When I was given a time planner in the early 1980s as a young executive, I spent an intense several months figuring how to use it properly, applying such concepts as goals, strategies, and action plans. I discovered I like the Key Result Area (KRA) better than Key Performance Indicator (KPI). It is therefore a pleasant surprise when I hear the government talking about the KRA instead of the KPI.
The problem with the KPI is its pretense to precision and measurement which may be logical but misleading. The KRA may be fuzzy but it can be more realistic because it touches on areas that are intuitively logical but not measurable with any precision (and not entirely unmeasurable).
My objective in this post is to try to put together into a coherent whole the concepts that have been reported in the press so far and see how everything fits:
New Economic Model
Vision is an image that we see in our minds of what, in this case, we imagine our nation to be. The first vision was "Independent Malaya" in 1957, expanded into "Independent Malaysia" in 1963. The vision was changed to the "New Economic Policy" in 1970 to last for twenty years. In 1991, "Vision 2020" was mooted but the clarity was clouded by the financial crisis and subsequent policy actions were to salvage what was left of the economy.
Today, the two contending visions seem to be "1Malaysia" and "High-Income Economy." (I think the "New Economic Model" is a stray to try to emulate the "New Economic Policy" but will encompass "1Malaysia" and "High-Income Economy.")
"1Malaysia" seems to be an anti-thesis to the "New Economic Policy." "1Malaysia" is now being touted as the higher vision of the NEP while the old NEP has been degraded as a poor instrument of the higher objective.
The "High-Income Economy" is not new (being nested in "Vision 2020") but works as an anti-thesis to the delapidating policies particularly fiscal, immigration, institutional and financial policies that seem to have worked to corner the whole economy into, theoretically, an equilibrium but not a happy one.
"High-Income Economy" is therefore a higher vision than "1Malaysia", with the latter acting as a crucial unifying force of higher growth.
But the level of one's eventual achievement depends on the height of one's sight. Malaysia can go higher. "Paradise on Earth" seems like a good higher vision that subsumes under it "1Malaysia" and "High-Income Economy."
Most people get the vision mixed up with the mission. Vision is this large image that we are trying to create - and not necessarily, or rather should not be, measurable. Mission deals with the question of the motivation for this vision, so as to mobilise support for the vision.
We concluded above that the vision should be "High-Income Economy" and not "1Malaysia." But "1Malaysia" is an important Key Result Area for the vision of "High-Income Economy."
But what is the mission for the goal of "High-Income Economy." The primary motivation must be "Equal Opportunity For All" rather than "Economic Opportunities For A Select Few." In which case, the manner by which the "High-Income Economy" is achieved becomes important to ensure that growth and distribution are in the right direction.
I cannot over-emphasise the importance of the nature of the implementation of the "High-Income Economy." The previous goal of high-growth economy had worked badly because of the errors in policies being implmented from which we are still reeling.
It has been reported that the foundation for the "1Malaysia" is the principle of justice for all. (The Star, 11 July). But justice can be a difficult word because of its many connotations, one of which implies the justification to resort to violence or unscrupulous means to achieve justice. I would prefer "Fairness For All," as the word "fairness" is more of a plea than a demand. Which all boils down to "Equal Opportunities For All."
KEY RESULT AREAS
The concept of the Key Result Areas is akin to the concept of the Critical Success Factors, being pre-conditions for the success of a goal or vision.
If "High-Income Society" is the Vision, and "Equal Opportunities For All" is the Mission, then the Key Result Areas should be as follows:
KRA1: 1Malaysia - National Unity as the First Underlying Force for Competitive Advantage
KRA2: High Savings and Investment Rates for Domestically-Generated Growth
KRA3: Downsizing the Government
KRA4: World-Class Education System that is relevant to the Global Economy As the Second Underlying Force for Competitive Advantage
"1Malaysia" is a complex concept, depending on what we see when we look at diversity. If we see in diversity, enemies, then the tendency will be to dominate others to ensure supremacy. If we see strength in diversity, then the tendency will be to embrace the diversity to create new and greater synergistic strength. If Malaysia is to become an enlightened nation, then aiming for high ideals is a key result area that we must see achieved. To achieve KRA1:1Malaysia, the action plans may include:
Action Plan 1.1: No Discrimination for or against in all areas of life in Malaysia, including foreign investors. Actions have been taken to remove barriers to entry into certain areas of the economy. However, we must also be conscious that all rules apply and that foreign investors and foreign workers, however much needed, should also not be given concessions which are given to local investors or local workers.
Action Plan 1.2: Promoting "Malaysia, My Home" to every Malaysian citizens so that they feel at home in this country. This is important economically to retain savings and for those savings to be invested at home to create jobs for the young people at home. We have successfully been promoting "Malaysia, My Second Home" to foreigners and we should therefore put equal effort or more effort to promote Malaysia to Malaysians, even ex-Malaysians, in order to extend our global reach.
Action Plan 1.3: A Common Language to unite the people and this invariably falls onto the Malay Language (but whether it should be the medium of instruction in schools is another matter). This is more of a practical need for people of all walks of life to communicate with each other across different strata.
Action Plan 1.4: The celebration of cultures as a reflection of the way people in Malaysia cope with life in the nation, by preserving old cultures and the traditional way of life as well promoting the performance arts with Malaysian elements. This is not very hard to do, as Malaysians have already embraced key elements of each other's local cultural heritage, short of religious imperatives.
KRA2: High Savings and Investment Rates
No country has not grown as a result of a high savings rate. All countries that do not save have all gone bankrupt.
Action Plan2.1: There should be constant encouragement for the people to save by providing safe savings instruments with guaranteed positive returns.
Action Plan 2.2:There should be constant encouragement for the people to invest in themselves (human capital) and technology (equipment).
Action Plan 2.3:For investments to match savings, financial institutions should be made more efficient where credit officers and managers are knowledge of the evolving structure of the economy and are constantly searching for ways and means to nurture new and growing industries.
Action Plan 2.4:There should be strict controls of financial and business speculation by financial institutions.
Action Plan 2.5: Keep the Ringgit Strong whenever there is a current account surplus, and keep it weak when there is a current account deficit.
KRA3: Downsizing the Government
Action Plan 3.1: There is a need to structure the government machinery properly. There is a tendency to look far afield for expert advice when in fact the experts have been sitting so faithfully right under the noses of the leaders for so long that they have generally been ignored. Office politics have a tendency to kill immediate work rivals to the detriment of the nation; and foreign consultants hired at exorbitant sums to provide advice based on inputs of the poor local loyal workers. In other words, there is a huge mis-match between the job-holder and the job-description in the civil service as a result of past hiring policies. There is a need to discard the ill-qualified workers from their posts and hire properly-trained personnels to fill the posts.
Action Plan 3.2: The government should increase the number of technocrats who can design systems and manned systems and sure that the government system is cyber-safe. The government should be based on systems that are opened to all and there should be minimal tweeking at high levels.
Action Plan 3.3: The government should not crowd the economy. Government-linked companies (GLCs) should be asked to make profits but no more than the savings-deposit rate so that there is no encouragement of natural monopolies to make supernormal profits to enrich their executives by charging high tariffs.
KRA4: World-Class Education System
The education system is an area where a clear analysis of the root cause of the problem should be identified. From the debate in the media, it is clear that the root cause is the poor quality of the teachers that we have - not only in (i) the lack of mastery of speaking and explaining in English but also (ii) the lack of mastery in the teaching of Mathematics and (ii) the lack of mastery in the teaching of Science - factors which could be attributed to be the product of the existing education system. The inability of teachers to teach in the subjects in which they are assigned to teach is the crux of the whole debate.
Action Plan 4.1: As we have recommended for the civil service, teachers should individually be reassessed by credible and objective assessors of their core competence as to (i) their ability to teach Mathematics regardless of language, (ii) their ability to teach Science regardless of language; and (ii) their ability to speak and write English and Bahasa Melayu. Depending on where the demand or vacancies are, the posts should be filled only by competent teachers. Additional teachers can be hired from retirement or Singapore.
Action Plan 4.2: There is also the problem of the competence of the students, especially those in rural schools and those in urban schools. The medium of instruction in rural schools should be Bahasa Melayu, but students must learn an extra language preferably English or Mandarin. The medium of instruction in urban schools should be English, but students must learn an extra language preferably Bahasa Melayu or Mandarin. The medium of instruction in Chinese/Tamil schools should be in Mandarin/Tamil, but students must learn an extra language preferably English or Bahasa Melayu.
Action Plan 4.3: For rural schools, there must be forward planning for teachers for each of the states. As far as possible, teachers should be recruited from the respective rural areas so that, when properly trained, they would be willing be willing to go back to their respective kampongs to serve their communities on a long-term basis.
Action Plan 4.4: There should be emphasis in teaching on principles and methods of thinking rather than raw facts. The syllabus should be simplified by experts who know their subjects well so that the core essence of each subject is taught while exercises are given to encourage the application of ideas.
Action Plan 4.5: There should be a limit placed on the inflation of grades, and the quality of the examination questions assessed as to their level. When the exams are too easy and the grades are all high, there is no basis for proper grading of acumen and competence and flair of students. There has been less emphasis on academic training and more on professional or vocational training which a nation that wants to build its own indigenous industries from the bottom up needs. There should be some correlation between the standards that are produced from public examinations and the availability of local undergraduates positions (e.g. All 10 As students will be guaranteed a place in the local universities in the subject of their choices.)
The above is not the New Economic Model but just some thoughts of an individual who hopes to throw some light in the search for one. When properly done, it can be an elaborate and consistent set of action plans derived from a vision but based on an understanding of the reality.