By Salleh Kamil

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: This story begins when one former Prime Minister decided to reappoint a retired civil servant to head the unit that does policy planning in the government machinery. It was not this person’s first lucky break, early in life, his farsighted father enrolled him in an elite English school. There he was to meet and befriend the future leader of Malaysia.
With the help of well connected friends who are in the corridors of power, the former public employee is believed to have them help him secure important positions in strategic organisations. His performance at best is mediocre and at times comical.
Regardless, after retirement, this person had a long career with many of Malaysia’s illustrious State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) otherwise known as government-linked companies (GLCs) aside from non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
In the grand theatre of Malaysia’s economic performance, State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) often play a dubious role, akin to an overbearing actor who insists on stealing the spotlight and drowning out the voices of their more nimble counterparts. Picture this: SOEs, those government-backed protagonists, may not be the economic heroes we imagine, but rather, the unsung impediments to a thriving and dynamic marketplace.
SOEs, at first glance, appear to embody the virtuous ideals of public stewardship. Unfortunately though, the government's fingerprints are all over these enterprises, holding a controlling stake and wielding influence over their every move. Ostensibly, the intention is to serve the greater good, to champion social causes, and safeguard essential services. Yet, lurking beneath the surface is a narrative of inefficiency, financial dependency, and a penchant for crowding out the private actors who, otherwise could inject vigor into the economic script.
Why, one might wonder, do these state-backed entities not bode well for the economic narrative? The answer lies in their tendency to stifle innovation, to muzzle the forces of creative destruction that fuel economic evolution. In a world where nimbleness is prized, SOEs often lumber along, burdened by bureaucratic shackles, lacking the agility of their private sector counterparts.
The tale takes a darker turn as SOEs become financial wardens of the state, demanding subsidies, bailouts, and financial favors like actors demanding their backstage riders. The economic stage, rather than being a dynamic marketplace, transforms into a stage dominated by state largesse, with taxpayers left footing the bill for the lacklustre performances of these public actors.
The critics argue that the overarching presence of SOEs on the economic stage can cast a pall over private investment. Investors, like hesitant theatre goers, might think twice before taking a seat when the lead role is already occupied by a behemoth with the backing of the state. The fear of an uneven playing field, of arbitrary government interventions, and the murky waters of state-driven competition, often discourages private investors from making their grand entrance.
In this economic theatre of dreams, SOEs can inadvertently become the villains, stifling the competitive spirit that propels economies forward. As we ponder the script of economic growth, perhaps it's time to consider a recalibration, a reassessment of the roles played by these state-backed entities. After all, in the economic drama, the plot twists are as crucial as the characters, and a more balanced distribution of roles might just be the recipe for a blockbuster performance on the global stage.
To illustrate, this person’s stint at a telco company saw the share prices and market capitalisation head south, although the blame was conveniently to be directed at Cabinet Ministers. So much for having a “Midas Touch”.
This person’s folly, truly knows no bounds as this person was instrumental to enable a local think tank to actually get involved in the bidding for the national car project. The outfit clearly strayed away from its original mandate. With this deviation, of course, one can expect the whole exercise not to be free. 
Still, this persona continued to be entrusted with even bigger responsibilities, helping out the government during the pandemic. Always striving, not always succeeding is an apt description of the overall scenario. Although it is not clear how much was actually delivered, or whether sound advice was given?
In what can be described as a classical case of Cognitive Dissonance, while publicly displaying the persona of a Malaysian Nationalist, privately this person has no qualms whatsoever employing foreign nationals in key research positions. Truly bewildering to say the least, as locals were not trustworthy nor competent in this person’s eyes.
Having no qualms in singing from multiple hymn books, shifting sands of allegiances to those in power. One day with one leader, the next with another.
Fortunately though, this persona is not corrupt and does not seem to have an insatiable appetite for wealth. But not entirely frugal either. Rumours have it that this person is aiming for Tun-ship, but then again in Malaysia cows do jump over the moon!
We are truly blessed with dysfunctional elites who posses impaired judgment, luckily, there are not very many of them around. Ultimately in order to reinvigorate Malaysia. We must get rid of deadwood civil servants. State owned enterprises ought to be revamped. Roles of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) re-evaluated, amongst others. Only then can the aspirations of a new Malaysia be truly realised.