PNB chairman Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar, formerly a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, said the government’s target to achieve high-income nation status by 2020 is still within reach.
The World Bank defined a high-income economy as a country with a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita threshold of US$12,476 for 2015.
Last year, Malaysia’s GNI per capita was US$8,409. It is expected to rise to US$9,222 this year and US$9,474 in 2017.
But it would be a tall order to leap US$3,000 in three years, given the estimated increase from 2015 to 2017 was only slightly more than US1,000.
However, it may be possible if oil prices were to double or triple, allowing our GNI per capita to soar above US$12,476. But by 2020, the threshold of a high-income nation may be set above US15,000.
The target is not only a moving goalpost but largely academic, as little is translated to the ground.
High income is meaningless if overtaken by inflation.
Many Malaysians may be earning more but have to spend much more to continue the quality of life they used to enjoy with lesser income.
Another area often bandied about is Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). Traditionally, an overwhelming percentage of students enroll for academic courses in tertiary institutions.
While the best and the brightest are accepted for professional courses and many became doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants and architects, the majority are enrolled for Arts and Social Sciences.
Those who excelled in school examinations through rote-learning are likely to plagiarise through copy and paste in tertiary institutions.
Coupled with minimal personal development in our education system, we have hundreds of thousands of unemployed graduates unable to communicate professionally in any language, particularly English.
Although most Malaysians can converse in several languages or dialects for hours, few are able to speak and write clearly on more complex matters, which are needed to communicate with colleagues, customers, suppliers, authorities and the public.
It is no surprise that the majority of unemployed and underemployed people in this country lacked the right attitude, skills and knowledge.
As such, it makes perfect sense to promote TVET as one of the twin pillars of tertiary education, allowing students to pick up technical skills.
But not all TVET institutions are created equal and many programmes were developed based on the knowledge and experience of a few, and are not assessed by current industry players and training experts.
It is also not easy to infuse the right attitude among the trainees, especially when they are overwhelmingly mono-ethnic.
Attitudes in learning centres and workplaces are shaped by organisation cultures, which are often found wanting, given the high incidences of non-compliance with the laws, rules and regulations.
Malaysians have an aversion to jobs that are considered dangerous, dirty and difficult. Apart from demeaning, the pay is low.
A major transformation is needed for our drivers, mechanics, electricians, plumbers and skilled workers to earn respectable incomes.
It will have to start with licensing their profession, which is practised in most developed countries. This will force practitioners to gain the required competencies and perform according to standards.
Most of all, Malaysians must learn to pay reasonable fees for services, just as they wish to be paid fairly for their wages.
If these were to occur, there is no need to convince parents and students that TVET is just as good, if not better, than academic education.
In Malaysia, the shortage of drivers had rendered hundreds of stage buses immobilized, while many taxi drivers complained they could not survive even before the advent of transportation network companies that have captured the market through ride-hailing apps.
My brother used to drive buses in Sydney and earned A$80,000 (RM252,000) annually. He stayed in his own house, drove a Volkswagen SUV to work and could afford long vacations overseas.
In contrast, a Malaysian bus driver is likely to ride a motorcycle to work and would be happy if his family has enough to eat and some pocket money left.
The above comparison is more of a high-income economy with a low-income nation, not one that will achieve high-income status by 2020.
Source : Y S Chan@The Heat Malaysia Online