PM’s ‘happiness’ plan conflicts with his ETP

By Pak Sako
September 07, 2012

SEPT 7 ― The prime minister proposes to measure national development based on both a “happiness index of the people” and per capita income. He correctly conceded that increases in the people’s income do not necessarily result in increases in their happiness.

But spoken rhetoric aside, his words need to be measured against what his government is implementing right now.

This can be done by referring to the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and its New Economic Model (NEM).

These are the government’s blueprint and flowchart for economic development in the near term.

Examining all thirteen chapters and 471 pages of the ETP handbook or “roadmap” obtained from its official website, nowhere are the words “happiness” and “happiness index” to be found.

Searching for the surrogate words “wellbeing” and “quality of life” similarly disappoints.

“Wellbeing” in the ETP document draws attention almost exclusively to the “Ministry of Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing”.

“Quality of life” appears twice in the core chapters on the new economic model but only superficially, referring to past economic growth as having “helped improve the quality of life for Malaysians” and to the 10th Malaysia Plan’s focus on “building an environment that enhances quality of life”.

The ETP handbook on the whole does not talk about balancing or tempering economic growth against broader wellbeing or “happiness” imperatives. Nor would its orientation and thrust reconcile with plans to parachute in a “happiness index”.

And that is because the ETP handbook is essentially a pro-business, pro-liberalisation and pro-growth manifesto.

It accords with the prime minister’s concern with pumping up economic growth numbers, as reflected widely in the news media. It accords with his government’s policy actions such as its drive to privatise public assets.

In the same breath of talking up the happiness index, the prime minister himself took pride in the fact that state-owned FELDA has been sold off via a huge share offering to private institutional investors and such.

It is unclear how a “one-of-a-kind and unique” developmental model, as the prime minister put it, could be developed. It implies a clean break from the business-as-usual approach.

And yet the reality is that the development model now being followed is the same ‘neoliberal’ development model pursued by the government in the last 30 years, with the standard focus on human capital and whipping up labour productivity.

This neoliberal model is characterised by large-scale privatisations, economic growth that is driven largely by private capital and markets without the necessary controls or regulation, the “marketisation” of diverse aspects of social life, even in cases where markets cannot properly provide public goods and services, and significant income and wealth inequalities.

Here a word is due regarding former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s recent comment on inequality.

Implying that Malaysians ought to be thankful, Dr Mahathir stated that, “In America there is much inequality with 1 per cent being extremely rich and 99 per cent poor according to Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz”.

But Malaysia has one of the higher income inequalities amongst ASEAN countries as measured by the Gini coefficient, and this inequality is at a level similar to that of the United States, if not slightly higher (see the website of the United Nations Human Development Programme amongst other sources).

The economist Dr Mahathir cites has condemned neoliberal economic policymaking— the approach favoured by Dr Mahathir’s own administration— calling it a “grab-bag of ideas” about markets efficiently serving the public interest well through “privatisation, liberalization”, when in fact it is “a political doctrine serving certain interests” (see J. Stiglitz, “The end of neo-liberalism?”, Project Syndicate, 7 July 2008).

Under the present ETP and NEM, Malaysians still see well-connected capitalist interests having advantages in the economic sphere.

Prime Minister Najib Razak owes the public an explanation about the contradictions between his announcement about happiness and what’s actually being implemented on the ground.

Will the prime minister halt or reverse development initiatives, such as that involving Lynas and radioactive waste, which have clearly made the people unhappy?

  1. #1 by Cinapek on Saturday, 8 September 2012 - 11:17 am

    Najib’s “happiness index” is just a copycat idea from Bhutan whose Dragon king first proposed this idea in 1972 and later adopted by that nation as a measure of progress of that nation opening up.

    He might also want to borrow from Bhutan’s King who willingly relinquish all his absolute powers to push his nation into the 21st century.

    It is good to dream but at least have realistic dreams. If you have 100,000 people on the streets demanding free and fair elections, this “happiness index” is just a “shiok sendiri” dream. And a dream it will remain.

  2. #2 by Godfather on Saturday, 8 September 2012 - 11:36 am

    Mamakthir as usual is taking Stiglitz’s comments out of context. Stiglitz meant that 99 pct of Americans are poor relative to the 1 pct extremely rich. All of us are poor compared to the billionaires, but while America’s billionaires are made from hard work and equal opportunities, Bolehland’s extreme rich commute in private planes and helicopters, own mansions all over the world – and go all out to hide their ill-gotten wealth. Ill-gotten wealth obtained through the Mamakthirite policies of cronyism and nepotism.

  3. #3 by sheriff singh on Saturday, 8 September 2012 - 11:47 am

    Yet another ingredient in this Najib’s alphabet rojak mumbo-jumbo. Perhaps another hare-brained idea that will result in numerous labs, consultants and RM 1 billion budget to benefit cronies and hangers-on.

    There is really no need for yet another index. The people will immediately be happy when BN / UMNO implodes into a black hole to be lost forever. You will see immediate happiness all around. Angry Birds will turn into Happy Birds immediately.

  4. #4 by yhsiew on Saturday, 8 September 2012 - 12:03 pm

    ///Nor would its orientation and thrust reconcile with plans to parachute in a “happiness index”.///

    He is ever good at inventing jargons to fish for votes.

  5. #5 by sheriff singh on Saturday, 8 September 2012 - 12:13 pm

    A fool trying very hard to be ‘intelligent’. This man just does not have any focus and is all muddled up, a confused kid.

    He delays calling for general elections but he forgets he is PM by accident. He is still a PM without a mandate, so he should stop acting ‘smart’.

  6. #6 by Winston on Saturday, 8 September 2012 - 1:30 pm

    This is one cynical scum.
    He and his predecessors have been scamming, cheating, lying, scandalising and bankrupting this country and he has the gall to come up with a happiness index?
    Scum of all scums.
    Let him and the likes of him know very, very clearly that Malaysians will only be happy when they have recovered every sen from these crooks, put them on trial like ex President Mubarak of Egypt and have them in the slammer for life.
    Then and only then will any Malaysians be happy.

  7. #7 by boh-liao on Saturday, 8 September 2012 - 1:57 pm

    AhCHEATkor is a happi PeeM, happi cos mata2 so efficiently going after ppl who stomped on his n his char bor’s fotos or mooned over their fotos, some more, used d Sedition Act leh
    Really, apa itu? Gila aah?
    Since when pointing posteriors or buttocks at some1 is SEDITIOUS?
    Perkosa, UmnoB/BN members n retired armed forces kaki2 all EXPERTS at dis n more (like torching fotos, stepping on fotos, mutilating fotos, pissing, etc) – in thier DNA – YET, they were not n hv not been charged under d Sedition Act; nor were they HANDCUFFED leh
    Blardi double standard! Sicko! Time 2 CHANGE, UBAH – ABU, ABU, ABU

  8. #8 by Godfather on Saturday, 8 September 2012 - 5:55 pm

    Ah Cheat Kor can’t understand why folks are not happy…Mamakthir isn’t happy…Rose isn’t happy…all the UMNO bigwigs are not happy…until Muhyiddin has to give a warning regarding internal sabotage…

    The pursuit of happiness seems a distant dream, one which needs Idris Jala to rectify with another set of glitzy presentations and numbers.

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