Accountability: /əkaʊntəbɪlɪti/ the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable; a state unknown to Malaysians.
I was among the speakers at “The New Economic Vision for Penang and Malaysia” International Conference in Penang over the weekend. It was heartening to see so many people who care about Penang and Malaysia and its future. About 350 participants registered and they were not just there to see the heavy-hitters – Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and the Menteri Besars of Perak and Selangor. The conference hall was fairly full throughout the entire 1.5 days.
Kudos to Penang Invest for running such a well-honed conference. Timekeeping was excellent, as were overall logistics. An achievement all the more impressive given the very short notice. I have attended many conferences in my previous banking career. The global banks have huge conference budgets and specialist teams to manage these affairs. Penang Invest punched well above its weight to deliver this event so smoothly.
There was lots of high level talk and aims and visions and strategies from the politicans and the heavyweight academics. I am jaded. No disrespect is intended to the learned academics. We were privileged to hear their learned thoughts. But lofty aims and visions and studies are all too prevalent in Malaysia. Execution is lacking.
We need accountability. Heads must roll when negligence is proved. University Malaya's Professor Rajah Rasiah who shared a panel with me said he had personally enticed leading specialists over to Malaysia under the “Brain Gain” programme (remember that?). Within 2 years, most had gone back overseas.
What went wrong? The government must follow-up on its policies instead of announcing a new one every few years. In this instance, investigations should have been done. Why did those specialists go back? Was the environment unsatisfactory? Did bureaucrats get in the way? Only if we know the answers can we fix the programme. And if someone was found to have been negligent, he or she should be punished. Not just transferred, but very publicly demoted and/or fired.
In my 38-year lifetime I have seen lots of plans proposed by the BN government ranging from the Malaysia Plans and Multimedia Super Corridor to Iskandar Development Region and the various Corridor Initiatives. I will agree some of the plans were decent, others less so. But the commonality is all failed – because of poor execution. Until we focus on execution, in another 38 years, we will still be saying the same things at conferences and talks, whether the government is Pakatan or BN.
Accountability works both ways. Reward those who deliver, like Penang Invest. Penalise those who don't.