SAMENTA: Time to reassess national priorities following drop in competitiveness ranking

THE drop in Malaysia’s ranking in the latest IMD World Competitiveness Ranking is a wake-up call and an opportunity for the country to re-assess its national priorities and to build a stronger government and business nexus to drive the economy forward, said the Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Malaysia (SAMENTA).

The group’s national president Datuk William Ng said while it is true that the latest ranking is the country’s lowest in 20 years, it is crucial to study deeper to better comprehend how the country had reached this point.

From the 20 sub-factors that provided equal weightage to the ranking, Malaysia dropped significantly in five areas: domestic economy, productivity & efficiency, technological infrastructure, management practices and attitudes & values.

“From the breakdown in declining sub-factors, it is clear that the government cannot be blamed completely for this drop. Businesses and Malaysians in general must also share the burden of making Malaysia more competitive,” Ng said in a statement on Tuesday (June 25).

“This calls for an urgent relooking at our priorities as a nation. While we aspire to be an inclusive country by having policies that support specific communities, this is hurting our competitiveness, causes talent flight and imbues a wrong perception that Malaysia does not encourage choice and competition.”

Ng noted that the recent calls for boycotts and the country’s over-zealous reaction to the likes of concerts by certain performers were also not helpful in the country’s national branding and perception which in turn had and will continue to hurt businesses and the economy.

“The government is on the right path in reducing our bloated subsidies and closing the loophole in tax evasion via initiatives like e-invoicing,” he reckoned.

“However, we must also do more to liberalise our labour regulations and hold Malaysians accountable to individual productivity.”

Given that Malaysia’s poorest indicators in the competitiveness ranking are in business and governmental efficiency, Ng said it is high time for the government and the country’s business sector to work together as Team Malaysia to reboot and resuscitate our falling competitiveness.

He said the country must also quickly move away from the government-knows-best approach and learn to trust businesses more while holding them accountable for their action and results.

“Digitalisation and the digital government initiative will help in this, but unless we change the mindset of more government agencies from an enforcement/regulatory perspective to one that facilitate businesses and allow for self-check and self-governance, we will continue to have this disconnect between the government and businesses-at-large,” Ng said.

“Similarly, businesses, including SMEs must quickly cut our reliance on unskilled and low-skilled foreign workers, adapt to the global transition to low carbon economy, adopt AI and digitalisation tools, and cut our reliance on government procurement and hand-outs.”

Ng further stated that Malaysia needs to adopt the mantra that “what is good for business is good for the country”.

“When our businesses and the economy do well, Malaysia will be able to earn more for our coffers, build better roads, upgrade our schools and provide better security and comfort to all Malaysians,” he added. – June 25, 2024


Main pic credit: Malay Mail

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