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Malaysia has been hugely dependent upon foreign direct investment (FDI) - for employment, for capital formation, for growth - more than most countries of developing Asia.

It is therefore cavalier of the minister of international trade and industry to dismiss all concerns about her government's policies with the argument that foreign investors have already factored them in.

Yes, that's true of those who have chosen to invest here, but we can only guess at the numbers - and quality - of those who, unable or unwilling to factor in her government's policies, have chosen to invest elsewhere rather than Malaysia.

What is more disturbing is that, evidently, those who have chosen to invest here are mainly more of the same as have invested here previously.

Meanwhile, the shape of the global economy is rapidly changing, and Malaysia needs to move quickly in new directions if we are not to get caught in a middle-income trap, a trap which, over time, will see us fall further and further behind.

Such an outcome will not only result in reduced standards of living for our people. Worse, it will reduce our capacity to undertake the necessary policies and programmes to ensure equity, hence stability and future growth, for our people.

This, then, is the only reason to take account of Thierry Rommel's criticisms - assuming he represents an important segment of opinion in the countries of the European Union. (We note that the EU itself has chosen to distance themselves from Rommel's remarks.)

However, we note that Rommel was not concerned about equity within Malaysia. Rather, he was playing upon the sentiments of Malaysians in order to advance an altogether different programme - that of prying open the Malaysian market for corporate citizens of the EU, regardless of its impact upon both Malaysian corporate and individual interests.

Rommel, of course, has every right to advance the interests of the people he represents. Equally, any responsible Malaysian government must do all that is necessary to defend and advance the interests of Malaysia - not some select few with the right connections and the right partners.

Regrettably, that is not the case with the present Malaysian government, and the minister of international trade and industry.

Our altogether lack-lustre growth of the past few years, our slippage in IT investment and development, our laughable attempts at building a bio-tech industry, the dire condition of our universities, the rising inequality in the country, indeed the inability to even defend the government's, hence the people's investment in Bakun, not to mention Proton, are just

some pointers to this failure.

For the PKR, this failure is not the NEP per se. We, of the PKR, hold to the core principles: that of eliminating identification of economic function with race, and of greater equity for all regardless of race.

But we are only too aware that this government has gone even further than the previous one in abandoning all pretense at advancing the NEP, while shielding behind it to advance the interests of the select few. We are only too aware that the policy and programme instruments have deviated further and further from the core concerns and principles.

We thank Rommel for raising his criticisms. Equally, we would like to point out that if the PKR were to be government, we would defend a ceiling on non-Malaysian participation in selected sectors, and we would have a central concern for equity and to do all that is necessary to advance that, through the use of non-racially based instruments where possible, but not shying away from the use of racially-based instruments where necessary, as, for example, in the case of the Orang Asli of the peninsula and of some of the native peoples of Sabah and Sarawak amongst whom poverty rates remain unconscionably high.

We are sure that Rommel is only too aware of the difficulties of managing a multi-ethnic country, and would be only too happy to hear his ideas on redressing inequities within his own country and in the EU, for example, with Muslim minorities.

The writer is deputy president, Parti Keadilan Rakyat.