Thursday, 2 May 2013

Dynamic Malaysia vs. Inflexible Singapore?

The answer is yes if there is a change of government in Malaysia after 5 May 2013. The new government led by PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim will present a very different Malaysia, in many ways more dynamic, energetic and powerful than before.  

Why is it so? The 3-party coalition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is doing some things that make Singapore success: A Malaysia for all Malaysians and good governance, accountability and transparency. 
["Some civil servants told me they are worried because Chinese now are more active in politics.
"Why are you afraid? Because he is smart? Because he is brave? Because he is persistent? Or because he is hard working?
"Why you don't elect such person instead of leaders who are stupid?" he asks, adding that the nation needs capable leaders of all races to lead the government.] – Anwar Ibrahim
This is the message PR wants to bring to Malaysian voters and there is 50% chance that voters will buy this idea and give Anwar a chance to run a dynamic Malaysia.

Now compare this to Singapore and look at the following and you will know why it is inflexible and refuses to change.    
[He said: “Doesn’t matter how things happen overseas, you may have strikes, you may have riots, you may have demonstrations when you have unhappiness. In Singapore, if there’s a problem, let us find out early. Let’s talk about it, let’s nip it in the bud, resolve it harmoniously and if necessary through arbitration. Let’s do it in a mature, adult way, which is constructive and helps us to move forward together.”] – Lee Hsien Loong
There are two observations here.  First we know already the May Day protest which had attracted 5000 (or 3000 based on MSM) people. Is PM Lee going to talk to them or just leave the matters die off? I don’t know. But based on past experience the answer is no.

Again, the past experience issue comes back for the second observation.  The past success of “union, employers and government” is to be maintained and strengthened. So, we see the May Day headline: “Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has stressed the importance of tripartism in the country.”

Tripartism worked well in the past because the rich-poor gap was small. Singapore has since joined the top ranking countries in Gini index. This model is certainly needed to be changed or discarded with a new model.

So, we are looking at two different developments in Malaysia and Singapore: A dynamic one across the causeway and a status quo in Lion city.

Why is dynamic possible in Malaysia?  The past 5-year economic performance of Selangor and Penang states indicates the possibility. These two economic powerhouses are held by PR in Malaysia after 2008.

They manage the budget well: 
FINANCIAL HEALTH: Both states placed a similar emphasis on achieving financial health. Penang projected an increase in revenue as high as 83.6% in 2013 compared to RM385.9mil in 2012. It also recorded a budget surplus of RM138mil for 2011, an increase of 312% compared to RM33mil in 2010 when there was a 95% reduction of debt. In the meantime, Selangor too recorded positive results with an increase in revenues from RM1.57bil (2010) to RM1.634bil (2011), as well as a 22% increase in its consolidated fund from RM1.58bil (2010) to RM1.944bil (2011). Both Penang and Selangor did well in managing their financial health.
And the reason for doing well is quite similar to Singapore:
[A common theme in the Pakatan states over the past four years has been that of good governance, accountability and transparency, which was used once again in this final budget speech. Selangor’s budget closed with a reminder to all that the coalition was one that stood for all Malaysians regardless of race, political ideology, religion or colour, and the idea of “good and clean house-keeping” that ought to be an example for the nation at large. Penang’s budget ended with the focus on responsible government, peace, stability and the desire for a state that is green, clean, healthy and safe.]
Good governance, accountability and transparency. Imagine if these principles are applied to the federal level, how much budget savings can they save and how much productivity can they improve?      

A PR federal government will bring dynamism to Malaysian economy. If there are fewer corruptions less cronies and more open tenders and transparency, we will see a new Malaysia and inclusive Malaysia.

While in Singapore, we still maintain our old practices and still dream of our old success. What we see in Malaysia is a big or total change and in Singapore a small or modified change.  

Here are two examples that a dynamic Malaysia is possible under PR:

Reasons for better service and income
Selangor chief minister Tan Sri Dato' Seri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim explained to voters the reason why the state is able to provide free water and better services to residents.  When he took power, he asked the chief secretary to check the reserve with the banks. As reported in Sin Chew the reserve was RM 500 million and after the checking the banks replied they were ready to give 2% interest. So, the state has now an interest income of RM 10 million for redistribution to the people. It looked like there was no interest payment in the past.

Selangor state reserve is small compared to Singapore. A small percentage point difference in interest or investment return from our reserve will make a big difference to Singaporeans. If our government is as generous as Selangor state, may be every household should be given free broadband service, especially poor families.

This is why the question of our reserve is an important issue. Its good governance, accountability and transparency cannot be left unchecked and the President has an important role to safe guide the reserve.

Political ignorance and ignoring the facts
Another example is Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA).  When more than 70%, 80% of the Chinese voters are not going to vote for you, there must be some big problems with the party.  Instead they ask the Chinese voters what they really want. In the top 50 richest persons in Malaysia, many of them are Chinese and this ratio is higher than the racial ratio of Malaysia.

MCA likes the PAP only looks at the monetary side, the rich and fails to recognise equal opportunity, justice, fair treatment, and the Chinese education, etc. Our second phase of SG Conversation is to touch on philosophical aspect. It will be a great challenge for the PAP to think out of money and figures in this second phase of national discussion.

In conclusion, a PR federal government in Malaysia is good news (encouragement) to the Singapore oppositions. It is also good for the PAP as a new dynamic competitor will make the PAP work harder (hopefully).

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