Although the public had hoped for the best outcome from the trial of V Navindran as the man charged for causing the death to Kugan, they were not surprised when the verdict of the magistrate declared that V Navindran was innocent.
Surely Kugan could not have injured himself while under police custody. But why there was this popular believe that justice would not be served (as also happened to many similar cases) even before the said verdict was known?
Why is judiciary being held in such a slow esteem? Why is there a general conception that Malaysian's social, economic, and political institutions are failing like ton of bricks? Why a failure in one sector has an impact on the other sectors?
And why a general malfunctioning of institutions causes economic stagnation, or worse, regression?
In his analysis on the causes of institutional inefficiency of developing countries, Platteau (2008) lamented that one has to understand the nature of institutions with respect to their evolution, their ability to keep things as they are, and their reluctance to change through time.
After all, as argued by North (1990), "the major role of institutions is, by establishing a stable structure to human interactions, to reduce the uncertainties arising from incomplete information with respect to the behavior of other individuals".
If such is the case, through time, one expects every actor- agent will have to subscribe to certain way things are done as his behavior is constrained by them. Over time, an institution becomes "a self- sustaining system of shared values" (Aoki, 2001).
As an example, North (1993) rightly argued that a society that did not value innovativeness would produce pirates, not first class inventors. In the same vein, a regime which has little respect for human rights will not treasure justice, equality, fair- play, or for that matter good governance. Whatever the value system embraces by the regime, it shall flow to every department under its care.
The next issue is: Does institutions matter to development? It can be answered in three ways: i) North and Thomas (1973); ii) Olsen (1996); and iii) Tabellini (2007).
First, to both North and Thomas (1973), "innovations, economics of scale, education, capital accumulation are not merely causes of growth; they are growth".
There will be no growth unless the existing economic organisation is efficient. In this regard, how can one expect it if the judiciary system is not?
If the judiciary system is deemed efficient, why is Singapore the preferred place for arbitration?
Second, Olsen (1996) argued that one sharp difference between a First World country and one in the Third World lies in the types of institution each has.
As an example, a land- owner who wishes to undertake any development in Australia will quickly be advised of what he can do, and what he cannot do upon a brief meeting with a local authority.
Being placed into the same position in Malaysia, one will expect the transaction costs to be much higher.
Third, in economic history literature, the widely held view is that history shapes current economic performance through institutions (Tabellini, 2007).
In other words, a system of institutions which are falling apart will not deliver economic progress. A high income nation is something of a dream if Najib pays no heed to the role of institutions.