Sunday, July 3, 2011

A country and Its Neighbors

No man is an island and no country is beyond the influence of its neighbors. We in Malaysia have seen Singapore's latest general election where the existing government is returned to power in spite of various criticisms made by the opposition. Now in Thailand, party Peau Thai led by the ousted Prime Minister's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, has won the election.

What can we conclude from these events. Everyone can make his or her own interpretation but I feel that two things become quite clear. First, people love a continuity of governance so long as it keeps the country in good shape, Two, they don't quite care if the leaders are accused of many dubious dealings so long as what they do clearly benefit the nation and the people.

What countries which had revolted against the leaders who have led them for more than a decade show is that the government has been too autocratic, power and wealth are concentrated on too few, the majority of the people remain impoverished and there is little development in the country. The country is rich but the majority of the people remain poor whilst the leaders have their own jet planes to move around, spending hundreds of thousamd or even millions with every trip.

We always judge the development and progress of our own country by looking around at our neighbors. If they are poorer than us we feel ok. But when we see them moving ahead and faring better than us we begin to question what our government is doing.
Singapore has certainly progressed far ahead as an international port of call. Thailand is wellknown for its agricultural progress with tourism playing a major role in the economic development. How do we fare in comparison?

Again everyone is entittled to his or her opinion. Economically we are doing okay but the old issue of inequity and imbalanced income distribution remains. The cities and towns are for the rich entrepreneurs and executives. Lesser professionals, career employees and artisans can only survive on the outskirt while the farmers. fishermen and menial workers must continue to live in the rural areas, on the farms and fishing villages. Though some of their children had made it to the towns and cities, they mostly fall into the second category who could only afford to live on the outskirt.

Has the pattern of employment and occupational imbalance been really changed? Please yourself with your own answer for that will not change anything. Things tend to remain as they were as if following the principle of inertia. The greatest social mobility and shaprpest ascend on the economic scale seemed to be achieved by the political leaders and their friends. The few Malay entreprenuers who made it to the top would not have been able to do so without the help of strong political cables.

Has that changed today? No one can argue with you. Check who are the nouveau-riche staying in the richest neighborhood of your area. Are they ordinary citizens or close friends of the political bigwigs? Those with no political cable to pull will undoubtedly remain where there were with some progress due to their own initiative, The most notable progress that can be seen among the common man is through achieving a higher level of education at the thirtiary level. Or becoming a politician with close affiliation to the ruling elites.

Turn around again at our neighbors? Have they changed in a different way? We cannot say whether the way they did it is right or wrong, morally commendable or not. That's for the people in that country to decide. What we can say is whether we are moving forward as fast as they are or being left behind. Yes, a country can build itself a wonderful. modern and high-tech infrastructural environment and the income of successful enrreprenuers and high executives can go up to seven figures. But what about the income level at the median ( not the average or mean, ie ) the stage at which most of the population are? If that is still very low, looking at our neighbors can send some negative feeling, though we've done quite well really.


kaykuala said...

Akhi Norzah,
Only S'pore is better off. Managing a city-state may have been less bothersome.
We're bogged down by 1) a rural sector 2) multi-racial politics 3) a less/under developed East Malaysia.
Agreeably, compared to the rest of Asean (except Brunei with peculiarities of its own) we are way ahead.

norzah said...

It has always been my belief that we are so, Akhi, ahead of all our neighbours with the exception of Singapore. But recent development begins to throw some doubt, especeal
Y in terms of economic progress and the restructuring of society if that goal is still valid. KL is fast becoming a city of skyscrapers but who owns them. Only Petrajaya is populated by the civil servants. And now with meritocracy becoming the basis for selection, can the Malays ever catch up?

rambomadonna said...

When I was in spore, my Singaporean friends expressed their worries as well. As spore progress more it attracted influx of cheap, educated and qualified foreign workers as Singaporean community is shrinking and aging. now with factories shifting to China, many Singaporean find that they couldn't find job with good pay, hence the tourism industry. They in fact envious of our vast natural resources, many which are untapped. To be honest, I really supported Pak Lah's policy on agriculture years ago. I foresee food crops as a very lucrative commodity in the next few years .... Especially giants like China may not want to venture into it with the new wealth.... Just look at malaysia in the 80s.

Btw, I met many Malaysian Chinese there. Which comments I think u have explained it well in your entry. They told me, "u r among the lucky Chinese"

Miss your blog norzah.

norzah said...

Very happy to see that you're back with updates and commentaries,J. For a while I thought your work will swallow you up. Please don't allow that to happen. You'll see that no matter how important the work you're doing is or how exciting, it won't be that satifying until you've written something about it.

I enjoyed all the shots you took during the visit to Singapore but the photos would do better in a story written in your light-hearted and humorous style. Singapore has of course done very well compared to us but if we don't pull up fast all the neighboring countries will bypass us in the race for development and modernization.