Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Innovation, Investment & Indigenousness

Most of the time, many big words together can mean a very simple thing - encourage our sons and daughters to think for themselves and put their own ideas to work, and hopefully make some money out of their efforts but importantly that their efforts be of services to society and themselves.


Do our children think for themselves? They do learn from the internet but not from schools. From schools, they learn the worst examples of sloth and cheating and lying from teachers, the role models they see and have to face everyday. There are good teachers but there are bad teachers, but the average impact is unfortunately not strongly positive. It is probably by a combination of resolved communual determination of parents and the community of elders that we currently have some form of defence against the infestation of rigidity and lack of effort in formal education institutions.

However, I won't argue that there is no space for creativity. Children nowadays have plenty of room for creativity in the classrooms thanks to the constant absence of teachers during teaching periods and the boredom and dullness that they manage to induce in their students. Creativity is the easiest form of escape for bored students to think out of the classroom and into the world of fantasy - and I am not at all surprised that the first career choice of my daughter is to be cartoonist or comic artist - how can I discourage her from a path that she has been talking during most of her formative years. (This is not to suggest that she failed her examinations; she got excellent grades, thanks to the superb tuition teachers that she had.)

So if a minister or an ex-minister wants to talk about home-grown investments, I think we have to fix the educational system by doing an overhaul on the quality and qualifications of the teachers, as well as their pay and the school curriculum - which means fixing the Ministry of Education. We have to put forward-looking and non-insular officials at the top.


Investment is not only about brick and mortar - this is the first lesson for all ministers, especially finance ministers and the people who are in charge of the dispensing of monies from the public purse.

Investment is about putting real time and money in a project in which real human efforts are applied. A lot of time, a lot of money is put in, but the actual effort is that of a foreign worker because the local worker involved does not have to put in effort (after he or she has taken a lot of the project money for his or her own pocket) or that the aforementioned local worker is so poorly trained as to be incompetent or so lazy as to be useless or so well taken care of by the system that social benefits can accrue to him or her by sheer display of non-effort.

Local investment is not about the government pouring in billions into the economy or selected pockets of the economy. Why? Our government has already done that for many years involving many billions, and all that we have to show is some good projects and some bad projects but lots of inflation until the inflation hits not just the ordinary folks who go straight into poverty land but also the not-so-ordinary folks who can only make money by importing and employing the real destitutes of our neighbours near and far. In this way, we can pretend to have local investments by spending local tax money and local savings to create jobs for poor foreign workers and make good profits for local project proponents who then quickly reinvest their profits from the local investments into foreign consumer-type products chiefly real estate.

Our government has done this before by giving billions of money to so-called local investment projects and creating local billionaires who then think that they are too big to be in Little Malaysia.


What is indigenousness when the government encourages the cannibalisation of the assets of one part of the local community with the view of using public money obtained through decree in the form of taxation to transfer those same assets to another part of the local community.

In economics, this is called transfer payment where a monetary transaction is made without any accompanying flow of goods or services the other way.

The immediate effect of such an effort is the flow of cash out of the system and putting downward pressues on the local currency. This impact happens because the action itself shows to the selling party that all their past efforts in saving their money and looking for ideas to preserve and enhance their capital is worthless because there is this big brother called the government who is supposed to protect them also as a government is no more doing that and that the earnest money they have paid in the form of tax is now being used to bring about their demise. This being clear, then the only logical thing is to negotiate price and get the hell out of here, therby driving out perfectly good indigenous investments. This is killing the goose that lays the olden egg, because there is an implicit rejection of the goose for some strange reason.

The only correct definition of indigenousness, in an economic context, is any person who is putting all that he or she has into the land that he or she is standing on and residing in. It is only through life-long sacrifices and devotion that the society is improved in terms of the ordinary provisions that the local communities can enjoy and through continuous efforts that the incomes of the communities can improve consistently. A person should be considered indigenous by his or her service to the nation, not by any other exterior characteristics.


Anonymous said...

Hi Etheorist,

U r most modest in the choosing of words for this write-up!

Let me try to be a little bit 'k'aipoche' to dress up yr essay.

Innovation - think no further than the vernacular educations system in bolihland.

Investment - how about PNB in real form? ASN interest return 9% while ASM 5% currently. The weird thing about these returns r both run by the same outfit & yet cater to 'different' classes of people!

Indigenousness - NEP, NAP or whatever nom that have been used to blind-sight the joe M'sian. No?

walla said...

Education should nurture nature to higher aptitudes.

But if the Bell curve is superimposed on a backward system, even those who would innately excel will lose their sheen.

However if it is superimposed on a progressive system, even those who would innately be given up as laggards may shine like lucky stars.

A good education system puts useful things in young heads, resilience in their hearts, and motivation in their guts to wonder about the world.

Knowledge, resilience and curiosity are the elements of innovation. And innovation is the rocket fuel of national progress.

So what is national progress? It is not the next block of buildings. There can only be so much innovation in construction, and construction cannot be the main activity to progress a nation. After all, a building is just a roof over a business whose imperative is to make money from selling useful and desired things or services.

Innovative businesses focus on solving problems by designing and making things superbly, teasing out secrets from materials and plants, even inter-locking ideas to create a new and winning business service.

These are the activities which move the fulcrum of global commerce and ring the cash register long after the certificate of fitness has been framed on the wall.

It remains to say that what is apparent here today is perturbing - sight is lost of education as a process to nurture innate nature to higher aptitudes so as to progress a nation to higher altitudes in order to look deeper and more productively at innovations.

The system has instead become a chore by both those who deliver and those who receive. Like yesterday's sausage to be recycled for today's same-old menu. Sight is lost of the final destination in the bedlam of still trying to cook up the delivery method.

walla said...


Indeed, it is strange that this is happening here. Don't we have some civilisational values which would have put so much primacy on education that real standards would have been maintained? Perhaps the politicians can answer that.

Or, perhaps it is weighted differently. Some can't focus more because they can't afford more, and that's where a social net can be fine-tuned to address. Others can but they get distracted by new attractions, and that's where a return to the old spirit of excellence and balance is needed.

In all this, the family unit is important as the locus to mesh tangential forces which can pull the young back to focused performance against other callings on their attention which will only dissipate their energies even while presumably accentuating new living skills. One should however hasten to add that sports betting is not a new living skill but then again politicians may disagree.

It remains to say that in the same way there has to be a nucleus inside a family to bring about focus, there should also be a nucleus inside the society in which families operate which can articulate standards of focus.

Today what are missing in the education system have spread out to society, leaving entire families clueless about what to do with their young who then waste time and energy, lose direction and are then diagnosed as having lost their identity.

And that's tragic because 'the greatest waste in the world is the difference between what we are and what we could become.'


So if national progress is about innovative businesses, what is needed for them? There are many determinants of innovativeness but this comment box is too small (;))

Leaving aside for the moment that efficiency is what is improved in a box while innovation is what is improved out of a box, perhaps one can argue there should be more efficiency in the way we do things which can contribute to being innovative.

How does one become more efficient? Carrot and stick is the old bolshevik method. State-subsidized training by spellbinding guru's could be another method. But, recently and perhaps due to over-exuberant spending, the state coffers have run dry so that the new policy is now 'in-house training'. Take that to mean 'you do your own thing at your own expense'.

But how do the people of a department become more efficient on their own? They need something to refer on what worked and what didn't. If that is called a knowledge-base, then one living skill good to have is the ability to write and keep good records of what works and what does not work so that they can be shared. Do include how decisions are made in tenders. Thus, transparency.

As simple examples, imagine minutes of meeting written in categories and kept electronically which can be searched by a web-engine. In one click, all the past decisions on a matter can appear in chronological order.

Or, if you will, the uniformed cocu societies and clubs in schools. How to organize an annual dinner or what is needed to host a camp or how to write a press release or why it is excessive to buy seven sacks of five-kg rice for a two-night camp of fifty youngsters.

None of this is happening. So without a knowledge-base, there will be no incremental build-up to wisdom. Without wisdom, there can be no focus on what to be more efficient in so that without specific efficiencies, the wheel will be reinvented with each new group which will result in loss of tempo in the national processes of....innovation, for if one is not good inside a box, how can one be good outside the box, especially when these days the box is either made in Japan, Korea or China?


walla said...


Investment and indigenousness (cough).

We have been investing in infrastructure and education but using the wrong method of treating both investments as ends in themselves when in fact they are just time tunnels to another dimension in space.

In the process of making those investments, we have been using two sources as funds.

One, by taxation of those who are productive. And two, by emptying the oil barrel which had providentially washed ashore from the sea.

In the former, someone had said one group has been the main contributor of income taxes to the nation which has enabled such investments to be made.

However this has been denied by the head of the income tax department who unfortunately provided no data to back her assertion, what more no explanation how it is that if other groups have also contributed strongly to national income tax, they still need some policy to favour and subsidize them?

Such a policy in turn reinforces the perception that some are paying rent through the government to others despite the popular notion all are equal since all were born in the same maternity ward, something the originators of the so-called compact must have missed completely.

In the other case, the oil drum is rusty because it has been exposed to salt water and the sun so that as it is being emptied with wild abandon and little means of replenishment or replacement, the rust also created a leak which is speeding its loss before unsuspecting eyes distracted by annual promises of plenty stoked by monthly fears of shadows, mostly man-made by the drum-masters.

With these as background, how can one not be reminded of how the Roman Empire had ended?

A craving for power in order to perpetuate the good life that cannot be sustained was what had destroyed that empire so much so its rent-collection by affected supremacy over the slave galleons taken from other lands and across the seas made its rent-collectors complacent, turgid and self-aggrandizing.

Drowsed by grapes and fanned by peacock feathers, they stopped innovating and investing. The empire thus lost the real indigenous core that had extended its reach - the qualities of the geese that had laid the golden eggs; some will say, the support services of those who worked day and night in their midst.

Needless the turning point had to come and it was the crossing of the Rubicon that later fractured the empire from within and weakened it from without.

walla said...


Dare we compare ourselves with the Roman Empire? Why not? After all, we are made to believe we can also walk on waters.

Indeed we too seem to have made our own crossing. To be more precise, many crossings. So many some money should be allocated to build a bridge instead so that feet won't get wet. Another construction project to be paid by money tunneled back from the future, therefore taking the meaning of net present value to even more stratospheric heights.

The rubicons we have crossed leave no room for imagination.

Politically it is now alright to buy votes using your money.

Economically it is now alright to spin about growth in the absence of real productivity.

Judicially, it is now alright to prosecute without a formal complaint.

Administratively, it is now alright to look the other way if it serves departmental interest even if such interest is contrary to general good.

Communicatively, it is now alright to find excuse for tardiness on grounds of the person being new, not of the servicing organization being old.

And personally, it is now alright to be smug about oneself if double benefits can be found for any decision, even if one of the benefits quadruples the suffering of the people.

In sum, rule of law has been replaced with rule by law.

Law is now used to justify double standards, omissions and commissions which are made all the more deafening by the silence of those who know while standing right in front of the very people who had elected them to serve.

And why are the people so tolerant of trust betrayed? Because the education system has made them timid which crimps their curiosity which depresses any initiative to build a knowledge-base and its absence stops all chances for wisdom which would have opened eyes and minds to higher aptitudes needed for higher altitudes that can be envisioned.

In fact, the whole business history of Asia is replete with such centripetal forces.

But this is Asia's century so it remains to ask what will be our strategic position in the world in this century.

The answer to that as we all may now conclude has to be recognizing the real human strengths within, not the transient cement and glassy strengths without.

After all, eggs if cracked from without will extinguish life. But if cracked from within, life is created and more lives will be propagated from each genesis so that great things always begin from within.

What with simple eggs, even more with golden eggs.