Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What's wrong with EPU and ICU?

Datuk Seri Effendi Norwawi apparently delivered a speech in the Senate last week during the 2009 Budget debate. The Star carried an excerpt from the speech entitled The Impact of this Global Financial Crisis on the Long Term Economic Development in this Country.

This is a passage that I quite liked since it advocates the need for a single command post to deal with the plethora of developmental issues; something this blog has advocated all along:

I would like to suggest setting up a comprehensive national strategic plan and an institution with the mechanism to implement the national mission. This mission, which was first announced at the launch of the Ninth Malaysia Plan in March 2006, outlined the country’s core development plan for the next 15 years.

To achieve this, we need to have a strategic national mission masterplan with a clear target and implementation schedule that also includes definitions and detailed measurements for all core missions.

This plan need to be understand, agreed upon, and implemented by all parties involved in the public and private sectors and the general population. The roles of ministries and agencies towards achieving the national mission need to be spelled out clearly in a plan.

The accountability and the responsibility of overseeing the whole project/plan must be optimised to move in a single direction. Existing sectorial strategic plans such as the Third Industrial Masterplan (International Trade and Industry Ministry), Education Development Masterplan (Education Ministry), the National Science and Technology 2 Plan (Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry), National Strategic Higher Education Plan (Higher Education Ministry) and the Third National Agricultural Plan (Agriculture Ministry) need to be incorporated into this strategic plan.

Each plan need to realise the goals of the National Mission Masterplan.

Anyway, I didn't know there were so many bloody Plans and Masterplans in this country!!! Sounds like we're really organised doesn't it?

The part of the speech that I didn't like was this:

A long- term plan such as Vision 2020 needs high level of commitment to realise. I would like to suggest the setting up of a National Development Council (the Malay acronym is MPN) to be chaired be the Prime Minister, as the platform to oversee the implementation of the national mission. This is to ensure every resource be optimised and coordinated to the best level.

Under MPN, I would like to suggest the setting up of a full-time “task force” (Direktorat Pembangunan Negara or DPN) to be manned by experts and professionals that can be formally institutionalised.

The directorate can be set up almost immediately by putting under it an existing institution, Malaysia Development Institute (MDI). Currently MDI is being tasked to plan the country’s strategic macro direction and do research on the national mission.

With a clear mandate and transparent accountability, this task force is answerable to the Prime Minsiter and MPN to come out with a strategic plan, coordinating programmes, and its implementation and day-to-day running of all intiatives that is being planned. The task force is the strategic planner and execution coordinator that will work with all ministries and agencies involved throughout the whole project.

I'll tell you why I don't like it.

Effendi is the former Minister in charge of the EPU and NEAC. He's telling us that it is necessary to create another NEAC-like body to do the work that EPU and ICU were set up to do since the time of Tun Razak.

Someone in the BN government, anyone, should tell the taxpaying rakyat why we still have the EPU and ICU when obviously Dr M thought they weren't good enough which was why he created the NEAC.

Now the ex-Minister for EPU (and ICU) and NEAC says lets create another acronymic agency with superpowers to do the job that EPU was created to do and, what NEAC failed to do. What does that say about his tenure as the Minister for those agencies?

Is it any wonder that Malaysians feel puzzled and perplexed all the time (and, people wonder why my brows are furrowed almost all the time)?

By omitting any mention of the EPU and NEAC, Effendi has indicted both agencies and his own tenure as Minister. In any case, why is the NEAC still around? By the way, isn't there supposed to be an Economic Council somewhere in the mix? Is the Economic Council the new NEAC (since they share the same Secretariat)? Where does that leave the EPU?

Effendi is the typical BN pol. He likes to build new things. He thinks maintaining is not cool. Shiny and new, that's the way. Old is boring, no way. This is classic Third World mentality isn't it? Build and build new things. Forget about maintaining. Forget about the foundations, just concentrate on the facade.

Maybe they should create another central coordinating agency answerable to the PM on why people are feeling angsty, lacking in confidence, ennui, aimless, moribund and, yes, a sense of malaise.


walla said...

He seems to belabor the point that there hasn't been 'clear focus and coordination' in national strategic planning.

The situation painted is certainly more than the problem of credit crunch in the last crisis now being the depression of the real economy in the present crisis.

It has also to do with organization. How is national macroeconomic planning executed in this country? Until GE12 it was almost completely federal. After GE12, it is on per capita basis only half federal. Unless the JPM get the other five states to be involved at every level in the planning process, how is the national masterplan to account for the aspirations and challenges of those five states in order to qualify as a nationally coordinated blueprint in the first place?

But to do so means federal will have to release all of its data to those state governments, just as one would expect Miti to be doing so with its respective state investment agencies.

However we have only heard about the formation of federal liaison agencies, example for housing, in those states now under the Opposition.

It therefore seems Nawawi's suggestions for an organizational reconstruct reflects a political communication disconnect between federal and state where it matters.

And calling for professional inputs which can be institutionalized seems to be saying they are having problems getting the right and committed brains to do the job.

Which is the opposite of what Najib had said as Mof1 that we have good economists around to handle the crisis.

So, what gives?

We are too small, young and globally exposed a country not to have got all this settled long ago. Additionally, the strategic planning process todate has preponderantly been looking at domestic situations and not enough of global trends. There doesn't seem to be a federally-equipped mechanism, system or hub which acts as barometer or weather vane of all that's happening beyond our shores in all matters from trade regulations to banking trends, consumer demographics to technological innovations, country2country alliancing to manpower development and mobility....the works.

But if we are to sail our trading boat properly or plot the national development path more sagaciously, this surely should be something they must set right from the very beginning.

That's what they should do in addition to asking for an organizational reconstruct. A content-focused supporting mechanism that tracks trends, crises and opportunities.

An idea machine for national development.

satD said...

Maybe they're trying to fight the Indonesians with new acronyms....

If there was no crisis? Would there be a 'comprehensive' plan?

Words like , 'Clear Targets", Implementation Schedules, 'detailed measurements etc etc.....

Why dont you start with measuring NEP first? We are we exactly? How many more years before we achieve the target?

Loads of crap, this is more money to "Strategic Management Consultants" to devise a "plan" which simple people like all of us know....

Sorry bro....whats ur holiday plans? ....i'm gonna collect on the teh tarik can or not?

de minimis said...

hi walla

I say get rid of the NEAC and Economic Council and look into beefing up the EPU. If there's deadwood, get rid of them. Infuse the EPU with the best and brightest that Malaysia has. Headhunt the best economic minds. Get them. They'll help to create the blueprint for development. Then get the best and brightest implementers. They'll make sure all asses are kicked to get the desired results.

etheorist said...

The EPU was created along the line of the Soviet-type command economy 5-year plans. The job of the EPU was to undertake cost-benefit analysis of development projects. The development strategy was to take money from oil and gas along the continental shelf of South China Sea and spread to across the board. With the oil money nearly spent, what is there to plan?

We should focus on developing market mechanisms the efficient operations of which will create opportunities for the people. If we can do this for financial markets, we can do this for other markets as well.

The economic battle is now with the rest of the world - not among others.

satD said...

and walla too of course :)

de minimis said...


Sounds like the EPU needs a revamp unless its ponderous Soviet-style 5-year plan structure and processes have changed. Given that even the stern and authoritarian Dr M saw it fit to work his way around the EPU by having the NEAC, the EPU needs some serious re-engineering.

Meanwhile, WHO is doing the strategic economic development planning and thinking in Malaysia (if it isn't the EPU)? This is becoming one for the X-Files.


Once we synchronise our dates we'll pull some serious "teh-tariking", bro :D

Anonymous said...

yes, satd! i look most forward to the privilege of meeting you too.

and if i may, let's also hope etheorist will be able to join us to inaugurate our own national tehtarik strategic plan.. ;P

chapchai said...

Effendi Norwawi was formerly the head of Sarawak Economic Development Corp, and handpicked by Taib to be a possible successor to the throne of Sarawak, and served time in the Fed. govt. He is known in Kuching more for style rather than substance. Is this speech an attempt to make a second comeback in the Najib govt.? Pardon my cynicism on this festive occasion!

And a happy festive season to you, Minimis, and all fellow bloggers.