Data is the new oil

LETTERS: For the 2021 Budget to be tabled tomorrow, we hope that the government uses all the available data to put forward a few out-of-the-box recommendations.

The government will need to propose measures that will deliver a realistic source of revenue streams, manage public expenditure without hindering confidence in spending and recommend bold policies to spur the economy back to recovery.

Ultimately, we need to ensure the execution of the policies will be smooth and sustainable in the long run. Take the tourism industry, being a major economic sector as a case in point. In 2019, the industry employed 3.6 million people and contributed 15.9 per cent of the gross domestic product.

We need to accept that the Visit Malaysia Year 2020 campaign is a failure due to the pandemic. But, that does not mean that we give up entirely, since even major events, like the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, is now pushed to 2021.

On the contrary, the government should aggressively promote domestic tourism instead.

Since we are now limited to our travel destinations, most Malaysians, especially our well-deserved frontliners will be looking forward to go for holidays to rejuvenate their state of mind.

Companies should hire unemployed Malaysians into highly skilled jobs in a sector that was not available in the past as virtual reality tour operators, drone pilots and YouTube holiday content creators to name a few.

Companies that voluntarily upskill and reskill their employees and get them registered under the Malaysian Board of Technology training programmes must be rewarded with tax incentives.

Subsequently, the agenda to future-proof the workforce to produce 20,000 data professionals in this country by the end of the year will be revived.

More importantly, companies need to pay skilled workers commensurately. This will curb corruption and trigger a reform in the labour market compensation structure.

A holistic implementation across the industry value chain will ensure our readiness to welcome more international retirees when we eventually open up our borders.

In the meantime, happy parents and teachers returning from their holidays will indirectly influence the students' performance in improving Malaysia's Programme for International Student Assessment ranking in the next cycle of assessment scheduled in 2022.

Shifting into a new mindset, the government must cease to depend on oil revenue, as tempting as it can be during difficult times. Allow Petronas, being the only Malaysian Fortune 500 company, to reinvest in new renewable energy technology for our future generation.

As a strategy, fuel prices can be kept as low as possible to excite Malaysians to travel more during this recovery phase.

It has been widely accepted that data is now the new oil and one study has predicted that the collective sum of the world's data will grow from 33 zettabytes in 2018 to 175 zettabytes by 2025, for a compounded annual growth rate of 61 per cent.

From 2021 onwards, it is timely that the government seriously study ways to monetise data as the future revenue stream to support the federal budget.

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah has advised members of parliament to fully support the 2021 Budget for the sake of harmony and the rakyat's livelihoods, as well as for economic recovery.

Let us all pay heed to His Majesty's advice and pray that we have a #kitajagakita budget for all Malaysians.

Farouk Abdul Khalid

The Centre of Applied Data Science, Kuala Lumpur

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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