APRIL 19 — Ask any random Ahmad, Muthu or Ah Chong on the street about Vision 2020 and the typical answers you get may involve phrases such as “tall skyscrapers”, “mature economy”, “developed healthcare system”, and “high income society.” Politicians frequently cite Vision 2020 when announcing new plans to develop existing infrastructure or to attract more investors.
It is interesting to note that the public perception of Vision 2020 is skewed towards the economic end of development. To everyone, Vision 2020 is a symbol of economic excellence.
Is that really the case, however?
The official Wawasan 2020 website lists down the nine objectives of the vision. Out of those nine objectives, the word “economy”, in its root and inflected forms, is mentioned in only two of them.
In contrast, the word “society” appears in almost every objective – all but the first one.
I do not mean to stir up a pedantic argument about semantics, but the point I am trying to make is that we might have missed the true point of Vision 2020 in our fervour to physically mimic other developed cities of the world.
Have we lost sight of what is truly important? What is the significance of the overarching emphasis on the word “society”? We citizens make up the society of the country. Our society is characterised by what we do and how we think and behave.
Thus, we can say that the brunt of the focus of this noble vision appears to be on the role we citizens play in the development of a civilised and mature society; indeed, the adjectives used in the official objectives included words like “moral”, “ethical”, “tolerant” and even “caring.”
I read, with admiration, along with the rest of the world, the many awe-inspiring stories of the Japanese pulling out all the stops to help one another in the wake of the recent disaster which has befallen the developed nation. There were tales of people patiently waiting for their turns on the roads when the traffic lights ceased to function, of supermarket customers putting fallen food items back on the shelves while lining up to pay for their own goods, of people handing out free food to the general public and even of Japanese triad members directing traffic in the place of traffic lights. Where the distribution of supplies was concerned, people only took what they needed, conscious that supplies had to be thinly stretched and that there were also others in need.
Can we Malaysians trust ourselves to be patient, orderly and disciplined in times of a national emergency?
Can we trust ourselves not to exploit troubled times by looting grocery stores and homes during severe food shortages?
Can we trust ourselves not to hoard essential supplies for ourselves and share what we have with others in need?
If we speed past the red lights and engage in road bullying, liberally litter on the streets, and nonchalantly refuse to offer our bus seats to the elderly and the disabled, even in times of relative peace and stability, what is going to happen in the event of a national emergency?
We may need to rely on the government’s initiative and efforts to build state-of-the-art hospitals and new roads, to revamp our education system, and to rope in foreign investors.
But we do not need anyone’s help to spare a thought and care about other people. We do not need any fancy and expensive “moral development plans” to not tailgate other cars on the road, to properly dispose of our litter, and to offer our train or bus seats to pregnant women.
Let us go back to the basics, everyone. Clichéd as this sounds, change must come from within. By merely changing our attitude and mentality we can collectively achieve at least six of the nine objectives of Vision 2020.
Economic development alone, as I have already argued above, just does not cut it. When the year 2020 rolls in, can we realistically claim to have achieved Vision 2020 with only two out of nine objectives fulfilled?
* Yizhen is a final year Law student at the University of Oxford.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.