On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Support Pak Lah in fighting corruption

In what has now been regarded as a preview of his
leadership, Abdullah told his listeners in March that the issues of corruption
and abuse of trust must be effectively addressed if Malaysia
wanted to compete successfully in the future.

Corruption is a key concern as it occurs in the public and private sectors and
is perpetrated by Malaysians of all races, and it is dealt with by enforcement
and effective management.

Corruption, in Pak Lah's words, cannot be dismissed as a problem by saying that
"this is the way things are done" in Malaysia.
The premier also pointed out that in a recent study commissioned by the
Government, 89% of respondents disagreed with using bribes to get things

We all know that Malaysia
has the most stringent anti-corruption laws and codes for corporate governance
but it is useless if the Anti-Corruption Agency has no bite. The people cannot
be faulted if that is their perception of the ACA.

Corruption, in the eyes of ordinary folk, is so entrenched in the system that
the fight against graft could only work if there is strong political

The call by Pak Lah deserves our support. It will not be easy for him but, as
he said, the war against corruption needed the commitment of everyone and a
change of mentality or mindset.

Speaking on "Competing for Tomorrow" to the Oxford
and Cambridge Society of Malaysia at the Sunway Convention Centre, Abdullah
said that "in the public sector, it manifests itself in layers of bureaucracy
that impedes effective delivery; in the private sector, it is evident in low
service levels and the lack of global best practices."

One example Pak Lah has used is that if you operate a hotel in Malaysia,
you need about 64 separate approvals every year from multiple agencies, and
then there is the Land Office which needs six months or more for a simple
approval for the transfer of land. Loan documentation, according to the
premier, takes months while the international benchmarks are measured in

In the IMD World Competitiveness Report 2002, Malaysian was ranked seventh in
the world for infrastructure planning but when it came to bureaucracy hindering
business, Malaysia
fell to 13th spot. When it came to customer satisfaction, Malaysia
was placed 24th.

Under the new leadership, we can expect him to change these man-made rules
which have frustrated so many of us, especially businessmen who have to deal
with the civil service.

To fight corruption, the Government obviously needs to give the ACA more
independence and clout. It does the ACA no good when it is regarded as an
agency that is only capable of catching ikan bilis (small fry).

At dinners hosted by the country's elite and businessmen, one hears allegations
of how greedy some politicians can be. Names are named openly but they remain
unsubstantiated allegations.

While it is difficult to prove these allegations, particularly when many do not
want to lodge reports and cooperate with the authorities for fear of reprisal
to their businesses or political agenda, these culprits remain in their
positions of influence.

Surely the leadership is capable of gathering information from its own sources
in party and government on the reputation of these political figures. Something
is wrong when the public sees politicians and officials living extravagantly,
well beyond their means.

There is a great need for transparency and accountability, especially in the
awarding of government contracts, if the Government is serious about fighting