By Azril Mohd Amin, Chief Executive Officer, Institut Masa Depan Malaysia
WE elect leaders based on their capabilities, that they know what our country needs. We do not want them to turn to foreign consultants for solutions to our problems.
We should be able to move forward on our own recipes. We do not need Western consultancy to draft our nation’s policies or plans.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the European Union (EU) earmarked €750 billion for post-pandemic economic recovery efforts, and they hired two major consultancy firms to manage how the money should be spent.
This is outsourcing governance to the private sector. And this is undemocratic — a recipe for corruption. It empowers unelected parties to determine what is best for a nation when they have no stake in the outcomes. Consultancies get paid whether their solutions succeed or fail.
France, for example, hired a consultancy firm to manage its vaccine rollout and this resulted in one of the slowest and least successful vaccination campaigns in Europe. France has yet to reach the vaccination rate Malaysia achieved years ago.
When Spain allocated €69.5 billion for its coronavirus recovery plan, the consultancy firm Spain hired to advise them on how to spend it, channelled roughly €62 billion to their corporate clients.
Spain’s economic recovery is lagging, with the unemployment rate expected soar until 2025 and real gross domestic product (GDP) growth in steady decline.
It’s crucial for any nation to analyse and solve its own problems and challenges, not rely on outsiders or foreign elements for solutions. That’s what governments are for.
We know our societies best and we have our own philosophies on the economic health of our country. For instance, the Western concept of a healthy economy is one in which large companies enjoy the greatest possible profits and wealth is funnelled to the top one per cent in ever-increasing quantities.
We, however, do not do a headcount of billionaires to determine the success of our economy. We believe in shared prosperity and in the idea that a healthy economy is one in which the financial wellbeing of the population is secured.
Western consultancies base their policy recommendations upon the neoliberal, radical capitalist ideas that maximisation of profits is the highest good.
Hence, you will generally see them suggesting automation, digitalisation and selective upskilling of workers as the key to economic success. Why? Because these measures cut expenses for corporations and give advantages to the biggest companies. Never mind that this approach results in thousands, if not millions of workers, being made redundant.
Robots may contribute to higher corporate profits but not to the health of the broader economy. “Upskilling” is often just consultancy-speak for learning the skills desired by multinational corporations enabling them to task one employee with duties previously performed by many.
Thus, proposals by foreign consultancies tend to serve foreign interests, not to mention the fact that all their “solutions” generally require borrowings.
Malaysia is facing significant economic challenges and these challenges need our own recipes and strategies. Consulting firms will only offer solutions to solve their problems, not ours.
The world is transitioning to a more multipolar era. We do not need to adopt Western economic theories and policies that arise from them.
Their theories and policies have created societies with the most drastic income disparities in the world. Their “approaches” seem to be towards the development of monopolies and cartels and tremendous market volatility, with crises occurring every few years. Western consultancies, in this regard, are in no position to advise us.
What we need in Malaysia is Malaysian leadership, local expertise and talents and authorities who can manage our economy for the best interest of the population.
We must preserve our political and economic sovereignty and face our challenges independently. No matter how much we may pay an outsider for advice, they will never understand or care about Malaysia as much as Malaysians do.
What we have achieved in managing the pandemic and salvaging the rakyat’s economy through the difficult period has proven to be effective and must be made the basis of propelling Malaysia’s economy.