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Let's produce competitive contractors of all races

Koon Yew Yin argues well about what it takes to become a competitive contractor ("Producing competitive bumiputera contractors" 7/3/2013).

I leave out the word "bumiputera" because his prescriptions should logically be applicable to all wannabe contractors.

It is unfortunate that Koon starts and ends on a racial note, reflecting an ingrained habit among large sections of Malaysians brought up for more than a generation on a daily diet of racial politics, racial economics and racial everything else a' la Umno, MCA and MIC.

Sadly this habit is shared by many in positions of power.

The writer recognises that Petronas is a national corporation and rightly demands the self-appointed champions of Malay economic interests keep their dirty hands off it.

But, he then goes on to say, "There is no urgency in producing more bumiputera contractors as many of the key industries e.g. the banks, toll roads, water, electricity, plantations, commodities, etc are already under the control of bumiputeras."

Koon, who was presumably once the secretary general of the Master Builders Association, could well have taken the cue from the deputy prime minister and added, "I am a Chinese first and Malaysian second."

Why is our public discourse so often set in the racial perspective? Can any businessman succeed who sees issues through a racial prism?

Some probably can, but it is going to be increasingly difficult in a globalising world.

We are told in the letter about the entrepreneurial nature of contracting, the management issues and the weakness our education system, which does not prepare the youth for the job market, implied in his reference to the lack of skilled workers.

Again, this applies not only to bumiputras, but also to other Malaysians, which is why the industry is dominated by imported labour.

The contracting industry should reduce imports of cheap labour, and give whole-hearted support to the minimum wage rule.

These gestures would help reduce the social problems in Malaysia caused by the industry's less than ethical practices.

I suggest that, having told off the pompous-sounding Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM), Koon and the Master Builders Association do the nation a service by helping Malaysians aspiring to be contractors or to work in the industry.

Begin by investing in the training of youth in appropriate skills, by which the industry would actually help itself.

Accept and work honestly with all Malaysian contractors and suppliers regardless of race.

Last but not least, save yourselves a great deal of money by deciding not to be a corrupting influence on government officers.

You would then have the moral authority to tell the MTEM off and to ask the government to end its bumiputera-slanted policies.