NEM and the spirit of the individual

By AB Sulaiman | Malaysiakini

The government has just announced that the New Economic Model (NEM) slated to be the catalyst for Malaysia to put on track the elusive target of Vision 2020, will be unveiled to the public on March 30.

The Mother of all Embarrassment to the Malay polity is that despite all of the plans and policies implemented since Independence till today, the success rate of Malay involvement and participation in the wealth creation and distribution theatres (the main target of these plans) as been so dismally low; from one percent in 1959 to a most ridiculous three percent to date, plus 16 percent achieved by trusts and funds, making a paltry 19 percent. This is sacrilege, a huge blow to the Malay mertabat!

Would NEM be another failure? Surely Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak (right), the NEM architect, would not want that.

As a country we have all of the fundamentals and essential features for economic progress and development not to fail. I’d list some of them.

i. The availability of land and raw materials

ii. A good total population to act as domestic market base

iii. Intelligent and well-educated people

iv. Good social and economic infrastructure like roads and bridges; education, telecommunications and health

v. Good intellectual infrastructure

vi. A high saving rate, good capital accumulation and investment

vii. Reasonable level of computer skill and use

We have been blessed with the availability of these essential features, and in great abundance too. For good measure we do not have elements that can wreck economic growth: snow, frost, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, lava flow, mudslides, typhoons, widespread flooding.

An important point to note is that sitting right at the top of these factors lies the one factor that moves them all. It’s the human factor, otherwise known as the spirit of the individual.

The individual spirit quickly defined is the wish and penchant of the individual to have a strong backbone, be independent minded and eager to develop high levels of self-confidence, self-reliance and self-worth. He is practical minded, and develops his god-given talents on his own volition.

He is full of confidence, confident in himself and in his ability to do things. And when he does things he does so with the best that his talent, ability, knowledge and skill can offer. He is the willing go-getter, willing to go the extra mile, to make sacrifices to get what he wants.

He has what social scientists say, a high achievement motivation.
A good and properly focused human resource in an otherwise barren country would able to create a sustainable economy; even when the essential fundamentals are deficient. Japan has done it; and South Korea too. As a perpetual reminder, think of Singapore as well.

But let the human factor slacken, and the engine for economic growth would begin to hiccup, and could even cause it to die. Burma (now Myanmar) and Zimbabwe have gone through this.

Ingredients for success

Malaysia thus had all the ingredients for sustainable growth from the traditional agrarian and agriculture-based economy to the modern manufacturing and services money economy. Indeed, in the late 90s Malaysia has been one of the top twenty export nations in the world and hailed as one of the major ‘Asian tiger’ economies.

With this chequered background, why on earth do we need a NEM? Or, where could it go wrong?

I venture to give a reason for this downward slide. In my view it coincides with the introduction of the NEP in 1970 stipulating that the Malay should be in control of 30 percent of the economic cake.

This has proved to be the One Big Trouble; it proved to be one big cancer in the economic sector for some obvious reasons I’d quote herewith.

Firstly, the generic Malay mind had no history of involvement, no experience in the modern economy principles. Within this context I’d say that the Malay mind has little sense of the individual, little achievement motivation.

Instead this mind is preoccupied with the status quo featured by conservatism, conformity and this particular penchant for the Hereafter. These race and religion concerns are regretfully not part of the essential fundamentals for economic growth mentioned at length above.

The generic Malay mind has a low level of self confidence and self-reliance. It depends on crutches to go about it is daily routines. Many have termed it as the kampung mentality. It’s a closed ethnocentric mind, fairly impervious to change.

Arguably this crutch and kampung mentality has been the primary cause of the failures of most, if not all, of the past economic plans and models.

No walk in the park

The crux of the matter then is that moving from the rural economy to the money economy, from the natural world to the secular world is no casual walk in the park. Obviously you cannot manage a business (whether retail, commercial or corporate) or be a trained professional neurosurgeon in an urban economic setting, with tending to the padi fields or tapping rubber trees as your curriculum vitae.

You need a whole lot of rehashing of the mindset, learning and knowledge accumulation, training and re-training, and acquiring new skills to run any business big or small. It takes literally generations to master it.

Malay leadership tries to make up for this deficiency, thus the formulation and implementation of the various past plans and models. But this conservative and orthodox mind has not responded adequately enough. Instead it tries to glorify the psychological areas where the Malay is very strong: race and religion.

This is easy enough to do.

Firstly, ‘the special position’ of the Malays stipulated in the Constitution is unilaterally deemed to mean the ‘absolute right’ of the Malays. Yes, change it from a privilege to an entitlement.

Secondly the constitution again stipulates Islam as the religion of the country has been translated into Islam as the official religion of the country.

These are contentious issues but as the Ketuanan Melayu has the upper say on the basis of ‘might is right’, its perception stays.

So, armed with these subtle and ingenious perceptions the Ketuanan Melayu elements had gotten busy:

i. The ulamas clamoured for the Islamisation of the country.

ii. The ultra-nationalists tried to Malay-ise the non-Malay population.

iii. The civil servants protected their career turfs by filling government posts with Malays.

iv. Profesional government agencies like the police and the AG’s office exceeded their professional parameters.

v. The politicians were busy drawing and redrawing the electoral boundaries to give them the best advantages.

All of them were tampering with the ideals and spirit of the individual and the principles of democracy, like eroding the rule of law, and casting aside the principle of check and balance all in the name of their private interest. All this in the name of agama, bangsa dan negara.

But as we have seen, agama, bangsa dan negara are not in the list of fundamentals for economic growth. The glaring connotation therefore is that the Malay leadership, often referred to as Ketuanan Melayu has been doing the complete opposite to what it should be doing to progress, develop and prosper in the modern economy!

Unintended consequences

A lot of unfortunate unintended consequences then took place, and again I’d mention only some few obvious ones:

i. The 30 percent allocation and target has resulted in huge wastage of resources. Barry Wain a respected journalist claims that as much as 100 billion (US or ringgit does not matter for the enormity is beyond normal human comprehension) has been wasted by former Prime Minister Mahathir alone. Mahathir (right) did not deny this, but instead charged his successor Abdullah Badawi did worse!

ii. The breaking down of institutions, especially of the judiciary and education.

iii. Corruption at the highest possible level and at the highest possible amount.

iv. Domestic capital flight.

v. Drying up of foreign investment.

vi. Marginalising and alienating the productive segments of the population.

vii. Human migration away from this self-destructing madhouse.

Each of these points spell disaster for the country, and together they point the way to Myanmar and Zimbabwe.

Perils of power

How did this happen? My rationale for this blatant mismanagement is that the Ketuanan Melayu was experiencing power for the first time since the fall of Malacca. It forgot that in the modern setting, power comes with responsibility and accountability. As power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely it was too easy for it to forget its responsibility to the Malaysian polity but instead to institutionalise racism and by degrees to introduce theocracy.

They did everything under the ambit of agama, bangsa dan negara while mismanaging the economic fundamentals that would sustain the well being of the country in the world community.

For whatever it is worth I’d list down some items which I’d love to see in NEM come March 30.

i. Encourage secularism especially among Malays by encouraging the development of the individual spirit. This might just be the tool to break Malay ethnocentrism and hopefully opening their eyes to the world at large.

ii. Deinstitutionalising racism and theology. Scientifically, race is becoming an increasingly obsolete term, while religion is a matter of faith between one person and his god with no third party in between.

iii. Re-establishing the rule of law; be rid of the rule of private individuals. It is the law who’s king, not the king who’s the law.

iv. Promoting true people-orientated democracy.

Will NEM address these issues?

Early indications state the negative. For example an article in Malaysiakini (Mar 17) under the headline ‘Bumi rights to stay in New Economic Model’ hinted that all the racist and theological elements will stay.

sapp chua soon bui nazri abdul aziz parliament 070708 03Apparently Mohamed Nazri Aziz (left), Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department stated in Parliament that NEM “will not abolish bumiputera special rights, but will lay more stress on inter-communal cooperation”.

Then the latest enfant terrible (bad boy) of Malaysian life, Ibrahim Ali, via his Perkasa and ably supported by countless NGOs are clamouring for the protection of Islam and ‘Malay rights’ in NEM.

Such words and phrases are pretty standard euphemisms for more of the same.

In the event of which I say this to Najib: good luck to you but I can’t say that your NEM would be successful.

Repeating past mistakes again and again is somehow not the best way to heal and strengthen the sick economy.

AB SULAIMAN is an observer of human traits and foibles, especially within the context of religion and culture. As a liberal, he marvels at the way orthodoxy fights to maintain its credibility in a devilishly fast-changing world. He hopes to provide some understanding to the issues at hand and wherever possible, suggest some solutions. He holds a Bachelor in Social Sciences (Leicester, UK) and a Diploma in Public Administration, Universiti Malaya.

  1. #1 by monsterball on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 9:18 am

    There will be no end to UMNO BARU promotional campaign to help the Malay race.
    This cooked up NEM will fortify their election campaign…..on and on.
    After 55 years…still having a scheme to help Malays….Najib and his crooked ministers ..with the UMNO Supreme Council buggers…feel no shame at all???
    Can you imagine any country keep helping one race for 55 years and on going….yet the leader is promoting “1Malaysia”
    I tell you…Malaysian government under UMNO BARU.. is the dirtiest..most corrupted government in the whole world.
    Out-dated Acts and Laws are applied.
    The double headed snake of UMNO BARU…supported by MCA..MIC….Gerakan puppets…is just a gang of robbers and thieves…with UMNO BARU pulling all the strings.
    Those so call BN politicians will sell their please Najib.
    Yes…Malaysia is a sick sick country that needs voters…to show their might and wisdom…to throw all these crooks out …and change for the better….under PR.
    No two ways about it.
    Today’s votes cannot be secretive.
    It is for or against…for every voter to declare themselves bravely and openly.
    You will find for UMNO and BN are racists and lost souls. How many??

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 9:46 am

    ///You need a whole lot of rehashing of the mindset….It takes literally generations to master it…Malay leadership tries to make up for this deficiency, thus the formulation and implementation of the various past plans and models./// – AB Sulaiman.

    You’re spot on here.

    The success in achieving the goal depends more on the factor of attitude than aptitude per se.

    For a start an attitude of strenous exertion to compete with confidence for what one wants should replace a debilitating rent seeking mindset based on diffidence.

    One can’t improve human and economic capital with the NEM if it were to be based on same principles of Ketuanan as the NEP that thwarts and stunts it in the first instance.

    It is unrealistic to try solve a problem by doing the same thing at the level similar to that which created the problem in the first place….

  3. #3 by steven chan on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 9:47 am

    Malaysia could be a richer country than singapore or brunei with its latest oil discovery and abundance natural resources but alas its ppl have been hoodwinked and deprived by the BN cronies so that they could have generations of living in luxury living in palaces like Toyo and possessing lines of luxury cars like Ferraris,Lamboginis .They ensured that their feeling good life will continue forever by imposing their own Umnoputa laws and make all the courts “kangaroo courts” and recently parliament was made a “circus”. They are so creative in manupulations, schemes that the Hollywood movie directors are put to shame.
    Its time that all malaysians wake up to see the reality of the situations.

  4. #4 by HJ Angus on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 10:11 am

    A very good article and full of details but how many BN politicians can understand it?
    I am not a betting person but the odds of NEM succeeding are 10,000 to 1 against!
    The system has become too rotten to change and only an external force will change the future for Malaysia. Hopefully the voters in the next GE will do that, with or without Anwar.

  5. #5 by HJ Angus on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 10:26 am

    I agree with Jeffrey but with a less diplomatic stance:

    “It is unrealistic to try solve a problem by doing the same thing at the level similar to that which created the problem in the first place….”

    Insanity has been defined as:
    Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results

    In other words, don’t expect the BN to change if you vote them in AGAIN. If you really want change, you must vote for CHANGE!

  6. #6 by monsterball on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 10:31 am

    The scheme from NEP to NEM….whatever is UMNO BARU political survival tactics.
    Without race and religion….without showing how much they care for their own race…and certainly …without corruptions…UMNO BARU is dead.
    “1Malaysia” “People First. Performance Now” slogans???…all full of onion faces… dung and nonsense.
    Only school children can be fooled by Najib… those racists buggers..and melayu that get

  7. #7 by monsterball on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 10:34 am

    get…..hooked by big fishes..providing them small tenders and profits.
    UMNO BARU have applied this cunning art….since Mahathir took over.
    The real UMNO is dead.
    This UMNO a band of robbers and thieves.

  8. #8 by Bigjoe on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 10:39 am

    Bottom line is this – if the policy is to help those less fortunate and disadvantaged, then race is irrelevant making the NEP irrelevant. If Malays are those in need most, a general social policy will help them the most. The problem is the NEP has the dimension of helping those who don’t need it and over time, the proportion just grew dispoportionately so much so that those who need it get only the leftover that don’t help them.

    Helping the Malays, NEP is irrelevant so long as social policy is genuine. If the social policy is not genuine, NEP won’t help it. In fact, it stands in the way. So getting rid of the NEP has no downside for the Malays in need, it only affect those that don’t need it.

  9. #9 by monsterball on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 10:47 am

    Where is anak Shaitan Chengho?
    Love to know what he has got to say..with his balls carrying mentalities.

  10. #10 by Bunch of Suckers on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 11:02 am

    Hanjin Chengho is clearing or depositing his new paychecks from BN/UMNO at various banks!!

    After bank deposits, he needs to report back to Putrajava HQ for new assignments as what he must say and post in LKS blog…

    Perhaps, some body-to-body extra-activities are required for him to perform and sing Karaoke with human Dick-Mic’s….

  11. #11 by cintanegara on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 11:19 am

    Monsterball… Please talk sense. Don’t use your emotions all the time. …Open your eyes widely and get your facts right…if you dislike…doesn’t mean you should be a giggling fool…Malaysians admire great leader like Tun Dr Mahathir…Malaysia owes him a lot, and a weaker man could not have achieved what Tun Dr Mahathir did for this country.

  12. #12 by Godfather on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 12:08 pm

    Malaysians admire a great leader like Mamakthir ? The person who squandered 100 billion of taxpayers’ money over 22 years ? The person who corrupted all the bastions of check-and-balance for his own ends ? The person who still believes in Perkasa ?

    In any other country, Mamakthir would have been charged and tried for crimes to humanity. Cintanegara should start saving for Mamakthir’s impending trial.

  13. #13 by Godfather on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 12:10 pm

    NEM is going to be old wine in a new bottle. It’s going to be a redesign of the crutch model pioneered by Tun Razak…upgraded by Mamakthir…and now to be further upgraded by Tun Razak’s son.

  14. #14 by Winston on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 12:29 pm

    Now, with new discovery of more oil, UMNO/BN will do their best to dig in further!
    The PR must make renewed and superhuman efforts to remove them; with the complete support of the electorate, of course.

  15. #15 by dagen on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 1:07 pm

    19% only and it took them decades and billions and billions ringgit worth of wastage and excesses! Wow what good effort, umno; well more like one astronomical phark-up failure. So dont keep it up umno. Dont.

    I am quite confident that malays can make it too and they should be encouraged to improve themselves and progress like the rest. Umno’s way is already a failure a long time ago. And I believe that any other way would get us better results than that huge gaping failure umno produced.

  16. #16 by DCLXVI on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 1:30 pm

    cintanegara: “Malaysians admire great leader like Tun Dr Mahathir…”

    Sure or not?
    The old doctor’s own nephew had written a book entitled ‘The Unmaking Of Malaysia‘, which criticised the old doctor himself…

    cintanegara: “Malaysia owes him a lot,”

    … especially for the political biasness we see in our judiciary today…

    cintanegara: “and a weaker man could not have achieved what Tun Dr Mahathir did for this country.”

    No doubt, the old doctor was a strong man who twisted the arms of those who opposed him, in order to get his way, and he’s still doing it today from behind the scenes… (See what had happened and what is still happening to Anwar?)

  17. #17 by k1980 on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 1:32 pm

    Mamak’s RM100 billion scam if equally distributed among the country’s 25 million citizens would come to RM4,000 per citizen. 400 times more than Penang’s RM100 award for its senior citizens!

  18. #18 by k1980 on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 1:34 pm

    oops sorry 40 times more

  19. #19 by frankyapp on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 3:05 pm

    Malaysia thus had all the ingredients for sustainable growth from the traditional agrarian and agriculture-based economy to the modern manufacturing and services money economy……Well said Mr.Sulaiman but unfortunately it did not happen after 53 years of independence. I cite two factors for this failure by the Umno/BN regime. First factor is the Umnoputras being too individualistic,thus becoming pretty corrupted and arrogance and only wanted to lord over other races in the country.And the second factor is,the government has chased away most of the non-malays and some malays good brains.Moreover certain people who were not even fit to be ketua kampong were appointed into the cabinet to serve for years. Now how do you think Malaysia could succeed in the future when the political scenario still remain the same ?

  20. #20 by limkamput on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 4:54 pm

    Out of topic, but it must be said.

    1. First, why is PR leadership so dumb? Why must you fellows keep responding to these four former PR renegade MPs? Let them continue saying what they want and soon they will appear like fools. The more PR responds, the more attention they will get, and hence the more venom they will spill. By the way, please don’t use all the non-Malay PR MPs to fight with these renegades, knowing that they will use racism and bigotry to fight PR.

    2. Why must PR and DAP continue talking about the alternative budget? There is nothing clever about the budget; it only gives BN more ammunition to shot at PR. Look, PR is not in government yet, so stop talking about programmes and projects which (rightly or wrongly) are likely to alienate some sections of the community. Instead, just concentrate on the abuse, the misuse, the misallocation, the leakages, the overpricing, and the wastage of existing BN budget. This alone will help you to win vote to form the next government. Got it Tony Phua?

  21. #21 by ktteokt on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 6:39 pm

    No need for NEP or NEM lah! Just start an ADOPTION PLAN just like what they did in Zoo Negara, making it compulsory for every non-bumi to ADOPT a BUMI! The whole purpose of the NEP or NEM is to make sure these people get the best of everything without lifting a finger!

  22. #22 by yhsiew on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 9:42 pm

    Ku Li has made it clear, that is without political reform, economy reform will NOT work. Whether Najib’s NEM can be successful or not, it all boils down to whether he is brave enough to initiate POLITICAL reform.

    I think Najib should take a look at the former European Eastern Block countries and Communist China on how they have succeeded economically after boldly embarking on meaningful political reform.

    The Reform of Chinese Political System:
    ///Mr. Deng once hit the nail on the head when he stated that without political reform, the economic reform would remain purely superficial, and might even turn out to be a failure.///

  23. #23 by fed-up on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 10:43 pm

    Everyone can see that something is definitely very wrong. Need a change in Government. One that is efficient, far sighted and invests in the right place to benefit the people.

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