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Nationhood: No nation, many hoods

As in years past, Umno (at its general assembly) was trying to whip up flagging support again with their usual racially-laced rhetoric. I guess their motto is 'When all else fails, we can always rely on the race card to salvage us'.

It has been a painful experience to watch one BN administration after another, since independence, experiment with half-baked ideas across the entire spectrum of Malaysian issues while pushing the country further down the slippery slope of irrelevance.

What this country lacks and needs so badly to put us back on the correct path to a position of pre-eminence all-round is:

  • a singular disciplined, well-educated, fair-minded and selfless leader to acknowledge the incompetence and blunders committed thus far

  • a solid vision for the country and a charted migration-path to get there

  • well-qualified people (we have them but...) to deploy the model

  • enforced rules and accountability for the results

When you look at the political landscape in Malaysia, what do you see? Corruption, a high crime rate, lackadaisical local government councils, an education system that has gone to the dogs, a sycophantic judiciary, a gagged press, MPs un-educated in the process of parliament, lack of accountability, absence of good accounting practices, gross inability to come to grips with realities and ... well, you've heard them all before.

The caliber of leaders we have at the helm of government is woefully dismal. There are no visionaries among them that has enough foresight to see economic opportunities for the well-being of the country. There are no 're-engineering' minds within the BN leadership to re-invent the government in this fast-moving global marketplace.

In stark contrast, just look at PAP's Singapore a country with virtually no natural resource but somehow keeping a very close finger on the global economic pulse and reacting to changes in market conditions. It ranks high in almost every 'investment potential' report I read as part of my job in a corporate position.

I am not parlaying the PAP model but we can learn aspects of good leadership from every quarter. In Malaysia, it will take a radical leader with high ideals and justness tempered with practicality to deal with the issue of graft in an effective way.

On formulating a vision (an intermediate goal within five years and a long-term goal of 10 years, you can only predict so far, accurately), I see none. The NEP does not count since it is flawed with its one-sided approach. You'd think that with each end-of-term governorship, BN politicians would take stock of how they had performed against plan and then make course-corrections for the next term of office, refine plans and keep re-calibrating themselves so that they get better and better with each passing year.

The BN machinery has had almost half a century to refine their governance model but the current state of affairs in Malaysia does not reflect any learning. Maybe it is just me, working outside the country for the past 30 years and so used to expecting a high caliber of output, that I cannot fathom how so much gross incompetence has gone unchallenged thus far.

What is sad is that the siege-mentality of the BN leaders and their tiring rhetoric (to boost their flagging popularity) on race-dominance renders them incapable of thinking out-of-the-box and hence consigns all their expensive public-funded ideas to a pre-determined state of doom.

The solutions are there for all to see but the will (unfortunately, for Malaysia) for the moment remains the stuff of dreams. On charting a progress path, how can you when you don't have a clearly defined (and bought-in by all) 'end-state' in mind?

If you look at all the yardsticks used by the major investment corporations in ranking stability (and therefore, consequently the development potential) you will find that countries like ours that practice race-based policies will always be in the 'also ran' category of developing nations. Excellence, as a performance criterion, will always be compromised in such endeavours and the best brains will not evolve to the top under these circumstances.

I have really given up hope of seeing a true leader emerge from the ranks of the BN (or the opposition, for that matter) during my lifetime. The only reason our economy has not been bankrupted thus far is the strong position held by our natural resources, especially oil. These cushion the fiascoes and misadventures of the government such that we don't really feel the real impact of their follies.

As a Malaysian professional and businessman living abroad, it saddens me to see the likes of China and India (that were behind us, economically) making gigantic strides in their development while Malaysia, which had all the elements of success within it at one point, falls further and further behind.

It is very frustrating to see so much of the country's potential being wasted by the BN machinery while the country is trotting, double-time, to Third World standards of service and competitiveness.

For now, on nationhood, we have (mostly) little of the nation but many hoods.