Monday, September 14, 2015

Malaysia: Post-Capitalism

I am rather unused to my current stream of consciousness that is plaguing me like mad about the very sorry state of this would-have-been great country of ours, our cultural diversity promising to be an example of the how the modern world could live with Islam as a major component, while we have many prominent and titled personalities sitting with the PM thinking of how to pick the brains of the not so prominent and not so titled individuals who have been putting up with incompetents in our daily lives. This is not supposed to be a rant.

I do not think that this time round, we can solve our economic problems like we did in the aftermath of 1997. Then, it was long-term investment funded by short-term capital, the mega projects instituted on the expectation that the economy was then on a quantum leap, and the opportunities affording the political boys to among the corporate leaders. The financial fallout put the political boys in a financial disaster and they just had to be rescued, if the political leadership of the day had to survive. That was prompted and expeditiously done.

Today, the problem is a more serious one, not that it is a direct home-made one because it is substantially not the case. It lies in that great global structural change that I had written earlier about.

But it is not enough that (a) we wish oil can go back to US$100, for it may instead go to US$20, some say; (b) we do not raise interest rates; (c) we do not impose capital controls, and this is what the market fears and unless this fear is removed, the ringgit will remain weak; (d) we remove the GST for we have already built in the inflationary expectations into the system and removing GST or zerorising it will not reverse prices, as official institutional inefficiency has already infested the private sector.

At the same time, we have GLCs that are monopolising and politicising the economy, maybe as desired, but certainly not without economic costs. Privatising those assets will be a step in the right direction but whether that will help or not would really depend on how it is privatised, or whether it will be put for greater efficiency.

We have to restructure the national economy and put it onto a proper footing for the future.

We all know that the information technology has now completely changed the world, and it has indeed. Social information is now creating a life on its own, and people are connected to create their own virtual world which they now enact in real life. Segments of society want to send out their messages and they do that enmass on foot. They idealise in their virtual world and they want the real world to be frictionless and instantaneous as well. They want sharp drastic and significant changes to society and life because they want the opportunity to create their own world. As not everyone will come to a consensus, it is likely that upheavals of all kinds will take shape for display in the social media. We are having a more versatile and more volatile society, and we would expect the authorities, those whom society has delegated some of our powers to, to be able to know how to maintain law and order in such a messy environment. The authorities have done well so far, and their continued ability to maintain public restrain and disciplined is important and critical.

Economically, however, we have the two superpowers - the US and China - sucking all the resources from the rest of the world. The QE has introduced this global inflation which is precisely the best way to siphon off resources. China has used its cheap labour to monopolise all labour-dependent activities such that global wages have been driven down to near zero, creating a standard of living among the labouring class at par with those in China. This is where Bangladesh and Indochina workers come to Malaysia to ensure absolute joblessness among working Malaysians at home. With this happening in the underbelly of the national economy, it is not unrelated an issue that Malaysians on both sides of the social divide are coming out to show their discontent. To have the red shirts pitching the yellow shirts and all the other demonstration of public strength and power is not but a reflection of the deep sense of insecurity that everybody is feeling about the state of the nation.

The government knows that the information system is basic to the new Malaysian economy of the future. That ICT backbone must therefore be competitive and efficient. But Malaysians are paying huge fees every months for a quality of IT service that cannot be said to be adequate for the present, and hence worse for the future. Monopoly and collusion are the killers. These big IT firms can make their huge profits to satisfy their shareholders but they are doing a disservice to the general public and the future of the nation.

A nation that is competing with the rest of the world on a fraction of its strength and capability is not living up to the full potential of its people. This creates discontent and hence a potential political disaster for the incumbent government. But a new government coming in will not do better either. Because we have not laid the future of our nation for our young to conquer. We must not allow old men who have past their prime to dictate the future; they have already done their damage in the past. Malaysia must really push all Malaysian youngsters to the forefront. The opposition which once was young is now not young any more. Their is a need for a third force to rise. The rising in the streets, in that one instant, is a good sign that the young is still keen and interested in the future of this country. This enthusiasm must be grasp as an opportunity to built the new Malaysia, instead of killing it and pushing everybody into the underground where only those with political might can show their emotions.

The future is the world of social media propagated information, no matter we like it or not. It may be utter true or false, but it is the reality. We act on perception, and confirm on facts. We do not act on facts, as it is always too late. Facts are for justice, not future.

The social media is all about inclusiveness, and the government has been talking about inclusiveness since day one. This is the way to go. Just accept it.

The government should promote current technology and expose it to society at large, so that society can innovate among itself to create a new way of life. New technologies, for them to be game-changers, must be disruptive to the existing way of doing things, to the existing system, to the status quo. The technology is challenging the way the government is run, how the government operates. The public service cannot be sleeping anymore, and its only communication with the general public cannot be as a bully and ticking off the people. Technology should be used to make redundant or bypass little napoleons whose incompetence and inaction is a scourge to our future. New technology should be used to interface by the government with the people in their daily dealings with the state, leaving face to face only as a matter last resort. But before full automation can take place, the systems must be tested to work efficiently. Almost all systems imposed by the civil service has become a bane on society. Competence is a rare commodity in our whole of highly educated people.

How can we allow incompetence to be so pervasive across our society? Is it our social experiment gone wrong?

I think the PM should ask those whom he has appointed to come out with their own individual recommendations of what should be done to improve the future of our nation. Those individual recommendations should be made public so that we know which one is competent and which one is just our usual titled prominent people pretending to be experts. Then ask for the feedback of society, so that you can which recommendation is favoured. You have listened in private to your advisers on the implementation of the GST and this has not gone down well. If any of your advisers in the SEC is no good, get new ones to come in. You don't have to be stuck with old men with old ideas. You should ask young people want they want for their future to set your policy direction.

This is as such as problem of our times as it is a problem of our own doing. We have to tackle both.

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