Professor who is an optimist

PROFESSOR Mahani Zainal Abidin is an optimist. Whenever she faces any problems, she bounces back with the philosophy that tomorrow is another day and there is hope that one's fortune may change.  

“My favourite film is Gone with the Wind and the heroine Scarlett O'Hara’s motto: Tomorrow is another day appeals to my character too,” she said.  

The bubbly National Economic Action Council (NEAC) head of the Special Consultancy Team on Globalisation also admits to having a weakness for romantic novels with formulaic plots.  

“I have a vast store of them,” Mahani said.  

She admits to taking work back home and even on holidays, with the hope of doing some of it.  

“I tended to feel a little guilty and restless if I was not working,” she said, adding that she had since learnt to relax and concentrate on the essentials of life. 

Mahani graduated with honours in economics from the University of Malaya (UM) and began teaching in the university in 1980. She obtained her Masters in Statistics from the London School of Economics and an external PhD from the London University. 

“The PhD was one of my toughest academic challenges. I was doing it part time in Malaysia and lecturing at UM at the same time. I had to be very disciplined because I had to juggle between teaching, PhD work and family. My son was only one year old then,” she said.  

Although economics can be considered a dry subject, Mahani’s passion for it has not ceased. 

“Economics takes on a life of its own when it is seen happening before your eyes. It is an unstoppable and unavoidable process. I cannot see how some people are not fascinated with it,” she enthused. 

Mahani said her appointment to the NEAC was totally unexpected. It was a valuable experience for her as she was able to see at close quarters some of the captains of industry and high public government officials in action.  

“Their ability to stay focused and join forces for a common national goal was quite new in my experience,” she said.  

Her book Rewriting The Rules: The Malaysian Crisis Management Model took her two years to write.  

“I could only write at night and during weekends due to work. Writing during weekends was not a problem as my husband and son would go golfing and I, the golf widow, would be at home writing,” she joked. 

The book could be considered, in part, a family effort with hubby being the “unofficial editor” of the book. “I wrote the book for the layman and he helped by reading the book to see if he could understand it as a layman,” she said. 

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