Mohd Fudzail Mohd Nor, writer, in Malaysiakini (January 13, 2022)
Summary by Made Ayu Mariska (Photo credit: David McKelvey)
In 2021, more than 1.7 million Malaysians sought employment abroad. They choose to work overseas because of the relatively attractive rewards, unlimited career opportunities, and satisfying livelihoods.
As many as 54 percent of the Malaysian diaspora make a living in Singapore because it is close and there are more jobs with higher wages. The rest went to Australia (15 percent), the United States (10 percent), the United Kingdom (5 percent), and the United Arab Emirates (2 percent), as well as other countries. This loss of talent is estimated to reduce the country’s GDP growth by 2 percent.
The Malaysian diaspora abroad feel that their achievements are underappreciated in their own country. Apart from that, they believe they have more freedom to live as expatriates abroad because at home every aspect of life revolves around race and religion. Racial and cultural policies, multiple national scandals and corruption have been disadvantaging Malaysians for years, and there is seemingly no end in sight.
Outside of Malaysia, there are no racial quotas in educational institutions; all recruitment is merit-based. Lower-income residents receive help regardless of race or religion. Non-Malays abroad say they would rather be a recognized minority abroad than be second-class citizens in their own country. Although life abroad is not perfect, they do not have to worry about politicians making ridiculous statements filled with hatred and bigotry towards them.
As long as the government does not reform the system, more Malaysians will remain living abroad. The diaspora still place some of their hopes of returning one day on a future government. But they are also scared that things will continue without significant change.
Dominic Lau Hoe Chai, President, Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia, in Oriental Daily News (April 1, 2022)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Uwe Aranas/CEphoto)
Many new policies are set to be introduced. As the country reopens its borders and enters its post-pandemic recovery phase, the government is focusing its energy on the implementation of policies for economic recovery, which must be clearly explained to the public.
The government has increased the minimum wage to RM1,500 a month for certain companies. While the new minimum wage is certainly a good thing for migrant workers, it is not a good thing for employers without an increase in employee productivity. This policy clearly has far-reaching implications and must be discussed openly before implementation.
Other proposals include the reduction of the speed limit to 30 kilometers per hour in central Kuala Lumpur. The view of the Kuala Lumpur City Council is that lowering the speed limit in busy areas of the city will improve road safety in these areas and reduce crashes and fatalities. The government, however, has not provided a channel to hear opinions of the public.
In addition, the US has accused Malaysian government-linked companies of using forced labor and initiated a ban of oil palm exports. Forced labor is a serious issue and will tarnish Malaysia's reputation. Considering this, as a Ministry with close ties to the public, the Ministry of Human Resources has a duty to communicate and any decisions and actions that have a direct impact on Malaysians.
Any policy implemented or proposed by the government has a potentially profound impact on the public. All policies should be properly explained so that the public can truly benefit from it.
Feng Zhenhao (冯振豪), postgraduate student, in Oriental Daily News (January 9, 2022)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Firdaus Latif)
Malaysia has officially lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. This decision has prompted the reorganization of Malaysia’s political landscape and should have a positive impact. Ultimately, lowering the voting age is a sign of progress as it means the elderly can no longer monopolize public opinion. It will also ensure that the space for public discourse on issues is more diverse and open. Yet, Malaysia still lacks progress in many other policy areas.
With rising prices and a slow economic recovery, young voters are more likely to worry about their own livelihoods than educate themselves on public affairs. These voters will therefore be more likely to be coaxed by the rhetoric of a specific party. Malaysia’s ruling party has already looked to adapt to this new situation by providing aid, financial incentives and tax cuts for young people. Yet, these measures merely attempt to convey the message that the ruling party is friendly to young people, but do not show that it truly understands their needs.
Instead, the government should tackle the root causes of the challenges facing young people rather than the symptoms of the problems. Some examples include the raising the minimum wage, establishing more comprehensive and more accessible medical insurance, and setting up academic research projects for college students. In other words, policies that effectively help young voters become independent and plan their future.
The government must go further than simply lowering the voting age and instead demonstrate sensitivity to generational change. This can only be done through listening to voices in society and then formulating the necessary policy measures.
Josh Hong Man Fatt (唐南发), political commentator, in The Malaysian Insight (December 31, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Lan Rasso)
The High Court has ruled that the use of Tamil and Mandarin in vernacular schools is constitutional. Conservative Malay nationalists, however, are likely to appeal or combine with other political and religious forces to challenge the right of children to receive education in their mother tongue.
The rise of far-right Malay forces stemmed from the weakened political position of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) since 2008. The far right has become more and more vocal since the Pakatan Harapan coalition came into power in 2018. Prior to this, opposition to mother tongue education mainly came from UMNO politicians including Mahathir Mohamad, prime minister from 1981 to 2003 and from 2018 to 2020, and Anwar Ibrahim, Mahathir’s deputy from 1993 to 1998 and now leader of the opposition.
Throughout his political career, Mahathir always publicly claimed that mother-tongue education hinders national unity. He also repeatedly promoted the Vision School initiative in a bid to promote national unity and integration, which was tantamount to supporting Malaysia’s extreme right-wing forces. Mahathir resumed these remarks after he became prime minister again in 20018. Even Teo Nie Ching, deputy minister of education under Mahathir, who had always been vocal on the subject of mother tongue education, dared not oppose his plans.
The background of this lawsuit is a result of Malaysia’s turbulent political situation and the fact that no political party can lead, allowing far right forces to manipulate the emotions of Malay voters. In an era when Malay politics are increasingly divided, the possibility for right-wing organizations to cooperate with extreme politicians will only increase. The public should respond calmly to avoid making the situation worse.
Mahathir Mohd Rais, Bersatu Segambut division chief, in The Malaysian Insight (October 25, 2021)
Summary by Made Ayu Mariska (Photo credit: zol m)
The “lazy Malay” narrative has spiked up recently. Among the weaknesses of the Malays that are often talked about are laziness, dependent way of life and lack of knowledge that led to their split into different groups of thought.
Although the Malays are given special protection and rights under the Constitution, their situation has not changed much. Many are still considered as low income and do not own property. This shows that privileges can turn into disaster if not taken care of properly.
The Malay community should learn to accept more changes to prove that they are able to compete and contribute to the country’s development. In addition, progress in the education system will help Malays free themselves from the shackles of the political, economic and social systems.
There are many Malay entrepreneurs in different sectors and some have even become millionaires, but the success of a few cannot be considered as the success of the Malays as a whole. While millions of “unlucky Malays” are still experiencing declining living standards due to either unemployment or lack of source of income, some groups of “lucky Malays” are comfortably enjoying growth in their personal wealth.
Injustice in this flawed economic system has long been manipulated by the “chosen Malays”. Their wealth increased even during the pandemic stemming from systemic failures in both policy and the legal system. Instead of harvesting the fruits of the system for their own good, “lucky and chosen Malays” should help the “unlucky Malays” who are less fortunate.
At the same time, the Malays should not be picky. They should seize all the opportunities and jobs available to gain knowledge and experience and close the gap that has been filled by immigrants or foreign workers. Success in uplifting the nation depends on their willingness to accept change.
Lim Hong Siang, Executive Director of socio-cultural and religious studies research center Saudara, in Malaysiakini (October 23, 2021)
Summary by Made Ayu Mariska (Photo credit: Jeremy Eades)
Although the issue of alcohol has been around for a long time, the decision by the leaders of the Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS, or Malaysian Islamic Party) to harp on the subject before joining the ruling coalition worsened the political climate. PAS took a rather extreme stance, demanding that alcohol be banned, regardless of the fact that the country is a multiracial and multireligious society with different perceptions of the drink they call the "devil's urine".
They must be prepared to take responsibility for their statements and behavior. Either they keep their promises or admit their mistake, apologize and call for everyone to move forward.
Since the 2008 political tsunami (when the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition suffered its worst general elections till then), "Malay grievances" have been touted in an atmosphere of racist and narrow religious politics. Malays are upset with the "Chinese uprising", worried because "Islam is threatened", and afraid that one day "the earth will be trampled on by others". This anxiety was successfully triggered, even though the national machinery was controlled almost entirely by Muslim Malays.
As citizens, non-Muslim Malays pay taxes, keep their money in homeland banks, and defend their country as Malaysians. But when there is a political power struggle, their rights are at stake without a shred of sensitivity to their sentiments.
Every day, Malaysians are plagued by crime and various social problems that demand policy changes so that the people are protected. It seems, however, that some people are more invested in discussing an alcohol ban than in dealing with the real problems in society.
Soon Hoh Sing, current affairs commentator, in Oriental Daily News (August 29, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: John Ragai)
By 2030, the share of Malaysia’s population aged 65 years and over is forecast to exceed 10 percent. This will mean that the country will experience aging demographics and a low birth rate. This will put pressure on public finances due to falling tax revenues and increasing public health expenditure.
While this is a universal phenomenon, it is important to note that, since Malaysia is not a rich country, public debt has been rising sharply. If trends continue, it is likely that the lives of Malaysians will become increasingly difficult due to the country’s limited fiscal capacity. One of the possible consequences of this is that public services that are currently free or cheap will become chargeable or expensive, especially medical services.
In many developed economies such as South Korea and Taiwan, the population is already declining. Unless the fertility rate increases or foreign workers are welcomed, it is inevitable that our society will struggle. As far as Malaysia is concerned, in the 1950s, the number of births per woman was roughly five to six, while some even gave birth to 10 children. In recent years, however, this figure has dropped to two.
In developed countries, there are usually various measures in place to encourage childbirth. In Malaysia, there are Chinese groups that have set up grants to encourage childbirth, but the response has not been satisfactory. If it hopes to reverse the declining fertility rate, Malaysia will have to work out how to offer benefits to raising a family that outweigh the various costs. If not, the alternative will be to welcome foreign workers to make up for inevitable labor shortages.
Liu Xuming, Chairman of Asia Digital Bank, in Oriental Daily News (September 21, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: MyDIGITAL)
The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted more Malaysians to accept digital finance processes such as paying bills by online transfers. This has prompted Bank Negara Malaysia, the central bank, to announce that it is issuing up to five digital bank licenses by the first quarter of 2022. The fierce competition in this sector indicates the digital transformation of the banking and financial industries in Malaysia.
On the demand side, the demand for digital banking services among Malaysians is increasing. Mobile banking transactions in the first year of the epidemic reached 460 million Malaysian ringgit (US$110.3 million), an increase of 125 percent over 2019. On the supply side, many companies have formed consortia to join the fierce battle for the five licenses. Facing such strong demand, improving the general and professional education for users of digital finance is essential.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the Malaysian government has promoted the professional training of digital economy human resources such as through the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint, which was announced in February 2021. The domestic labor market, however, remains unable to support the development of the digital financial industry. To overcome the talent shortage, hiring managers are required to provide on-the-job training to make up for the lack of skills. The level of general knowledge of digital finance among the public is also a concern. Awareness is limited to online banking, with few knowing anything about sophisticated products and services such as digital assets.
In the face of the unstoppable wave of the digital finance era post epidemic, not only professionals but the public too should have sufficient knowledge of digital finance. This will not only help build understanding and trust but also an appreciation of all digital financial products. This will allow the whole society to access and manage wealth fairly and efficiently.
Zheng Yu (郑禺), freelance writer, in Oriental Daily News (June 29, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory
(Photo credit: YuriAbas / Shutterstock.com)
A government official revealed that Covid-19 vaccines would soon be available privately, allowing the public to pay and get shots faster. There are many problems associated with the commercialization of vaccinations. Immunization should be regarded as a project for which the government is solely responsible because of the simple fact that it is related to public health. Malaysia’s inefficient vaccine rollout has led to a slow uptake rate. While privatization may speed up the process, free-market policies may cause even bigger problems.
In India, for example, some are defrauding others by selling fake vaccines. As early as three months after the vaccine was released, law enforcement agencies began to discover the production and distribution of counterfeits. Even if government supervision is in place to guarantee there are no such products, there are still other concerns. In Japan, there have been cases of normal saline accidently being used to dilute the vaccine. As a result, the relevant authorities had to check antibody responses of all those who had been vaccinated to determine who did not get the proper vaccine.
It is important to remember that humans are not machines that strictly obey orders and it is inevitable that mistakes will occur during vaccination. Fortunately, under the existing mechanism, there is government supervision, and mistakes can be tracked. This would not necessarily be the case with private companies, however. Should something go wrong with a company’s service, it would very likely harm the business if any mistake were revealed. Private firms would, therefore, be more likely to conceal such accidents.
Ultimately, private companies are profit driven. Some companies may secretly cut corners to save expenses, or they may try to conceal incidents to maintain their reputation. It is much safer for vaccinations to be supervised by the government.
Yu Peng Yi, writer, in Oriental Daily News (August 6, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Christian Junker)
The global aviation industry has been in trouble since the emergence of Covid-19. Within five months of the outbreak, 50 airlines worldwide filed for bankruptcy protection. Facing unprecedented challenges, few airlines will make it through the pandemic. Expanding into other industries or seeking government or private financial assistance has become their only way to survive.
The challenges facing the aviation industry are not just a sharp drop in the number of passengers and profits but also serious losses for the regional hubs, airports, aircraft manufacturers and their suppliers. Due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant, the aviation industry has still not recovered, with many airlines not daring to resume operations let alone expand their fleets. Recently, Malaysia Airlines, which took 150 days to complete debt restructuring in early 2021, announced that it would sell its Airbus A380 aircraft.
According to the latest forecast of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the number of global flight passengers this year is expected to increase by more than 60 percent from the base of the 2020 downturn, but it will still be down 28 percent compared with 2019. The global aviation industry is not expected to recover to 2019 levels until 2023, one year later than previously forecast. Some experts pessimistically believe that no airline could survive a third summer of the pandemic.
The reality is that even after the pandemic, things may not return to as before. Online video conferences have replaced overseas business trips and this trend may continue even after the crisis is over. Faced with such a dilemma, the aviation industry must diversify and seek sufficient financial assistance to survive.
Tee Beng Lee, board member, Centre for Malaysian Chinese Studies, in Oriental Daily News (February 6, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: UNIMAS)
There continues to be a large number of new cases of Covid-19 in Malaysia. If the government had acted decisively from the beginning, it is likely the spread of the virus would have been controlled
The more decisions that have to be made, the greater the need for a systematic strategy. The government should encourage private-sector investment and integrate available resources in the government's decision-making system so that the people and the government can stand on the same front to fight the virus.
The medical resources available to the whole country should be calculated by the Ministry of Health. Similar to China, the government should determine how many halls, auditoriums and activity centers could be employed as quarantine facilities or emergency hospitals. It would be reasonable to call for support from private hospitals. Military and police vehicles can provide transport for patients to hospitals and quarantine centers. When the country is in a crisis, extraordinary measures are required.
The government’s laws and regulations are too strict, resulting in many companies worrying about their employees testing positive and being forced to suspend production. This reduces their willingness to test employees. If the government is unable to afford the cost of national testing, it should encourage the business community to take the initiative to test its employees to ensure uninterrupted operations.
The government should be responsible for accommodating infected persons in pre-expropriated isolation facilities, while the business sector only needs to perform disinfection in accordance with the regulations and allow uninfected employees to continue working. This will minimize economic losses and inevitably increase the willingness of the businesses to cooperate with government policies.
With the right strategy, controlling Covid-19 is not a difficult task. However, if there are too many private interests involved, things can become challenging.
Cheah See Kian, journalist and political analyst, in Oriental Daily News (January 15, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: MyHSR Corp.)
After much controversy, the Malaysian government has announced that it would terminate the Kuala Lumpur–Singapore high-speed rail project. There are various theories as to why this happened. One is that Malaysia cannot cope with such a financial burden. Another is that Malaysia wished to contract domestic enterprises for the construction between Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru.
The original high-speed rail agreement was reached between the leaders of Malaysia and Singapore in 2013. The prime minister at the time, Najib Tun Abdul Razak, declared at the time that once the line was completed in 2026, it would only take 90 minutes to travel from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. Estimates put the cost at between 80 billion ringgit (US$19.4 billion) and 140 billion ringgit (US$33.9 billion). Shortly after taking office in May 2018, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad stated that the cost could amount to 110 billion ringgit (US$26.7 billion) and, as a result, his government would suspend the plan.
The government has clearly not considered the economic multiplier and driving force of the project. It would be nonsensical to develop a high-spread railway from just Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur without the cooperation of Singapore. In the long run, Malaysia must look around the region so as to not fall behind. Neighbors such as Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are all developing their own high-speed railways. In addition, in abolishing the project, the Malaysian government now has to compensate Singapore.
High-speed rail construction should not be regarded as a simple transportation tool or a single industry responsible for its own profits and losses. Instead, it should be viewed as a strategic industry with great significance and should be vigorously supported. The construction of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail would have actually driven development and been a symbol of progress.
Lee See Kiang, Chairman of the Social-Economic Committee of the Kuala Lumpur And Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, in Oriental Daily News (December 30, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: JKPDA)
Malaysia’s legal retirement age does not apply to politicians. Using the statutory retirement age of 60 as a reference, many senior politicians should seriously consider giving way. Most notably, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who is 95 years old, and the 83-year-old former Minister of Finance, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, remain active politics.
While youth and women’s participation in politics has been on the rise in recent years, overall participation in decision making remains low. Although young leaders can hold the leadership in youth leagues, their impact within government is minimal. With many of Malaysia’s politicians active for over half a century, it is difficult for the younger generation to rise.
Voters under the age of 40 (including unregistered voters) will soon account for the majority of the electorate of 23 million. Yet members of the legislature under the age 40 only occupy 12 percent of the seats, which is lower than the global average of 14.2 percent. The absence of the country’s youth in the process of national decision-making is clearly unhealthy.
Political parties should invest more resources in nurturing young political leaders while also cultivating their political ability, debating skills and public image. In addition to providing civic education to young people earlier, it is also necessary to give them more opportunities and not to discriminate or restrict them due to their age. Young people can speed up progress and reform. The country should encourage more young politicians to lead. The question is, are the senior politicians willing to give way?
侯显佳 (Hou Xianjia), columnist, in Oriental Daily News (December 23, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Muzzafar Kasim/Ministry of Health of Malaysia)
While Covid-19 measures continue to be introduced they are proving to be ineffective, and society is becoming increasingly desperate. The pandemic situation in Europe is also critical, and many countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy have tightened their control measures. Malaysia, however, is doing the opposite, and the policy is becoming more relaxed. Instead, focus is being placed on the vaccines as a solution.
The Malaysian government has purchased 12.8 million doses of vaccine from Pfizer with the first batch of one million doses due to arrive in the first quarter of 2021. In addition, the government signed an agreement with AstraZeneca to purchase another 6.4 million doses. According to the prime minister, the government will also purchase Chinese and Russian vaccines to ensure that the supply of vaccines exceeds 80 percent of the population.
Compared with other countries, however, Malaysia's Covid-19 vaccination rollout is not progressing fast enough. Singapore, which also purchased the Pfizer vaccine, has already received its first batch. The first batch of Covid-19 vaccines ordered by Indonesia from China’s Sinovac arrived in December.
It will take some time before the vaccine is able to protect most of the population. The government must use this time to plan vaccine distribution and logistics to avoid chaos. Furthermore, during this period, Covid-19 measures cannot be relaxed. The government must continue to halt the spread of the virus otherwise the medical system may be overwhelmed even when after the vaccine arrives. Meanwhile, the public should remain vigilant and continue to observe social distancing while taking care of their personal hygiene.
Boo Cheng Hau, politician of the opposition Democratic Action Party, in Sinchew Daily (December 25, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Dennis Sylvester Hurd)
The World Bank forecasts that Malaysia’s economy will recover to grow by 6.9 percent in 2021. This will require the government to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the people against the disease before the middle of the year so that citizens can resume economic activities.
According to official statistics, more than 700,000 people are unemployed, though the actual situation may be worse. Meanwhile 15,000 Malaysians have been laid off in Singapore so it is possible that more of the 1.7 million Malaysians living abroad will seek to return to Malaysia. This should prompt the relevant authorities to review and improve social and economic policies.
Malaysia’s development model as a middle-income country has long been stuck. It is now time for the country to step out of the labor-intensive production model and enter the era of high-income and information-intensive production. Malaysia should revise its human resources and immigration policies while welcoming Malaysians working abroad to return home. This includes improving basic social and economic policies including enhancing local corporate culture, focusing on creativity, raising salaries and creating more job opportunities,
Many of the returnees are skilled workers so enterprises in various fields should be prepared to welcome them. This will help increase productivity and pave the way for investment into developing areas such as artificial intelligence and Industry 4.0.
Meanwhile, corruption must be tackled. The financial system still lacks transparency and facilitates corruption, tax evasion, money laundering and other criminal activities, which have a negative impact on investors’ confidence. All Malaysians have a role to play in tackling this.