PETALING JAYA, 21 August 2020 – A veteran economist has accused an MP of uttering a falsehood when he said Malaysia was lacking in scientific and technological innovation.
“It’s unacceptable,” said Ramon Navaratnam in reference to Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman’s statement in the Dewan Rakyat last Monday that Malaysia has “nothing” to show in innovation and creativity even after 60 years of independence.
On the contrary, he said, the country had made immense progress in the commodities sector and Islamic financing.
“MPs should be responsible and not use their privilege in Parliament to issue such statements as their credibility will be affected.
“He should not forget that Malaysia has made vast innovations in rubber, palm oil, electronics and manufacturing and is also the world leader in sukuk (Islamic bonds).”
Malaysia is the largest sukuk issuer in the world. The finance ministry said last year that the country was maintaining its position as the global leader of the Islamic capital market, valued at RM1.88 trillion at the end of 2018.
Navaratnam said “negative and untruthful” statements like Tajuddin’s reflected poorly on MPs. He urged voters to show their displeasure with such elected representatives at the ballot boxes.
During the debate on a supply bill, Tajuddin questioned when Malaysia would be on a par with developed countries if it was lagging in innovation. He claimed that the country was trailing advanced countries by more than 50 years.
He said Malaysia’s lack of technology was causing the country to be dependent on millions of foreign workers, resulting in huge losses through foreign exchange outflows.
He also said Malaysia had been unable to produce a car of its own despite technology transfer agreements with Japan.
“There has been rhetoric after rhetoric on technology transfer and innovation, for instance in Proton. We have been depending on Japan, Korea and now China.”
Shankaran Nambiar of the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research said Tajuddin might have been trying to point out that Malaysia is not known as a producer of technology like Taiwan or South Korea.
“Remember, we were in the same basket at one point,” he told FMT.
“Today those countries distinguish themselves as exporters of technology whereas we still remain users of technology.”
Noting that Malaysia has benefitted from technology transfer, Nambiar said the ability to provide expertise to house segments of the aeronautical industry and other such achievements were not enough to brand Malaysia as a tech-intensive nation.
Commenting on development in general, another economist said that while the country’s economy had seen steady growth through the years, there remained an “underlying structural problem” preventing Malaysia from evolving into a high-income economy.
“There must be a reason why we have been stuck as a middle-income country for quite some time,” said Adli Amirullah of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs.
“Among the many challenges to address before we can take this big leap are structural changes in the economy, specifically reassessing the role of the government in the market through GLCs and GLICs.”
First published in Free Malaysia Today, 21 August 2020