Malaysia’s 16-point collapse of competitiveness ranking since 1997 - warning of Latin Americanisation of Malaysian economy becoming an irrelevant backwater

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang 

(Petaling Jaya,  Monday): Malaysia’s nine-point tumble in the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2000 global competitiveness ranking and 16-point collapse since 1997 should serve as a stern warning of the Latin Americanisation of the Malaysian economy of becoming an irrelevant backwater.

Malaysia’s WEF 2000 global competiveness ranking slipped to 25th position from 16th last year, a fall of nine notches. In 1997, Malaysia occupied the ninth top postion in the WEF competitiveness ranking, a catastrophic collapse of 16 placings in three years.

Malaysia's competitiveness ranking slid from 16th to 25th this year  among the 59 economies under the survey largely because of its capital controls imposed in September 1998. Its entry into the banking industry is ranked in last place of 59th, compared with 57th place for its interest-rate controls, 57th for competition in domestic banking and 55th for access to external finance.

Tomorrow, top newspaper editors and publishers from Malaysia and other Asian countries will converge in the Malaysian capital for the Manila-based Press Foundation of Asia (PFA) meeting.

This will be the second major meeting of the PFA in Kuala Lumpur  since its Malaysian chapter organised a meeting last year.

The  33-year-old premier regional Asian media organisation should discuss and come out with a statement on the media outrage of the five-day blackout by the Malaysian mainstream mass media, both printed and electronic, of the WEF 2000 global competitiveness ranking since its worldwide release last Wednesday, which is a great disservice by the Malaysian profession of journalism to the cause of information in the country and the region.

The five-day blackout by the Malaysian mainstream media is totally unlike their conduct before 1997, when they would give great  prominence to the annual WEF competitiveness rankings every time it was announced as Malaysia was then  a "darling" of  the international competitiveness comparisons.

The Malaysian mass media should explain why there has been a five-day blackout of the WEF 2000 global competitiveness ranking in the other ASEAN countries, when their counterparts in ASEAN countries have not imposed any such black-out.

Singapore newspapers screamed "US beats Singapore to top spot" in their report of the island republic losing out its No. 1 ranking for five years to the United States, while Thai newspapers not only reported on the WEF global competitiveness ranking but berated the Thai economy and the government for the  low rankings in innovation, business start-ups, openness and finance - all because Thailand fell one place to 31st in the WEF 2000 global competitiveness study.

Malaysia fell nine places last year and  a disastrous 16 places in the past three years - but the mainstream mass media has maintained a stoic and total blackout of the bad news.

Malaysians should ask the mainstream mass media in the country: "Who are you bluffing?"


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman