If Mahathir wants Malaysia to emulate Sweden to become world-class , then the government must be serious about meritocracy and competitiveness starting with a world-class education system with common university entrance examination and ending of racial monopoly in top academic posts, such as Vice Chancellors, by appointing the best person for the job, regardless of race, gender and later nationality
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Thursday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said in Stockholm that Malaysia should emulate Sweden, which has produced world-class products such as cars and telecommunications despite being a small nation.
He said Sweden had quality production and competed effectively in the world market because of its commitment to high standards, citing as examples the Swedish car and aircraft maker Saab while Volvo remained one of the world’s biggest car makers.
But has the Malaysian government and nation the will and commitment to become a world-class nation not only with “First World Infrastructure” but also “First World Mentality and Culture”?
Discerning Malaysians cannot miss noticing the disguised denial syndrome in yesterday’s mainstream media reporting on Mahathir’s visit to Sweden, whether in the “QUICKTAKE” of New Straits Times or “FACT FILE” of The Star, which selectively introduced Sweden, about its land area, population, capital, climate, religions, exports, imports, currency, economy, bilateral trade, but not about its gross national income or per capita income.
What is the reason for this important omission by the two national newspapers, if the thrust of Mahathir’s visit to Sweden is to inspire Malaysians to emulate the small Scandinavian nation’s competitiveness and economic prowess? Or is it because Malaysia fares quite poorly in such comparisons, viz:
Malaysia also compares unfavourably in areas which make a difference in determining and enhancing a nation’s competitiveness.
For example, Sweden is ranked fifth out of 102 countries in the 2002 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index topping the world’s least corrupt nations while Malaysia is ranked a lowly 33rd position among the world’s corrupt – even lower than the 23rd ranking in the first Transparency International index seven years ago in 1995.
In the Global Competitiveness Report 2001-2, Sweden was given the top ranking of sixth place, while Malaysia is ranked 37th out of 75 countries.
Malaysia ranked poorly in the various sub-indices in the Global Competitiveness Report 2001-2002, viz:
Innovation is a product of many factors, but foremost among these are skilled human resources, tertiary education enrolment rates, R & D spending relative to international peers, well-developed market incentive structures for science, and intensive interaction between scientific and business sectors. The Innovation Subindex is a measure of innovation, reflecting the technological sophistication in a country which is crucial to economic growth.
The ICT index is self-explanatory while the Public Institutions Index measures the quality of public institutions, covering questions concerning neutrality in government procurement, judicial independence, clear delineation and respect for property rights, costs related to organized crime, corruption or abuse of public service positions for personal financial gain.
Malaysia seriously lags behind Sweden in all these measures of competitiveness and must play quick catch-up if the country is to emulate Sweden as a world-class nation and not left behind in the forward march of globalization and information and communications technology.
If Mahathir wants Malaysia to emulate Sweden to become a world-class nation, then the government must be serious about meritocracy and competitiveness starting with a world-class education system with a common university entrance examination for all Malaysian students and the ending of racial monopoly in top academic posts, such as Vice Chancellors, by appointing the best person for the job, regardless of race, gender and later nationality. For a start, when will non-Malays begin to be appointed Vice Chancellors of the 18 public universities in the country?
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman