" policies, like a "smart" immigration policy to promote brain-gain instead of brain-loss.
Such a "smart" immigration policy should have been in place already as Malaysia had for five years tried to transform itself into a knowledge-based economy by promoting the Multimedia Super Corridor under the Seventh Malaysia Plan as the lynchpin of its national IT agenda.
Unfortunately, there has not only been no change in the immigration policy to promote brain-gain, it continues to promote gain loss through its discrimination against Malaysians who have foreign spouses.
Unless there is the political will to ensure that there is also a K-government and a K-Parliament, it is unlikely that any K-economy masterplan, however well-conceived, could have much hope of success.
It is good to hear Mahathir talking about to need to do away with the "secrecy syndrome" in the public and private sectors in order to create a K-economy - but how can the Prime Minister expect his speech to be taken seriously when the government is promoting the cult of secrecy by having the world’s most draconian Official Secrets Act and the example of recent arrests and prosecutions under the Act.
If the Government is sincere and serious about wanting to transform Malaysia into a K-economy, it must have the political will to begin to create a K-Government first, starting with the repeal of the Official Secrets Act and the introduction instead a Freedom of Information Act.