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What kind of country are we after?

  • What kind of country are we after? Is it one that looks great from outside, or one that is forward-looking and globally competitive?

Sin Chew Daily

We did put up a superb show in the SEA Games opening evening, and some said it was even better than the Rio Olympics opening ceremony!

Unfortunately the Indonesian flag on the souvenir booklet had been printed upside down, sparking outrage from the Indonesian government and people.

What had gone wrong actually? I guess it was most probably because of our lax work attitude and lack of quality control before the booklet went to print, tarnishing an otherwise near perfect sporting extravaganza.

Now that an apology has been tendered by the Malaysian government, will the organizing committee take the trouble of finding out who was at fault? If no actions have been taken and a serious work culture is not reinstated, such blunders will very likely pop up again when we host similar events in the future.

Remember the Google-translated welcome message for then Chinese premier Wen Jiabao who visited Malaysia in April 2011?

There are only nine Asean states that have so far hosted at least a SEA Games. It is unbecoming that we cannot even get all the nine flags right.

As a matter of fact, the 29th SEA Games in KL is also known for other serious lapses, such as the theft of a limited edition watch by a bus driver ferrying Myanmar participants. And the driver was later found to have no valid driving licence! Something must have gone wrong with the vetting mechanism.

Poor work attitude has unfortunately become synonymous with Malaysians, making us an international laughing stock as we host this major sporting event.

Pursuit of quality excellence has never been the principal goal of the Malaysian government. Our politicians only see what is the biggest and tallest but not the country's intrinsic strength.

The incredible congestion at the Second Link has become a norm in recent days, with foreign tourists forced to wait under the rain for sluggish immigration clearance and over 30 tour guides having to stage a peaceful protest to urge the authorities to seriously look into the incident, improve the existing infrastructure and enhance efficiency. This shows that we have never bothered to pursue an excellent work culture.

Several days ago Bank Negara proudly announced the country's robust second quarter GDP growth at 5.8%, and we had a minister instantly describing our growth rate as being among the world's fastest.

While this is somewhat true, we have nevertheless lagged far behind the rest of the world in management and education, making the impressive economic figures symbolically meaningful only in political terms.

Higher education minister Idris Jusoh has said 54,103 university graduates were unable to get a job after half a year, about 22.71% out of 238,187 students graduated last year. The unemployment rate among fresh graduates is more than six time higher than the national average of 3.4%. Could this be due to their lack of employability or poor command of English or attitude?

The government should place more emphasis on solving our graduates' employability problem. The government's Super High Income Programme (SHIP) to churn out bumiputras earning over RM20,000 a month is highly impractical.

The leak of the hotspot school list of 402 problematic schools nationwide, meanwhile, has exposed the increasingly serious disciplinary issues at our schools.

Prior to this, incidents of campus bullying, gangsterism and road racing have been widely reported in the media.

With the quality of our young constantly declining, how do we expect ourselves to achieve the noble TN50 goals? The most pressing task now is to significantly boost our soft power and lift our competitiveness.

Unfortunately our leaders are only passionate about going after instant glories, including creating a national record with more than 20,000 feasting on the mat with the prime minister in Permatang Pauh, while 4,222 formed a record-breaking human chain at a ballet academy.

Such record-breaking events that lack the depth, inspiration, creativity and difficulty are completely unproductive and will not help improve the quality of our people and should therefore not become the direction of our society.

Where fiscal management is concerned, we definitely do not have the push to stay ahead.

The AG's audit report continues to disclose tons of irregularities and unchecked corruption. Our operating expenditures remain sky high and domestic debts to GDP ratio at a staggering 88.4%.

As if that's not enough, the 1MDB scandal saw foreign investors pulling out some RM2.3 billion of fund from the local bond market in July, remarkably hampering the recovery of the local currency.

As we are preparing to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the country's independence, perhaps we should ask ourselves what kind of country we want. Is it one that looks great from outside, or one that is forward-looking and globally competitive?

Our attitude will determine which way we will be headed to!



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