This article was published in Brave New World (The Star) on 29 July 2010. However, the passages in red were taken out. I post here the article in its original form.
The recent news that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Malaysia has dropped so much that it is now the lowest in ASEAN is worrying to say the least. Rather unsurprisingly the brother of the Prime Minister, head of a major bank, cautioned against panic and suggested that there be a thorough investigation into the matter to find the root causes and to determine if there is really cause for alarm.
This all sounds very reasonable and level headed except of course that we have a history of sweeping studies that are unpopular to the powers that be under the carpet. Take for example the findings by the Centre for Public Policy Studies in 2006 which put forward the argument that Bumiputra Equity had exceeded the target set by the NEP.
Faced by a tidal waste of government protest and the lack of support from parent organisation ASLI, the Director of CPPS resigned. Amidst the denials and crass accusations (it was insinuated that the findings of the CPPS was a non-Malay plot), what we did not get was a public debate on the issue.
So, it is well and good that the PM’s little brother wants a proper examination of the issue, but really, can we expect a thorough and open debate? We are faced with some serious economic questions but I do not think that the powers that be would want hard questions being asked and answered, and in this matter, hard questions and answers are exactly what’s needed.
And this is what worries me about the nation at the moment. We have real problems but we are still stuck on a mindset that is not helpful and is in fact counterproductive. Take for example the New Economic Measures (NEM). It would be unfair to say that it was a complete load of cobblers. Admittedly some of the ideas are taken pretty much wholesale from the Pakatan agenda, for example the bits regarding helping the bottom 40% of the society based on poverty as opposed to ethnicity, however I suppose one should take good ideas wherever one finds them.
However, back to my point: in its analysis of the economic situation in the country the NEM does concede that there are tough issues that need to be done away with in order to ensure future economic health; such as rent seeking and corruption, as well as race based policies leading to a brain drain.
If one were to look at this document alone, then one might feel that the “hard questions” mentioned above are at last being asked and following that there should be some equally hard answers. Still, it is one thing to talk the talk, quite another to walk the walk. And it strikes me as odd that in a time when we are economically vulnerable and when we should be looking at what is best for the country as a whole, we still get acres of print space being dedicated to ideas like “Malay Unity”.
Both the PM and the DPM have been talking about this “Malay unity” thing. First and foremost, I have no idea what they mean by the term. United for what purpose and perhaps more importantly united against whom?
Of course at the heart of it, what they must surely mean is united in the support of one political power. This is a repulsive notion as it flies in the face of democratic freedoms and it also has serious racist implications. After all, why should people be united based on ethnicity? If one wants to talk about unity, shouldn’t it be based on common endeavour, or ideology?
We are on the verge of what could be yet another serious economic crisis, and although official policy seems to point towards a more rational approach doing away with antiquated ideas based on race; the political reality is that race is still foremost on the minds of those in charge. I would have thought that the depressing news of having less FDI than the Philippines would wake us up to the reality that for the good of the nation, we need all our best people working for all the people. Instead those in charge appear stuck in that tiresome mire of caring more about hanging on to political power by using the basest of philosophies.