YOUR editorial, “Aim for higher standards to compete on global front’’ (Sunday Star, March 9) rightly commented that the Cabinet committee on competitiveness, headed by Acting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi “is what the country needs at its current stage of development’’.
The committee should have come earlier. But as the editorial added: “It is not too late, if we can still recognise the faults in ourselves.’’
On his first morning as Acting Prime Minister, Abdullah, on March 6, gave an auspicious speech to the Oxbridge Society and stated that “most importantly, we need to think differently” in order to achieve the goals of Vision 2020.
He added that “we must compete for it and work hard to achieve it’’.
He signalled that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Vision 2020 had become his vision but also indicated that our road map had yet to be crystallised.
As chairman of the committee he would therefore seek to increase meritocracy among individuals and urge greater competition among corporations. He said the Government should become more of a facilitator.
Abdullah is spot on, but we need to know how we got to this stage of developing a Malaysian Malaise where we have First World infrastructure but Third World mentality in the maintenance and administration of these facilities?
The answer is that some of our leaders had perhaps inadvertently allowed our human quality and performance to deteriorate by the wrong implementation of our “Re-distributive Policies’’.
In other words, the manner of carrying out the Affirmative Action policies and basically the New Economic Policy (NEP) has gravely fallen short of the expectations of its founding fathers.
Hence we have a large number of “Ugly Malaysians’’, who are corrupt, disrespectful of public property and property rights, and who believe the “Government owes them a living’’.
We have to change from being complacent to becoming much more competitive in a fast globalising world, otherwise we will be “globalised” and decline.
I strongly agree with Abdullah that the key to the change of our mindset must, therefore, be to base our policies on more competition, merit and excellence.
As he pointed out, only those with “genuine need and those who have “value-added potential” should now be given assistance to attain re-distributive justice.
But this noble goal was, in fact, intrinsic in our NEP, which postulated the eradication of poverty regardless of race and the removal of the identification of race with occupation.
However many political leaders and civil servants have somehow, over the last 25 years or so, distorted the true spirit of the NEP in the implementation of the NEP.
The distortion of the implementation of the NEP is the main reason for the growing polarisation in our country. All races have felt a sense of alienation as few have benefited from “unproductive economic rents” and the majority of all races have not adequately benefited from “know how” but “know who”.
The irony is that the economy need not have veered so much off track in its values and mindsets, despite some distractions.
Fortunately, however, it is not too difficult to change the course of the economy and to change the mindset and remove the Malaysian malaise.
What we need is to sharpen our focus on greater competition and meritocracy, to “move up the value chain”, even if it means to “push ourselves in ways we have never imagined”.
Thus the Acting Prime Minister, having identified the causes and effects of the Malaysian Malaise and the elements of the Ugly Malaysian, will hopefully present a new plan on how to realise Vision 2020.
RAMON NAVARATNAM, Kuala Lumpur.
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