Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Economies

Human Resource Development in Malaysia: A Study of the Government's Role

Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Economies

Human Resource Development in Malaysia: A Study of the Government's Role

Article excerpt

Since independence, the Malaysian Government has focussed on social development policies to improve the standard of living, in particular in the areas of health and education. With recent liberalization and privatization policies, the private sector is now encouraged to play a more prominent role in the provision of curative health care services, as well as the provision of tertiary education through private universities and colleges. This article traces the progress and success of the policies, and looks at some of the issues and problems that need to be addressed in light of privatization and also the effect of the recent economic crisis.

I. Evolution of Policy

In an effort to balance a classic plural society consisting basically of three major groups -- namely bumiputera (who are mainly Malays) 60 per cent, Chinese 30 per cent and Indians 10 per cent - maintaining equality among the races has always been accorded the highest priority in the relevant policies in Malaysia.

The economic disparities between the Malay and Chinese communities in the early days of independence led to the formulation of the New Economic Policy (NEP). It was drawn mainly to address and redress the Malay economic backwardness. NEP therefore became the fundamental thrust of Malaysian economic and social development planning for the next two decades or so. The two-pronged NEP objectives are: to eradicate poverty, irrespective of race, to restructure Malaysian society, and eventually to correct and eliminate the identification of race with economic function, so that ethnicity will no longer be identified through occupation. Wealth distribution would be more in line with the racial composition of the country.

To achieve these objectives, the state assumed an active role in commerce and industry particularly in the first two decades of the NEP This was to make a meaningful contribution towards the attainment of the economic and social goals. The NEP was later replaced, beginning 1990, by the New Development Policy (NDP), which was built upon the ongoing thrust and achievements of the NEP, with the broad objective of attaining a balanced development in order to create a more united and just society.

Polciies in Improving Health and Education Status

In the early post-independent days, policies for development planning in Malaysia have placed the uplifting of the standards of living of the masses, who were generally in the rural areas and mostly Malays, as the highest on the agenda. Increasing literacy rates through access to education and improving health through access to basic health care services in rural and remote areas became the fundamental approach in meeting the end-goal of enhancing the quality of life of the masses.

The approach operated on two assumptions: first, a better educated rural population would be equipped to participate in the modern economy and become more economically mobile and second, the improvement of health contributed to economic productivity. Although the focus was geared towards the rural masses which then made up a large portion of the population, the development policies were ensured to benefit the general public as a whole.

To ensure that efforts to upgrade the quality of life of the rural masses were carried out meaningfully, the federal government had assumed an important role in the planning, funding, regulating, and the management of development of social services particularly in the early days.

The government networks of rural health services, under the purview of the Ministry of Health (MOH), began as the primary delivery of healthcare through health facilities set up in the rural and urban areas. The networks' rapid development extended their services to primary curative care, mainly by paramedical personnel, and personal preventive care such as immunization, maternal and child health care, and environmental sanitation work such as the construction of latrines and wells and vector control. …

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