By Lim Sue Goan
Prime Minister Najib Razak has a new political terminology. When tabling Budget 2017 in Parliament last week, he proposed the National Transformation 2050 (TN50) in the hope of leaving a political legacy for future generations.
What Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin – who is responsible for TN50 – has said does sound quite reasonable. He says Vision 2020 will come to a close in three years and the country needs to have a new vision to lead the youngsters forward towards brand new goals.
Indeed, if we have a persistent political pledge and macroscopic vision, it won’t be a bad idea to spend the next 30 years to fulfill a new vision.
But, before we start talking about any new transformation plan perhaps we should first get a few things right.
First of all, how is the incumbent government looking at Vision 2020? Are they going to cleave it just because it was coined by former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad?
All government visions and policies should be continuous over different administrations. How are we going to identify our own weaknesses if we don’t even bother to inspect and review the previous plan?
Will the vision of a developed or a high-income nation be realised in three years’ time? If the answer is negative, then what has gone wrong in between?
The high income definition is based on US dollars, and with the depreciating ringgit, we once again find ourselves stuck in the middle income trap.
Secondly, how are we going to make sure that TN50 will not fail like other political symbols we used to have?
Najib had said TN50 will be an extension of the 2010 national transformation programme. The thing is, our previous transformation programme has not really produced the desired effects.
Take economic transformation for instance, the treasury’s reliance has now been shifted from oil revenue to GST, and our economic model is still largely dependent on the availability of migrant workers.
By right the government’s transformation programme should strive to boost the operating efficiency, but unfortunately the size of our civil service sector remains large.
The judicial transformation programme, meanwhile, has not achieved anything so far. The promise of abolishing the Sedition Act is yet to be fulfilled. As if that is not enough, we now have an additional highly controversial National Security Council Act.
Thirdly, when Najib proposed the TN50, he cited the New Economic Policy by his late father Tun Abdul Razak, claiming that the NEP had created a successful new generation of Malays in a span of three decades.
But, if we were to emulate the NEP and carry on with its spirit, the country will not be able to open up its market even after another 30 years.
The quota system and protectionism advocated by the NEP have restrained the innovativeness of Malaysians, and is one of the reasons the 2010 NTP has failed.
Najib has also said that we should become responsible people giving our best to our future generations while moulding a people of exceptional mentality.
All this should have been the common responsibility and duty of all leaders on both sides of the political divide.
Unfortunately, what we see instead, is rogue politics that is detrimental to the country’s rule of law and that spawns accentuated political confrontation and a torn society.
Therefore, the legacy that we are going to leave behind will only be a nation deeply divided and torn apart.
If we are responsible people, we must make sure the country’s finances are rock solid and sustainable.
Nevertheless, even as the government is doing away with subsidies on the one hand, it is intensifying its political handouts on the other hand.
The BRIM, which has soared in amount to RM6.8 billion, is an irresistible political addiction. Failure to control civil servant payouts, which will run as high as 30 per cent of all government allocations, is an act of gross irresponsibility.
Additionally, the mindset of our political leaders must also move up with the times. They must place the country’s interests above their own political gains.
There are as many as seven million Malaysians entitled to the BR1M, meaning 23 per cent of our 30 million population actually fall into the category of low-income individuals.
That said, the government cannot just advise the people to become Uber drivers or nasi lemak sellers in order to top up their meager salaries.
Siti Hajjar Ahmad, who has become a social media sensation with her Nasi Lemak Anak Dara, is just a rare instance.
University graduates are supposed to develop their own professional careers and the government’s responsibility is to make sure that university graduates can contribute their knowledge to the country’s development.
National transformation and the increase of Malaysians’ incomes all need additional doses of innovation and R&D. Unfortunately, public university allocations will be drastically cut under Budget 2017, with the research-type institutions taking the brunt of it.
We don’t need a bloated administration team of miserable efficiency. We would rather have a slim government that allows the people to exert their full potential and unleash the country’s powers.
We have already waited three decades for Vision 2020. While we are still willing to wait for 30 more years, please, don’t draw up another illusory plan to fool us again as we won’t live forever!
Lim Sue Goan writes for Sin Chew Daily.
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