Wednesday, 31 March 2010

thestar: All stakeholders to have say in policy formulation

  Wednesday March 31, 2010

COMMENT BY WONG SAI WAN

saiwan@thestar.com.my

PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had already left Shangri-La Hotel in downtown Kuala Lumpur when the 1,800 participants gathered for lunch at the various F&B outlets in the hotel – the main topic of conversation among them was, of course, the New Economic Model (NEM) and the PM’s speech.

Many of the participants had come to the Invest Malaysia conference believing that they would get to witness first-hand the unveiling of the NEM which was to propel the country to a developed nation status and thus, many felt disappointed after Najib’s 90-minute address.

Many had expected Najib to spell out in detail the NEM and all the nitty-gritty. What they did not realise was that the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC) report that was made public yesterday was the council’s take on what the country had to do to achieve high income status and catch up with countries like South Korea, which once lagged behind Malaysia.



Their disappointment was not unexpected as they were used to hearing the final policy outlines. In this case, the Prime Minister had actually asked for their participation and feedback in the formulation of the NEM itself.

This is in keeping with Najib’s policy of transparency and inclusiveness. The formulation of the policy will include feedback from all stakeholders and, undoubtedly, it will be a more comprehensive and inclusive plan.

The NEAC report is now open for consultation and feedback from every stakeholder. In keeping with all the major policy launches by Najib’s government, the Prime Minister wants to ensure everyone has a say before the plan is implemented.

“It is not written in stone yet and could be modified after the consultation process is completed,” said a senior government official.

Najib stressed that he wanted to be transparent about the policy formation and emphasised on the need for public comments “but this cannot be an old-style political debate”.

“Whether in the Budget or the recent Government Transformation Programme, where thousands of public citizens were involved in the process, I have instructed that this report be published and made available to the general public to gather their input and provide them with an opportunity to be part of the decision-making process over the coming months.

“It is only through consultation with the rakyat and all the other stakeholders that we can achieve a strong, convincing and effective plan to implement our New Economic Model. I have made clear on many previous occasions that the era of ‘Government knows best’ is over.

“The rakyat – and groups such as business leaders and investors – want and deserve input into the policy-making process. We must develop a more consultative approach to engaging our most important stakeholders.”

Many people, including foreign businessmen, are so used to the way things were done previously where orders came from the top without consultation. They were expecting Najib to make pronouncements and were surprised by his invitation to comment instead.

However, the Prime Minister has set out a timeline for the rolling out of the NEM, which will be closely tied to the 10th Malaysia Plan.

The timeline is as follows:

> Between now and June, feedback, comments and suggestions would be collected by the NEAC secretariat and submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office.

> On June 10, Najib is expected to unveil the 10th Malaysia Plan and how the NEM, together with any possible modifications, fits into the overall programme.

> Based on this, the NEAC would then move into the second phase of its work where the council will then draw up the “implementation process” (or sequencing as NEAC chairman Tan Sri Amirsham A. Aziz calls it) and this would be unveiled in mid-August.

> The Budget in October will cover the first year of the 10th Malaysia Plan and continued implementation of NEM.

The Prime Minister is insisting on the people taking ownership in his programme to transform the country into a high income nation and the best way, he feels, is to get them involved in the decision-making process.

“Like investors, this Government accords high marks for transparency,” Najib said in his speech to explain why there will be so much consultation.

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