Opportunity wasted (to send a message)

* Prime Minster should using 'innovation' more in his speeches
* Needs to find a way to harness the creativity of civil servants

Opportunity wasted (to send a message)IT is is not often that you read about a RM4 billion investment into the country. But that was what German wafer fabrication company Infineon announced last Thursday, May 10. I was thrilled. It means jobs, lots of jobs, well-paying jobs and a massive multiplier effect on Kulim, Sg Patani and even Penang.

It also means the technical schools in the country need to urgently get their act together and sharpen the quality of their curriculum and upgrade their teaching capability. The Germans are coming.

One person who was not at the announcement though, was Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. As CEO of Malaysia, I think he should have been there. Even if he was busy, he should have made time to go.

I was disappointed and puzzled. So, I first looked through The Star, which rightly ran the Infineon investment as their cover story in the Business section, to see what our CEO was up too that could be so important to keep him away from announcing the RM 4billion investment.

I did not see anything significant. I think Najib lost a great chance to sell Malaysia further. News like this is usually picked up by the wire services, the economic desks of the various embassies here, the chambers of commerce and is distributed globally.

Najib’s presence and a well-written speech about Malaysia’s progress in moving up the manufacturing value chain, highlighting progress made in the various GTP and ETPs would have enjoyed global exposure. He could have highlighted the fact that Infineon was planning to develop a competency centre that will focus on technologies in the energy-efficiency and automotive industries.

I consider it an opportunity lost.

One cannot help but wonder if his no-show at the event was linked to the fact that the state of Kedah would have enjoyed the majority of the credit from the Infineon investment. Though held by Pakatan Rakyat, last I checked, Kedah was still very much a part of Malaysia. But I discount this as, last December, Najib made time from his schedule to officiate the official announcement of IBM investing RM1 billion into Malaysia over the next five years. That was in Selangor.

Anyway, I am not one to dwell on such mischievous thinking.

What I would like to see the PM do more of, is to speak about innovation and doing things better. This is after all the year of the National Science and Innovation Movement Year 2012. Najib should infuse all his speeches with works such as innovation, not being afraid to fail, dare to be different.

And he should pepper his vocabulary with words and phrases such as “innovation” and “different or new ways of doing things.” Do that often enough and people will realise he is genuine and very interested in how Malaysians weave technology and innovation/doing things in a better way into their everyday lives.

He can start by unleashing the power of the one million civil servants. I note with interest Najib taking the time to meet various groups for teh tarik or breakfast. What kind of powerful message would he be sending out should some civil servants be lucky enough to meet him for a chat — every month. The criteria would be that they came up with an idea to help save time or simplify an existing bureaucratic procedure.

This simple act would unleash the dormant sense of empowerment of our civil service. I am sure someone at Majlis Bandaraya Petaling Jaya will instantly come up with the idea of not requiring one’s car registration should one befall the unfortunate experience of having their car clamped and towed.

This requirement is absolutely ridiculous. What do the registration details have to do with getting one’s car unclamped? And then there is the simple act of wanting to pay for the fine. You are asked to go to the MBPJ building when you ask if you can pay your fines to the officer on the spot. So, I have to ask … how tough is it to have each officer equipped with a handheld device to accept payments from officers? Apparently very hard.

It was a very unproductive exercise for the officers too as it took me 80 minutes to get the fine sorted out. The three MBPJ officers were standing around doing very little during this period where instead, they could have used their time to nail more people parking illegally.

So, Mr Prime Minister, how about spending one breakfast a month with some of your more innovative civil servants. And, do remind your people that in future, you would like to be there for any over FDI made in excess of RM1 billion. That’s no small change.

This article appeared previously in The Malaysian Insider

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