'Freer institutions key to a developed Malaysia'

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KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 8): Malaysia must place emphasis on better transparency, governance and independence of its institutions, if the nation is to elevate itself towards becoming a developed country.

Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) chief executive officer Wan Saiful Wan Jan said this at a panel discussion here tonight.

"We have come to a certain stage in the development of the economy and in order for us to move one step further, there must be an improvement in governance," he said at the event to commemorate the birthday of Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, as well as to celebrate the anniversary of Ideas' establishment.

Emphasising on how institutions play a key role in nation-building, former Bar Council president Christopher Leong, who was one of the panel speakers, said institutions' resilience are heavily correlated with their independence.

It is not just about professionalism or institutions having the ability to work and achieve their objectives, Leong added.

"You can have an authoritarian state whose institutions are very efficient, but if they are not independent, they will not have the resilience to weather changes and difficult events.

"One thing about the US is that you see institutions standing up, because they are independent. It is a given that they are efficient, but that alone is not enough," Leong said.

"Malaysia strongly needs not only capable institutions which we already have, but we need independent institutions for resilience," he added.

Former attorney general Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Patail concurred, saying: "I want assurance of independence of certain institutions as guarranteed in the Constitution."

"They must be allowed to do their work properly without interference," Abdul Ghani said, noting transparency and accountability are key factors that contribute toward happiness of the public.

Ideas chairman Tan Sri Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, who is also the former secretary-general of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, credited the public sector for upholding some sort of transparency when performing its tasks.

"From the civil service's perspective, we have done our share. We have collaborated with couterparts in the region... Policy formulation was not done in isolation. We engaged the private sector," Sta Maria said.

"But going forward, we need to do more. If Malaysia wants to be competitive in a world where other countries are fast catching up with us, we have to up our game.

That is why we are talking about building resilience within institutions, higher levels of governance, integrity... these are the things that will take us to the next level," Sta Maria added.