Treasure what we have

I lost my pet dog, a Shih Tzu, a short time ago. This cute little dog just disappeared. One moment he was still around, the next he was gone. This is an in house dog, meaning it stays only inside the house, and only goes out to ease himself. This is my children's pet and I have kept it for close to seven years.

I distributed flyers around the neighbourhood and advertised in the newspapers. It was the first time he disappeared and we knew that chances of recovering him were pretty slim. The whole family was upset, including my children overseas. I would never have thought that losing a dog would have such profound impact.

This brings me to the point I wish to put across today. Many a time we take something around us for granted. We don't treasure it until it is lost. By then, we would regret it but there is very little we can do about it..Very often people take their love ones for granted. This is especially true in the case of their parents. Many a time they only realise the loss when their parents are gone.

There is a Confucian saying which means that 'one of the saddest things in life is when a son wants to pay filial piety to his parents and he realises that they are no longer around'. I looked after my parents and they stayed with me until they died at very old age many years ago. I can proudly say that I was a very good son. Even so, I still miss their presence especially their wisdom and advice.

Similarly, with our system of government and our economy, most of us take our prosperity and economic progress for granted. Only when there is a downturn, everyone starts to realise that they miss the good old days when economic growth was so good. I dread to think what may happen if Malaysia becomes another Iran. I suppose only then, many of us will start to miss our present democratic system.

Our system has many weaknesses, especially in the implementation of the NEP and the corrupt practices and money politics culture. We need to change, we need to overhaul the system but do we want a theocratic state? No, most of us will reply.

For the economy, we are so used to have a 8% growth which we took for granted. However, in a globalised world, to achieve a similar growth, we must be prepared to work harder, be more adaptive to new ideas and be more liberal.

If the NEP continues in the present form, our competitiveness may be lost and we may lose our present standard of living. I hope we don't have to reach the stage of the Philippines or Argentina before we realise our mistake because by then it may be too difficult to reverse the trend.

The experience of the last century has taught us that a free market economy, without the protective distortion, is the most efficient for raising the standard of living of the people. Protectionism, on the other hand, breeds inefficiency and non-competitiveness. I have many a time urged our bumiputera friends to look far ahead, and accept the fact that NEP cannot be continued forever without hurting our economy.

If everyone wants to have a good life like before, we need a freer market economy and we need to open up certain areas such government procurement. If we treasure our present standard of living, then we must accept the fact that NEP cannot be continued forever in the present form.

Don't wait until you lose something precious before you realise how important it is to you.