Penang’s participation in Malaysia Investment Development Authority’s(MIDA) investment mission to the United States this week proves our shared goals and common approaches in attracting FDI. Penang’s goals of transforming ourselves into an international city, To transform into a high-income economy with a percapita income of USD 15,000 from the USD 7,000, Penang is ready to work with the Federal government and MIDA with similar goals of attracting FDIs that are knowledge-intensive, creative and innovative. Penang is also willing to adopt a common approach based on principles of good governance, performance, training and retraining highly-skilled talent and trust.
Penang has willingly endorsed MIDA’s policy of never giving any guarantees unless we are certain that it shall be delivered. For this reason in 2008, when an investor offered to invest USD 3 billion if Penang can guarantee 1,000 electrical and electronic engineers, I refused to do so. I had pressed for urgent steps to train more professionals in short supply, especially as Penang lost a USD 3 billion investment in 2008, because the state government could not guarantee 1,000 electrical and electronic engineers.
Electrical and electronic engineers are in great demand in Malaysia’s Silicon Valley that is Penang. Of course, if they are paid at international rates, the companies can hire from overseas. But what these investors are searching for are electrical and electronic engineers at Penang wage scales. The investors might as well stay back at home and hire their own engineers if they have to pay international wage rates. Further no multinational company would just recruit electrical and electronic engineers unless they are from established or “acceptable” universities.
Any government with credibility can not give guarantees that it can not deliver as this will not only damage its reputation and trust but may also attract compensatory damages. If the Penang state government guarantees 1,000 electrical and electronic engineers when there is a huge shortage in the market, then this is irresponsible and untrustworthy not only to that investor but other investors as well. Further such letters of guarantees can result in expensive compensatory payments if not fulfilled.
Have we not forgotten the irresponsible granting of such letters of guarantees by the previous Minister of Transport Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy and other officials of Port Klang Transport Authority.. These letters of guarantee on the Port Klang Free Trade Zone scandal may ultimatedly cause the Malaysian taxpayer RM 12.5 billion. Penang will not fall into the same trap or scandals of irresponsible granting of letter of guarantees leading to billions of ringgit in possible damages.
Penangnites do not want a second Port Klang Free Trade Zone scandal in Penang. Instead what Penangnites want what investors want – a people-centric government with integrity that delivers on its promises that says what it means and means what it says.