A good government responds to changes


Raja Sara Petra

Asia Sentinel said, “On October 21, Malaysia’s scandal-hit Prime Minister Najib Razak tabled a RM260.8 billion budget that is not only short on money and long on politics but seeks to obliterate the philosophy behind the economic blueprint of his arch-enemy, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.”

“Najib, also the Finance Minister, dubbed his 30-year development program ‘Transformasi Nasional 2050 (National Transformation 2050)’, an alternative to Mahathir’s Vision 2020, launched in a landmark speech in 1991. Najib’s plan, however, was short on details but long on rhetoric.” 

Asia Sentinel is alleging that ‘Transformasi Nasional 2050’ is meant to replace Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s ‘Vision 2020’ or ‘Wawasan 2020’. And they are insinuating that this is being done merely out to spite or dendam and not for economic considerations. 

This is a very shallow, immature and simplistic way of looking at things. ‘Wawasan 2020’ was planned 26 years ago back in 1990 and was supposed to run for 30 years, which means it is supposed to end in another four years. The question is: when it ends in 2020 will it have met its plans and objectives?

Many things have happened since 1990. And when ‘Wawasan 2020’ was planned Malaysia did not know that we would have the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997. We also did not know that the price of oil would go so low as to cause Malaysia to lose billions in revenue a year.

Plans are not carved in stone and should not be static. They should be dynamic and must be able to respond to changing situations. If not we would end up like what happened to the New Economic Policy (NEP). In 1970, the government planned for Bumiputeras to own 30% of the economic pie by 1990. But the pie did not remain the same size over those 20 years. It grew, so as the pie got bigger the Bumiputera share in percentage terms got smaller although in absolute terms it got bigger.

Then in the mid-1980s the world went through a serious recession followed by the collapse of the stock markets. That shrank the pie even further. In 1970, when the NEP was first mooted, they did not know this was going to happen. But then the government did not amend the targets and plans of the NEP although the situation and conditions had changed. And that was one reason for the failure of the NEP as far as corporate ownership was concerned.

What was planned in 1970 (such as the NEP) is no longer viable. What was planned in 1990 (such as ‘Wawasan 2020’) is also no longer viable. If we do not take into consideration all the changes and still very stubbornly stick to old beliefs and values then, today, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak would not go to China which has emerged in the largest economy in the world.

Yes, times change, situations change, old enemies are now friends and vice versa, and what was planned in 1970 or 1990 may no longer work in 2050. So a good government must recognise this and change accordingly, which is what ‘Transformasi Nasional 2050’ is all about. And have not many other plans made in the 1980s and 1990s also failed because we resisted change when change was necessary?