BREXIT– A Reminder to ASEAN


August 28, 2016

BREXIT– A Reminder to ASEAN

by Dr. Munir Majid

http://www.thestar.com.my

Image result for ASEAN and BREXIT

WHILE the close British decision to get out of the European Union (EU) – BREXIT – was made in a referendum over two months ago, there is still the feeling in the country: “What have we done?”

Where do we go? How do we get there? Questions that should have been asked at the referendum, rather than after it. But there you are. When raw emotions and shallow arguments reign, profound decisions are made without proper reflection or preparation.

Since then the question has also been raised in our neck of the woods, whether or not such a thing could occur in ASEAN. It won’t, but then again it may.

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Good Luck to Cameron’s Successor

First of all, let’s be clear. It is not likely there will ever be such a surplus of democracy in ASEAN, whether among individual member states or as a group, that there could be an “In or Out” referendum, such as on the EU, that has resulted in BREXIT.

Such democracy as there is in ASEAN is a pale reflection of the European model. Perhaps five ASEAN states, at a pinch, could be called democracies. They are, at most, mixed democracies, with varying control-freak tendencies. In one of them, there is new leadership, with Trump-like populism, perhaps a precursor of what a President Donald Trump would be like in America – a loose cannon.

Perhaps in that member state – the Philippines – there could be a Phixit referendum in a state of pique although, as shown in the handling of the July 12 arbitral tribunal award on the South China Sea dispute against China, there can be underlying realism after hyperbolic madness, like riding a water scooter into the Chinese navy.

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Then again, President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent threat to leave the United Nations after heavy criticism of extrajudicial killings in the drug war, points to some uncertainty over what the Philippines under Duterte might do.

One ASEAN state is an absolute monarchy (founded on Sharia Law–DM). Two are communist states and another a dictatorial democracy, if that is not a contradiction in terms. Making an imperfect ten is a state – through a referendum no less – which is set to become a militarily managed democracy, as the referendum indeed was.

The upshot is that there will not be in ASEAN a “In or Out” referendum of the British kind – free, open and all too easy.

With none of the regimes in ASEAN is there likely be such a reckless gamble as to leave an existential decision with the people. Not that there is everywhere in ASEAN always a high degree of leadership responsibility.

It is just that the people are not invited to make too many decisions once Governments are in power. So, from very different starting points, ASEAN will not be so people-centric as to give its citizens such a choice.

Britain – specifically David Cameron – screwed up. There was a rather careless Oxford Union debate approach by him in the referendum campaign. This was quite irresponsible when BREXIT is a highly complicated matter. Even Brexiteers – like Boris Johnson (now Foreign Secretary) – looked numb on the morning after the night before, like theirs was a Pyrrhic victory.

Some experts are now saying divorcing the EU may take 10 years. Britain will have to negotiate at least six major deals to re-establish its place in the world after BREXIT. For instance, among the six deals, Britain has to regain full membership of the WTO, not necessarily a straightforward thing, where the EU is the representative body.

While ASEAN  is no way as close and intricate as the EU’s and, in the instance of the WTO, ASEAN countries are individual members of the trade organisation, the important point is the need to think through any decision to break away from any association or organisation.

It is not a simple in or out matter to be decided on the basis of emotions alone. There are a lot of knotty issues, especially relating to the economy, trade and free trade agreements (FTAs). There can be unintended consequences.

With respect to ASEAN, it will not be lost on member states that there is no need to make any grand gesture of walking out, or threatening to do so, especially as commitment to ASEAN’s so-called rules-based regime is not so onerous anyway. So why rock the boat when there is promise of great potential benefit and any present problems can be treated in a let sleeping dogs lie fashion?

We have noted also the wide divergence in the political models in the EU and ASEAN. Indeed ASEAN may think its democratic deficit is a blessing in disguise.

Such parsimony however should not be represented as wisdom among ASEAN leaders. Cynicism and realism are two different things that might yet come out of the ASEAN bag. If leadership and wisdom are required, for instance, to hold the association together against present and future challenges, ASEAN leaders could equally blunder.

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The most critical test of ASEAN unity today is over what position to take on Beijing’s South China Sea claims and assertive behaviour. Again and again ASEAN – including its four South China Sea claimant states – fails to take a collective stand as China, through land reclamation and militarisation, as well as naval support of its fishing fleets, achieves de facto control over almost all of the disputed atolls and waters.

The arbitral tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ruling on July 12, that there is no basis in international law for most of China’s assertions and actions, has only accentuated the division rather than help form a common front. The cracks have become clearer.

Yet China is able to entice ASEAN Member States with possibilities, over which it would be up to ASEAN to keep united or not. On August 17, China Daily reported there is agreement to negotiate the code of conduct in the South China Sea by mid-2017. There is also a deal in the making on a code of unplanned encounters at sea (CUES).

All this to go to the ASEAN-China summit just two weeks away. All very good news indeed.

On the other hand, Singapore – the ASEAN coordinator of relations with China until 2018 when the island republic takes the chair of ASEAN – has been receiving some stick on Chinese social media, with Global Times castigating it as the “little red dot.”

Like with all ASEAN countries, but more so with Singapore, the tricky test is how to navigate the Sino-US rivalry in South-East Asia. China can blow hot and cold, and keep ASEAN states responding every which way.

At the heart of this lack of unity is not just that not all ASEAN members are claimant states in the South Chine Sea, but rather more so their economic dependence on China. All ASEAN states have significant interest in the economic relationship with the rising giant that has grown tremendously in the last couple of decades which, to a greater or lesser extent, they do not wish to disturb. Indeed which they wish, with many Chinese blandishments, to see grow.

A couple of ASEAN member states depend on China for their economic life. They will never cross Beijing. There is a soft middle who are careful not to antagonise China even if they feel they are being dragged to the limit. Only one among them appears to have drawn a line in the sand and is clear on the equal sovereign rights of all states big or small. And then there is a sharp and hard outer edge comprising two Asean members although the hardest, now with new leadership, is softening its stand.

ASEAN, in other words, is totally disunited over the South China Sea and China’s absolute claim to it. It needs to show unity to negotiate effectively with China but different economic and national interests are pulling it apart.

On a more general plane, while the EU has been wedded to principles – like the free movement of people – ASEAN has always been flexible and diverse about these things.

With immigration and the deluge of refugees caused by principled commitment being identified as the prime reason leading to Brexit,

ASEAN may feel it has bragging rights with its flexible and realistic approach to integration and human rights issues. But there is no cause for celebration in ASEAN. Certainly, in respect of not taking a principled stand on China’s assertive sovereign – and suzerain – claims in the South China Sea, the future could come to haunt ASEAN in some unintended ways.

Even if the calculation is that China’s regional dominance is inevitable, the nature of ASEAN state relationship with Beijing is still something that can be fashioned short of total subservience. Full capitulation now will guarantee a future as vassal states.

There is value in principles. There are options that can be exercised. In the very first year of the so-called ASEAN community, the path to greater integration, including in the Asianholic economic field, could get even slower as divergence on the South China Sea issue sours political relationships among member states.

There are also dangers of total dependence on economic expansion without sufficient attention being given to the social issues of growth.

Social services, equitable distribution of income and wealth are critical if ASEAN countries are not to be confronted by the ferment and discord of economic denial – which could then so easily be attributed to ASEAN integration rather than to bad and unjust national governance.

More than immigration, which was the symptom, the underlying cause of the Brexit vote was the anger of the social underclass denied economic justice, who attributed their condition to foreigners. Narrow and nationalistic jingoism is something politically easy to whip up when there is such anger. It is not something ASEAN should not anticipate.

So beneath the tranquillity of the ASEAN way, the smiles and linking of arms are many issues that cannot always be kept there. They should be addressed. They could cause discord, disunity and tumult. If not exactly the break-up of Asean, they could make Asean meaningless and lead to the regional organisation not being taken seriously.

Tan Sri Munir Majid, chairman of Bank Muamalat and visiting senior fellow at LSE Ideas (Centre for International Affairs, Diplomacy and Strategy), is also chairman of CIMB ASEAN Research Institute.

 

Mahathir: Climate Change and The End of Man


August 27, 2016

Mahathir: Climate Change and The End of Man

chedet.cc

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We now admit that the climate is changing. But we must also be aware that the so-called natural disasters are happening more frequently, and are more violent. And these cataclysms are happening in more places than before.

We see floods in New York, tsunamis in Sumatera and Fukushima, non-active volcanoes erupting, repeated volcanic eruptions in the same location, prolonged winters, high temperatures for months in many countries, tornadoes which wreck whole countries, typhoons of unprecedented strength and huge forest fires which consume parts of towns.

Is it just climate change which we hope will come to an end. Can we expect to go back to the years when the weather behaves in predictable cycles, i.e in the regularity of the seasons, the levels of the seas, the rise and fall of the tides, and the habitability of this planet we call Earth.

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We now accept that the Earth is much older than we use to think. We also know that it was not always like what it is now. We know that the human race appeared probably only a few hundred thousand years ago.

We know that there was a time when dinosaurs inhabited the earth. They disappeared but they left their skeletons so that we cannot deny that they existed even though they were strange creatures unlike the animals we see today. Perhaps the crocodile is the only surviving species from the age of the dinosaurs.

We know that there were at least two ice ages, when the whole world was covered with a thick layer of ice. Life as we know today could not have survived the cold. Nothing could grow on the ground covered with the thick layer of ice. Even dinosaurs could not have survived, as there was no vegetation for them to feed on.

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The ice melted to form oceans. The oceans and the seas receded and land masses appeared. We know the land masses grow and sundered, drifting apart to form continents. We are told the Himalaya is still growing taller. The process is very slow, but it is growing if we compare heights over the years.

The land masses too change in shape so that the shorelines change even during our times. We have found sea-shells on land very far from the sea, on mountains even.

We know all these had happened in the past. It cannot be that all these changes and processes stopped because civilised man now occupy this earth.

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The process of change on this earth must be continuous. It must be continuing.Men have always believed in the end of the world. Almost every religion talks of the Last Day of the earth. But we really do not know when it will happen. Could it be that we are progressing towards it even now.

It may take a hundred thousand years. But can we expect the changes to cease. Can we expect the volcanoes and the quakes, the violent storms, tsunamis and tornadoes, the floods and landslides etc to remain mild or benign as they used to be. I should think not.

Instead we must expect increasing frequency and violence of the natural cataclysms. The world may become so hot that living things cannot survive. The world may become so cold, the third Ice Age, that living things cannot thrive either.

For humanity it can mean the end of their world.So it is true, what the religions warn us about. For Muslims there has never been any doubt. There will be kiamat. Perhaps the scientists too will finally admit that for men the world has come to an end.But  whether they do or not the end will come.

 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution– What It Means and How to Respond


August 25, 2015

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…we must develop a comprehensive and globally shared view of how technology is affecting our lives and reshaping our economic, social, cultural, and human environments. There has never been a time of greater promise, or one of greater potential peril. Today’s decision-makers, however, are too often trapped in traditional, linear thinking, or too absorbed by the multiple crises demanding their attention, to think strategically about the forces of disruption and innovation shaping our future. –Professor Klaus Schwab, Chairperson, World Economic Forum

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/

The Fourth Industrial Revolution– What It Means and How to Respond

By Klaus Schwab

We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.

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The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

There are three reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a Fourth and distinct one: velocity, scope, and systems impact. The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.

The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are unlimited. And these possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing.

Already, artificial intelligence is all around us, from self-driving cars and drones to virtual assistants and software that translate or invest. Impressive progress has been made in AI in recent years, driven by exponential increases in computing power and by the availability of vast amounts of data, from software used to discover new drugs to algorithms used to predict our cultural interests. Digital fabrication technologies, meanwhile, are interacting with the biological world on a daily basis. Engineers, designers, and architects are combining computational design, additive manufacturing, materials engineering, and synthetic biology to pioneer a symbiosis between microorganisms, our bodies, the products we consume, and even the buildings we inhabit.

Challenges and Opportunities

Like the revolutions that preceded it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world. To date, those who have gained the most from it have been consumers able to afford and access the digital world; technology has made possible new products and services that increase the efficiency and pleasure of our personal lives. Ordering a cab, booking a flight, buying a product, making a payment, listening to music, watching a film, or playing a game—any of these can now be done remotely.

In the future, technological innovation will also lead to a supply side miracle, with long-term gains in efficiency and productivity. Transportation and communication costs will drop, logistics and global supply chains will become more effective, and the cost of trade will diminish, all of which will open new markets and drive economic growth.

HUBO, a multifunctional walking humanoid robot performs a demonstration of its capacities next to its developer Oh Jun-Ho, Professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (W

At the same time, as the economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee have pointed out, the revolution could yield greater inequality, particularly in its potential to disrupt labor markets. As automation substitutes for labor across the entire economy, the net displacement of workers by machines might exacerbate the gap between returns to capital and returns to labor. On the other hand, it is also possible that the displacement of workers by technology will, in aggregate, result in a net increase in safe and rewarding jobs.

We cannot foresee at this point which scenario is likely to emerge, and history suggests that the outcome is likely to be some combination of the two. However, I am convinced of one thing—that in the future, talent, more than capital, will represent the critical factor of production. This will give rise to a job market increasingly segregated into “low-skill/low-pay” and “high-skill/high-pay” segments, which in turn will lead to an increase in social tensions.

In addition to being a key economic concern, inequality represents the greatest societal concern associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The largest beneficiaries of innovation tend to be the providers of intellectual and physical capital—the innovators, shareholders, and investors—which explains the rising gap in wealth between those dependent on capital versus labor. Technology is therefore one of the main reasons why incomes have stagnated, or even decreased, for a majority of the population in high-income countries: the demand for highly skilled workers has increased while the demand for workers with less education and lower skills has decreased. The result is a job market with a strong demand at the high and low ends, but a hollowing out of the middle.

Given the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s rapid pace of change and broad impacts, legislators and regulators are being challenged to an unprecedented degree and for the most part are proving unable to cope. This helps explain why so many workers are disillusioned and fearful that their own real incomes and those of their children will continue to stagnate. It also helps explain why middle classes around the world are increasingly experiencing a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction and unfairness. A winner-takes-all economy that offers only limited access to the middle class is a recipe for democratic malaise and dereliction.

Discontent can also be fueled by the pervasiveness of digital technologies and the dynamics of information sharing typified by social media. More than 30 percent of the global population now uses social media platforms to connect, learn, and share information. In an ideal world, these interactions would provide an opportunity for cross-cultural understanding and cohesion. However, they can also create and propagate unrealistic expectations as to what constitutes success for an individual or a group, as well as offer opportunities for extreme ideas and ideologies to spread.

The Impact on Business

An underlying theme in my conversations with global CEOs and senior business executives is that the acceleration of innovation and the velocity of disruption are hard to comprehend or anticipate and that these drivers constitute a source of constant surprise, even for the best connected and most well informed. Indeed, across all industries, there is clear evidence that the technologies that underpin the Fourth Industrial Revolution are having a major impact on businesses.

On the supply side, many industries are seeing the introduction of new technologies that create entirely new ways of serving existing needs and significantly disrupt existing industry value chains. Disruption is also flowing from agile, innovative competitors who, thanks to access to global digital platforms for research, development, marketing, sales, and distribution, can oust well-established incumbents faster than ever by improving the quality, speed, or price at which value is delivered.

Major shifts on the demand side are also occurring, as growing transparency, consumer engagement, and new patterns of consumer behavior (increasingly built upon access to mobile networks and data) force companies to adapt the way they design, market, and deliver products and services.

A key trend is the development of technology-enabled platforms that combine both demand and supply to disrupt existing industry structures, such as those we see within the “sharing” or “on demand” economy. These technology platforms, rendered easy to use by the smart phone, convene people, assets, and data—thus creating entirely new ways of consuming goods and services in the process. In addition, they lower the barriers for businesses and individuals to create wealth, altering the personal and professional environments of workers. These new platform businesses are rapidly multiplying into many new services, ranging from laundry to shopping, from chores to parking, from messages to travel.

On the whole, there are four main effects that the Fourth Industrial Revolution has on business—on customer expectations, on product enhancement, on collaborative innovation, and on organizational forms. Whether consumers or businesses, customers are increasingly at the epicenter of the economy, which is all about improving how customers are served. Physical products and services, moreover, can now be enhanced with digital capabilities that increase their value. New technologies make assets more durable and resilient, while data and analytics are transforming how they are maintained. A world of customer experiences, data-based services, and asset performance through analytics, meanwhile, requires new forms of collaboration, particularly given the speed at which innovation and disruption are taking place. And the emergence of global platforms and other new business models, finally, means that talent, culture, and organizational forms will have to be rethought.

Overall, the inexorable shift from simple digitization (the Third Industrial Revolution) to innovation based on combinations of technologies (the Fourth Industrial Revolution) is forcing companies to reexamine the way they do business. The bottom line, however, is the same: business leaders and senior executives need to understand their changing environment, challenge the assumptions of their operating teams, and relentlessly and continuously innovate.

The Impact on Government

As the physical, digital, and biological worlds continue to converge, new technologies and platforms will increasingly enable citizens to engage with governments, voice their opinions, coordinate their efforts, and even circumvent the supervision of public authorities. Simultaneously, governments will gain new technological powers to increase their control over populations, based on pervasive surveillance systems and the ability to control digital infrastructure. On the whole, however, governments will increasingly face pressure to change their current approach to public engagement and policy making, as their central role of conducting policy diminishes owing to new sources of competition and the redistribution and decentralization of power that new technologies make possible.

Ultimately, the ability of government systems and public authorities to adapt will determine their survival. If they prove capable of embracing a world of disruptive change, subjecting their structures to the levels of transparency and efficiency that will enable them to maintain their competitive edge, they will endure. If they cannot evolve, they will face increasing trouble.

This will be particularly true in the realm of regulation. Current systems of public policy and decision-making evolved alongside the Second Industrial Revolution, when decision-makers had time to study a specific issue and develop the necessary response or appropriate regulatory framework. The whole process was designed to be linear and mechanistic, following a strict “top down” approach.

But such an approach is no longer feasible. Given the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s rapid pace of change and broad impacts, legislators and regulators are being challenged to an unprecedented degree and for the most part are proving unable to cope.

How, then, can they preserve the interest of the consumers and the public at large while continuing to support innovation and technological development? By embracing “agile” governance, just as the private sector has increasingly adopted agile responses to software development and business operations more generally. This means regulators must continuously adapt to a new, fast-changing environment, reinventing themselves so they can truly understand what it is they are regulating. To do so, governments and regulatory agencies will need to collaborate closely with business and civil society.

A robotic arm by Mitsubishi Electric assembles a toy car at the System Control Fair SCF 2015 in Tokyo, Japan December 2, 2015.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will also profoundly impact the nature of national and international security, affecting both the probability and the nature of conflict. The history of warfare and international security is the history of technological innovation, and today is no exception. Modern conflicts involving states are increasingly “hybrid” in nature, combining traditional battlefield techniques with elements previously associated with non-state actors. The distinction between war and peace, combatant and non combatant, and even violence and nonviolence (think cyber warfare) is becoming uncomfortably blurry.

As this process takes place and new technologies such as autonomous or biological weapons become easier to use, individuals and small groups will increasingly join states in being capable of causing mass harm. This new vulnerability will lead to new fears. But at the same time, advances in technology will create the potential to reduce the scale or impact of violence, through the development of new modes of protection, for example, or greater precision in targeting.

The Impact on People

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, finally, will change not only what we do but also who we are. It will affect our identity and all the issues associated with it: our sense of privacy, our notions of ownership, our consumption patterns, the time we devote to work and leisure, and how we develop our careers, cultivate our skills, meet people, and nurture relationships. It is already changing our health and leading to a “quantified” self, and sooner than we think it may lead to human augmentation. The list is endless because it is bound only by our imagination.

I am a great enthusiast and early adopter of technology, but sometimes I wonder whether the inexorable integration of technology in our lives could diminish some of our quintessential human capacities, such as compassion and cooperation. Our relationship with our smartphones is a case in point. Constant connection may deprive us of one of life’s most important assets: the time to pause, reflect, and engage in meaningful conversation.

One of the greatest individual challenges posed by new information technologies is privacy. We instinctively understand why it is so essential, yet the tracking and sharing of information about us is a crucial part of the new connectivity. Debates about fundamental issues such as the impact on our inner lives of the loss of control over our data will only intensify in the years ahead. Similarly, the revolutions occurring in biotechnology and AI, which are redefining what it means to be human by pushing back the current thresholds of life span, health, cognition, and capabilities, will compel us to redefine our moral and ethical boundaries.

Shaping the Future

Neither technology nor the disruption that comes with it is an exogenous force over which humans have no control. All of us are responsible for guiding its evolution, in the decisions we make on a daily basis as citizens, consumers, and investors.

We should thus grasp the opportunity and power we have to shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution and direct it toward a future that reflects our common objectives and values.

To do this, however, we must develop a comprehensive and globally shared view of how technology is affecting our lives and reshaping our economic, social, cultural, and human environments. There has never been a time of greater promise, or one of greater potential peril. Today’s decision-makers, however, are too often trapped in traditional, linear thinking, or too absorbed by the multiple crises demanding their attention, to think strategically about the forces of disruption and innovation shaping our future.

In the end, it all comes down to people and values. We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them. In its most pessimistic, dehumanized form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to “robotize” humanity and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul. But as a complement to the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship—it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter prevails.

In the end, it all comes down to people and values. We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them. In its most pessimistic, dehumanized form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to “robotize” humanity and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul. But as a complement to the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship—it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter prevails.

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?

 

My Say: Does the national economy exist?


August 4, 2016

This article first appeared in Forum, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on August 1 – 7, 2016.

My Say: Does the national economy exist? 

By Dr. Ooi Kee Beng / Contributor to The Edge Malaysia Weekly 

The income gap, technically defined, is quite an easy concept to comprehend. One can compare gross domestic product per capita or per household within a given country and collectively, one can use Italian sociologist Corrado Gini’s measure of statistical dispersion developed in 1912 to represent the income distribution of the residents in a country — the Gini Coefficient.

What is clear today is that income gaps in general have been increasing throughout the world, especially since the idea that income redistribution as a political ideal to reduce wealth gaps and opportunity inequality took a severe beating with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991. Vulgar understandings of market forces in the form of neoliberalist thought have overwhelmed the world since then.

The fall of communism in Eastern Europe was paralleled in China by the permission given by strongman Deng Xiaoping to China’s 1.2 billion people for some of them to get rich first, and without consideration for the widening of income gaps in a country that for several decades had sought to realise egalitarian dreams.

But behind leftist ambitions versus rightist desires about income distribution lies a larger issue, and this has to do with the basic unit of analysis, namely the nation state — and more specifically, the national economy. The national economy needs to be contextualised and deconstructed for a historically informed picture of a country’s political economy to surface.

The ontological status of a national economy is a complex one. When can we say that an economy is a national one? By virtue of statistical incorporation of economic activities carried out within national boundaries into a national budget? By looking at tax dominion? By virtue of a common currency? Or by virtue of economic and fiscal policies being implemented systematically over time?

When is there an entity worth calling a national economy? To me, it has to be twinned with the notion of nation building to make sense. The development, income and opportunity gaps within a single country are a measure of how integrated the various socio-economic realities — the various societies — that exist within its boundaries are. The more integrated those realities, the more national the economy.

The simple act of founding a country through universal acceptance of its geographic boundaries, who qualifies as its citizens, and even through the legislation of a constitution, does not a national economy make. These do not turn the complexity of human endeavours within national borders into an integrated and dynamic entity.

A national economy, to be logically national, has to be inclusive in nature. This inclusiveness is not only about universal taxation or a simple redistribution of resources. It has to be about the mission of providing benefits and opportunities for its citizens, with the structural support needed incorporated for these opportunities to be properly utilised.

Analysing post-colonial countries such as Malaysia should illustrate what I mean. The parts that were nominally and practically controlled and that now constitute Malaysia were to varying degrees incorporated into, and developed as, parts of Great Britain’s colonial economy — and by extension, of the global economy.

Needless to say, while some territories, such as Singapore and Penang, were important nodes in the global economic network, others such as Terengganu and Kelantan were only tangentially touched by outside dynamics and largely inconsequential to the empire. Most of the rest of the territories functioned as plantation land, forestry assets and tin mines. These globally informed economic activities affected the population to varying degrees, and public services and political structures were established to serve them and to provide stability and security for them.

The history of Malaya after independence demonstrates the attempts that are needed to develop a country, build a nation, manage a state and create a national economy to replace the colonial economy. The gradualist style of the first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, was considered too slow and tested the patience of many within his own party.

His successor, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, adopted a profoundly interventionist approach and implemented policies to change the socio-political and socio-economic nature of the country. Nation building — and the creation of a national economy, in the mind of his administration — requires the transformation of socio-economic structures into ones that would successively and incessantly close the development, income and opportunity gaps. This was clearly expressed in the Second Malaysia Plan, what we, in short, call the New Economic Policy.

Without doubt, much was accomplished during the NEP’s 20 years. By the time it officially came to an end in 1990, the Malaysian economy was ready — buoyed by some good timing and luck, no doubt — to fly with the other Flying Geese of East Asia.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Vision 2020, which staked out the developmental path for the country, entered popular discourse in 1991. However, along the way, the prerequisite of inclusiveness in the building of a national economy was forgotten more and more.

This amnesia led not only to heightened consciousness about divisions between races and religions, and the tensions that emanate from that, but also to the failure of the government to integrate beyond the tipping point the diverse economic realities found within the country.

These two conditions interact most profoundly. The failure to integrate the population’s diverse socio-economic realities is manifest in the country’s development, income and opportunity gaps. And the failure to fill these gaps has, in turn, led to them being filled by the heightened consciousness of racial and religious divisions.

Sadly, this divisive state of mind is always useful politically, and when stimulated, distracts popular attention away from those fateful gaps in order to perpetuate them.


Dr. Ooi Kee Beng is Deputy Director of ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore

 

Angmoh’s View of Singapore: I will choose Singapore again in a heartbeat.


New York

Angmoh’s View of Singapore: I will choose Singapore again in a heartbeat.

by Dr. Theodore Shawcross

I’ve read all the answers here and I’d just like to give my opinion on Why People hate Singapore, as a “foreign talent” as an “angmoh” and as someone who grew up in England, eventually moved to the US for my PhD, and then chose to raise my family in Singapore.

As a person who grew up in the west, there’s nothing that gives more credence to the phrase “the grass is greener on the other side” than when a caucasian chooses to move to a predominantly Asian country. It gives me great pride to say that I could somehow travel 10 years back in time to that moment I made this decision to move to Singapore with my wife and 5 month old boy, I will choose Singapore again in a heartbeat.

Singapore is an amazing country. That sentence is perhaps more of an understatement than any of the understatements in history, because although many Singaporeans like to rant about its imperfections, Singapore is the closest you can get to a near perfectly run country. I’m saying this objectively, because amid all the freedom, the welfare, the “quality of life” that Singaporeans seem to admire about Scandinavian countries, or for some odd reason, the US and the UK, I sincerely doubt that any person with the desire to be in a competitive, fast-paced, ultra modern, yet clean, safe and economically solvent country would have any other options other than Singapore.

Singapore has lived up to all my expectations of enabling my children to receive a world leading education, to grow up in a country bereft of violence, misconduct and disorder, and enabling me to work alongside one of the most highly educated and skilled pool of talent that happens to speak in my native tongue, to enable my wife and I to mingle with people from all around the world in a tight knit environment, to live in an essentially equal country without overt racism because to be Singaporean is to accept that anyone can be Singaporean, regardless or race and religion, now that’s priceless. The US has always claimed to be an inclusive country where people of different walks of life can live freely and ironically “safely”, it might be a surprise to some folks because they never really found out how to get that done.

Racial Equality

This country has its flaws, but I’m an economist, therefore I know firsthand that whatever you choose, there is always going to be something you give up. Freedom of speech is something that has become very controversial in recent Singaporean history given the persecution that Amos Yee had to face by posting a seemingly “harmless” video. It has become a theme now that young Singaporeans are becoming increasingly enchanted with Western ideas of freedom and yet they’ve not actually lived in those countries long enough to get an idea of what that sort of freedom is about.

Singapore is undoubtedly multiracial, and to maintain this heterogeneity comes at a huge price, it’s a price that the founders of this country felt it was worth paying, and it did pay off. I come from a country riddled with hate crime. Although I’ve never really experienced it firsthand on the tube or on buses, but everyone in England will always have that friend with a story to tell about racial conflict in public places. I’ve also lived for more than half a decade in the US, essentially a country still deeply ensconced in racial tensions, especially in southern states. Singapore is a country that has essentially solved that problem.

Cost of Living

I understand through volunteer work and community service in Singapore that there are people choking under the increased stress that Singapore is becoming too expensive for the poor. I don’t like to dismiss this as a problem we cannot solve, but I would say that it is a very difficult problem to solve. Singapore is an entrepôt nation, add that to the fact that it is one of the most densely populated modern metropolises in the world. Being born in this country has its disadvantages if you weren’t born into a well-to-do family, I get that.

To keep any economy stable, solvent, and growing, there will be positive selection from other countries, it’s inevitable. The rich, the highly qualified, the highly skilled will always find a reason to get their asses to this island. I’m a living breathing example of that. People will always move to the place, the job, the field or the country they feel they can be most productive in, it’s just economics. Now the only way the government can solve this problem, is to increase spending in welfare, how? Well the only way is to increase taxes isn’t it? But wait, isn’t the only thing keeping Singapore such an attractive location for startup businesses and highly skilled professionals is the relatively low taxes? Singapore is too small a country to be dilly-dallying, that I can assure you. It needs to stay competitive, it needs to keep growing, otherwise it wouldn’t last long, and I do mean, the country will crumble if its economy falters.

There are many things keeping this country economically strong, many components, many attributes, I believe the current government understands that and it’s difficult to compromise those components to improve the cost of living. The cost of living of any metropolitan city is bound to be high, Google the rent on flats in New York, or London, or Tokyo, or Sydney, and I’ll find something to keep your jaws from dropping. With the exception of Tokyo and maybe Sydney, most of the capital cities in the world are filthy, dangerous, crime-infested and their public transport systems are failing ALL THE TIME. And I do mean “all the time”, not the once a month kind of deal that we have to deal with SMRT. I will not in a million years expect Singapore to be any less expensive to live in than any of these cities, and yet it holds up pretty well. Singapore can be affordable, which is one of the great triumphs of the Singaporean government, which is to make relatively high quality public housing available and provide financial aids to afford them. It’s impossible to go out for a proper meal in London without having to spend more than 50 SGD on your meal, whereas I can take a train to any shopping mall with a food court and spend less than 10 SGD on a full meal, sitting in clean seats and an air-conditioned environment.

Singapore has a lot to give, and I can imagine being in the shoes of the government, because the people never seem to be satisfied with what they have. It’s a really tough job.

Cost of Cars

Something that’s linked quite closely to the Singaporean notion of “quality of life” is car ownership. Yes cars are bloody expensive in Singapore, more expensive than any other country perhaps. The government seeks to solve this problem through making public transport a viable option, by constantly expanding their coverage and making it very affordable. Barring the relatively infrequent breakdowns. In America car ownership would be something of a necessity, because it is virtually impossible to travel without having a car. I drove an hour from where I lived to the Stanford campus every day for 5 years. However, you can only imagine the traffic congestion I have to deal with on the I-80 every day. Making cars affordable in Singapore is just going to make the roads more congested, at which point it’s not going to make sense to own a car anymore.

Freedom of Expression

I believe I touched a little on this topic, so now I’m going to clarify that freedom of expression has never meant freedom to say anything you want without consequences. You may think there is freedom in just about any modern developed country so why can’t Singapore have it, but you have to also take in account the laws that these countries have against racism such as the Crime and Disorder Act in Britain. There is absolutely no country in which you can just say anything to incite violence, disorder, or possibly terrorism without being persecuted. The US is a very unique situation wherein everyone can practically say anything they want without being held for trial, but that doesn’t mean you can defame anyone you like without being sued.

Yes, the US probably has the freedom of expression that most young, naive Singaporeans are asking for, but look at the state of the country, and look how they were able to regulate racism. I really wonder if that is what Singaporeans want, the freedom to go on any MRT train and call an Indian or a Malay person out based on the colour of their skin. This toxic right belittles the very equality that the founding fathers of this country fought for.

I thought Singapore left Malaysia because they weren’t able to promise the sort of racial equality that Lee Kuan Yew had asked for. People may argue that this wouldn’t happen, and that education is the only solution to racial tolerance, but how many people in Singapore are actually educated to the level that would make them impervious to racial hate? The last I checked, the leader of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke is a university graduate. Humans cannot realistically be given the ability to run their mouths in hopes that education can be an effective restrictor, because it is obviously not. Only the law can protect the rights of the people from being offended, racially or religiously. The question on whether the right of being protected from emotional harm or the right to be able to express our ideas freely has an obvious answer. People want to be able to say what they want, but they aren’t willing to bear the consequences that being emotionally fragile human beings, violence is just one step away from offensive remarks with racial or religious undertones. This brings us to the question of “is prevention better than cure”. Do we want to let loose the darkest sides of our psyches in hopes that Singapore will continue to be an inclusive society?

I’m not going to sugarcoat the bad things about Singapore, because there are some pretty strict laws that must be changed, like laws against homosexuality, which I think will, in time, be abolished. But people need to understand one thing, if you want to demand the government to do something about your problems, please make sure you’ve done enough academic research about whether or not your problems are essential problems, or are they problems that are just characteristic of a modern metropolitan city, for if they are, there’s really no solution to many of those problems. No country has been able to keep housing affordable in their capital city relatively to their suburban or rural areas. Singapore has no suburban areas, the closest thing we have to a countryside is Malaysia, where houses are by the Singaporean definition, affordable and cheap. As I have said about freedom of expression, there’s a huge price we have to pay for it. Not everyone is educated, not everyone is inherently tolerant. If we allow that to happen, may I refer you to the countless of videos on UK, US and Aussie racism that happened regardless of the laws imposed against racial remarks in the UK and Australia. If Singapore starts to lax its laws against freedom of expression then the fundamentals of what made this country great will crumble.

So why do people hate Singapore you ask? Well my only answer is blame Hollywood, and blame ignorance. Young people are a pain in the ass, we’ve all been through that phase. They just need to grow up and realise that you cannot always get what you want, you should not always get what you want.

Singapore is in good hands, and I’m proud to stay on, contribute to the economy, create jobs for Singaporeans, do community and volunteer work, all in the name of preserving my choice to come live here.

Majulah Singapura.

Note:

I’ve received a lot of abuse on the internet these past few days, so I felt that I had to clarify that I do not claim to know all about Singapore, or any at all, everything I said here are based on my observations living in the country. I’m very new to this whole internet thing so I’m starting to get the sense that it isn’t quite that hospitable, I probably should go back to commenting on Brexit and UK questions on here. It has never been my intention to overlook any of the problems that I didn’t bring up, or introduce sweeping solutions of how freedom of speech is mutually exclusive to racial harmony. I based my responses on my experiences in the US and UK, so it’s not mental to come to the conclusion that you have to have some level of control otherwise they can be no harmony. It’s nice to have so many people show their appreciation for my answer, but this whole questioning of my identity malarkey is getting out of hand, I do not work for the PAP, nor can I vote in elections, I’m sure if I was writing this as propaganda, there would be much more I should’ve said. Have nice life everyone.

https://www.quora.com/Why-do-people-hate-Singapore/answer/Theodore-Shawcross?ref=fb

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