Developing Human Capital

Developing Human Capital

After months of promises of new policy, Pakatan Rakyat spent last Saturday reminding each other how much they hated BN.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak spent the weekend on the stump, expanding on his Government’s approach to labour capital development.

Speaking to a group of students in Pekan, Najib emphasised the importance of education, not merely as a good in itself, but also as a means of human capital development for Malaysia’s future. He was keen to note not only the importance of public sector funding — 22 per cent of the national budget is allocated for education annually, he noted — but also the important partnership between the federal government, the states, and private industry.

“Education is a priority sector which must be championed, which must be boosted in terms of funds, infrastructure and moral support by all quarters, including the people,” Najib noted.

In contrast to what is beginning to seem an unending drumbeat of one-off policy proposals from Pakatan, when it bothers to announce policy at all, the emphasis on education and its impact on our labour markets appears to be the logical outgrowth of, and a necessary part of, the Prime Minister’s approach to Malaysia’s march toward fully developed-nation status and transformation.

This has been a priority of the Government for some time, but the contours of this unified approach to policy are only now becoming clear. The Talent Corp, which seeks to bring home the best and brightest Malaysians living abroad, is another part.

The New Economic Model, which is integrated with the Economic Transformation Programme (of which human capital development and education reform are integral parts) has as its goal not merely the nation’s rapid economic development, but also its growth into a unified, multiracial nation. It is 1Malaysia writ large.

Improved educational development and transformation not only produces a more skilled workforce, attracting domestic and foreign investment, it also serves to foster a unified country. It reduces our reliance on foreign workers (while still attracting their best and brightest) and increases per-capita GDP at the same time.

Yet this is not, and cannot be, merely a Government project. It must tie together all of the stakeholders in a new Malaysia.

It is to Najib’s credit that he sees this, and has made it a recurring theme of his speeches to private industry, to students and everyday citizens, to Government officers, and recently, to his own party. Whatever the ultimate result of his efforts, it will not be for lack of trying.

Given the unity of the Government’s policies, Pakatan’s recent failure to produce even a bare manifesto is even more striking: The Government’s policies have been on display since 2010, together with targeted priorities and concrete steps for resolution of the problems facing the country. In other words, these are low-hanging fruit, easy targets for which the Opposition could produce agreement, alternatives, or some third-way combination. Yet still Pakatan produces nothing.

The nation’s economic and political development are the foremost issues of the day, and human capital development is at the leading edge of these. The Government recognises this. It is even likely that the Opposition recognises this.

The Government has put forward a vision for Malaysia, and not merely for GE13.

Pakatan Rakyat does the nation a disservice by failing to do the same.