PETALING JAYA: Foreign companies will be willing to invest in Malaysia if the government can convince them of its credibility and political stability, according to former international trade and industry minister Rafidah Aziz.
Rafidah said investors would say “goodnight to you” if the government failed to show that both Malaysians and foreigners could depend on it and that it respected parliamentary democracy.
“They attend your seminar, they eat your lunch, maybe they don’t even join you for lunch, and they advise their board or top management to not invest here,” she told FMT.
Rafidah’s reference to parliamentary democracy was an oblique criticism of the current special sitting of Parliament.
When she was a minister, she said, she strove to sell the country as one with good governance and stability and that this helped her gain the trust of leading global firms such as Samsung, Intel and American Express.
“When you talk about investments, it has a lot to do with the credibility of the government, the credibility of bureaucracy, the credibility of the enforcement of all our laws. When we have that in place, I tell you, they have no hesitation.”
She said some holdovers in the civil service from the time she helmed the ministry had noticed a deterioration in the pride in service that she had set.
“We had our own credo, ‘striving for excellence’. We even had a ministry song, not because we were pop stars but because we wanted to sing every first Monday of the month to remind ourselves” of the ministry’s goals.
She said some of those who had previously worked with her were sighing over what was happening today. “They text me to say, ‘What’s happening? We were not like this before.’ These are civil servants who ask me why things have changed so much.”
Rafidah criticised the national recovery plan, saying it lacked clarity on what the government would do to reverse the effects Covid-19 had had on the economy.
Now was the time to address disruptions to education and changing attitudes towards work life, she said, adding that waiting for the health crisis to abate might be too late.
“We must have a pre-emptive attitude. My training as a brownie girl in those days taught me to be prepared. You see the sky turning black, you prepare for rain. You shut the windows. You bring in the clothes from the line.
“If you are not pre-emptive and you see the black sky and you ignore it, then the rain comes and all the clothes you just dried get wet again.
“Post-pandemic, what is going to be done? Who’s planning for this? We can’t keep handing out packages. RM500, RM50. Rubbish.”
She urged the government to listen to the feedback of experts and business associations whose ideas had merit.
“If they don’t take it on board and they want to do it their way, okay, go ahead. Unfortunately, that way is going to bring this country down further.”
By : Imran Ariff – FMT