Report: Whether Najib wins or Mahathir wins, Malaysia loses
William Pesek says neither Najib Razak nor his challenger Dr Mahathir Mohamad can prevent Malaysiaâs slide into the past, while the economies of its neighbours gallop into the future.
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia appears stuck in the economic and political quagmire of the late 1990s and is losing ground in an increasingly dynamic region .
While China, Indonesia and its other neighbours are working to transport their economies into the future, Malaysia is trending backwards, according to an opinion piece in the South China Morning Post.
Malaysia is now two rungs lower on the World Economic Forumâs competitiveness report than when Prime Minister Najib Razak took the reins, writes author William Pesek.
Noting the intense rivalry between Najib and former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is trying to replace him, Pesek says a win for either of them is not going to help the nation.
He says: âNeither outcome means Malaysia will raise its game globally. Neither result raises the odds that Malaysia will beat the middle-income curse. Neither aftermath keeps Malaysia from losing ground in an increasingly dynamic region that China remakes every 12 months.
âAnd neither ending will happily extricate Malaysiaâs 31 million people from the late 1990s.
âMalaysia needs a course correction towards a more open and vibrant future, and at warp speed. It doesnât seem that next yearâs election will provide one.â
Pesek says Najib is talking about revival, epochal reform and about Malaysia zooming towards the ranks of the top-20 economies.
âBut the problem today, just as 20 years ago, is the quality of gross domestic product gains, not the quantity. The upswing in demand is driven by a populist, el ection-year budget, which Najib rightfully calls the âmotherâ of all stimulus plans. Itâs also the father of continued complacency â" a US$1.5 billion treat for farmers, rubber traders, fishermen and other vested interests that does not raise competitiveness.
âWhat connects Najibâs spending burst today with Mahathirâs two decades ago is corruption. Najib is overcompensating for â" and diverting attention from â" the multibillion-dollar 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal, which has Mahathir demanding his resignation.â
He says cronyism and the patronage system perfected by Dr Mahathir during his 1981-2003 tenure fell like a house of cards in 1997 and 1998.
âFast-forward 20 years, and the ghosts of cronyism past â" Mahathirâs people â" are returning to take on a leader scrambling to divert attention from his own controversies. Najibâs people are pushing back with a questionable inquiry into foreign exchange losses at the central bank on M ahathirâs watch.â
This focus on the 1990s says much about Malaysiaâs plight.
Najibâs latest budget, for example, lavishes goodies on politically contested districts. Political gimmicks, like eliminating tolls on highways, wonât increase innovation or boost incomes, writes Pesek.
Najib, he writes, has also not dismantled the affirmative-action policy â" instituted in 1971 by his prime minister father â" which gives Malays priority in government jobs, housing and universities, even though it âturns off foreign investors, curbs productivity and deadens the nationâs animal spiritsâ.
âThat headwind is bearing down on Southeast Asiaâs third-biggest economy. If Najibâs henchmen manage to pin 20-year-old currency losses on Mahathir, those headwinds will gain force. In the unlikely event Mahathir unseats Najib, is a 92-year-old firebrand with political baggage the outsider the nation needs?â asks Pesek.
Source: Google News