NEAC tells it as it is
Sometimes, it pays to look at ourselves in the mirror.
What was outlined by the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC) in the just released New Economic Model (NEM) for Malaysia report may be bitter for some to swallow but there is plenty of truth in what many now say as perhaps the most frank assessment of Malaysia's state of affairs by a government agency, ever.
The initial sarcasm was only expected. The NEAC itself said the years of allowing inequality to fester among our society has driven a wedge not only along racial lines, but also between the haves and have nots, making it easy for many to dismiss the NEM as just one more report that will find its place in the filing cabinet.
But somehow, this particular report is different. It is honest, right from acknowledging that the various races in Malaysia are drifting further apart to recognising that several of our past policies have either outlived their purpose or require modifications. Then it made recommendations to realign our social fabric, readjust the way we do things, get ourselves together and put the economy back on track to work towards the Vision 2020's aspirations.
Indeed some of the NEAC's recommendations could ruffle feathers and the impact may drag beyond the realms of the economy and into the murkier world of politics. And yes, it will be so easy to politicise the NEM.
If it gets to that, as stakeholders in this nation, we must have the wisdom to know what is and what is not good for us and our future generation. And we must know of one constant - vitriol and I'm-right-you're-wrong type of armchair analyses will get us nowhere.
Lest we want to continue wallowing in a middle-income state, some things have just got to give. We will not lose our pride by acknowledging that even after 53 years of independence, we do have our shortcomings.
We may start with coming to terms with the fact that continuously attempting to defy market forces is suicidal. Which means the days of across-the-board subsidies, rent-seeking and patronage which collectively have distorted pricing and the market in general, created a fertile ground for corruption and in the process frustrated many honest, capable and hardworking citizens, are gone. We must acknowledge that if we ourselves do not change this, we will be punished by the market and we cannot even begin to imagine the implications.
We may also look into the way we do things. Whether our businesses would still want to remain largely manufacturer of things from foreign inputs, relying on unskilled cheap foreign labour, depending on incentives and subsidies while focusing just on short-term profits or whether they should take a longer-term stance by paying more to attract and develop talent and developing indigenous ideas and technologies.
As it is now, the report by the NEAC are only recommendations. What it leads to will depend on feedbacks the government hopes it will get from the public.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak stressed the word "inclusiveness" several times when announcing the release of the report. He said himself that the era where the government knows everything is all but over.
Criticise the NEM report if one must, but criticise constructively, objectively and responsibly because, quite possibly, our fate and that of our nation lies somewhere in it.