Old wine in new bottles — Lim Sue Goan
JULY 10 — The second debate between MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng touched on history and it could indeed help to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Dr Chua said that the MCA has never been absent from nation-building efforts from Day One. Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng are citizens of Malaysia, because the MCA had fought for the right of citizenship for Chinese born. Meanwhile, Lim Guan Eng said the policies of the MCA and BN represent the past, whereas the policies of the Pakatan Rakyat represent the future.
In fact, it is not necessary to mention the old days of independence. Let’s talk about the missed historical opportunity 21 years ago.
In 1991, the then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad mentioned the Vision 2020 in the Sixth Malaysia Plan to build a united society with common goals and firm values. The objective was to create a free, democratic, open and competitive country with a fair economic environment that leads the country to confidently progress. It wants to make Malaysia a model for other developing countries.
At that time, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore were hailed as the Four Asian Tigers, whereas Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines were Tiger Cub Economies, and the outside world was optimistic about the development of Malaysia, a country pursuing comparatively open policy.
However, the 1997 Asian financial crisis collapsed the Tiger Cub Economies. Malaysia was indifferently treated by the international community due to its capital control policy that isolated the country.
The situation 21 years ago was similar to the current situation. Freedom, democracy, openness, economic prosperity and the increase of national income were highlighted at that time and today, the transformation plans carry the same goals. At that time, we still had 29 years to achieve the vision. However, could we still be as optimistic as before as it is now only eight years left?
The country has created a number of records recently. For example, the sale of shares in state-backed hospital operator IHH Healthcare Bhd and palm oil firm FELDA Global Ventures Holding (FGVH) made Malaysia the third biggest listing of the year globally and Asia’s top IPO destination for 2012, and the FTSE index also climbed to a historical high. When other countries have to cut interest rates to stimulate the economy, we keep our interest rate unchanged.
There are also a series of people-friendly measures yet to come, including bookstores named Kedai Buku 1 Malaysia and fabric stores coined Kedai Kain 1 Malaysia. It seems like we are not at all affected by the global economic slowdown.
However, some data keep us rational. As local funds accounted for 84 per cent of the stock market, it shows why the Malaysian stock market is so defensive. The public debt of Malaysia is 52.6 per cent of GDP while Singapore’s public debt is 100.8 per cent of GDP. However, the foreign exchange reserves of Malaysia are 43.8 per cent of GDP while Singapore’s are 93.6 per cent of GDP.
A number of scandals have been exposed since 1991, including the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) and National Feedlot Centre (NFC) scandals. Even Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Chor Chee Heung had mentioned when asking a question in the debate that corruption has cost us RM26 billion. Vision 2020 and the transformation plans have failed to curb corruption due to the lack of political commitment and execution.
The national fiscal deficit originated from the Asian financial crisis. Today, no one talks about striking a balance between expenditure and revenue. Even the transformation plans would not be able to help. Reuters reported that the fall in crude oil prices might worsen the Malaysian deficit to 6.5 per cent
If our policies are effective, it is impossible for us to remain at the status quo for 21 years. In the face of the same old problems, the crux would be having the same wine in new bottles. — mysinchew.com
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.