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Careless talks

  • Government leaders need to exercise caution when delivering their speeches and should refrain from talking without the backing of any supporting data or evidence. Photo courtesy: AFP

Sin Chew Daily

Mahathir's comments on Forest City continue to reverberate. Developer Country Garden is not the only one to get the shock, other foreign investors are also becoming wary.

His remarks give the public an impression that the Malaysian government does not welcome foreign buyers of our properties, and this kind of Sinophobia mood is not going to augur well for the country's competitiveness in an increasingly liberalized market environment.

Despite clarification from the PM's office and the housing and local government ministry, the public remain concerned unless there is explicit investment and economic policy from the government.

Perhaps more consistency is required when the prime minister as well as his cabinet colleagues issue statements on government policies in future.

This country cannot be run on "imagination" alone. There are laws to comply with for foreigners keen to stay or invest in Malaysia, and the government has the obligation to protect the interest of the nation as well as her people.

As a sovereign country, everything has to go by the law and there is no need for the government to create unnecessary xenophobia.

The threshold for foreigners to purchase local properties does not fall within the jurisdiction of the federal government but the respective state governments. If the federal government feels that some of the land-related laws and policies in some of the states have contradicted those of the federal government, it should sit down and talk with the state government so that such discrepancy could be resolved.

Too much power in the hands of the federal government is not a good thing for the development of individual states, for the simple reason that every state has its own economic uniqueness and the federal government should allow these states to harness their own resources and niche advantages to develop their economies so that more people will benefit.

As for the claim that the influx of foreigners will marginalize local residents and erode their competitiveness, this is hardly convincing. Foreigners keen to reside in this country will have to meet the requirements and conditions set out by the home ministry. Only those meeting the criteria will get the green light. There is no direct link between foreigners buying up Malaysian properties or setting up factories, and applying for residence status here.

Before the government draws up any key policy, it is utterly important for it to conduct comprehensive studies. In areas such as trading and commerce, it is essential for the government to create a more liberal market and business-friendly environment.

The biggest functionality of a government is to provide an excellent platform for businesses to maximize their potentials and proper.

Indeed the government can limit the scopes of foreign investments and trade in the pretext of protecting the interest of the country and people, but it needs a sound comprehensive strategy and planning. This is because protectionism can evolve into exclusionism if not handled properly.

In short, remarks by government leaders from the prime minister to cabinet ministers to a large extent reflect the government's direction and attitude. As such, they need to exercise caution when delivering their speeches and should refrain from talking without the backing of any supporting data or evidence, as this will have a negative bearing on the image of the country as well as government.


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