PETALING JAYA: Titiwangsa candidate Johari Abdul Ghani believes political stability and competence – not populist policies – are the key to getting Malaysia on the path forward.
Johari, a former second finance minister, said Malaysia needed development policies that brought long lasting benefits rather than populist policies that provided only instant satisfaction.
The people must be prepared to pay the price of short-term pain for the reward of long-term gain, he said.
Economic growth would depend on foreign investment, and Malaysia must have a strong team of credible, competent leaders to provide the kind of political stability important to investors, he said.
“In four years, we have changed prime ministers three times. That is not the right signal to send,” he said in an interview with FMT.
“We must have a team of leaders, we cannot just be centred on one person, it has to be a team,” he said, pointing out that the best football teams in the world were good because they functioned as a team.
Only a strong team leading Malaysia could restore confidence in the country and ensure that policies would provide long-term benefits.
Johari said the country could not run away from having to introduce policies that are necessary but which may be unpopular.
Avoiding Sri Lanka’s collapse
“If we only want to be popular, it will cause problems. I’ve seen what Sri Lanka was like, 10 years before its economy collapsed. It was all about popular policies and increased debt,” he said.
The Covid-19 outbreak caused a collapse in Sri Lanka because they did not diversify the economy.
“Look at Malaysia now. Our total debt stood at RM686 billion after 61 years. But in the past four years, we’ve added almost RM350 billion to that load of debt.”
He said Malaysia was paying the price for the lack of stability in politics and policy-making.
The path to rebuilding the economy was through growth, through foreign investment, rather than cash handouts to the people, which were not sustainable.
Review education policy
A good education policy was another factor in attracting investors, said Johari, who has 25 years’ experience in the corporate world and has been in top management of government companies.
Education policies should be reviewed every five years so that the country could produce the kind of graduates needed by the market. The government must also have a greater understanding of the human resource requirements of big companies.
“We keep churning out graduates. Everyone is chasing after A-grades, but A’s are not relevant to industries and their needs,” he said.
He said Malaysia was still ahead of Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines in ranking on the global competitiveness index and still a preferred investment destination
“But Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines get more foreign investment than us. There must be something wrong,” he said.
Malaysia did not seem to attract the types of investments that matched the talent pool, he said.
“It’s not about us only wanting their (investors’) money, if we just want their money then it’s not sustainable because it doesn’t benefit our people,” he said.
Local boy making comeback
Johari, 58, the Federal Territories Umno chief, is seeking a fresh term as MP for Titiwangsa which he represented from 2013 to 2018. His biggest challenger for the seat is former federal territories minister Khalid Samad of Pakatan Harapan, who was moved from Shah Alam to contest in Titiwangsa.
The other candidates are Rosni Adam of Perikatan Nasional and Khairuddin Abu Hassan of Pejuang.
However, Johari believes he can provide better insight into the needs of Titiwangsa residents, being a local boy born in Kampung Pandan, from a humble background who was educated at the local schools.
Titiwangsa, which stretches from Setapak to Kampung Baru, Taman Maluri and Kampung Pandan, has an electorate of more than 80,700.