Govt must resist picking a bumiputera to lead it just for sake of being populist
Best person must be chosen who will lead and inspire all Malaysians
I RECENTLY read in a report that there are easily over 60 entrepreneur development programmes in Malaysia just run by the various government agencies. Soon, you’ll be able to add the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre or MaGIC to that mix.
Rather than being just another entrepreneur development programme however, MaGIC is going to be a one-stop centre to empower entrepreneurs.
While many had been expecting more details in the Budget 2014 proposal that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak unveiled on Oct 25, none were forthcoming – aside from the RM50 million (US$15.8 million) allocated. He did not say if this would be a one-time funding or merely the initial launch funding of an on-going allocation.
Intriguingly, what we know is that MaGIC will be an independent body that will act as a one-stop centre for all kinds of entrepreneurs – “not just those related to ICT, but also those in the services sector, agro-based products, logistics and so on,” Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Finance, told journalists after he officially closed the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) on Oct 12.
Even more intriguing was Irwan’s statement that MaGIC will probably be an independent body operated by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs. “We will select from the private sector … an entrepreneur who has been successful,” he said.
Until they announce who it is, the guessing game will surely be in overdrive. But one thing is for sure: They need to pick the best possible candidate for this leadership role at MaGIC, which itself will have a very broad mandate, and because of that, will see it inadvertently stepping on the toes of many other agencies that have their own entrepreneur development programmes.
Whoever they pick will be wise to spend some time picking the brains of Dr Kamal Jit Singh, the former chief executive officer of Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM), now CEO of Unit Inovasi Khas or Unik, in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Kamal had initially tried the bold and audacious move of wanting to consolidate all the government innovation funds under one body to eliminate duplication and inefficiencies. That got shot down, but with much time and energy expended in the process.
It is my hope however that the Malaysian Government does not go for the populist approach and pick a bumiputera to head this key body if the person is not the best candidate. [Bumiputera are largely Malay-Muslims who make up 60% of the country’s population and who are the subject of the country’s affirmative policies].
For sure, the Government will want to see more bumiputera entrepreneurs helped. But I say there are already more than enough bumiputera-based entrepreneur development programmes. If you don’t believe me, just drop by Mara (Majlis Amanah Rakyat), the government agency tasked with aiding bumiputera in business and industry.
In fact, this year Mara allocated RM75 million (US$24 million) to develop and groom entrepreneurs capable of competing in the global market. And yes, the phrase ‘one-stop’ was also used.
And Mara is not the only agency with lots of funds and lots of activities to assist bumiputera entrepreneurs. Just a bit more than a month ago, the Prime Minister also announced the formation of the Bumiputera Economic Empowerment Council and other development initiatives worth RM31 billion (US$9.8 billion) for the bumiputera community.
For MaGIC to work its magic, it must be inclusive and focused on helping any Malaysian entrepreneur – and it must inspire Malaysian entrepreneurs to help each other too.
The person appointed to lead it must, in that sense, also be a Malaysian who has proven his ability to work well with all Malaysians, from the heartlands of Sabah and Sarawak to the concrete jungles of Kuala Lumpur.
He or she must also have a global network because the competition for markets is global, as are the opportunities. Our entrepreneurs need to collaborate with other entrepreneurs to create winning propositions.
The old model of building a product or service to target one’s home market and then looking for a reseller in another market just will not work for many of the new opportunities that are opening up today because of the Internet and increased connectivity.
The leader of MaGIC – of whichever race or ethnic background – will also need some political muscle behind him or her, at least in the early years.
This is where I find the announcement of the National Entrepreneur Development Office to be of great interest. Under the ambit of the National Strategy Unit of the Ministry of Finance (MoF), it will plan and coordinate all activities related to entrepreneurship.
That’s a huge task … plan and coordinate all activities related to entrepreneurship. I wonder if the hard-working civil servants at MoF know what they are in for?
I hope MaGIC falls under the MoF because that ministry, under the leadership of Irwan, seems to have taken a surprisingly active role in promoting entrepreneurship in the country. With MoF controlling most of the allocations for the various agencies, it seems best suited to coordinate many, if not all, public agency entrepreneurial activities.
If MaGIC does fall under MoF and gets the right leader, then we may just start to see some magic happen!
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