Margin of safety: MARA must thrive in the age of uncertainty
“Belayar bernakhoda, berjalan dengan yang tua, berkata dengan yang pandai”
MTEM has and will always be vocal and outright when it comes to the economic agenda of the Melayu and Bumiputera.
Therefore, matters that concern an institution like Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) will always be close to heart regardless of which party rules the nation. More so now as we enter an age of uncertainty arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Melayu adage quoted above reflects our position on what is needed for MARA succinctly. MARA must thrive. For this to happen it needs experienced and effective leadership at the Majlis MARA level.
MTEM congratulates the new Minister in charge of MARA, Datuk Dr Latiff Ahmad. His appointment gives us confidence that MARA is in good hands. We are hopeful he will help take MARA to greater heights.
We know the Minister, in considering plans for MARA, would take cognisance of the public issues involving its Majlis prior to the recent change of government. MARA needs to avoid having unqualified politicians bereft of any appreciation of governance in its Majlis.
They also must not select business professionals who has paper qualifications but totally inexperienced in MARA’s main mandate, which is socio-economic development. Our country cannot afford another MARA debacle, whether it is in not performing well or not well governed, perceived or otherwise.
Whatever approaches and policies MARA’s new leadership uses, it must be consistent with the spirit of Kongres Ekonomi Bumiputera 1965 and the MARA Act 1966 that it gave birth to. It must also strive to meet the expectations of the diverse community and stakeholders which it serves.
The minister must now choose leaders with the character, competencies and sufficient knowledge about Malaysians across all level of societies especially those outside the big cities.
One cannot expect much from city-centric elitist with no connection with Malaysia’s vast heartland communities, and no relevant experience in economic development, industry development or education policy.
Having said this, we also cannot have a purely rural centric leaders with no economic worldview. Take the approach of “ambil yang jernih buang yang keruh” from past experiences for a MARA 3.0.
RIGHT CALIBRE. RIGHT CHARACTER
Whilst technical competencies are needed, Majlis members also need to possess superior character to lead the transformation and realise the shared prosperity in a dynamic, new economic paradigm.
More importantly, they need to possess the soul or “jiwa” of the indigenous Melayu and Bumiputera, whilst also being a champion of the broader grassroots communities, especially in regional / rural areas.
They need to be a role model of integrity and high-performance. They must be benevolent mentors who are adaptable, dynamic and visionary with a thirst for knowledge.
We need men and women with genuine intelligence and proven expertise in economic development, industry development, education policy, and investment.
WHO SHOULD BE CHOSEN?
Whilst the fulfilment of all these criteria seems to be a daunting task, MTEM is aware of many indigenous Melayu and Bumiputera who fits the bill. We are not going to list who they are here as that will not be fair to the minister.
Hopefully we will have the opportunity to share our view with the Minister soon. What we will share here are the attributes that these Malaysians have that MARA would need to thrive.
These are individuals who holds eminent stature in their respective fields of expertise and are widely respected at home and abroad.
They have a sound understanding of the MARA Act and exhibits a good respect for it. They have intimate knowledge of MARA’s long history, track record and more importantly, its future plan.
These are people who have championed high-impact partnerships and pioneered the development of Melayu and Bumiputera successes in new industries such as aerospace, advanced materials and the halal sectors.
There are amongst them who are internationally renowned educationalists with an extensive track record in education policy and policy implementation. They are not those who thinks they know.
They have led and taught others on how to do education not just in Malaysia but globally. These are people who can help reform and transform MARA’s education under IR4.0 in a post COVID-19 era.
The Multimedia Super Corridor, the Regional Economic Corridors, and the various economic transformation programmes over the last 25 years have spawned a new generation of modern Melayu and Bumiputera economic developers that have created more than a million jobs, with a mandate to create millions more.
These are the type of individuals who are needed in Majlis MARA to implement its full mandate of socioeconomic development.
They are not mere theoretical economist. They have a clear appreciation of business economics with practical working knowledge of the dynamics between labour, capital, property, and product in the international market and our local economy.
These are present and critical in all aspects of MARA’s mandate. There are also many renown women with a successful track record in industry development, entrepreneur development and education.
From the establishment of the Islamic capital market to SME development, these are real women of substance that MARA could benefit from. Some even have research chairs at universities named after them due to their exemplary body of work.
There are also individuals who are architects of the Shared Prosperity Vision (SPV) 2030, which is a crucial piece of national development policy that all Malaysians are embarking on.
MARA should take a front and centre role for implementation of the SPV considering Melayu and Bumiputera is 70% of the population. Having one of them on Majlis MARA would help MARA to take on this role well.
We believe those who carries the above attributes that we have described would be able to come onboard as Majlis MARA members without having to do much to learn what MARA is, what socio-economic development entails, what public policy or policy implementation are all about and what are the difference between statute, directive and memo circular means in the public sector.
MINISTER’S DECISION NOW ON SPOTLIGHT
Datuk Dr Latiff Ahmad has made sound and impactful decisions thus far. As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, he announced much needed relief for MARA loan repayments. Now, we come to his most important decision, which is the selection of the new Majlis MARA, which he needs to do sooner rather than later.
We also trust that when he makes his decision, the minister will choose Majlis members who has the right attitude and expectation. These new members cannot be those who expect benefits from such appointments in the form of contracts and the likes or that believe they worthy of reverence. MARA cannot afford to have such people. Its a huge Amanah.
There is a lot that needs to be done. “Kalau tidak dipecahkan ruyung, manakan dapat sagunya”.
The new Majlis MARA needs to put in a lot of effort. Roll up their sleeves and support the management to do great things for the country especially for the Melayu and Bumiputeras.
Do the right thing. Enable and empower instead of wanting to control everything. The Majlis must be expected to serve with the intent to be benevolent leaders of the community with the wherewithal to deliver significant socio-economic benefits such as highvalue job creation and industry building across the nation.
Only with the right Majlis can they then identify other social activists, NGO representative, economic advisors or genuine entrepreneurs to collaborate and help MARA achieve its true potential in line with its mission and vision.
A failure to do so, will lead to yet another dismal failure by another government. We don’t want this. MARA must thrive in the age of uncertainty.
* Ahmad Yazid Othman is a Chief Executive Officer Majlis Tindakan Ekonomi Melayu (MTEM)