Monday, January 28, 2013

The Economics Of Education II

Those who are unhappy about the current education system are unhappy because they cannot get fresh graduates who are able to hit the ground running. Those who are unhappy are unhappy because they cannot get a well-paid job without having to "pay their dues to the union" by having to work for a few years with little or no pay in order just to "learn the trade" or to "get into the trade."

I think industrialists have become very greedy and they will extract as much as they can out of a situation and "go off" (to use a mild version of the phrase). There is no need for investment in human capital. Human capital is treated like a "piece of flesh" - to be used and discarded. I must say I was very disappointed when one of our supposed "wise" men who re-engineered our economy to be what it is today said, without apology, "while we did not achieve our policy objective, we have created a few billionaires." I have been discouraged with such callousness ever since I read that statement. Unashamed callousness.

My main point in this little cynical piece I am writing is that I have lost all hopes in what our current economic system can do for our unfortunate young graduates who not only have to deal with with an industrial structure that requires only low-technology, but also a dismal future clearly the way the current property market is running, it is an inflationary situation which is surely robbing the young of the future value of our currency.

I am putting the fault of our unemployment situation (now politicised as "unemployable graduates") squarely at the feet of those who are responsible for bringing our economic system to its current situation. This is probably one of the most centralised economies in the world, as almost all significant expenditures are at the dictate of the minister in charge of finance. We now do not have an economic policy, we have a policy of running the economy like a commercial enterprise who has absolutely no R&D department.

Having said that, there is really no point for the young graduates to look at the traditional sources of employment because those traditional sources have become corrupt - in the sense that it has failed to perform its required duty. There is really no point in trying to reinvent the education system so that our graduates can become "employable." (To be picky, to be "employable" does not mean they will be employed.) The unemployed graduates have no choice but to create jobs for themselves. I think a new system of funding should created for new sources of growth. (The South Korean entertainment breakthrough comes from private equity.)

I do not agree with the media to run down our young generation by dismissing them. (If I can remember, we weren't all that great in expressing ourselves when we were young either. I don't know whether we now are good at it, although we certainly do hold strong views.) I do accept that communication skills are important, but we really do not have to be snobbish about it. We should humble ourselves and try to listen and understand what the young are trying to say, even in their modern stuttering manner.

If I know, the way an indigenous culture evolves is by first going down to the grassroots and dig for ideas that are at ground zero presently in our society. I am surrounding myself with books and music and I can safely that I am old school, meaning colonial. I do not hope to be seminal in creating an aspect of Malaysian culture because I am deficient in my traditional training. I do hope that my children with their wilder exposure to the local environment as well as the world will be better ambassadors of the nascent culture that we can be proud of in Malaysia. I do not think that my children should be like me - they are already better than me, by being themselves in their newfangled technology-infested way of life.


walla said...

As one gets older, one is game to look for something dramatic in life.

For instance, how the grandest of schemes ultimately depend on the lowliest of factors. One likes to think such a humbling and leveling effect takes place anywhere in the world. Here, for that matter the Galapagos islands.

What is the leveling factor in our grand scheme of national economic development that affects our youths including our graduates?

Could it be the humble bus?

To be precise, the feeder buses that connect home to train station and train station to workplace.

The two big ticket things that affect our youths are house and car.

In most cases, and out of necessity and means, they commit to a car first which in most cases leads next to a spouse and thus to a house so that while they are busy servicing the loan on the car, they get hitched and start thinking about getting a house.

In the past, their parents chip in the down payment for the house. Now higher costs of living and dying have reduced that option for many, especially for families which have already burned chunks of savings paying for higher education elsewhere at prices raised by disadvantageous forex which is indicative of loss of competitiveness which is an index of relevance whether applied to individual or economy and thus to country.

Matters these days have come to a head. Houses and apartments in desired locations are terribly expensive and unaffordable, especially for those in the so-called middle income group which is a piddling status because their incomes are not rising fast enough to nullify rising prices.

Theirs is a dilemma; they cannot qualify for low-cost housing and cannot afford middle-income housing. They are caught in a vacuum of no home ownership at the point of starting a family.

Now people may suggest (a dangerous word) they can stay further away where home prices will be more affordable. This means keeping the car in the garage while commuting to work using the train over a long stretch of commuting time which is anathema to family time or balanced lifestyle.

That explains why the feeder bus is germane to this byzantine elaboration.

Which comes to the message. The MRT project that will cost something between rm50 billion to rm100 billion isn't going to relieve KL-PJ traffic snarls unless those feeder buses can operate seamlessly into all the housing estates where the newly middle income car owners live. Already, the present LRT users are as you can see from the lower income groups who may not own cars.

Secondly, car parking spaces are scarce at train stations so people are not able to drive to the stations and park their cars there and take the trains to and from work. And if they do, they raise the ire of the house owners at those places because of congestion. Besides the matter of parking summons.

Thirdly, many need to use their cars for their work. How many job ads don't require 'own transport'?

Fourthly, the MRT can only service those whose workplaces are near it; as snapshots will easily show, this is already seldom so.

So all that money spent on the MRT will not solve the public transport problem even as it may give an excuse to remove subsidy on petrol but at the expense of adding another grey elephant project which will bleed treasury for as long as the lifetimes of the very groups which it was supposed to alleviate. In the worst case scenario, grey will turn white.

walla said...


Meanwhile there's no relief from low interest rates for housing loans when they are nullified by ruinous high prices for small cubicles in congested places serviced by badly tarred roads full of potholes, humps and poor drainage, what more additional charges for maintenance fee on top of assessment rates. To add salt to wound, somewhere inside those payments is double payment for refuse collection.

So when we talk about our current education system and pinpoint the plight of our graduates as caused by our current economic system which for all intents and purposes everyone is now raring to equate as caused by the present government no-system, we are in fact reduced to the humble feeder bus.

Which as we all know is too big to meander through the road grids of housing estates.

They should have kept but modernized the shuttle buses.

All because the no-system thing never gave thought from the beginning on:

plight of fresh graduate vis-a-vis how to afford house-and-car vis-a-vis public transport system vis-a-vis housing estate locational planning.

Is there a tangential solution? Let's return to those south american islands. More than a century ago, Darwin noted that the Galapagos islands housed a strange phenomenon of nature. There he saw different species of the same finch bird. They were different because their beaks were different by natural adaptation to changing food chain environments.

That's why today people talk about the finch effect when talking about such things as careers. The ones who survive and thrive are not necessarily the ones who are most aggressive and dominant but those who are best at adapting to changing situations in the workplace.

One reckons the majority are nine-to-fivers. They try to reduce their financial risks holding on to low-key profiles paying steady wages for peggish jobs in the humdrum machinery of nondescript organizations. Theirs is a low-spectrum type of adaptation.

Yet there are others who are more nimble and willing to take risks, rise to challenges, improvising as they go along, staying sharp and customer-centric, and working hard enough to walk the extra mile for the extra ringgit. They have something in them; perhaps an action gene.

What is needed is a new system that nurtures such action genes. Not the status quo of trying to get people to listen to dogmatic policies serving only the agendas of a few eager only to hold onto power any which way.

Only with such a liberation from the toady clutches of the clueless can fresh graduates 'create their own jobs' in turn create new markets, new demands, new incomes. So that they can then afford better homes and cars.

Homes and cars should be as cheap as possible. Anything artificial going against that truism is a sheer waste of youth deployments, and their future earnings.

After all we have more than enough land and roads so what's the excuse?

And then when things improve and people can get enthusiastic about their prospects again, perhaps new R&D can be done which will have real firepower in commercial potential.

walla said...


"shuttle" to mean "mini".