In Response to “Wikileaks: Malaysian Opposition Not So Concerned About Economic Policy”

By Apeiron

Tony Pua’s comments provides us a “bird’s  eye-view” on the state of affairs of the Pakatan Rakyat which could be summarized into these crisp statements:

1. The priority of PR is to fight corruption.

2. The second priority is to revamp and upgrade the Education System.

3. There is a dismal lack of economic expertise in PR, and that it has difficulty in attracting such expertise into its fold.

The “fight against corruption” is a high political-mileage issue, a good subject with tremendous visibility in public relations which may  translate the “corrupt governance” of the BN into votes for PR in the forthcoming election. But it is an issue which PR CANNOT do anything about. Look at the Government Agencies (the MACC, the Auditor General’s Department, the Attorney General’s Department, the Parliamentary Audit Committee etc..), the NGOs (Transparency International etc,) and the Chinese Chambers Of Commerce and Industry (which had been vocal on the subject of corrupt practices), and do you see any “dent” in the armour of BN’s “shield of corruption”?

The Auditor General’s Annual Report, sad to say, has been an unending tale of woe with the same “corrupt practices” repeated over and over again without any accountability by anybody. If the Auditor General’s Report is of insufficient force to move the BN Government’s high “corrupt inertia”, what is the use of PR Parliamentarians shouting their heads off in Parliament? You can only deal with the “corrupt culture” when you are the Government. If the ‘priority issue’ is something that you cannot achieve as Opposition, then one has to rethink one’s political strategy.

Corruption may deal a lethal blow to BN in the next General Election, but is a “corrupt-free” environment (though a ‘necessary condition’) a “sufficient condition” for PR to govern judiciously and effectively to bring about a brighter future for the Rakyat?

Tony Pua’s remark that PR has difficulty in attracting economic expertise is a cause for concern. I interpret his remark to mean that PR has yet to establish its own “economic scenario of the country” should it gain the mandate to govern after the next GE. From the perspective of good governance this is appalling. How could one be promoted to be the CEO when one does not have the technical skills, managerial experience and the attitudes & temperaments of leadership, and the support of competent organization? Would any of the PR MPs, or for that matter Tony Pua himself share with us what they/he think would be a likely “economic scenario” should PR
win the next GE, with the recent Budget unveiled by PM Najib as a given condition?

Before commenting on the recent Budget, let us refresh on Minister Jala Idris’ high profile presentation that says Malaysia will go bankrupt within a decade if the Government does not cut down drastically the present level of Government subsidies. If what he has said is the Truth, then the recent Budget will bring forward his projected timing on the bankruptcy of Malaysia.

I view the Budget as politically-Machiavellian with high content of social largess to increase the “feel good” factor among the Rakyat and improve BN’s political popularity ratings. Depending on one’s perspective, one could applaud or condemn the Budget. As a high percentage of the Rakyat, especially the lower income group, benefits directly from the allocations in the Budget, there is tremendous increase in goodwill towards the BN Government. In this aspect of alleviating the financial hardships of the “marginalized groups”, Najib has trumped PR.

Viewing matters objectively, the PR-controlled Selangor is good at shouting how good they are in increasing the State’s coffers compared to the “bad days” of BN, but the question is WHAT DID THE SELANGOR GOVT DO TO HELP THE HARDCORE POOR? Besides the monthly RM20 water bill, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. PR must understand that the basic principle of government is to assure and ensure decent livelihoods of the Rakyat, to extend a helping hand to those who need it. A Government is not a corporate entity managed strictly on a profit & loss basis.

Whilst the Budget’s social largesse is something applauded by the “marginalized group”, the more informed group would view the Budget as a political “poison pill” to deter the possible takeover of the Government by PR in the next GE. In corporate finance, especially in the field of Mergers & Acquisitions where corporate takeovers are regular features, the “poison pill” strategy is widely used to deter hostile takeovers by unwelcomed corporate predators. The idea is to make the takeover expensive and less attractive to the potential predator. Despite BN’s bravado in trumpeting how strong our economy and finances are, we know the country’s financial health is not in good shape. Where is the money coming from to fund these social largesse? Since the Budget has passed through Parliament, it is obligatory and mandatory to allocate funds for them. Can I pose this question to PR: do you have any idea where the funds will have to come from? Do you think Petronas’ kitty is there for PR to dip in for funds?

On the optimistic assumption that PR wins the next GE, how is the PR Govt going to implement and fund the recent Budget? It is not difficult to foresee that the PR Govt will find, to its horror, that there is insufficient money to fund the social largesse. The Rakyat are “deprived” by the PR Govt of the monetary handouts promised by the BN Govt. What happens then? Within 6 months there will be a Rakyat outcry to bring down PR and clamour for BN’s return. This is how the Machiavellian Budget would mutate into a “poison pill” if ever PR takes over the Government.

On the issue of Education, Tony Pua’s quick-fix remedy seems to be : let us get some top notch universities in the USA and UK to open branch campus in Malaysia, and with better educated graduates entrepreneurship will thrive and our economy would prosper at great pace.

Education is a very long term development effort. Under BN, one generation of Malaysians have been destroyed by our education system. We churn out graduates who are unemployable, whose skills do not meet the needs of the employment market, weak communication skills, English language skills close to “jilo”, thinking skills also “jilo”, and do not possess the right attitudes and aptitudes. When thousands, if not tens of thousands, of students can score straight A’s in all their subjects in Government mandated public examinations, you know there is something fundamentally wrong with our education system. The “high scores” are nothing more than
self-embellishment of the ego rather than a real measure of academic achievement. Of course this is in line with our national mantra of “Malaysia Boleh” . This double dose of aggrandizement: embellished self ego and inflation of national pride, has over the years gradually eroded the thinking skills and the competitive attitudes (which could only be nurtured in a highly competitive environment) of our students.

We need a total revamp of our education system. Education must be viewed as a long term development tool preparing the next and future generations to face up to, and to compete in a more uncertain and most likely, more unfriendly world. Education must, as far as possible in a multi-racial society like ours, be devoid of politics and communitarian sentiments. With a new Education system, a new generation that start off as Std 1 students would end up as graduates with real academic achievements, trained with the right skills and imbued with the right attitudes and aptitudes, can take on the outside world without having to constantly remind themselves “Malaysia Boleh”.

Bud-grafting Harvard University onto Malaysian soil does not necessarily bring forth those results outlined by Tony Pua. Harvard is famous because it produced graduates who dominate the Fortune 500 Boardrooms as well as Wall Street Banks. But one can also look at it and say that it is the graduates, because of their success, that made Harvard famous. A student who could get admission into Harvard is already a “successful” individual and regardless of which of the good universities that he enrolled, he would have ended up just as successful if he had not gone through Harvard. Bud-grafting would only work if our own Education System can educate our students to
achieve the same level of “success” in gaining admission to Harvard.

To pursue further the “bud-grafting” issue, take a look at Singapore. All universities are ranked very high in both the QS Ranking and the THE Ranking. By any measure they can be considered top notch universities. Besides, they have collaboration programs with many higher ranked universities from USA and UK. For example, the Imperial College of London, Chicago University, Yale University etc have collaboration programs with Singapore universities in specific fields of studies. Now take a closer look, did the level of entrepreneurship improve in Singapore with this high dosage of academic excellence being drummed into the Singapore students? Answer: NO.
The political and social environment in Singapore, because of the strict adherence to ‘political correctness’, observance of social norms and the strictly regimented bureaucracy, does not foment creativity. That is why the Singapore Government had to get into the “socially hazardous” casino industry in order to generate sufficient employment opportunities for those who may be unemployed or under-employed.

PR must recognize the fact that it needs a “critical mass” of technocrats and professionals to devise and articulate a plan by which the PR could “market” to the Rakyat, and also to assist the PR Govt (should it come to power) in bringing about a brighter future for the Rakyat. Presently the Rakyat view PR as the weapon to get rid of the corrupt BN. The person who delivered the fatal stab need not be the next Emperor. PR must be magnanimous and politically savvy enough to collaborate with other groups that could enhance PR’s political appeal as well as strengthening its “brain” power. MCLM would fit in nicely with PR, as MCLM has access to a broader spectrum of intellectuals to draw on the necessary skills required for PR to advance its political objectives.

Time is running out for PR to get its act together. Tony Pua should do his duty in waking up his somnambulant colleagues in PR before they reach the deep end of the pool.