At dinner last night, a foreign investor asked me if he should continue to bet his money on Malaysia in the next five years. He was anxious to find out if Malaysia can ride out the current economic crisis.
I told him that the indicators so far are not good. On the economy, it is quite obvious that the government and the ruling elites do not display enough political will, deep economic knowledge and policy wisdom to take this country to a higher level.We have identified two crucial challenges for the economy.
First, it is quite obvious that our fixation with building mega dollars industrial parks and hubs is not working.
Malaysia's economic success cannot be solely dependent on industrial parks.What we should do is to focus on enhancing the quality of education in the country. Without a pool of highly skilled labour, it will be difficult for us to attract higher value investment into the country. Malaysia's dependence on low cost foreign labour is a major barrier for innovation.
It is an open secret that this government does not focus on the substance of a good education policy. The whole debate on the use of language has created a diversion from the real problem faced by this country.Until and unless something is being done to enhance, revamp and reorganise the curriculum and the quality of teachers in this country, Malaysia's hope of joining the ranks of high-income countries will remain a mere dream.
Since the last general election, many Malaysians and foreigners are hopeful that this country will change for the better. Many of them will be disappointed to find out that the quality of political discourse has taken yet another dip for the worse.
The opposition coalition has not performed much better either. Constant bickering and open disputes over trivial issues only helped to expose a lack of calibre in their leadership ranks.
Malaysians must make a serious choice on whether they should continue to tolerate current political antics or demand better quality politicians in the next general election.
The use of extreme racial and religious language in the ongoing Permatang Pasir by-election is an indication of what to expect in the next general election.
Race relations in the country could turn for the worse if Malaysians allow themselves to be manipulated and influenced by the propaganda and rhetoric.Less than capable and tainted politicians will continue to hide behind the race and religious curtain for survival.For those who thought that racism in Malaysia is over after the last general election, they might be disappointed.
The next general election will put Malaysian political maturity to test.Malaysians will find little fault with race and religion if we can agree that good governance and a responsible government is more important.
Mutual respect and acceptance can be nurtured once the blame game stops.The local politics is not only suffering from a devious manipulation of race and religion to score political points but also corruption and abuse of power.
Several scandals e.g. the PKFZ fiasco, thousands of custodial deaths, judicial independence, alleged collusion between the ruling government and the public institutions and others have rocked the country in recent times. Many foreign observers are surprised that many Malaysians have been remarkably resilient and tolerant towards these scandals. Many governments would not have survived even one of the scandals.
Socially, this society is at a crossroads. The ruling government is very aggressive in promoting its new slogan, '1Malaysia'. But as many as 40 percent of Malaysians are not quite sure what it really means.
The government is now considering dropping a race identification tick box from all official forms. This is merely a cosmetic move as a person's race can be easily identified from his/her name.So far, the ruling government does not show any indication that it is serious in eradicating real racial profiling, promoting equality among all Malaysians, respecting democratic rights to assembly and free speech, enhancing democracy and improving its own governance.
Other emerging countries are using the crisis to improve and correct their internal discrepancies. It does not take long for Malaysia to fall behind the pack if the government continues to focus on political contestation and neglecting everything else.
After hearing me, the foreign investor told me he had made up his mind on where to put his money and place his next bet. I hope he is still committed to Malaysia.