MALAYSIANS can draw satisfaction from observing the country’s 62nd anniversary of independence on Aug 31 and our 56th Malaysia Day on Sept 16 as we progress towards a more inclusive, united, peaceful and prosperous polity.
In South-East Asia, in terms of political sophistication and freedom, a free press and a free people’s representation index, we are arguably No.1.
After all, Malaysia’s Parliamentary democratic system enabled its citizens to effect peaceful change after more than 60 years under one regime when the current Pakatan Harapan (PH) government was voted into power some 15 months ago.
Yes, in democratic political craftsmanship we are undoubtedly No.1 but with little to show in other areas. The current weakness is that we are loud, almost lordly, in making announcements but there is little follow-up by way of actual action, periodic stocktaking and re-evaluation of projects, and we seem to be caught up in being defensive about things that are simply unworkable.
The government must not continue to dabble in business but leave it to the animal spirit of entrepreneurs, for instance.
On the basis strictly of expertise and meritocracy, the Pakatan Harapan government should select members from their own component parties, together with some Opposition figures, to do an honest appraisal of the country’s actual situation in respect of education, health, people’s wellbeing, and scientific and technological achievements and prospects.
It is important that the people entrusted with this responsibility are drawn from academia, banking, business, industry, science and technological fields, and private and public enterprise; there should be a minimum number of politicians.
They should be cautioned that their role is not to go for gung-ho enthusiasm or gimmickry but to come up with realistic, do-able plans to retrain unemployed graduates, build STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) capacity in our schools and higher education institutions, build food and fruit security, strengthen our law enforcement capacity, improve the availability of public transport and low-cost housing, and also take a hard look at some of our ongoing industrial activities that might not be viable.
The group must also propose measures to handle the imminent onset of climate change such as sinking coastlines, shrinking water catchment issues and the supply of potable water, reducing our carbon footprint, and the phasing out of polluting industries.
More significantly, there has to be a blueprint for sharply reducing labour-intensive industries so that the dependence on foreign workers is reduced progressively.
I feel compelled to write on these matters because I can’t see the present PH government coming out with any convincing, comprehensive and consensual plan to address current problems given its lack of a clear, coordinated vision, infighting, and predilection for outdated schemes to upgrade the economy rather than building a resilient and futuristic Malaysian economy.
Malaysians are generally labouring under a low income and high cost of living nexus and they are desperately in need of some relief.
Dinosaurs should be relegated to our museums and not be on our policymaking Main Street.
In the spirit of the current period, Selamat Hari Kebangsaan dan Hari Malaysia! Daulat Tuanku!
DATUK M. SANTHANANABAN
Note: The writer is a retired ambassador with 45 years of public sector experience.