UMNO’s Middle Income Trap

Since Sunday, I have been writing issues relating to UMNO. These are in anticipation of the Pahang UMNO convention this weekend. My objective is to have as many UMNO people read and ponder the issues before they participate in the convention. Let’s have a serious convention. The convention is not a jamboree where you get to sing scout songs.

Let’s talk now of UMNO’s middle income trap. As you know, a middle income trap occurs when a middle income country finds it cannot compete technologically with an advanced country nor can it compete in terms of low cost with a low income country.

UMNO finds itself in such a situation, albeit a political one. It can’t compete with the technical superiority of its political adversaries while at the same time; it can’t compete in winning adherents to its cause among the common folks. UMNO’s currency is its people. The quality and productivity of its members. Its exports are its ideas, cause, vision articulated.

The quality and productivity of its members is suspect. Its losing ground competing to offer a coherent vision for the future, arrest the fears of the Malay heartland. It appears unable to secure the confidence of the younger and intelligent set. It cannot also compete to secure the allegiance of the poorer sections of the population who gravitate towards religious solutions and therefore to parties offering religious agenda.

When I was covering the Bukit Gantang by elections the last time, I took note of two things. The Pakatan Rakyat people, especially the PKR and DAP were tech savvy. They had notebooks around, computer gadgets and other machines of one type or another. They sent sms, e mails and what not, of which we UMNO people were not aware of. En route to a kampong, I saw Anwar Ibrahim on a screen speaking live from somewhere else but his image was projected there. A few kilometers away, some old men clad in sarongs were putting up banners and posters.

Were there lessons to be learnt? What does familiarity with the latest technology reflect? It reflects modernity, advancement and possibly rich. What do sarongs indicate? If I were to use Ungku Aziz’s sarong index theory, they would indicate poverty, backwardness, less advancement.