Enough of Pledges! We Need Actions!

By M. Bakri Musa

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s pledge to improve six key areas (crime, corruption and poverty reductions as well as education, infrastructure, and public transportation) would have met widespread applause if only he had indicated just a wee bit more on how he would go about achieving those lofty goals. Malaysians are rightly fed up with highly optimistic targets and stirring slogans; what we desperately need are leaders who could execute things and get us there.

Najib refers to those objectives as national “Key Results Areas” (KRAs). If he is not diligent and imaginative in the execution, Najib’s KRA could very well end up as KeRA (monkey). Kera would then join with Najib’s earlier glokal Malay to be the next laughing stock of the nation.

The very manner in which Najib made the announcement does not give us much confidence. He made it at a huge gathering of civil servants and on a working day. Thus during that entire morning work at the various government offices was at a standstill.

More than likely the afternoon too was a washout, with those officers busy rehashing the speech. With their superiors absent, the subordinates would even be more sluggish than usual. I pity members of the public who had urgent businesses with the government on that day.

Najib has acquired one of the many bad habits of his predecessor. Abdullah Badawi used to convene his ministry officials for a monthly lecture a la school assembly. And just like a headmaster, Abdullah would stand on the podium sermonizing in his soporiferous monotone voice, putting everyone to sleep. That is, if he himself had not dozed off first. Of course work at the ministry would come to a screeching halt.

The Chief Secretary to the government Sidek Hassan has not thought of advising Najib to use other more effective and cheaper ways to communicate, like newsletters or even taping the message onto a CD and then distributing it. Perhaps Sidek is in awe of Najib, imagining him to be the civil service’s Steve Jobs. Apple’s Jobs used to gather his employees in a huge hall at the launch of a new product or to make significant announcements.

If only Najib has a fraction of Job’s charisma and executive ability, perhaps such large gatherings could be excused and defended as a means of rallying and inspiring the troops. Having seen the videotape of the assembly however, it was more a torture session, torture for those civil servants to remain awake!

Najib deludes himself if he thinks that simply assigning a responsible minister would solve the problem of execution. None of the six ministers he has selected had excelled themselves or impressed us with their executive talent. Muhyiddin, for education, has not ‘wowed’ us with his flip flopping on the policy of teaching science and mathematics in school. As for Hishammuddin, responsible for crime reduction, his previous tenure in Education did not enthrall us with his competence.

Then there is Ong Tee Keat, responsible for infrastructure development. This poor soul has yet to explain the rapidly ballooning boondoggle that is the Port Klang Free Zone Development scandal.

I would have been more impressed had Najib in assigning the areas of responsibility also indicate the price for non-performance. Would Hishammuddin be relieved of his cabinet post should he fail to reduce the crime rate? Heads must role when there is a major lapse. That is the only way to make people accountable and take their responsibilities seriously. If there is no price to pay for failure, there is little incentive to perform, much less excel.

Take crime reduction; Najib is needlessly reinventing the wheel. All he has to do is revisit the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Police of four years ago. Along the same vein, if during the tenure of the present Police Chief Musa Hassan the crime rates have soared, that is compelling enough reason not to renew his contract.

My hunch is that Najib will renew Musa’s contracts, thus making a mockery of the commitment to crime reduction. Najib would do more for crime reduction by firing the glaringly ineffective and incompetent Musa Hassan. Otherwise all those lofty goals would merely be cakap kosong (empty talk), KRA morphing into KeRA.

Likewise in his battle to curb corruption, Najib would do well to get rid of the present director of MACC, Ahmad Said Hamdan. His agency’s record in the two latest high-profile cases is abysmal. Then there is the tragic death of one of its ‘friendly’ witnesses.

Simply upgrading or renaming the old Anti Corruption Agency to the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission would not combat corruption if you are still stuck with the same personnel, procedures, and mindset.

A Better Approach

A more effective approach would have been for Najib to gather his assigned minister and the relevant senior officers to a private meeting where he would lay out his goals and inquire from them the steps and initiatives they would recommend in reaching those goals.

Those meetings would be working sessions, dispensing with time-wasting unnecessary protocols. Everyone would literally roll up their sleeves. That is not the time to be in your three-piece suit. There is much heavy lifting to be done, with ideas critically examined, resources allocated, and markers put in place.

Such meetings would not only be cheap they would also not disrupt the normal workings of the various departments, especially if they are held outside regular office hours. Those meetings would be the time to monitor progress, get feedback, and modify strategies if need be.

Najib’s meetings thus far have been heavy on press coverage and laudatory comments especially in the mainstream media. This is not the time for premature accolades; there will be plenty of time for that later when those objectives are achieved. Meanwhile we should all be critical lest these leaders get carried away with too early unmerited applauses.

Like his predecessor Abdullah Badawi, Najib is thus far satisfied merely with making highly publicized public pronouncements instead of attending to the necessary nitty-gritty of governance. It is attention to such practical and mundane details on which the success or failure of a policy would depend.

Najib must act more as chief executive and less a sultan satisfied merely with issuing endless titahs (edicts). Malaysia has enough sultans already with the nine that it has; there is little need to add to the roster.

  1. #1 by SpeakUp on Monday, 3 August 2009 - 11:04 am

    Malaysian BN has decided to form an alliance with NATO. No Action Talk Only. What’s new?

  2. #2 by Callum on Monday, 3 August 2009 - 11:05 am

    they can set whatever KRA,KPI, at the end of the day, the GE will tell the result.

  3. #3 by k1980 on Monday, 3 August 2009 - 11:13 am

    Why no “Key Results Area” on sending umno tourist to the moon?

    August 27, 2005– Malaysia said on Saturday, August 27, it is planning to send its first astronaut to the Moon by 2020.

    “We must show to the world Malaysia can send its first astronaut to the International Outer Space Station,” Science and Technology Minister Jamaludin Jarjis was quoted as saying by Malaysia’s Bernama news agency.

    The minister said he believed Malaysians would want to see a fellow Malaysian setting foot on the Moon in line with the “Malaysia Boleh” spirit.

  4. #4 by OrangRojak on Monday, 3 August 2009 - 1:08 pm

    I could weep when I read reports about Malaysia’s ‘Space Effort’. What is the message to the youth of Malaysia? When entrepreneurs go on Tourist trips from other countries, it is because they have excelled in their own fields and paid their own way by the sweat of their brows. Who would not want to excel in any industry, given the hope that it would one day qualify the high-attainer for a fantasy experience?

    If one is not an entrepreneur, who would not wish to excel in science or as technical staff in order to qualify as crew? That’s a great message to tell aspiring scientists and technicians. What point is there even trying to be a great scientist or technician, if your place on a mission is chosen by (at best) lottery?

    Perhaps UMNO have it right: who would not want to vote UMNO, if by supporting such a regime, one could enter one’s name in a lottery for a free ride into space? Free rides! Into Space! For Malaysia! Vote UMNO!

    Perhaps we could all think about which ‘outstanding Malaysian’ we would like to see setting foot on the moon first. Preferably barefoot.

  5. #5 by k1980 on Monday, 3 August 2009 - 1:25 pm

    What free ride to the moon? You think the Russians would be so dumb as to give away free seats in their spacecraft and moon-rover? It will cost the Malaysian taxpayers billions for that trip, not counting the training required for the would-be tourist.

    And count the Americans out– they are aiming for a manned flight to Mars.

  6. #6 by OrangRojak on Monday, 3 August 2009 - 1:42 pm

    Free to the rider. Did he write a personal cheque? I believe many of the others did.

    What was the cost? Any idea? How does the cost compare to say, the Ansari X-Prize? How do they compare in price to say, Joe Kittinger? He is still perceived by many to be the first man in space.

  7. #7 by OrangRojak on Monday, 3 August 2009 - 1:48 pm

    Links, just in case I’m ‘moderated’ again – maybe my temper is also deteriorating, got to choose my words and links carefully!

    Joe Kittinger – first man in space
    Ansari X prize

    Wikipedia says USD26m – so probably the price of 4 (2 x 2) successful private sector launches, and dozens of attempts at beating Joe Kittinger’s record (which incidentally, is unofficial).

    Money well spent or not?

  8. #8 by drago2008 on Monday, 3 August 2009 - 2:30 pm

    “Najib’s meetings thus far have been heavy on press coverage and laudatory comments especially in the mainstream media. This is not the time for premature accolades; there will be plenty of time for that later when those objectives are achieved. Meanwhile we should all be critical lest these leaders get carried away with premature and unmerited applause.”

    M. Bakri Musa certainly hit the nail on the head that the Najib admin is too much enamoured of press coverage and laudatory comments in MSM. In simple term, too much talk and not much walk the talk. The left hand wears the velvet glove that doesn’t fit well and the right hand whacks you with tear gas and water cannons.

    Look at the Umno-owned media – in Malay and English – they are now in sync with each other in spinning the virtues of their political masters and some of their recently appointed senior editors are even crass enough to claim that the likes of MACC is a Malay institution. What kind of bigoted worms are residing inside those minds?

    This boondoggle perpetuated by them is not going to save their skins, more so, it will expedite their poor standings in the eyes of the general public. Only the sycophantic bunch will sing praises of them because of vested interest and a mindset that’s heavily dosed with self-denial serum.

    More than ever, since the sleeping Pak Lah’s days, the present Umno propaganda machine is working overtime and
    churning out spin after spin in their news rags ad nauseam.

  9. #9 by Loh on Monday, 3 August 2009 - 4:50 pm

    There should be zero tolerance for crimes; why limit it only to 20% reduction?
    It wouldbe better that they talk about performance than about race.

You must be logged in to post a comment.