Monday, November 5, 2007

The Show must Go On...

There seem to be so many mega development projects launched by the PM recently that I've begun to loose count of them, or rather loose perspective of their potentials. The Iskandar Development Region ( IDR), the Northen Corridor Economic Region ( NCER) and the East Coast Economic Region ( ECER) seem to almost simultaneously open up the borders of peninsula Malaysia to foreign investors without any reservation. Like peninsula Malayasia Sabah and Sarawak will also have their own mega development projects to be announced within the year, in addition to all the development projects that have been identified in the Ninth Malaysia Plan.

The capital for development is of course expected to come from foreigh investors although Malaysia will have to bear the cost of providng the basic infrastructure. ECER for example requires some RM112 billion and 53% ( ie. RM59.36 billion) will have to be borne by the government over a period of 12 years @ close to RM5 billion a year. 40% of the entire budget is required for the construction of roads.

Assuming that most of the capital required will be forthcoming from foreign capitalists as we offer prime, virgin land at specially low rates to them to develop , what stumps me most is how we're going to get the skilled and semi-skilled manpower to get the projects going. Even the NMP projects are expected to run into some manpower problems. even though we've already absorbed millions of foreign workers into the country. How many millions, there's no telling since more than half of them came in illegally. Workers from Indonesia, Myanmar and Bangladesh can be expected to come into this country in bigger droves. The social impact which remains controversial and tenous at this moment, will no doubt be enhaced greatly.

The bigger question is: are we training adequate numbers of our own youths for the huge increase in manpower requirement
to cater for the need of these mega projects? Have we adequately adjusted the education system to produce the various categories of skilled and semi-skilled manpower required, or are we getting more and more of the youths interested in our own space-age programs? The Bumiputera youths especially have never been really interested in blue-collar jobs. Politics and corporate management seem to be the special area of interests while their interest in the entrepreneurship training programs seem to be placed more on the funds made available rather than becoming small-time shopkeepers!

Attitude seems to change little. As the Prime Minster said ( NST Monday Nov, 5) " The Malays are fond of making announcements. They are like the proverbial chicken that, after laying one egg, announces it to the whole village. The turtle lays its eggs quietly. When we come to know about it, the turtle already has many hatchlings. We need to talk less and work more."

My fear is that the annoucement of all the mega projects came from the same kind of attitude. Of course the mega projects must be widely publicised to get foreign investors interested. But making the all the announcements in quick succession can get the investors confused. Why not "sell" first and announce later when the main players in the game have been more or less identified so that once announced, development work will commence. Unless, of course, there's a political mileage to be gained through the proverbial 'chicken laying an egg' strategy and the show must go on. We need smaller projects with quick, tangible results though all must come under a well-thought-of Master Plan, not huge mega projects, loosely conceived and dependent on foreign response to get started. As the Malay saying goes: Jangan jadi yang dikejar tak dapat yang dikendung berciciran. ( Don't get into a position where you don't get what you're chasing after while what you have is dropped off during the chase).

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