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A year to move forward, not backward

  • So far we only see moderate progress in three of the nine Vision 2020 challenges.

Sin Chew Daily

Without the slightest doubt, the 14th general election will be held some time during the first half of this year, and indeed he election is going to be a benchmark event, no matter how the voters will vote.

For so many years Malaysians have been pinning their hopes on political and national reforms, but unfortunately things have become growingly disappointing over the last ten years. There have been very little, if any at all, breakthrough on many aspects, meaning we will continue to see very limited effects from politically inspired reforms.

Tun Mahathir proposed Vision 2020 almost three decades ago. Whether you like it or not, and whether we actually can meet the deadline of becoming a fully developed country or a high-income country, the nine major challenges proposed along with the vision can still be used to gauge how far this country has progressed while offering us an opportunity to ponder how we can bring about true reforms the extra-political way.

The first of the nine challenges is to build a united Malaysia where all citizens share some common values and goals. We are a peaceful country where people from different backgrounds are able to live together in relative harmony. We strive to build a country whose citizens are loyal to it and would identify themselves as "Bangsa Malaysia" first.

According to a local scholar, political divisions and racist politics continue to bog down on the nation's progress in this direction, and he is even concerned about signs of further regression.

Over the past one year, racial and religious extremism is showing a trend of increasing severity, buoyed by people carelessly issuing divisive remarks over the social media.

Although some of the concerned members of the public and organizations in the likes of G25 have kept expressing their worries, our political leaders seem to be unperturbed as if they are condoning such acts of extremism. It appears to many that royal intervention is the only avenue to keep the mouths of extremists shut.

Such a situation has rendered the fifth challenge under Vision 2020 -- to build a liberal and accommodating society where all Malaysians can freely practice their preferred ways of living, cultures and religions -- an empty talk.

In the meantime, the fourth challenge -- to create a morally healthy society adhering to religious values -- is seen in a reverse gear as religious fanatics try to suppress others in the name of religion.

When irrational behaviors are manifested in many different aspects in life, in particular the immature and illogical behaviors of Malaysians on the social media, the third challenge -- to develop a democratically matured society with enhanced mutual understanding -- will never be fulfilled.

In the appraisal of this specific scholar, we only see moderate progress in three of the nine challenges, namely challenge 2 (realizing our own potentials), challenge 8 (economic equality) and challenge 9 (creating a competitive, vibrant, dynamic and resilient economy), largely due to the success of government policies such as the NEP that has spawned an emerging Malay middle class.

Having said that, there are still many in this country that lack economic competitiveness. They are still struggling to make ends meet and constantly fretting about the rising cost of living.

We can see that all these years this country has been plagued by the same old problems as well as racial, religious and political issues that have been regularly exploited by the irresponsible from time to time to reap political benefits. This happens not only among our politicians but also those in religion and business as well.

When everyone is preoccupied with such issues and emotions, many more important aspects such as the management and execution of government policies will be overlooked. Issues such as forex losses and 1MDB continue to be played up, causing Malaysians to lose faith in their country while sending foreign investors packing.

As the world is embracing Industry 4.0, we should have put more resources to research and develop more innovative ideas to revitalize the national economy and boost our competitiveness.

Undeniably we have made some progress in innovation in some sectors such as palm oil refining technologies. By right we should have an edge in commodity-related technological innovation. The thing is, do we really see that?

Generally speaking, we cannot count on politics alone to attain greater achievements in the nine challenges under Vision 2020. We have seen inaction on the part of politicians to bring about real reforms.

To ensure breakthrough development in 2018 and beyond, we not only must vote wisely in the coming election but also think and act more maturely.


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