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‘Perception is reality’ whether we like it or not

January 6, 2017

It is time the authorities admit if the "noise" being blamed for creating the wrong perception of the country, is in reality verifiable information that is affecting the economy.

COMMENT

'Perception-is-reality'By TK Chua

I read that our economy is being affected by “noise” fed by the alternative media. As a result, the wrong perception that is created is weighing down our economy at present.

The word “noise”, in one of its most basic definitions means “unexplained or unexpected information that is not useful or that can be ignored”. The word “perception” means “a belief or opinion held by many people based on how things seem” (Cambridge dictionary).

I believe this is how the treasury secretary-general looks at the “state” of the Malaysian economy today – it is the “noise” which gives rise to a wrong perception that is not based on reality. The economy is doing fine, but persistent noise gives the impression that the economy is doing badly. To turnaround this situation, we have to get rid of the noise so perceptions can change.

To begin, we have to look at what this so-called noise is made up of. I leave it to you to decide whether the following is “noise” or “verifiable information”.

  1. 1MDB and its plethora of problems;
  2. The court cases in the US and Singapore and investigations in other jurisdictions;
  3. The escalation in the cost of living that far outstrips the GST rate;
  4. The falling value of the ringgit that far surpasses those of other regional currencies;
  5. The continued fiscal deficit and the added burden of public debts. Just what is the percentage of debt servicing to operating expenditure now?
  6. Questionable and burdensome public infrastructure investment programmes;
  7. The problems in Felda, FGV and other GLCs;
  8. Unemployment of graduates and their inability to service study loans;
  9. Serious differences over policies on race, religion, education and economic management;
  10. Political parties hardly being able to compromise on any issue.

If the above is considered verifiable information, how do we expect people to perceive differently or wrongly?

There is a saying: “Perception is reality”. What we perceive is based on what we experience or observe. Occasionally we may draw wrong inferences from our experience or observation but it is difficult to fathom we are wrong all the time. More often than not, experience and observation are our best teachers.

In Malaysia, we tend to blame everything on wrong perceptions. We blame noise that gives rise to the wrong perceptions as if perceptions are something that can be orchestrated, managed or manipulated.

Here is my question to the authorities: If a few netizens can create a “wrong” perception, why can’t the authorities create the “right” perception? I am sure the government has more resources at its disposal to dispel any wrong perception and to put in place the right perception.

We cannot run away from the truth, can we? We may choose to manipulate the present situation, but truth shall prevail. Why argue about the pump price of petrol being more than one pound per litre in the UK when the people there are earning in pounds the way we are earning in ringgit? It is a choice of whether we want to talk like an economist or a layperson at the coffee shop.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

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