HAVING travelled widely, I must say Malaysia is a beautiful place to live in. We are blessed. However, we can do better.

As we bid 2016 goodbye and welcome 2017, I wish to highlight some concerns. To move ahead of our competitors, we need drastic, fast and apolitical decisions in these areas.

The first concerns our education structure. I am disappointed that our scholars, professors and those in academia are not playing a catalyst role. We need to be critical of our education standards and benchmark against the best to produce critical, innovative, entre-preneurial and creative thinkers and students.

The future of a nation depends on key competencies in education.

Poor education standards will affect the quality of our graduates and undermine foreign investment and our international image.

Another is meritocracy. We must learn that giving the best talents the best jobs will accelerate the economy in the long term.

Imagine, the heads of government-linked companies being selected on merit, irrespective of length of service and age. It will spur the economy and bring in more business.

As mentioned by the United Nations, we are facing a brain drain problem that will shrink or put a damper on our economy. Talent Corporation is working hard on this problem. No nation can survive without leveraging its best talents. The United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand are politically savvy and are getting the best talents from Asia in almost every field, including information technology, technology, medical science, research and business. This is a big disadvantage to Asia.

The third concern is integrity, which should be a standard practice and benchmark in the selection of leaders, be they in economics, education, business or politics. Multinational corporations like General Electric, Microsoft and Coca-Cola place so much emphasis on this trait.

Like parents, who are role models to their kids, this requirement is non-negotiable and must be placed as one of the highest priorities when selecting candidates for key positions. They must not only walk the talk but also talk the walk.

Malaysia has to compete holistically with the rest of the world and only through changes can transformation be real, sustainable and lasting.

Competitiveness is about how our students, entrepreneurs and business leaders think critically, about how we treat our workforce and how we deal with non-acceptable workplace behaviour.

It must start with leaders with value, dignity and integrity and acceptance as champions of change. Globalisation will tear a nation apart that is not prepared.

n HARBAN SINGH,Subang Jaya, Selangor

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