Free Malaysia Today
December 31, 2014
As we prepare to bid farewell to 2014 and to welcome 2015, we inevitably ponder over the past and hope and pray for a better year.
This year was highly eventful, with many triumphs and several tragedies. We enjoyed overall peace and stability, but we also had to face risks to our progress and sustainability as a united and progressive nation. Many of these risks were of our own making.
To succeed in 2015 and beyond, we need to resolve to firmly address some vital issues. I would therefore like to propose the following resolutions for our beloved country and people.
National unity has to be strengthened
We have to re-dedicate ourselves to strengthening national harmony and cohesion. National unity has been seriously strained by racial and religious bigotry and extremism, especially from some irresponsible and un-Malaysian and under-qualified politicians. All true Malaysians must no longer condone extremism and bigotry by our silence.
We should also not tolerate the lack or absence of adequate counter measures and punishment of the disrupters of our peace, security and stability. Extremists must be resolutely restrained and restricted on a continuing basis, without bias . They must be isolated, ostracised and rejected now and at every future election.
Exclusiveness and supremacy must be phased out
The growing focus since the 1980s on the exclusive development and progress for mostly the elite Malaysians, often based on privileges of birth, class, race, religion and political positions, must be phased out sooner rather than later. Otherwise, society will react.
Priority for socio-economic development must therefore be given to the lower 40% of our income groups in the interest of our religious and moral values of justice and compassion. To give less attention to the poor will be to go against our religious beliefs and moral principles.
Good governance is imperative and urgent
The enormous wastage of public funds and of our taxes have to be drastically reduced urgently, if not eliminated altogether. Corruption and cronyism, which promote and protect the interests of some of the rich and powerful people in our society, should not be treated lightly. The real victims of bad governance are the poor and the middle income groups, who will feel marginalized and ignored.
If too little is done too late to address these sensitive problems of poverty and income inequality, there can be social unrest. We have to remember that it is the poor and middle classes all over the world that lead resentment against repression.
Our national Institutions have weakened and we cannot afford to let them slide. The rule of law must prevail at all times. The public services must be made more meritocratic and independent. For us to progress, any sign of state capture that enables governments to use the system to perpetuate its rule has to be resisted.
Economic and financial fundamentals need to be made more sustainable
The integrity of the budget and the 5-year Long Term Perspective Plans must be continuously protected. There must not be lapses or excuses to meet short term political expediencies.
If budget deficits, balance of payment weaknesses, national and personal debts and, particularly, inflation are allowed to deteriorate or even ignored, our current economic strengths can collapse very quickly. The rakyat can then be badly hit and will ask why they should suffer and continue to be patient and tolerant of inefficiencies.
It’s no use lauding our present relative economic strengths as these can turn sour very fast. The crucial determining factor to our continuing progress is local and international confidence in our capacity and prospects to manage the country fairly and prudently.
Foreign and domestic Investments, the brain drain and illicit capital outflows can rapidly worsen if we do not adopt more competent, competitive and liberal policies despite what some half baked politicians may say and do.
The world does not owe us a living and we must fight to find our way in the highly competitive global environment, whether we like it or not. Let’s not listen to or be influenced by the theories of half baked extremist politicians.
Our national and self confidence must be raised
Finally , we must resolve to raise our self confidence, our national confidence and indeed the international confidence in our potential for continued progress.
The whole world is experiencing uncertainty and some lack of confidence on all fronts. The world economy and the Malaysian economy are struggling along at a slow pace due to economic mismanagement, war mongering, the instability of oil prices, the unpredictability of climate changes caused largely by mankind, stifling pollution, poor health standards, severe extremist militant threats, social unrest generated by poverty and the consequent wide income disparities and tremendous competition under globalization.
How confident are we that we can overcome these critical challenges to beat the odds and to overcome our structural weaknesses in order that we may continue to be steadfast on our road to progress?
We need to sincerely question our conscience as individuals and as a nation with a broad and long term perspective. Are we prepared to face these challenges dynamically or with the old modes of thinking
within the box?
I believe that Malaysians will feel more confident only if the vital Issues mentioned above are sincerely and thoroughly addressed by our leaders at all levels, with urgency and firm resolve.
I belong to the Merdeka generation and, like the Group of 25, I wish that our government and all Malaysians would resolve to revive the Merdeka spirit of a happy and progressive Malaysia.
We have to resolve to face and overcome these vital issues or we will not move forward. Indeed, we could decline.
Have a happy and blessed 2015 and beyond.
Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam is Chairman of the ASLI Centre of Public Policy Studies.
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