DECEMBER 26 — In six days, it’s Wawasan (Vision) 2020. An unfathomable destination in 1991, yet here we are.
Malaysians need to judge for themselves here’s worth, in lieu of the past 29 years and what it means in this world today.
Aspirational goals are awesome, they’ve altered the course of human history before.
President Kennedy literally aimed for the stars when shortly after assuming office, he declared on May 25, 1961 that the United States will put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. To the moon, he said; it exceeded human imagination. [N1]
The fictional 2001: Space Odyssey film set a generation in 1968 to expect flying cars [N2] zooming about skyscraper metropoles under nuclear dust dimmed atmospheres by the eponymous year.
Even sliding goals, as evidenced by the 2015 Paris Agreement and its progenitor the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to lower emission levels to below 1990 in developed and developing nations, win admiration for the tenacity to pursue the impossible in corporate-driven economies and their politics.
As long as they are real or possess idealism.
Win before the race
Why do goals ignite passion in people?
Goals for the masses build their confidence in the future. The great unknown seems less daunting when shielded by the certitude of a dream.
However, to realise them as opposed to merely gain from their popularity, requires buy-in.
Which is why Wawasan 2020 was problematic from the start.
It’s February 28, 1991, when Mahathir Mohamad presented it in Parliament. Four months after a bruising general election, where Barisan Nasional (BN) lost Kelantan and Sabah. A body blow for the much younger PM and his Umno Baru. [N3]
It fuelled optimism.
Pumped up nationalism competed with scare-mongering from losers while manufacturing and commodities reassured the government’s credibility. Mahathir won at a canter in 1995. [N4]
It was not so, at the next general which convinced him to depart.
Separately, sugary goals can turn on you. Selangor mentri besar Khir Toyo found out in the worst way possible when after the euphoria of the 2004 state elections he swore to wipe out his opponents — zero opposition was the motto — in the next polls. Come 2008, the expected extermination instead became BN’s first Selangor defeat.
2020 recalibrated to 2030
At the eve of his 2003 exit, Mahathir reminded all the country was set to be developed in 2020.
Najib wanted not to mimic Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s (2003-2009) steadying the ship antics, therefore fashioned transformation for 2050. Thus born, TN50. Stillborn when Pakatan Harapan formed the government in 2018.
PM Mahathir, at the wheels again, defends 2020 and claims the hijacked agenda set us back by 10 years. Which meant the cue to a repackaged Shared Prosperity Vision (SPV) 2030.
Window dressing versus social upliftment
It was alluded above, goals without substance will reap short-term gains and result in long term follies.
Regrettably, Mahathir sticks to bravado rather than working hard for the people’s buy-in.
In this there’s little to separate Mahathir, Badawi or Najib. They rely on power to push their interpretation down throats [N5].
The New Economic Policy (NEP) being case in point.
In 1991, the NEP was held up as faultless after 20 years. Every expectation met and absolute poverty annihilated [N6]. Yay!
In 1991, the NEP was lowered from the gaze. Every expectation unmatched and grounds for further affirmative action via the National Development Policy (NDP) for another 20 years.
Both are equally true depending on which forum the prime minister’s spoken at.
Malaysians can't usually tell whether any policy’s a resounding success or not. They are usually told if it was, which in all instances becomes when rather than if.
Deriding previous governments only gets all of us that far, and no more.
Identifying long-standing errors offers us a chance to rebuild. Goals are still vital, but they must mean more than soundbites. The people should imbibe them.
Again, the recurring theme, to ask for a process which emphasises buy-ins. Chart a bold leap upwards based on adjustments to social reactions and needs and factor global trends and realities to its execution.
The years of pure sloganeering must expire. We look stupid when it’s an oft-repeated phrase with no connection with government planning, private sector co-operation and the hopes of the people.
The new environment is about individuals and not state-determined growth. State policies must facilitate a vibrant economy which has the individual — technocrat, entrepreneur, activist or professional — at the centre contributing value and cohesion.
If only to accentuate the point, education is in revolution. From physical location of learners and learnings, technological disruptions to market readiness through personalised preparations, challenging our children to ready for an economy yet to exist today.
Yet in the main ring, elders are fighting for cultural dominance via language exclusivity as seen with Dong Zong and the Malay right-wing. They don’t intend to win the future the for the children, just their survival for themselves.
Education’s part of the myriad of issues to be covered by our new direction post-Wawasan 2020.
Without any disrespect, SPV hardly captured the imagination of the orderlies at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre during its launch, let alone a larger Malaysia.
Shoving a bunch of goodies for as many citizens utilising ambiguous policy language only buys time, not result in buy-ins.
It’s tiring moving from one public relations exercise to another [N7].
If old Malaysia was weak, how can new Malaysia present a vision firmly entrenched in the past with no daring and not expect a public spank?
As it stands, it’s more post-apocalyptic than post-depression in Malaysia and the blame is squarely on leaders before and present.
They’ve choked inspiration out of our system and remain unflinching in their conviction to stand by their own self-constructed infallibility.
The answer? Easy. Step aside. Voluntarily. But step aside.
Until there’s new blood in the cockpit, we’ll continue to bleed.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.
[N1] JFK probably meant by 1970, which NASA managed with half a year to spare on July 18, 1969, but the Farmer’s Almanac would insist the decade ends when 1971 begins.
[N2] Malaysia may be late to the game, but Entrepreneur Minister Redzuan Mohd Yusof remains confident of his flying cars.
[N3] The ugly Umno 1987 election forced its deregistration and the formation of Umno Baru and Semangat 46 with sets of ex-Umno leaders. Operasi Lalang’s political dragnet and the sacking of the Lord President, inside the period, left Mahathir in a high stakes power poker game.
[N4] Racked up 162 of the 192 seats or 84 per cent, and the losers bar DAP and PAS returned to the Barisan Nasional fold in stages, their tails between their legs. It was Mahathir’s most complete victory and rejuvenated his administration and spiralled his grip on the national psyche.
[N5] Win by interpretation or technicalities, like how Malaysian public universities race to the top of global rankings when their graduates slip in industry estimate at the same pace.
[N6] Just as murmurs of Bohsia (Hokkien for trouble) emerged in social conversations, of teenage pregnancies and abandoned children. A result of broken homes and urban poverty, which obviously had been mitigated extensively by government.
[N7] I once pointed out to the man “contracted” with the most grandiose launches by previous prime ministers that when these schemes dramatically fail he’d be liable too. He was quick to avoid responsibility. If only he was as eager to avoid the fat cheques in the mail.