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In business and gov’t, folk gain from competition

My fellow Malaysians,

You hold the future of our nation in the palm of your hands.

Many of us have already decided who we will be voting for, but those few of us who have not will be the ones who really determine our future.

It's understandable if in this mess that is Malaysian politics, no clear choice emerges.

For an undecided voter at this point, we might perhaps assume that both coalitions have some measure of appeal.

There are a large number of differences between the two coalitions, but if we think about the bigger picture, the biggest difference between the two is that one has been in power for all of our nation's existence.

It is as if for all time, our neighbourhood has had only Hypermarket A, and no other supermarket.

As in all monopolies, the lack of choice for the consumer inevitably means higher prices and terrible service.

Today, for what is in effect the first time ever, we have the opportunity to allow Hypermarket B to open its doors in our neighbourhood.

Viable competition creates immediate ripples: both competitors suddenly trip over themselves in trying to reduce prices, offer rewards, and provide better service.

Customer satisfaction means nothing to a business without competitors, it means everything to a business that must beat its competition to survive. A consumer without options is a consumer without power.

As we face the upcoming choice between Hypermarkets A and B, let us reflect on the message our vote sends.

A vote for Hypermarket A communicates to the powers that be that no matter how bad things get, we will stay with you. The more votes it gets, the more complacent we can expect them to be in the future.

Hypermarket B, being the new kid on the block, cannot be expected to have the same outlook.

They know that those who vote for them are taking a big leap of faith, and will very, very quickly reverse their support should they fail to perform.

Even if they do not come to power, a vote for B also signals to A that they should not take their customers for granted.

A citizen without options is a citizen without power.

Hypermarket A is probably not all evil. It is no longer the same it was when it opened 57 years ago, however. Being a monopoly for too long changes anybody and anything.

I think all of us have experienced in some form or another, what happens when any person or group is left in power for too long.

Power is a being onto itself. The wise understand that power shapes us more than we shape power.

The longer we ride the tiger that is power, the more it is that the tiger decides our course, not us; and that course is usually the course of increasing internal rot.

If there is hope for Hypermarket A to reform, they must dismount their mad tiger first, and those who have sat too long in power must be pushed out, for it is not something given up easily.

We do not expect Hypermarket B to be all saintly and a model corporation every step of the way. We can however expect them to bring a fresh approach and a more ardent desire to do right by their customers.

When they do wrong, it will fall to us to give them sharp reminders of how to do right.

Change can always be frightening, but the time has come for Malaysians to abandon their fears and take charge of their own fates.

Now is the time - the time not to install one tyrant in place of another, but to affirm our democratic right to change the government whenever we see fit. Malaysians need to feel that their ability to do so is real, and not paper theory.

Once we empower ourselves, there will be no turning back - never again will our governments take us for granted, and never again will we surrender to an unworthy few our power to form a better Malaysia.

NATHANIEL TAN believes this world is full of people, he was born to love them all. He blogs at and tweets @NatAsasi"