DAP Malaysia: Parliament
Speech - 1997 Budget committee stage (Ministry of Human Resources)
by Lim Kit Siang - Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong
in Dewan Rakyat
on Wednesday, 5th December 1996

Proposal that Human Resources Ministry set up a permanent division to launch a permanent life-long learning programme to continuously enhance the skills and knowledge of workers to improve Malaysia’s international competitiveness

In the next phase of Malaysia’s economic development, skills and knowledge of Malaysians will be the critical factors in improving our competitiveness in the international marketplace and in determining Malaysia’s future prosperity.

We must take serious view of the drop in the placing of Malaysia in the 1996 World Competitiveness Yearbook, the tenth competitiveness report prepared by IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland, from 14th placing on the global scoreboard of competitiveness in 1992 to 23rd placing in 1996 for overall performance. This scoreboard of competitiveness is evaluated from eight different perspectives describing the competitive environment of each country. During this period, Malaysia has improved its standing in only one of the eight factors of competitiveness, namely internationalisation, while its placing on all the other seven factors had dropped - namely domestic economy, government, finance, infrastructure, management, science & technology, and people.

Malaysia scores highly for domestic and government sectors, but we are concerned here with the sector on People, where Malaysia’s sectoral placing had dropped from the 30th placing in 1992 to 34th placing in 1996. This should be a matter of grave concern for all Malaysian leaders for three reasons:

This should be a matter of critical concern to all Malaysians concerned about Malaysia’s competitiveness because nations do not compete with products and services alone, but also with education and value systems.

The Seventh Malaysia Plan has declared a transformation of the economy from an investment-driven output growth towards one that is productivity and quality-driven through enhancement of factor efficiency of labour and capital as well as total factor productivity (TFP) through skill upgrading, capital deepening as well as improvements in management and entrepreurship. (p 1.17)

The Plan aims for an average annual growth of 3.3% in total factor productivity or TFP, up from annual 2.5% growth during the previous five years.

TFP is the portion of output growth not directly accounted for by increases in labour and capital. Para 1.33 of the Seventh Malaysia Plan defines TFP as “the additional output generated through enhancements in efficiency arising from advancements in worker education, skills and expertise, acquisition of superior management techniques and know-how, improvements in organization, gains from specialization, introduction of new technology and innovation or upgrading of existing technology and enhancement of IT.”

If Malaysia is to succeed in raising the annual TFP growth to 3.3%, which would improve Malaysia’s competitiveness, then the Ministry of Human Resources must play an important role to involve the entire national worforce in a life-long learning process to upgrade their skills and knowledge.

I would urge the Ministry of Human Resources to emulate the example of some countries by establishing a division on lifelong learning which will carry out a permanent life-long learning programme to motivate individuals to take up learning and develop rewards and incentives which encourage greater individual responsibility for learning.

Other areas which this Life-Long Learning Division of the Human Resources Ministry should focus on are:

In the age of Information Technology, we are entering the era of the knowledge economy, where the most important assets will be ideas, skills and creativity. The Ministry of Human Resources must play a critical role to continuously improve on the quality of the available human resources in the country and I hope that my proposal for a Lifelong Learning Division in the Ministry would be acted on without any delay for the good of the workforce as well as the country.