Hornbill Unleashed

February 9, 2017

Yes, Malaysia is in a state of failing

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:01 AM

“One commonly hears that carping critics complain about what is wrong, but do not present solutions. There is an accurate translation for that charge: ‘They present solutions, but I don’t like them.”

– Noam Chomsky, ‘Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy’.

In another article, I admitted that I was one of those people who were pushing the failed state narrative after another Malaysiakini columnist Josh Hong pointed out in his own piece of the intellectual bankruptcy of promoting such an agenda.

Of course, I felt justified in promoting such an agenda – “I have lost track of how many times I have pushed the ‘failed state’ narrative. Moreover, let me tell you it is very easy to push that narrative when we see the failing system around us. It is very easy to push that narrative when we have something as calamitous as the National Security Council Act.”

Running around claiming failing state status is easy in Malaysia. We are a Muslim-majority country that has managed to pull through over the decades when the world was going through radical political and social changes. The Arabisation process crept up on us because we were too busy engaging in other affairs instead of keeping a close eye on the Umno hegemon.

Three recent contradictory statements by politicians in this country brings into focus why the opposition has been unable to gain traction with the idea that a vote for them would save Malaysia from an apocalyptical fate and why Umno still has a grip on power in Malaysia.

The first is by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) point man Muhyiddin Yassin – “Through decades of government policies being initiated by Umno and BN, the country has become progressive, renowned and in the Islamic context, a model country.”

And right here is the problem for the opposition because this is really is what most voters who vote Barisan National think. Through the decades, despite of all the corruption scandals, the sustained attacks against independent institutions, the slow process of dismantling our individual rights, Malaysia, in the words of Josh Hong, “for all its flaws, Malaysia remains a prosperous, relatively efficient and economically vibrant country.”

Meanwhile, Muhyiddin admits that it would difficult to dislodge BN if the opposition remains in disarray and straight one-on-one fights was the most viable stratagem of replacing Umno/BN.

Nowhere does he consider that if people think that the country is functional and prosperous (and that this is something even he as a powerbroker in the opposition acknowledges), why should there be any regime change when things are running if not smoothly but better than in many other Muslim countries?

Which brings me to what the honourable DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang asked, “Is Najib aware that Malaysia has taken a first step to become a ‘failed state’ when we ascended to the ‘global kleptocracy’ club without any sense of contrition or compunction, whether by the cabinet or Parliament?”

The problem here is that over the decades there have been numerous corruption scandals and yet the country remains standing. Furthermore, coupled with these corruption scandals, the Umno hegemon has carried out a deliberate process of racial engineering that changed the political, legal and social institutions of this country, and yet the country did not become one of those Islamic paradises that most Muslims would prefer not to go to but instead head West.

Keep in mind the “failed state” narrative was used in the run-up to the 2004 election and former Umno president – who campaigned with a reform agenda – won by a landslide for BN. This was the same coalition that had ruled for decades and engineered the problems that are affecting Malaysia today.

Meanwhile, Umno Grand Poohbah Najib Abdul Razak thinks that if there is no religious and racial harmony, Malaysia will turn into a failed state. The problem with this is that over the decades, the supremacy of Islam and Malay privilege has supplanted whatever grand ideas, the founding fathers – I still have no idea who these men and women were – had in mind.

Indeed, the only reason why the Umno big cheese was raising the spectre of a failed state was because everyone else is doing it. But this idea that Malaysia is becoming a failed state ultimately is nonsensical when employed by either Umno or the opposition.

10 reasons

All this talk of Malaysia becoming a failed state, made me dig up an old article by the Foreign Policy magazine that in my opinion is one of the more accessible articles on why states fall apart. Actually, the title of the article says it all – ‘10 reasons why countries fall apart’.

While I have reproduced the first two paragraphs of the article, readers are encouraged to seek out the article and pay close attention the countries mentioned. The reason why I like this article because it accurately describes the various processes that go into making a failed state.

From the article – “Most countries that fall apart, however, do so not with a bang but with a whimper. They fail not in an explosion of war and violence but by being utterly unable to take advantage of their society’s huge potential for growth, condemning their citizens to a lifetime of poverty. This type of slow, grinding failure leaves many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America with living standards far, far below those in the West.

“What’s tragic is that this failure is by design. These states collapse because they are ruled by what we call ‘extractive’ economic institutions, which destroy incentives, discourage innovation, and sap the talent of their citizens by creating a tilted playing field and robbing them of opportunities. These institutions are not in place by mistake but on purpose. They’re there for the benefit of elites who gain much from the extraction – whether in the form of valuable minerals, forced labour, or protected monopolies – at the expense of society. Of course, such elites benefit from rigged political institutions too, wielding their power to tilt the system for their benefit.”

The following are the 10 reasons:

1) Lack of property rights

2) Forced labour

3) A tilted playing field

4) The big men get greedy

5) Elites block new technologies

6) No law and order

7) A weak central government

8) Bad public services

9) Political exploitation

10) Fighting over the spoils

Becoming a failed state is a gradual process and in the Malaysian context, nobody comes out clean. Not Umno. Not the opposition, and certainly not the citizens of Malaysia because we voted for BN and we never demanded the kind of opposition that is the exact opposite in terms of ideology of what the ruling coalition is.

I have said many times, the coming general election is a make or break election for the opposition. If the opposition is determined to play the same game as Umno and loses, then the opposition is also to blame when we eventually get to our failed state destination.

However the world over, there is a shift in political sentiment. In the West, the shift is to the right. I honestly believe that although we may not have a “left”, what the citizens of this country want is something new.

I believe that if the opposition rolls the dice, discards conventional Malaysian political wisdom, they may actually accomplish a hail Mary and with policies that are radically different from Umno, halt the decline of Malaysia into a failed state.

If not, do not panic. There is still some ways to go, before we are inducted into the failed state hall of fame. It is going to be a slow but painful process.


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.
Source :   @ Malaysiakini


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15 Comments »

  1. Qte: UNDER NAJIB’S CHINA PIVOT, JAKIM TO COME UNDER BEIJING’S THUMB? EVEN INDONESIA’S ULAMA COUNCIL SET TO U-TURN ON ‘AHOK’ AFTER CHINA SENDS ‘WARNING’…Unqte

    Comment by tiuniamah — February 15, 2017 @ 5:52 PM | Reply

  2. Former Treasury secretary-general Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim today suggested the government to cut down the “oversized” civil service when it can still afford it. Retrenching civil servants now would also be a kinder approach, as it would allow them to be compensated fairly, Sheriff told a economic governance forum in Sasana Kijang, Bank Negara today.

    Very good suggestion indeed. One that should have been done long time ago. But then as we all know the BN/UMNO do not have the political will to do this . They fear that they would loose the votes of the civil service. To BN / UMNO no matter if the country is bankrupt as long as they are in power. A responsible government would not overstaff the PM dept for example. Appointing politicians whom had lost in election as advisors to the PM makes no sense. PERMATA for example should be placed under a ministry and not a stand alone organisation with its own budget allocation (and very large at that ) . This is very wasteful and another case of abuse of power on the part of the PM. Irresponsible !

    Comment by MR — February 13, 2017 @ 1:48 PM | Reply

    • BN has delivered what it promised – full employment – but it comes with a heavy price. For every one ringgit of tax revenue, 90 percent easily goes to support wages, salaries, benefits, pensions, etc.

      For as long as we have petroleum revenue, every PM past and present believes this is the right thing to do as a benevolent state.

      Aside from assuring political loyalty, the extras will help out in party activities. For BN, there is no difference between party and government activities.

      To downsize, it’s either the government sells off state entities or cut staff, both are double-edged swords.

      It would be politically unwise to slash staff as no one will give up on job security. New wealth has to be created to support the civil service. Borrow if they have to. After all, this is their fixed deposit.

      Comment by AA — February 14, 2017 @ 10:08 AM | Reply

  3. The Proton Saga: why would Malaysia sell its ‘symbol of dignity’ to China?
    South China Morning Post

    China’s Geely Automobile Holdings has emerged the clear leader ahead of France’s Renault and Peugeot parent PSA in the queue of suitors for Malaysia’s Proton carmaker.

    That’s great for Geely – the news it is in pole position to buy a 51 per cent controlling stake in the country’s largest carmaker has sent its shares to an all-time high (they have tripled in the last 12 months) and sets up its push into Southeast Asia. If the deal goes through, Geely will get access to Proton’s assembly line in Malaysia, allowing it to ship vehicles tax-free anywhere in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations block, a combined market of 623 million people.

    But the motivation on the other side is less clear. Just why is the Malaysian government marrying its favourite child off to a foreigner? It’s a particularly pertinent question given that, with an election widely predicted to be held this year, Prime Minister Najib Razak is already under fire regarding Chinese influence on the economy following his trip to Beijing in November that secured funding for infrastructure projects worth 143 billion ringgit. History, as ever, holds the answer.

    The Malaysian National Car Project was conceived in 1979 by the then prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad (now a key critic of Najib), approved by the Cabinet in 1982 and established as Proton – Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Berhad – in 1983. Mahathir thus became probably the only head of state to found and head a national automobile company. In 1985, Mahathir opened the Shah Alam plant. “The Proton Saga,” he declared of the first model, “is more than just a quality automobile. It is a symbol of Malaysians as a dignified people”.

    The word Saga was derived from a native Malaysian tree denoting resilience and indigenous identity, putting it alongside Germany’s Volkswagen, Italy’s Cinquecento and Russia’s Zhiguli (or Lada) as a car of the people, owned, funded and driven by the citizens of an emerging industrial nation on the road to prosperity in a globalising economy.

    The Shah Alam plant, installed by the Japanese company Mitsubishi, was in fact largely obsolete, and the car was assembled from kits of the Mitsubishi Lancer Fiore. All the same, the car was voted Malaysia’s ‘Man of the Year’ – making Malaysia perhaps the first country ever to extend such an honour to an automobile. By the next year, 1986, Proton had cornered 64 per cent of the domestic market for cars below 1,600cc, but demand outstripped supply and the government was losing 35,000 ringgit (US$15,000 at the time) on each Saga sold. Mahathir announced the car would go on sale in the United States, where Volkswagen and Honda were already penetrating the market for quality affordable automobiles.

    The entire management team assembled at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport for the dispatch of the first car. An Islamic cleric offered a prayer and the managing director sprinkled blessed water on a white Proton Saga, over which a banner was draped reading ‘On to the USA’. (That white is the ethnic Malay colour of death appears not to have been considered an omen.)

    Mahathir had been impressed by the American entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin, who had arrived in Kuala Lumpur with a letter of recommendation from former US secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Bricklin had successfully launched the low-cost Yugoslav Yugo and the Japanese Subaru in the US. He had, however, failed with his gull-winged car, the Bricklin (a debacle that would presage the disastrous tie-up between de Lorean and Lotus, a company that would come to be 100 per cent owned by Proton).

    Bricklin started importing Protons to the US having omitted to mention he had not secured proper permission from the authorities. He sold his company in the middle of negotiations with the Malaysians, causing a massive financial deficit and loss of face to Mahathir. The Malaysian management team were replaced with an all-Japanese line-up: “If that happens to a Japanese,” the Malaysian finance minister said of the fiasco, “he commits hara-kiri”.

    In 1993, the company returned to Malaysian management. Proton had increased domestic market share with new models and made inroads into European export markets, above all Britain, but as the incoming managing director observed: “It’s tough now, and it’s going to get a lot tougher. Proton is the cornerstone of the country’s industrialisation programme.”

    He was not exaggerating: the entry of the privately owned Perodua, with superior engineering from Toyota, into the domestic auto market ended the state-owned monopoly of Malaysian auto production.

    The second half of the 1990s saw competition and losses increase at home and abroad. Foreign dealerships deserted Proton and the marque became synonymous with poor quality for the buyer and poor returns for the taxpayer. The acquisition in 1996 of upmarket Lotus and entry into high end rallycross put polish and Lotus engineering back into the brand, unlike the disastrous acquisition of Italian motorcycle legend MV Augusta.

    The Asian recession in 1997 postponed, but did not cancel, the building of the US$580 million Tanjung Malim plant as part of Proton City. Build quality improved, safety standards rose to award-winning levels and the company invested in new hybrid power units. The first half of the first decade of the 2000s saw sales plummet, but the latter half saw a domestic comeback, and, in 2012, the privatisation of the company by the Malaysian conglomerate DRB–HICOM. With production slipping again by 25 per cent in 2015, the government approved a soft federal loan of 1.25 billion ringgit (US$284 million) on one condition: find a foreign partner.

    The sometime ‘Man of the Year’ also has the dubious distinction of being the subject of one of the most critical unofficial websites ever to be aimed at a car. So what will the successful suitor get for the rumoured 51 per cent investment? Domestic market share, in which indigenous carmakers are protected by high tariffs on foreign imports through the National Automotive Policy, access via Proton’s Tanjung Malim plant to manufacturing for Southeast Asian markets, a brand with global rallycross credentials and access to Lotus technology: something a Chinese-badged car has yet to achieve.

    And what might Malaysia and Proton get from a Chinese conglomerate that owns Volvo and the London Taxi Company? Geely is foreign, but it’s not French, and Malaysia is 25 per cent Chinese. Brand Malaysia, which has suffered of late, is keeping its people’s car marque, and the jobs of 12,000 employees, alive, while owners DRB-HICOM divest up to 51 per cent of their loss-making holding. There’s also the little matter of that US$284 million soft loan. Geely’s superior technology is another factor, but that’s under the bonnet. Face matters to both parties. Like the resilient indigenous tree, where a bit of cross-grafting never did any harm, the Proton saga will run and run.

    Jonathan Mantle is the author of Car Wars and Companies That Changed The World

    Comment by MGR — February 13, 2017 @ 10:21 AM | Reply

  4. By continuing to vote for Umno Baru controlled BN blindly Sarawakians and Sabahans will pawn the future of their children . There is nothing for Najib to consider about Sarawak and Sabah demand for full recognition of MA63. We expect nothing but full compliance by the Umno Baru controlled Putrajaya. What had Najib done so far? Step 1. Pretend to be sympathetic and listen. Step 2. Announce that Putrajaya has formed a technical committee. Fuk you.

    Comment by Awaken Dayak — February 12, 2017 @ 4:39 PM | Reply

  5. Ringgit is falling and failing us.

    Comment by MGC — February 11, 2017 @ 12:22 PM | Reply

  6. PAS should stop it’s sandiwara on the RM90 million it received from Najib and institute legal actions against Sarawak Report and Hussam immediately so that the truth shall prevail before GE 14. Already an Umno Baru leader in Kelantan had tried to cover up the truth by stating that the Federal government is giving a grant to PAS to reduce its deficit. What the crap!

    Comment by Simon Abbey — February 10, 2017 @ 10:39 PM | Reply

    • Malaysia is currently descending into the slippery road of our own version of bizzare/crazy Cultural Revolution madness!

      Comment by Rob — February 12, 2017 @ 9:25 AM | Reply

  7. UMNO baru is Mahathir. He closed the chapter on the real UMNO.

    Effectively, Pakatan is adopting the UMNO Baru ways. The legal UMNO Baru is trying to return back to the struggle of Tun Razak’s UMNO original.

    Good luck UMNO Baru or shall we call it Pakatan!

    Comment by John De Mille — February 10, 2017 @ 6:04 AM | Reply

    • it doesn’t MATTER which party, so long as that kacang yg dah LUPA kulit kit-lin, who called his own race KIT-LIN is in, then you can forget it, leopard would never change the spot on their skin lah.

      Comment by tiuniamah — February 10, 2017 @ 9:09 AM | Reply

  8. Now Umno Baru controlled Putrajaya is saying they are helping Kelantan State government to reduce its deficit in the spirit of federalism when the real intention of giving the incompetent and bigot Taliban style government RM90 million was for PAS to ditch the Opposition pact. PAS has abused Islam to strike fear in the hearts of rural and less educated Muslims instead of applying Islamic administration to motivate and inspire the rural Malays to excel and be tolerant towards other races and religious faith.

    Comment by Mat Som — February 9, 2017 @ 10:05 PM | Reply

    • Corruption money from corrupted Umno Baru to bigot PAS is called grant?

      Comment by Simon Abbey — February 10, 2017 @ 12:53 PM | Reply

  9. Blind, deaf and dumb Islamic political power and corruption had caused Malaysia to be a failed nation and the rural poor becoming poorer. The states of Kelantan and Trengganu are two backward states due to obsession with Islamic political power. The petroleum producing states of Sarawak and Sabah are also backward but due to blatant corruption.

    Comment by Mata Kuching — February 9, 2017 @ 3:52 PM | Reply

    • Why is the big mouth MACC chief silent on Taib Mahmud and Musa Aman? Why is he not advising the corrupted AG to reopen the probe on 1MDB and SRC International?

      Comment by Mat Som — February 11, 2017 @ 3:36 PM | Reply

      • Aqu selalu cakap: ANJINGs berani gigit Boss kah..?…lol

        Comment by tiuniamah — February 13, 2017 @ 10:53 AM | Reply


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