JAN 1 — Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity. — R.I. Fitzhenry.
At the end of a year, most of us not living in cave are “compelled” to read about predictions for the year ahead as if somehow gazing into a fuzzy crystal ball makes us “feel-good informed”. The predictions are typically couched with conservative language as an opt out to prevent reputation damage of the author.
Let’s take a line from my colleague’s son Shariq’s favourite cartoon show “SpongeBob SquarePants” which had an episode called Opposite Day for approaching and predicting 2013.
If stock picking can be done by monkeys throwing darts, then predictions, based on opposites, are just as valid.
The Arab Spring will not result in a winter chaos as Muslim leaders will send an appropriately worded “marriage invitation” to the opposition to come to the negotiation table without any pre-conditions in the best interest of the ummah, under the banner of “Never Again Muslim on Muslim Killing”. This will be co-broadcast, without commercials, by Al-Jazeera and Astro Awani.
Iran will open the doors to all its facilities and bunkers, and the inspectors will discover that the “West and its allies,” as propagated by Fox, actually talked up the nuclear Iran war-mongering to deflect their domestic challenges of sub-prime, sovereign debt crisis, fiscal cliff, Kim Kardashian, etc.
The Israel-Palestinian challenge will result in a two-state solution to mutually acceptable borders, and settlements will be halted in return for a halt in “rocket raining”. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (with PM Mahmoud Abbas) and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (surrounded by Hamas and Hezbollah, friends of peace, FoP) will shake hands on stage to share the Nobel Peace Prize, and the only flashes we see will come from cameras going forward.
Syria’s President Bashar Assad will join Tunisia’s ex-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a luxury retirement compound in Saudi Arabia, and will compare memoirs on “thought leadership principles” that may one day become a Hollywood movie called, “Sleepless in Syriana.” There will be surprise appearances by Hosni Mubarak (espousing justice), Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein (espousing humanity), Saleh of Yemen (espousing power sharing), Mohamed Mursi of Egypt (espousing principles of misunderstanding), etc.
The roles of leading actress, title song, and narrator are yet to be decided and there will be open auditions.
As a friend of Malaysia (FoM), the following suggestions, in no particular order, will be commenced:
● There will be financial incentives given for carpooling combined with HOV (high occupancy lanes) to reduce traffic jams within KL, and congestion charges to reduce peak-time traffic. Furthermore, the Smart Tunnel will have a higher IQ after an extreme makeover!
● To increase tourism, secular and spiritual, projects include Dubai Fountain at KLCC Park, as the existing fountain is more like a low pressured drinking water fountain. The leaders understand that bringing a diversity of humanity to listen to and view a variety of music to a dancing fountain will be the bridge builder that compliments diplomacy.
● There will be an imam competition, grand prize of an all-expenses paid haj trip for the entire family, whereby the khuutbah (sermon) for six months will be about the Quran/Hadith and scientific education. The community that produces the most credible papers (in English and Bahasa) reviewed by the faculty at IIUM and/or invention (patent filing) will be deemed a winner, and they (along with faculty) will accompany the imam for the haj.
● To expand sports by involving youth and non-mall walking exercise for adults, an air-conditioned indoor stadium that doubles as a training facility for promoting Olympic sports (hiring international coaches and not assigning a loyal minister) and hosting major events. For example, the re-energised Malaysia Airlines will follow the example of Emirates Airlines in sponsoring sporting events, from a Premier League team to the US Open tennis.
● Only three Muslim countries host the F-1; Abu Dhabi in the UAE, Bahrain and Malaysia. However, Malaysia will learn from Bahrain and build a bigger Motor City, sponsored by Petronas.
● The Talent Corporation will work to revise the education system for children until age 17, as financial packages to bring talent back to Malaysia are neither enough nor fair to existing professionals who stay in the country.
● Malaysia will stop looking to the Arab world for a badge of approval and acceptance.
● The high import duty on expensive cars will be reviewed as competition is good for Proton. At hotels in KL, expensive cars from Ferrari to Lamborghinis to Bentleys are often parked outside the lobby, surrounded by velvet cords, and Proton taxis are often discouraged to enter the drop-off point.
● Food franchise is often a country’s best ambassador, i.e., McDonald’s to Subway to KFC so a Malaysian country food brand will be appearing in London, New York, LA, Paris, Milan, etc.
● The halal standards of Jakim will work in conjunction with emphasis on food safety and quality system standards set by the likes of Pizza Hut and Tesco for the benefit of SMEs.
● CIMB Islamic and MayBank Islamic, two of the country’s largest Islamic financial institutions, will spin off from the group holding company and be taken public on Bursa Malaysia to attract Gulf investors who typically invest in market share-leading companies.
● Money will be set aside for recognised entities embarking on “crowd funding,” as a complimentary and stakeholder inclusive way to finance/fund SMEs.
● Malaysia will lead the OIC and ASEAN Economic Community as it has the vision, will and means to do so.
● The Spring elections will be free and fair with all parties recognising continuity of growth, development, and diversification policies being paramount. The potential “political cliff” that many are predicting will remain potential.
European Debt Spring
Europe will finally say “no more rescue” to the countries under the acronym of PIGS, Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain, and will allow them to default, which will become the undoing of the euro. The demise of the euro will see more countries start the money printing press, and the forex market will go from present US$4 trillion (RM12.4 trillion) to US$8 trillion a day.
Islamic finance generally, and Sukuk, specifically, will be used to refinance and restructure corporate and sovereign debt. The anti-shariah movement will endorse this niche market by default as it has much less trust in the conventional finance/banking system holding its savings for propagation against shariah.
The European anti-immigrant movement will hold a global anti-immigration conference with other like-minded organisations in Geert Wilders’ home country. However very few speakers appear as most will be held up at immigration!
The revival of the former Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, will herald Italy as the first G20 “banana republic.”
US and China Spring
The second term of US President Barack Obama will be more productive than his first as re-election, notwithstanding party pressures, is not priority. His “can-do” slogan will finally surface and he “will undo” some of the follies of the first four years. The fiscal cliff will be more like a “mission accomplished” sound bite as the “US is too big to fail”.
China will revive its economy with the once-in-a-decade leadership change and, externally, will continue to sabre-rattle Japan, be the counter-weight to US regional influence, and exert influence in resource rich Africa.
The head winds of economic and financial challenges will collide with the tail winds of political momentum resulting in an interesting inertia.
Where are the tea-leaf readers?
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.