Tuesday, July 28, 2009

BN may be superior but Pakatan holds the future

JULY 27 — Some 16 months after the landmark political tsunami of the 12th general election, Malaysians are beginning to consider who to choose at the next polls.

Even though Barisan Nasional (BN) has a track record of 50-odd years in managing the country, it is a bit of mismatch if we are to compare it to the fledgling Pakatan Rakyat that managed to take control of five (now four) states after the 2008 polls.

If it is a track record that we are considering as a criterion, we cannot dismiss the endless mismanagement cases, wastages and abuse of power that go on in the country. And that goes for both BN and Pakatan.

If we were to consider apple for apple, BN edges Pakatan on paper and age.

BN can harp on the notion that the country has managed to be transformed from a largely agricultural state to one now on the brink of developed country status, even though it may take another 50 years or so for us to be bestowed that honour.

However, the country would have been in a much better state economically and socially had there been a more transparent and effective system of management.

The public service delivery system has always been blamed for the laggard upward movement of the country.

The bloated but still overwhelmed civil service is an indication that manpower and resources are not being utilised efficiently, hence resulting in wastage of energy, time and money.

After the mini-economic revolution engineered by former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the early ‘80s until the ‘90s, the face of the country changed drastically.

Mahathir was more concerned with ensuring the country including his families and cronies got enough of the economic pie.

What was of less concern to Mahathir was the social development of the people, where democracy and civil liberties took a back seat.

Out went dilapidated buildings to be replaced by the dizzying heights of towers, smart buildings and the like. Rubber and palm oil estates were bulldozed to be replaced by factories and industries.

While the country's GDP per capita rose, it was still unable to catch up with our closest neighbour and rival Singapore. In the ‘70s Malaysia was on par with Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan; now the country is sliding down the rung and is currently about five times poorer than Singapore.

Under Mahathir, material development brought with it massive corruption and abuse of power centred on one individual.

Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's brief tenure was earmarked by the decentralisation of power and seemingly wayward governance.

Corruption spiralled and as the economy went downhill, less money was available to satisfy Umno and BN's grassroots as well as national leaders, Abdullah's inability or incompetence was a recipe for disaster at the hands of the money-hungry Umno leaders.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s low approval ratings when he took over played to his benefit. Najib would find it much easier to announce and say the right things as all his predecessors had done.

The outcome was the stimulus packages I and II, followed by a liberalisation policy as well as the release of a few ISA detainees and his pet project “1 Malaysia”.

One thing is for sure, BN never learns even after more than 50 years of experience managing the country and its people. Its inability to clamp down on corruption, weed out incompetent leaders and consider the people's welfare will bring BN down.

Even though Pakatan is beset with problems and with the trigger happy BN media not holding back, it will only be beneficial for Pakatan. This is because Pakatan leaders have no room for error and no space to galivant like their BN rivals.

Even if Pakatan and BN share a similar desire to seek and hold on to power, the rape of public institutions and selective persecution by Umno-BN will eventually play into the hands of Pakatan.

Pakatan will have to mature fast and avoid childish tantrums between each other and focus more on substantive issues for the benefit of the people.

Even if the Pakatan partners have different ideologies and pursuits, their sacred philosophical foundation is not based on racism, supremacy and hegemony.

To many ordinary Malaysians, the actions and not creation of hope will make or break leaders as well as the government.

Muaz Omar is a consultant with a regional stakeholders management firm based in Kuala Lumpur. Muaz Omar is trying to make a change by providing service to youths.

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