Thursday, March 20, 2014
Malaysia has the income but not the government to reach developed maturity, says editor
But judging by its handling of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 incident, many observers believe that target will not be met.
If it were just a matter of raising the per capita income, then based on its per capita income of RM36,000 in 2013, Malaysia is emplaced in the middle-income group (usually defined as bookended by a per capita GDP of US$1,000 (RM3,300) - US$12,000 (RM39,500), and has the potential of reaching developed maturity.
A necessary attendant to determining the qualitative position of a country is its governance, particularly for middle-income nations that have to deal with problems particular to that postion – including rising labour costs, a lack of technological innovation, and subsequent economic stagnation.
Good governance in this regards means encouraging competition to maximize the value of talent and encourage innovation.
By such a measure, Malaysia's poor response following the disappearance of flight MH370 reflects the fact that the country is still way behind in terms of governance, according to Ding Gang, a senior editor with The People's Daily.
The intial chaotic dissemination of information, he said, reflects the flaws in Malaysia's system of governance.
And these flaws are a consequence of a lack of secularisation, an abundance of natural wealth that has disguised failings in leadership, and a racial approach to many aspects of Malaysian life, according to Ding Gang.
Malaysia's abundant raw products such as oil, rubber and oil palm provide a substanial proportion of the government's budget and expenditure, but it's a double-edged blessing because the wealth has disguised and fostered an inefficient governing class.
The writer goes on to note the racial bias or quotas in many aspects and sectors of Malaysian life – the lack of non-Muslim leaders and civil servants, the racial considerations in admission to universities and colleges, right down to the issuance of taxi licences.
The expressed motive of such race-tinted policies of promoting social stabity among the races effectively means the closing of opportunities for upward mobility and competition.
This in turn has led to corruption and the creation of a coddled conservative group with vested interests who do not want the boat rocked.
In 2001, then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that Malaysia was a Muslim country. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak also declared in 2007 that Malaysia has never been a secular country.
The problem with mixing religion with politics, syaria law and civil law, is that it not only creates bifocal division, but also encourages the tendency to lean towards social conservatism, an illusory facade of harmony and unity.
What's dysfunctional is not elite politics itself, but a rigid system that is responsible for selecting the political elite and that does not encourage upstart talent. – March 20, 2014.