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Mahathir courted the japanese to invest in manufacturing in Malaysia but problems with companies like Perwaja Steel (Nippon Steel) and Proton (Mitsubishi) have shown it is not enough for just willy-nilly national ideas to be just announced - plain-vanilla due-diligence is needed. Where race, religion and rights are involved, that's an imperative which should be done and how that country has not been entirely rigorous with it makes for a global case study on governance.|
After Mahathir left, the new-economic-policy that remains the centerpiece of the Umno political party continues to be practised; it's a long story but basically it is used by Umno to make sure the meaning of special-privileges given to malays in exchange for citizenship rights for the immigrants who had worked in the old Malaya be implemented as special 'rights'. Probably an anachronism in this globalizing age when, as Friedman would have said, the world is flat. The problem has now mushroomed - because the malays based on the last census form about half the population; they're no longer in the majority compared to the others taken together; furthermore, the others are now fifth-to-sixth generation malaysians and are asking why special privileges/rights should exist for one group and not for all who are in equal need for poverty eradication, which was what the original intention of the policy was meant to be. Along the path of nation-building, the race/religion/rights equation got whacked by wave after wave of politicians who wanted to use it more to defend their own positions and less to solve the income and development gaps, especially since their political positions would mean power to influence contract peddling.
Therefore, things would be expected to be unhealthy, and indeed so. After so many years of Mahathir's management of the country, more problems have surfaced; recently the people rioted over increases in road tolls from agreements signed between his department and the toll concessionaires, companies whose shareholders are suspected to be proxies to certain people. He came out to confess his administration had only given agreement in principle to the awards but left the details to downlines who certainly didn't do a good job with the due diligence, eg. no traffic-increase impact studies on earnable revenue projections.
Of course, Mahathir saying that Muhyiddin Yasin was a good man would probably feign ignorance if someone says that the japanese in one state project had passed over bags of currency to the man, presumably to grease the deal. Nowadays they come out to say it's all about money politics - the money is needed to buy votes, especially from the local folks. So much for 'democracy'.
And the japanese which left during the 1997 crisis have not returned. When they came, they tapped all the incentives given liberally for foreign investors; virtually no R&D was done; straight import of semi-finished products at artificially inflated prices, and then reassembled for exports with a bit of mark-up for the wages which were quite low.
A new way forward is probably needed for that country. The present Badawi administration looks weak and some have said as much that cronyism has increased. Therefore looking at the whole episode, and given the still sizable chinese population there, i would think it better that Malaysia be engaged to China permanently, with China's overseas programmes finding a second base in that country.
But the problem in the negotiation at the moment between Malaysia and the US over a special Free Trade Agreement sits on the same thing as one might expect for any other country's involvement in that country - the special 'rights' translated into equity and other requirements for the investments. However, they may yet relent on case-to-case basis depending on the project. Best to first ask directly from them on application.
The hardest lesson for Malaysia remains education; the local chinese don't trust the national education system which has gone through wild changes; it seems to be seeking a fresh change with new blueprints to re-equilibrate the sensitivities of all the races now that they have found that chinese parents would rather send their children to private community-sponsored schools teaching mostly in the chinese language than the better-endowed national schools which continue to teach in the malay language except for about two hours of mandarin classes per week. The national schools had one time a lot of parochial islamic elements put forward by Umno to counter its political threat, namely the islamic political party (a political party which is mono-religious through-and-through), so no wonder the other races looked with dismay such sly insertions. There's some flim-flam in the universities too; despite what is said, admission to courses is not entirely based on meritocracy but on race; and except for science and maths, which are supposed to be taught in english, the rest are taught in malay; the sudden reversed change back to english for science and maths was made by Mahathir just before he resigned, and some people have said it was done over the heads of his malay peers who were quite resistant against feared loss of the 'national' (read: malay) culture. But then again, this same Mahathir who recently said Anwar (the sidekick he booted out) was constantly lying was also the same Mahathir, as much as Anwar, when both were ministers of education in their respective times, who was very much mono-racial and ultra in their championing of malay interests.
They're all cut from the same mould.
Any redeeming feature? making Malaysians, especially the malays, believe they too can rise up. Costs? humongous waste of public funds on poorly thought-out mega-sized projects that ultimately ran costs into future generations, with leakage of kickbacks to cronies and silent partners. Without such projects now, the old buoyancies are starting to grind down to realworld tasks. The bottomline lesson is this: pragmatism should always take precedence; anything less, and the future generations will have to pay for present excesses. The loss is often irreplaceable.
Mahathir today has lost avenues to the official structures he was so much instrumental in creating, primarily because he has become the main critic of Badawi, whom he had chosen as successor in the same way he had chosen Anwar before. His advisory positions at Petronas and Proton have weakened. He has to resort to giving blog interviews to present his views and comments. Trained to be a doctor, he seems to be getting the same dose of his own medicine that he was wont to dish to others who had criticised his policies when he was leading. The thing however is that a strong Mahathir now is very much needed to provide some proxy voice to fight for the same due diligence that remains missing in his successor's administration. Given recent contracts awards, some would say even more so.
Over a million chinese have left the country, and with that, the skillsets and networks needed to maintain national productivity in the face of a globalising world. And that says everything. Hopefully the Umnoputras will wake up before that warm country gets ghosted into the future.
And by the way, only a few people can have the power to command special forces to blow up someone. Let real justice be done for the poor girl.
[ Last edited by markwu at 2007-2-8 08:16 PM ]