Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Volume 4 Issue 5: Intelligent Investing

The Malaysian Disease?

As well as being right and proper, such reform makes political sense too. A younger generation of Malaysians resents the ethnic divisiveness practised by the ruling establishment and yearns for more political and social freedoms. It means that the centre ground of politics, on which the next general election will be fought, has shifted away from the politics of Malay supremacy. 
The trouble is that though Mr Najib believes in change, much of his party clearly does not. UMNO was founded specifically to protect Malay privileges and has ruled Malaysia without interruption since independence. Mr Najib came to power in 2009 not through an electoral mandate for change, but in an internal coup. As a consequence, he lacks the clout and possibly the will to impose his agenda on UMNO. And the longer he postpones an election, the more his personal authority will ebb.
Obstructionism from within the governing system to Mr Najib’s reforms has become brazen. Take the Peaceful Assembly Bill, awaiting signing into law. This legislation, from the attorney-general’s office, seems to go directly against much of Mr Najib’s earlier declarations about the need for greater civic freedoms. To many, the bill, regulating the right to protest, seems to be even more restrictive than what went before. Najibistas in the cabinet claim that they fought back bravely, watering down some of the more draconian provisions. Nonetheless, the new law has come in for condemnation, including by UN human-rights people. 
So much for the great reform programme. The pity of Mr Najib is that a well-intentioned man has reformed just enough to alienate his own party and too little to convince the centre ground. He may be courting electoral disaster.
Subsequently, our friendly neighborhood MCA president "took the initiative" to defend Najib:
“Everybody talked about abolishing the ISA but it was Najib who removed the ISA,” he told reporters at SMJK Chong Hwa here this afternoon. 
“And that effectively removed his authority to detain people without trial. It’s not easy for a leader to give power away like that.”
I think the obvious retort to the above example would be the implementation of the Peaceful Assembly Bill that was passed in December 2011. It is not that different from the ISA that was abolished. Anyone who has not lived under a coconut shell should know that.

But I think the Economist has hit home in the sense that the attempts are very half-baked and half-hearted. The ETP is merely window-dressing in the government's attempt to reinvigorate the "feel-good" atmosphere reminiscent of the Mahathir era. It does not solve the root causes of Malaysia's problems.

Perhaps the goal of becoming a high-income nation is high and mighty, but as every one knows, you cannot construct a tall building when your foundation is built with a deck of cards. Talent and hard work is still not being appropriately recognized in Malaysia. The belief of self-entitlement is still rampant, and is clearly exemplified in the following videos:

This is probably one of the all-time bests:

Bear in mind that these are members of parliament. They are the ones who are in charge of "law-making" in this country. And then there is also the issue of corruption. To list out the examples of reported corruption cases would be too depressing.

So, I don't care if it is the GTP, or the ETP, or the NEM, or the 10MP, or the NKEAs, or the SRIs, or the PEMANDU, or the PEMUDA, or whatever other acronyms that the government can come up with to pull a wool over the people's eyes. The government cannot just reform for the sake of wanting to reform. This is not a "sandiwara" (performance). It cannot be for show.

Reforms are meant to improve the country and its people. You cannot just throw money and people and expect them to build better lives. You cannot build a rich nation when it is still filled with lousy attitude. You cannot imagine what you see below happen in a KFC anywhere else:

It is simply appalling that a worker handling food would do such a thing without care for his fellow Malaysians who are going to eat that piece of chicken. Where is the sense of responsibility and pride in their work?

While it is not meant to be a generalization of the attitudes of all Malaysians, but it should be a worrying sign. Last year, I wrote about my visit to Ayamas and how my experience was extremely disheartening:
Walking up to the shop, I saw three of the staff who were standing at the entrance, chit-chatting away with one of their friends who brought along a baby in a stroller. They completely blocked the entrance and did not care less if a customer was trying to purchase something in the shop. After making eye contact with them, they decided to reluctantly step aside to allow me to enter to buy myself some Ayamas chicken.
So here I am, walking into the shop, looking forward to my "Perchik Chicken" and I saw another two employees sitting behind the counter chatting away. The first question that came to my mind was, "Why do they need 5 people working when the entire shop was empty?".

So I walked up to the counter and I asked for my Perchik Chicken and to my dismay, the staff told me that it was out of stock. Mind you that this was only 6.30 pm, which is dinner time for most people. They simply never cooked any. So after some deliberation, I decided to buy some of the original roasted chicken anyway and when I inquired about purchasing a bottle of chilli sauce that my family needed, the staff again replied with an air of arrogance that it was also out of stock.
By the way, coincidentally, or otherwise, both KFC and Ayamas are owned by the same company. Is this due to the lack of staff training? Or does it speak more about the general attitude of Malaysians these days?

I simply do not see how the ETP and whatnot can solve the social ills that is clearly seen and demonstrated in the everyday walks of life. The poor attitude descends from the high echelons of mighty politicians all the way down to food servers in the kitchens of KFCs. And as everyone knows, attitudes are hard to change and it will require a lot more self-reflection and soul-searching (which is often painful) before Malaysia can transform itself into a first world country.

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