Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Peril of Mahathirism

NEAC chairman Amirsham Aziz does not have to look so far e.g. Taiwan, South Korea and Eastern Europe to find out what is wrong with the Malaysian economy.

It might be more productive and effective for Amirsham and his team to study the peril and consequences of Mahathirism.

The Malaysian economy over the last few decades has been dictated and influenced by Mahathirism, a mix of socio-political economic model introduced by the nation's longest serving PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Mahathirism is a unique blend of social and political interests which were used to define the major economic policies.

The New Economic Policy was subtlely transformed into a main policy which was used as a symbol of the Malay/UMNO political and social dominance. The nexus has made it very difficult for any administration after Mahathir to try to change or repeal the economic policy without facing a major repercussion or protest from the community.

Hence, the economic liberalisation step undertaken by Prime Minister Najib Razak was limited in scope and impact. Only sectors and sub-sectors which do not have a high participation of bumiputeras were liberalised.

Ironically, a renowned US ivy league has found his economic liberalisation effort so significant and interesting until it merits a comprehensive study. It was reported that the Harvard Business School in Boston will undertake a case study on Najib’s "courageous and bold initiatives to tackle the financial crisis."

There is another irony. This announcement did not come from the university spokesman but from the Harvard Business School Alumni Club of Malaysia president G. Gnanalingam.

By now, it should be clear that Najib's economic liberalisation programme is neither 'courageous' nor 'innovative'. There was no follow up on any further liberalisation. If any, Malaysia is only playing catching up compared to more liberal economies in the region such as Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and even Indonesia.

There are still restrictions to foreign ownership, land transaction, equity ownership, public procurement, licensing and others. There is little change in the bureaucracy which hampers any reform effort.

Najib's stimulus package of RM60 billion created limited ripples. Until today, only a fraction or 20 percent of the amount has been used. Since the extra budget is spread over 3 years, it will not generate a significant growth for the local economy.

Najib still does not have an answer to restructure the economy which is overly dependent on low cost and low skilled foreign labour. His NEAC chief has identified this as a core concern. Najib has asked for a strategy to be identified to attract local talents back to the country.

Again, the brain gain programme was implemented in the past and the outcome was dismal. What is the real problem? Low wages? Lack of opportunities?

All critical indicators and rankings e.g. education quality, competitiveness, desirability and others have shown a steady decline vis-a-vis other countries. If we have not regressed, it means that other nations have progressed.

On the education, despite having served in the portfolio the prime minister still does not have a solid solution to reverse our decline. It was recently decided that the teaching of both Maths and Science subjects in English will be reversed in 2012. Nothing was mentioned about the quality of curriculum and teachers.

Do we need to take a trip down to South Korea or Taiwan to understand why we cannot produce innovators and entrepreneurs? Lessons are aplenty by just looking at our own education system.

We can go on and on about the things which Najib could have done better in the recent months of his administration. However, the premier should take a serious note about his own inadequacy.

It is becoming clear now that he is suffering from a 30-year fatigue in politics. His brain has refused to function or the only method he knows and understands is the only socio-economic model he is familiar with - the Mahathirism.

Najib needs to be awaken from his slumber that he has been governing merely through slogans - 1Malaysia, 1This and 1That - and the people are no longer as ignorant and naive as during the early years of Mahathirism.

Whether he realises it or not, he is trying to emulate Mahathir by trying to use symbolic projects e.g. 1Malaysia F1 Team, 1Malaysia Unit Trust Fund and others to convince the people that he is running the economy and the country well.

Najib should not run away from addressing more serious concerns about the economy e.g. corruption (e.g. PKFZ and others), civil service inefficiency, mediocre economic growth, development wastage, poor broadband connectivity, poor education system and deteriorating race relations and the emergence of extreme conservatism in the country.

Politically, Najib's method strikes an uncanny resemblance of his mentor. It appears that he does not hesitate to use the public institutions and other legal coercive forces to his advantage.

The renewal of IGP Musa Hassan tenure for another year is yet another reminder to Najib's exponents that he does not need a viable reason to decide. The nomination of a tainted ex-strongman Is Samad to stand in the current Bagan Pisang by-election should erase any doubt that Najib is not a loyal student of Mahathirism.

Again, why study Najibronomics? There is nothing really new about Najibronomics. It is really Mahathirism in a new name.

Mahathirism had made the NEP and other policies e.g. tertiary admission, scholarships and grants and others so intertwined with the racial politics of UMNO that any total policy revamp is not only difficult but impossible.

Hence, I would like to advice Amirsham to stop his acting. Of course, his appointment as the new NEAC chairman (with a minister status) is no free lunch. Reports will have to be produced, working groups will have to be formed, more appointments will have to be made and the budget will have to be spend to show that his team is doing its job.

But does he seriously believe that his 'work' is going to help change anything?

10 years, 20 years down the road, Malaysia will still be dependent on oil and gas and other natural resources.

Our intellectual pool will continue to lose its substance. These ministers, politicians and advisers will continue to talk about Taiwan, South Korea and maybe Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia too.

Nothing is going to change until and unless more Malaysians wake up and realise that to change we must do it with our hands.

Yes, vote out incompetency. Vote out racism. Vote out Mahathirism. Fly back to vote. Register to vote.

If we cannot make a small sacrifice, stop bitching about how bad this country is.


Anonymous said...






charleskiwi said...

The non Malays, especially the Chinese, said pariah Mahathir, drives the Malaysian economy.
While he non Malays have no qualms about not being the Malaysian civil servants when more than a million of Malays is employed under his pro Malay policies and only at most a few hundred non Malays were recruited as a show.
As a result million of Chinese are forced to take their chances in commerce. No doubt some of them will make it to the top and become multi millionaires. But remember millions of them too are still struggling with their lively hood. Is it their fault if the few has made big time ? Do you expect these ultra rich Chinese to kiss the pariah's ass ?
Most of the Chinese do not have the wish nor the desire to become civil servants that the Malaysian civil servants are good and well known for.
They are well known for their lay back attitude or shall I say for the lazy bones in them towards their work. Hence the millions of Malays are employed just to do the work for a few thousands.
The recent immigration case at the Penang airport is a typical example.
The civil servants are also famous for their corruption, because they think the government owes them the job under NEP or NDP and wouldn't dare dismiss them for whatever they do some even think the jobs are owed to them.
Worst of all they are all all well trained to be the kind of people they are famous for by Pariah Mahathir and his policies. To be lazy and corrupted !
When the Chinese get their 'forced' chance to do well in commerce and drive the economy. Who then really is responsible for this- pariah Mahathir ? How come his multi millionaire son ,not known for any particular skill or profession, is not a civil servant or in the uniform of the police, army ,navy or air force ?

CONFUSED said...

Malaysia always like that when something seems to be not working right,they look outside rather than inside.They compare what others are doing.but they fail to realise the background of other country's success(Korea for example,their success is due to the deligence and hardworking people, Singapore is due to their capable ruling government)Isn't it last time we have this Look-East policy(to emulate Japan's success),but see what happened.Eventhough Tun Mahathir has brought Malaysia to what is today, but others have even advanced much faster than us eventhough at one time we are at par or even better that them.Isn't Tun Mahathir a capable leader?

Shanker said...

Najib is suffering more than just a shade of Mahatir-nomics. He faces serious credibility issues. Imagine that when you are supposed to be totally focused on governing the country, but a good part of your energy is also spent in "supporting" the weight of baggage that you brought along to office (besides planning the downfall of Pakatan Rakyat governments). And that's what Najib has also been doing. Whatever he tries to pronounce/implement, the saga of the unresolved Mongolian Murder mystery tails him like a lion stalking its prey. Do we seriously think he can govern under these circumstances? I understand that he was evasive of the Altantuya issue when approached by French journalists during his recent trip.

Can we expect someone to lead us and govern the country when at the back of our mind, nagging doubts continue to pester as to just what exactly - if any - was Najib's involvement in the murder case? Look at Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky saga. Until Clinton faced the impeachment hearing, until the truth came out into the open, he was never allowed to be President in peace.

So my advice is, don't hold your breath. Cos as long as UMNO/BN are not sent to the political wilderness, they will never learn. The solution to our economic woes are actually there for all to see. It's not easy, but it's there. Personally, I am not excited that my tax money is going to fund Amirsham's proposed trip to Taiwan - another lawatan sambil "belajar ka"?

Anonymous said...


katdog said...

Actually, if you look at the facts, change will come too late for Malaysia. Everyone keeps talking about the next GE. My friends, by then it will be too late.

Look at FDI report in 2008.
Malaysia: USD 8 billion
Thailand: USD 10 billion
Vietnam: USD 8 billon
Indonesia:USD 7.9 billion

Thailand is already ahead (and has been consistently ahead of M'sia since 2006). Indonesia and Vietnam have caught up. If the trend continues, by next GE Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia will probably be far ahead and we may be comparing ourselves with Cambodia.

UMNO cannot reform. It is a fact. To reform means to lose the support of their hardcore supporters that want the perpetuation and even expansion of NEP and the UMNO patronage system.

That is why UMNO was forced to put a tainted man like Isa to stand in Bagan Pinang. It could not risk losing their hardcore votes.

And given that UMNO cannot reform, therefore, we cannot expect any spectacular policy change that could dramatically reverse the current trends.

Therefore, it isn't far fetched to say, even if (and that is a BIG IF) there is a change in government in the next GE, it will come far too late for Malaysia.

There is no fairy tale ending waiting for Malaysia. By next GE, Malaysians will be left faced with not only the prospect that their country is behind Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam,but they are now saddled with huge white elephants such as Proton.

Oh did i also mention that, by then too, Malaysia would be a net importer of oil (or very close to it)?

Anonymous said...

The PM is in a dilemma. He is juggling too many eggs, which will soon fall flat, due to the clutches of Mahathirism. Although he is trying to break free from these traps, the clutches have taken root far and wide. Giving it another name; choosing another slogan will not bring back 'humpty dumpty' together again.

Yes, together we wait for the day to vote in uprightness , meritocrary and democrary and cast out corruption, injustice, racism ,and cronyism. Idealistic? NOT really, when it is time for a welcome change for the good of the country.

Anonymous said...

A new nation is born
In 10 to 20 years time, most of the older UMNO leaders will no longer be around to protect the interest of the young but weak and lazy Malays.
The Malaysian economy is bound to collapse under the weight of the existing policies, and the Malays will face a real-life dilemma. They will realize too late that NEP is worst than consuming drugs.
Their future generations will end up like the South Africans.
Malaya will become a colony of Indonesia, while Sabah becomes a part of the Philippines.
Sarawak, Singapore and Brunei unite to form a new nation, and use English as the official language.

Anonymous said...

Yr last sentence spoiled yr article a little. Just because someone is overseas n cannot fly back to vote doesnt mean he/she has no right to bitch about the country. By 'bitching' about the country, it may create awareness among those not yet awakened. Bitching itself is the small little thing that one can n should be encouraged to do while being away in foreign land (e.g. to further study, to learn the political culture, to gain international exposure n reputation, BEFORE going back to fight for the nation). Dont be swallow in yr thinking pls lest other oversears become less bothered about their country. Other than that last sentence, very well said indeed!

Anan Duran said...

I guess most of you are young men who have not experienced the expulsion like the Indians in Burnma, Fiji, Uganda etc. If the natives are mired in poverty, the immigrant races will be always be targeted as source of their misery. So don't complain, work out how we can progress together!

K L said...

Please do not follow Khir Toyo to spend the money in Disneyland again lah !

Anonymous said...

We need to keep looking at other countries/economies, and we need to look closely, first-hand. This is why we need more "lawatan sambil belajar". :-)

Purple Haze said...

Without high internet penetration and available broadband, Malaysia's desire to be a knowledge based economy is floundering.

Amirsham doesn't need to go on this study tour to find out all the facts - its available on the internet but maybe too slow even for him :)

So, if Malaysia can't compete at the K economy level, maybe we have no choice but to maintain protectionism. But resources will one day dry up.

ajoyly said...

Talent, brain and ability, not race, politic or religion should be used to further develop the country.

If politicians only care for their survival, then Malaysia will go to the dogs.

A good example is Robert Mugabe. He caused hyper inflation in his country at the rate of millions of percent.