Donald Trump’s Mexico Tantrum


January 28, 2017

The Opinion Pages | Editorial

Donald Trump’s Mexico Tantrum

By The Editorial Board–www.nytimes.com
 Credit Doug Chayka

Less than a week into the job, President Trump on Thursday raised the specter of a trade war with America’s third-largest partner, Mexico, as the White House warned that the United States could impose a 20 percent tariff on Mexican imports.

Image result for Mexican President cancels meeting TrumpI am POTUS, so what? I am POMEX

This absurd threat, issued as a proposal to cover the cost of a border wall, came just hours after President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico canceled a visit to the United States. The visit was supposed to improve the relationship between the two countries, deeply strained by Mr. Trump’s relentless scapegoating of Mexicans during his presidential campaign. But Mr. Peña Nieto decided he’d heard enough after Mr. Trump issued executive orders on Wednesday to begin rounding up unauthorized immigrants and building his border wall.

The tariff tantrum was the latest in a head-spinning torrent of lies, dangerous policy ideas and threats from the White House since Mr. Trump was sworn in last Friday(January 20) . They have underscored just how impulsive and apparently ignorant the new occupant of the Oval Office is of international economic and security relationships that serve American interests. His advisers appear unwilling to rein in his impulses or, as in the case of the tariff, hapless as they struggle to tamp them down.

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It’s hard to tell whether the animus Mr. Trump has conveyed toward immigrants, particularly Mexicans, is deeply felt, or if he simply came to recognize how powerfully it would appeal to voters disaffected by an uneven economic recovery and the nation’s demographic changes.

But allowing this view to drive trade and foreign policy toward Mexico could have disastrous consequences for workers and consumers in both countries, given how tightly intertwined the two economies have become since the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect in 1994.

Imposing a tariff on Mexico would mean pulling out of NAFTA, a move that would severely disrupt the flow of parts and goods across North America and stall production in factories in the United States and Canada. It also could lead to shortages of fresh vegetables and fruits in American grocery stores and drive up the cost of many other consumer goods from Mexico. Mexico’s economy, which is hugely dependent on American trade, would be devastated. But American businesses and workers would stand to suffer immediate harm as well. Mexico would retaliate with tariffs of its own. And no matter how Congress tried to structure the tariff, which would require legislation, it would probably still violate World Trade Organization rules.

Mr. Trump has pointed to America’s trade deficit with Mexico as a sign that the United States is being swindled. Trade with Mexico — imports to the United States totaled $296 billion in 2015 — benefits America by lowering the cost and increasing the availability of goods, like avocados and mangoes in winter. While the trade deficit with Mexico has resulted in job losses in some industries (possibly about 700,000 jobs in the first 16 years), a 2014 study estimates that 1.9 million American jobs depend on exports to Mexico. And trade, by raising wages and the standard of living in Mexico, is a big reason that illegal immigration from Mexico has dropped steadily over the years.

Sending the Mexican economy into a tailspin is the surest way to reverse that trend, which historically has been driven by market forces, and has never been deterred much by fences or walls. Besides, a tax on Mexican imports would be paid by American consumers and businesses that buy those goods. Americans would pay for the wall, not Mexicans.

US -China Relations–Trump’s Strategy


December 26, 2016

US -China Relations–Trump’s Strategy

by Ben Blanchard and Christian Shepherd@ Reuters

 

Image result for Trump and China

When Donald Trump becomes US President next month, one issue above all others could force his new administration to work closely with China and underscore why he and Beijing need each other – North Korea.

A nuclear armed North Korea, developing missiles that could hit the US west coast, is clearly bad news for Washington, but also Pyongyang’s sometimes-reluctant ally Beijing, which fears one day those missiles could be aimed at them.

“There is enormous space for the two countries to cooperate on North Korea. The two must cooperate here. If they don’t, then there will be no resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue,” said Ruan Zongze, a former Chinese diplomat now with the China Institute of International Studies, a think tank affiliated with the Foreign Ministry.

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“It’s no good the United States saying China has to do more. Both have common interests they need to pursue, and both can do more,” he added.

North Korea is a tricky proposition even at the best of times for China and simply easing up on UN sanctions as a way to express displeasure at Mr. Trump’s foreign policies could backfire badly for China, said one China-based Asian diplomat.

“They can’t really do that without causing themselves problems,” the diplomat added, pointing to China’s desire to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

From North Korea to Iran to a closely entwined business relationship worth $598 billion in 2015, the two countries have broad common interests and China expects Mr. Trump to understand that.

While China was angered by Mr. Trump’s call this month with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, and then casting doubt over the future of the “one China” policy under which the US recognizes Taiwan as being part of China, it was also quite restrained, said a senior Beijing-based Western diplomat.

“China’s game now is to influence him and not antagonize him,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. China believes the two countries need each other and as Mr. Trump is a businessman he understands that, the People’s Daily wrote last month.

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“The importance of the China-US relationship goes without saying and can be said to be too big to fail,” the Communist Party mouthpiece wrote in a commentary.

China also expects a transactional relationship with the deal-making Mr. Trump, especially on trade, even if for Beijing Taiwan is completely off limits for negotiation.

“Trump is a businessman. He wants a deal,” a source with ties to the Chinese leadership said, requesting anonymity. “He wants the biggest benefit at the smallest cost.”

On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump threatened punitive tariffs on China and has recently repeated his criticism of Chinese trade policy, dovetailing with his Taiwan comments.

“This is provocation, but war is unlikely,” a second Chinese source with leadership ties said of Mr. Trump’s Taiwan moves.“The Chinese side will not easily yield,” the source said. “We expect tensions.”

Wang Huiyao, head of the Center for China and Globalization and a government adviser, said China should invite the United States to join the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

“He will pursue US interests and to do so he cannot ignore the huge benefits that come from China-US trade relations,” Mr. Wang said.

The Asian diplomat said some Chinese officials had expressed “euphoria” at Mr. Trump’s election, believing it marked the end of US dominance in the world and represented China’s chance to seize the initiative.

But Mr. Trump’s unexpected move to put the Taiwan issue center stage in relations with China had put an end to that.“They’re not as happy now,” he said.

To be sure, there are voices in China seeing opportunity in a Trump presidency.

Huo Jianguo, the former head of a trade policy body under China’s Commerce Ministry, said Mr. Trump is likely to reduce the United States’ engagement with the world, presenting an opening for China.

“Under Obama, China-US relations had already deteriorated to their worst possible level. Trump will not continue to ratchet up what were clearly ideological attempts to suppress China,” Mr. Huo said.

“China should not seek to immediately take the lead in global governance. They should first lead Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership to become successful, then from here China’s global influence can take root,” Mr. Huo said, referring to a Southeast Asian-backed free trade deal China has championed.

Even the Global Times, an influential and normally stridently nationalistic tabloid, has sought to temper expectations on how China could use a Trump presidency to its advantage.

“China still cannot match the US in terms of comprehensive strength,” it said in an editorial. “It has no ability to lead the world in an overall way, plus, neither the world nor China is psychologically ready for it.

“It’s beyond imagination to think that China could replace the US to lead the world.” –Reuters

A new start for old neighbours (Malaysia-Singapore)


December 21, 2016

Sharing the cost of building HSR

http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2016/12/21/sharing-the-cost-of-building-hsr/

Image result for Kadir Mohamed-- Fifty Years Malaysia-Singapore Relations

I READ with great interest “HSR helps move things on right track” by Mohd Nur Ismal Mohamed Kamal, Chief Executive Officer of MyHSR Corporation (The Star, Dec 19), his response to the commentary “A new start for old neighbours” by Mergawati Zulfakar (The Star, Dec 16).

It is very uplifting indeed to hear about all the potential spin-off benefits of the High Speed Rail (HSR) project to be undertaken by Malaysia and Singapore.

In the first place, however, the people of Malaysia are equally keen to know the cost of implementation of the project. More precisely, people want to know which side pays for what.

The reply by the CEO of MyHSR sounds very much like laying out the arguments that since Malaysia will make all the gains that he has described, Malaysia must be ready to pay for the bulk of the cost of implementation.

I certainly hope this is not what he implied. I feel that in this matter the question of which side shall make how much profit out of the HSR project must also be taken into account in determining the formula for sharing the cost of implementation.

KADIR MOHAMAD

Author, Malaysia-Singapore: Fifty Years of Contentions, 1965-2015

A new start for old neighbours

by Mergawati Zulfakar@www.thestar.com.my

Durian diplomacy: Najib checking out the Musang King durian on display during the Malaysia Agrobazaar in Singapore in 2014 as Lee and his wife Ho Ching look on. —Bernama

Durian diplomacy: Najib checking out the Musang King durian on display during the Malaysia Agrobazaar in Singapore in 2014 as Lee and his wife Ho Ching look on. —Bernama

IT would be hard to ignore the fact that bi­­lateral ties between Malaysia and Singapore were thorny for decades.

For many years, there was mistrust among officials, ministers and leaders, especially when they tried to resolve outstanding issues including the KTM Bhd land in Singapore, sale of water from Johor and a new bridge to replace the Causeway.

The animosity was evident, so much so that during the signing of a special agreement to refer a disputed island (Batu Puteh/Pedra Branca) to an international court 13 years ago, the foreign ministers of Malaysia and Singapore got into a verbal sparring match as they tried to explain each country’s stand on exercising their rights over the rocky island.

Sure, they cracked jokes with each other during the lunch that followed, but for many who witnessed the sparring during an event that was broadcast live on RTM, it was evident relations were not well. It was undiplomatic and ugly.

  It was a roller-coaster ride for bilateral relations and an unpleasant one between countries deeply divided on issues.

Fast forward to 2016. It is ironic that today, the love for a thorny fruit has, in a way, brought ties onto a stronger and firmer footing. Durian diplomacy seems to work the magic to put ties back on track.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s “obsession” for durian is well known and during one working trip to Malaysia, one of the first things he asked about on arrival was the Musang King durian.

When he became Prime Minister in 2009, Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak made it clear he wanted a bilateral relationship that is bold, imaginative and courageous.

“If we take the attitude that as members of a new generation, that both Prime Minister Lee and I are young, we’re not part of that generation, we should not be encumbered with the baggage of history,” Najib had said.

The two leaders struck a personal close relationship over the years and this has made things a lot easier to manage. On Tuesday, as the two leaders attended the seventh leaders’ retreat, history was made again by the signing of the bilateral agreement to construct the high-speed rail line between Jurong East and Bandar Malaysia.

Much has been said about the project, which was only brought to the table in 2013.

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The “marquee project” will bring the two countries closer together, improve connecti­vity, deepen people-to-people ties and catalyse further economic cooperation.

The vibes are definitely good between the leaders and it has a spiral effect on the ministers and officials, too.

Yes, gone are the days of confrontations, the language used is different and the talk now is more on cooperation. Putrajaya’s less confrontational approach in dealing with Singapore is bearing fruit.

Yet, we need to be reminded that while several issues have been resolved, including the Points of Agreement on KTM land in Singapore, resulting in joint venture projects between Khazanah Nasional and Temasek Holdings in Singapore and Iskandar, there are still many issues on the table.

In any negotiations, despite the good vibes that are flowing across the Causeway, Malay­sia should never take Singapore for granted.

A Malaysian official was rather blunt when he said that Singapore still plays hardball when it matters.“Their DNA hasn’t changed. What they stand for hasn’t changed. What you see is never what you get,” the official added.

Over the years, Malaysian officials who have had dealings with Singapore agree on this – their counterparts will ask, “What will Singapore get?”.

“Charity is not in their vocabulary, forget about the spirit of neighbourliness,” said an official.

Back to the HSR project that is targeted to start service in 10 years: we know it will cut travel time to 90 minutes, we know it is supposed to spin economic activities along the stations and we know the project, the first of its kind in the region, is being followed closely by other countries wanting a piece of the multi-billion project.

The two leaders keep saying the HSR is a game changer but what we want to know is, exactly how are citizens going to benefit?

Firstly, the fare, already speculated to be hundreds of ringgit between Bandar Malaysia and Singapore, is an amount that only business people may be willing to pay. It may be too steep for ordinary citizens.

The service will benefit a certain population and group of people, but what about the larger population? Are there any real conversations on efforts to create jobs in the smaller towns that the train passes by?

Will the agency tasked to create economic activities have a conversation with Singapore on what sort of businesses can be set up so that the Government can spur economic growth along the corridor?

Is Singapore willing to relocate factories so that people do not have to travel all the way there for work? After all, it will help relieve congestion at the border crossings, something Singapore has always wanted.

While the Land Public Transport Commis­sion and MyHSR are dealing with their Singa­pore counterparts on the HSR, there must be parallel negotiations on the economic impact to the people living along the rail line.

“If you are not going to ask from them, Singapore will not volunteer and negotiate what Malaysia wants,” said an official. “Singapore is a small country and they know they can only go so far,” he said.

“So what do you do? They actually need us, their neighbours and we are the most immediate.They have a glossy veneer and if you don’t cut through, you don’t see the ‘naughtiness’. They look polite and professional but yet they are waiting to ‘kill you’ off.”

But is Malaysia ruthless enough and willing to take advantage of the situation? Maybe Malaysians do not have that kind of DNA but we must bear in mind that when others sense you are weak, they will go for the kill.

At the end of the day, Malaysia-Singapore ties must be really a win-win situation and not just to make one country flourish. Isn’t it better to survive together, especially in this challenging and changing global environment?

Malaysia-China Relations: A New Turn? – Analysis


November 25, 2016

 

Malaysia-China Relations: A New Turn? – Analysis

Malaysia’s Najib Razak. Photo by Malaysian government, Wikipedia Commons.

Malaysia’s perceptible tilt towards China especially in economic relations reflects Malaysia’s foreign policy of hedging major power influence in the region and globally. While it seeks closer ties with China, it does not imply that Malaysia is shifting away from the US.

By Johan Saravanamuttu and David Han Guo Xiong*

Since Najib Razak assumed the premiership of Malaysia in 2009 China has featured significantly in his foreign policy. It was Najib’s father Tun Abdul Razak, Malaysia’s second prime minister, who was the first leader in Southeast Asia to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic in 1974.

That said, Malaysia’s foreign policy has been one of hedging against major powers in the region and globally. While Malaysia has shown great awareness of China’s rise and importance in the Asia Pacific region, it remains highly cognisant of the political and economic role of the United States in the region.

Malaysia’s Perceptible Tilt Towards China

Thus, Malaysia is among the 12 countries that have signed the US-sponsored Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement in Auckland, New Zealand, on 5 February 2016. The TPP is interpreted by some observers to be a crucial pillar of US rebalancing in the Asia Pacific to check China’s rising political and economic influence.

However, it is uncertain whether the US would commit to the TPP after the Obama administration. Thus, seemingly as a hedge to the signing of the TPP, the Malaysian parliament approved on 20 October participation in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) — thought to be China’s brainchild — just prior to the Malaysian premier’s seventh state visit to China this week.

Recent developments in Malaysia demonstrate a perceptible tilt towards China, particularly in economic relations. When President Xi Jinping unveiled China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road or “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) strategy some three years ago, Malaysia welcomed the initiative and has remained very enthusiastic about it.

On 3 September 2016, the Malaysian Minister of Transport, Liow Tiong Lai (concurrently President of the political party Malaysian Chinese Association, MCA) extolled the virtues of OBOR in a Malaysia-China Business Dialogue event in Kuala Lumpur. Liow suggested that Malaysia could be “China’s gateway to ASEAN” and a crucial link to the 65 OBOR countries across Asia, Europe and Africa.

Impact of New Posture

This new Malaysian posture has come together with concrete developments in Malaysia-China relations. Malaysia is currently China’s largest trading partner in ASEAN with total trade of some US$100 billion expecting to reach $160 billion by 2017. China has also recently become the largest direct foreign investor in Malaysia, overtaking Singapore, Japan, Netherlands and the US, through buying assets in Malaysia’s troubled 1MDB.

These multi-billion assets bought from the Malaysian national fund include Edra Global Energy sold to China General Nuclear Power Corp for $2.3billion and a 60 percent stake in Bandar Malaysia, 1MDB’s flagship 197-hectare property site in Kuala Lumpur, at a price tag of $1.7 billion to China Railway Construction Corp. The China railway corporation is also thought to be in pole position to undertake the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed railway worth some $16.6 billion.

More interestingly, in keeping with its OBOR policy, China has been deeply involved in the rebuilding and refurbishing of sea ports in Malaysia. According to Transport Minister Liow, Malaysia’s has signed a “port alliance” with China linking six of Malaysia’s ports to 11 of China’s. Currently, China is helping Malaysia to rebuild and expand port services at Klang, Malacca and Carey Island in the Straits of Malacca and Kuantan on the South China Sea. Some 70 to 80 percent of the ships passing through the Straits of Malacca are said to originate from China.

Kuantan on the east coast of the Malay Peninsula would be of great importance to Chinese maritime trade as well. Liow said his ministry is therefore encouraging China to participate in port construction across 120 kilometers of the Malacca Straits. According to Liow, the port alliance with China would help develop shipping, logistics and other related industries to augment the $1 trillion worth of OBOR trade.

Ramifications for Malaysia

There are three ramifications of Malaysia’s embrace of OBOR. Firstly, OBOR, which is partly funded by the AIIB, would help China to further expand its prominence in Southeast Asia. It is expected that through the OBOR, Malaysia would be a key node for China to access the ASEAN market. China’s increased economic prominence through OBOR and the AIIB could improve China’s image among ASEAN countries as a major player in boosting the economies of Southeast Asia.

The strengthening of economic ties between ASEAN and China would obviate potential conflict, and enhance the benefit for ASEAN and China to work closely together economically.

Secondly, Malaysia’s perceptible tilt towards China in the OBOR venture could be a nudge to the US to maintain its current commitment to Southeast Asia. If the US, under its new President, reneges on its commitment to TPP, this would be a setback for Malaysia as the TPP has the potential to enhance Malaysia-US economic ties.

Thus, Malaysia’s favourable tilt towards China and OBOR could help to cushion some of the negative fallout of such a scenario. It could also be a signal to the next US President that America risks losing the support of its friends to China if the US does not continue its economic rebalancing role in Asia.

Thirdly, domestically, strengthening economic growth would be advantageous to Najib’s administration. Due to domestic political challenges having a strong economic performance would enhance the legitimacy of Najib’s government. The economic benefits of OBOR would play a vital role in buttressing Najib’s regime.

Najib’s recent visit to China  will improve bilateral ties significantly with OBOR featuring prominently in this development. This does not however imply that Malaysia is coming under China’s sway while shifting away from the US.

Drawing closer towards China economically is a pragmatic move by the Malaysian government to expand its economic space and boost economic growth. Provided the US continues its commitments to Southeast Asia Malaysia will also seek to build up ties with the US for regional peace and development.

*Johan Saravanamuttu, Adjunct Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, was previously professor of political science at Science University of Malaysia (USM). David Han is a Research Analyst with the Malaysia Programme at RSIS.

Foreign Policy: Malaysia’s Najibian tilt towards China


November 4, 2016

Foreign Policy:  Malaysia’s Najibian tilt towards China

by Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin

http://www.themalaymailonline.com

“…while foreign policy is not usually a matter that excites the public, when so much of our infrastructure and everyday goods and services depend on the trade relations enabled by it, surely we deserve a clearer insight into the motives and long-term implications of significant changes in direction.” –Tunku Zain

Image result for Najib in China

China answered his prayers for Tolong Gua

I was glad China dominated the world the other day. Although the Americans covered a sizeable chunk of the planet, a combination of superior espionage, massive cultural output and, in the end, better technology and cunning diplomacy meant that China edged ahead.

I was playing as China in Civilisation VI, the latest instalment in a computer game series that began in 1991 in which the player chooses a leader from a civilisation from actual world history, starts with a mere villager and, by investing in expansion, military might, science, culture, trade and so on, advances through the ages.

Victory can be achieved in a number of ways depending on playing style and unique characteristics of the civilisation (a powerful early gunpowder unit and the Great Wall in the case of China). Regardless of which leader you choose, there are always compromises to make, some of which literally have impacts that can last hundreds of years.

In real world, the apparent dominance of China in recent times has produced a vast amount of geopolitical analyses and speculation about what the world will look like in decades to come.

Chinese investment and migration to Africa have led it being termed “China’s Second Continent”, and China’s relationship with ASEAN has always been a feature of regional forums ever since I started attending them a decade ago.

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China lays the Red Carpet for Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak

This has taken the form of concerns about China’s influence in Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam (CLMV), its activities in the South China Sea, and more recently trade issues particularly with the emergence of the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) juxtaposed with China’s own Maritime Silk Road initiative, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

But the last two weeks have seen significant bilateral shifts between China and two ASEAN countries, at the expense of the United States. Speaking in Beijing on October 20, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced his “separation from the United States,” as China and the Philippines signed an estimated US$ 24 billion (RM100 billion) in funding and investment pledges and agreed to resume a dialogue on their dispute over the South China Sea. This after an arbitration tribunal in The Hague ruled overwhelmingly in the Philippines’ favour in July — quite a shift from previous assertions about the West Philippine Sea.

In the last few days Malaysia’s relationship with China has also seen a major upgrade: Perhaps the most significant since Tun Razak established diplomatic relations in 1974. We will buy at least four littoral ships (vessels typically used for coastal defence and rescue operations) at approximately RM300 million each, while an agreement has been signed setting the stage for China to build and finance the RM55 billion East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) project.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the four LMS ships purchased from China would be built by a joint venture between Boustead Naval Shipyard and China Shipbuilding & Offshore International. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Defence Minister Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the four LMS ships purchased from China would be built by a joint venture between Boustead Naval Shipyard and China Shipbuilding & Offshore International. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

A list of 14 further agreements and memoranda of understanding between Malaysian and Chinese companies worth RM144 billion were also signed.

Naturally there will be much scrutiny on the beneficiaries and the extent of public funds that will be used. But the underlying reasons for our major geopolitical shift have already been a cause of much speculation, with suggestions that it is not just about trade and investment.

The editorial written by the Prime Minister in the China Daily also gave a hint: “It is not (for former colonial powers) to lecture countries they once exploited on how to conduct their own internal affairs today.” Everyone would agree with that, just as everyone should understand that illegal activity committed in another country can trigger lawsuits in that country’s justice system, or that de facto transfers of sovereignty to other countries can occur in many ways.

Indeed, “threats to our sovereignty” have often been played up to mobilise criticism of policies in the past, and one wonders whether usually vocal ethno -nationalists will approve of all these deals, especially given some of their confrontational views on local inter – ethnic dynamics too.

After independence, Malaya’s stance on China was transparent and ideological. The Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman and External Affairs Minister Tun Dr Ismail were both utterly anti-communist — though they did have a spat when the former stated that Malaya would eventually have to recognise the People’s Republic of China. Of course, China itself has changed tremendously and the ideological backdrop of the Cold War no longer exists.

Still, while foreign policy is not usually a matter that excites the public, when so much of our infrastructure and everyday goods and services depend on the trade relations enabled by it, surely we deserve a clearer insight into the motives and long-term implications of significant changes in direction.

For in the real world, this geopolitical game won’t be played by the same person forever.

* Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin is founding president of Ideas.

 

Malaysia on the right track? No


August 4, 2016bee

Malaysia on the right track? No, it has been derailed due to Corruption and Inept and hen-packed leadership

by  Soo Wern Jun

(received by e-mail)

Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak said Malaysia is on the right track towards becoming a developed nation. He was speaking at a dinner function at the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta yesterday.

He cited government’s policies and measures, such as fuel subsidy reduction and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which he said, spurred progress to benefit the people.

Comparisons were drawn with Indonesia that has a population of 261.21 million while Malaysia has 30.84 million.  He said Indonesian President Joko Widodo praised the Malaysian government’s measures and remarked that the challenges faced by Indonesia were greater, even though its policies were similar to Malaysia’s.

Does Najib realise that Indonesia has a population eight times bigger than Malaysia? Should Malaysia strive to be better, should it not compare itself with a developed nation instead?

Najib’s pedestrian solutions and quick fixes

Najib and Jokowi think that reducing fuel subsidy and implementing GST would help the countries achieve developed nation status. This could also be the very reason to why both nations are still struggling with high poverty levels.

According to the World Bank, Indonesia’s poverty rate may have declined by one per cent annually from 2007 to 2011, but has fallen by an average of only 0.3 percentage points per year since 2012.

“Out of a population of 252 million (as of May 2016), 28.6 million Indonesians still live below the poverty line and approximately 40% of all people remain clustered around the national poverty line set at 330,776 rupiah per person per month ($22.60) or RM89.50,” stated the World Bank.

While Malaysia tends to boast about its success in reducing poverty rates, why the high number of soup kitchens and non-government organisations setting up food banks to help feed those who are living below poverty line? As indicated by the World Bank, Malaysia may have a poverty of less than one per cent, but pockets of poverty remain and income inequality is high relative to other developed countries.

This is only one indication that Malaysia is far from achieving a developed nation status as it struggles to achieve income equality and become a high-income earning nation.

Education is another reason to why the country is far from achieving a developed nation. The fact that parents continue to send their children abroad to further their studies proves that the country still does not have a stable and good education system.

As highlighted by the World Bank, although Malaysia performs well in access to education, the quality of education remains low and appears to be declining rapidly by design.

“In the 2012 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), Malaysian students only outperformed Indonesian peers but lagged even lower income countries like Vietnam by a wide margin.

“Malaysian education system is most centralised and quality of teachers reportedly low with the report concluding that ‘there is an urgent need to transform Malaysia’s education system so that it produces quality graduates required by a high-income economy’,” the World Bank stated.

Critics also say too much emphasis on wealth may not be helpful in achieving the status of a developed country – as is proven with the current state of the country.

According to a research by the GlobalNxt University, achieving the income target may not be sufficient to be classified as a developed country. Citing Singapore as an example, it says the island state has exceeded that benchmark some time ago with current per capita income of staggering US$47,210 (RM191,984.23), but in many respects is still not a developed country.

Singapore is listed as a high-income economy as the country is small and per capita income may not truly reflect its real development.

Also, the process of development involves transformation of the entire society and the citizens of a developed country are expected to be highly sophisticated and generous.

Malaysians are still struggling with racial and religion problems which are still deeply influenced by the introduction of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1970 to 1990.

While the NEP had a goal to reduce poverty and to increase the participation of Malay community in overall economic activities, it has deepened the problems of racism and had widened the gap between the rich and the poor.

Malaysians are still grappling with racial and religious problems which are still deeply influenced by the introduction of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1970 to 1990.

While the NEP had a goal to reduce poverty and to increase the participation of Malay community in overall economic activities, it has deepened the problems of racism and cronyism and had widened the gap between the rich and the poor in particular among the Malays.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) acknowledged Malaysia’s commitment and clear policy to drive science, technology and innovation – a key that placed the country on the right track to achieve developed-nation status.

Are the development of science, technology and innovation seen spread equally nationwide?

The country’s Internet speed is still far lacking behind Indonesia’s, while there are far too many undeveloped areas in the country that have yet to see Internet connectivity. Is Malaysia really on a right track towards becoming a developed country?