Mahathir told the Second Global Knowledge Conference that Malaysia must reach out into the world to attract the best brains, "we must take them wherever they are from" - spelling out a "brain-gain" policy to reduce the number of foreign workers by 100,000 a year, reduce the number or low-knowledge workers by 95,000 annually and to accept 5,000 "extraordinary world citizens".
But the statement by the Deputy Home Minister Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin yesterday discouraging Malaysians from seeking foreign spouses to avoid difficulties in getting visas and citizenship for their partners shows that the Mahathir vision of a K-economy cannot succeed without a K-Government where all government leaders realise that it is humanware which is more important than either hardware or software if the country is to be at the cutting edge of the Information Age.
Mahathir said that the government is drawing up a K-economy masterplan which will belong to all Malaysians and that "the whole process of national consultation, brainstorming, drafting and national mobilisation should be completed within 18 months from this day".
The RM5 million K-economy master plan for Malaysia to make the transition from a P-economy (production-economy) to a K-economy (knowledge-economy) had been announced by the Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin when he first presented the 2000 Budget to Parliament on October 29, 1999 - but there does not seem to be any sense of urgency, that it could be re-announced with great fanfare more than four months later!
What progress had been made in the past four months to formulate the K-economy master plan, and why weren’t all Malaysians involved in the process of its formulation right at the beginning?
In any event, one important recommendation and resolution of the government in the K-economy masterplan must be to convert or get rid of the Luddites (those opposed to new technology, K-Government or K-economy) in the Cabinet and the government like Zainal Abidin so that Malaysia can have a K-Government to make a success of a K-economy.
There should be a total revamp of the immigration policy to ensure that the country gives top priority to human capital to attract brain-gain rather than to promote gain-loss to the country by instituting a "smart" immigration policy that does not discriminate on grounds of race, religion, gender or nationality and which is reflective of a humane and "caring" government.
The government’s discriminatory and short-sighted policy on foreign spouses of Malaysians must be reviewed and modified in accordance with the new dictates of a K-economy.