A Whining International Trade Minister Is a Severe Liability To Malaysia’s Quest For Global Competitiveness

A Malaysiakini’s report (“Complaining M’sians ‘partly to blame’ for global competitiveness drop” ) on Dato’ Seri Ong Ka Chuan’s remarks to explain Malaysia’s drop in (Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017) GCR’s ranking is yet another example why Malaysian ministers are the biggest liability to this country.

As a Second Minister of International Trade and Industry, he made a complete fool of himself when he blamed practically everyone (the general public, parents who brought their children overseas, foreign workers and even Zika virus!) for complaining too much about Malaysia, to account for the drop; not realizing that he too was complaining just like everyone else he accused!

If anything, a trade minister who whines publicly that the exclusion of Zika virus from the benchmarking has an effect on Malaysia’s competitiveness, chases away foreign investors more effectively than the general public’s daily complaints about the direction of the country (as he claimed).

I am aghast that he was not concerned with the sudden drop of the quality of health and primary education that saw our score tumbling from 24th place to 44th place.

Speak to any Malaysians on the street and they can tell the dear minister that severe funding cuts have had serious impact on the quality of health services and primary education in the country. Malaysians talk about the difficulty to get non-generic medicines or the longer wait for a particular drugs they used to get from government hospitals. Parents and teachers talk about how they have to fork out their own money to buy printing papers for examinations.

When the general public increasingly talk about the steady decline of state institutions that are supposed to provide the most basic services required to maintain an acceptable quality of life, ministers should realise that something is really wrong in the country instead of chastising the public for “complaining too much”.

It is only natural that Malaysia loses its competitiveness steadily in the aftermath of a national mess as gigantic as 1MDB. The toxic out of 1MDB scandal spreads across the spectrum horizontally and vertically – all sectors are affected from the manufacturing to the arts; everyone is affected from the richest to the poorest.

1MDB scandal had created a big financial hole that Dato’ Seri Najib has to plug. This means distortions of national resources as money that is supposed to go to schools and hospitals is set aside to pay 1MDB debts. Schools and hospitals; now deprived of the required financial resources; can only sustain so much without the resources and the quality of services drops. This affects our scores in benchmarking and/or the international outlook of Malaysiaa’s competitiveness that eventually leads to investors skipping Malaysia. This causes slower economic growth that gives rise to smaller government revenue that leads to further budget cuts.

The cycle continues.

Even if Dato’ Seri Ong Ka Chuan does not have the guts as a politician to stand up to Dato’ Seri Najib on 1MDB, at the very least in his job as a MITI minister he can attempt to behave more intellectually in explaining Malaysia’s present predicament.

His outburst may become a confirmation that Malaysia’s competitiveness has indeed dropped in the eyes of international community.


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