Saturday, October 27, 2012

Evaluating Progress and Development

The subject of evaluating progress and development has been debated and examined by scholars and political leaders for decades, since the third world began to embark on planned development. The measures and indicators used kept expanding and changing while the developed countries themselves began to feel that some of the measures they used had become absolute or irrelevant. Using the economic indicators alone such as setting a poverty line based on income and utilizing the food consumption index to indicate the existence of poverty, might show that poverty exists even in the developed countries.

Development and progress in society must be reflected through many other measures beside the economic indicators. Even the poor living in an environment with well-developed public services, excellent infrastructural facilities, cheap and efficient public transportation system, plenty of food available at very reasonable prices, can live in comfort. At the other extreme in a developing country where public services are not too dependable, infrastructural facilities are at a minimum, transportation is difficult and food is very costly, even people in the medium income bracket may find life to be very difficult and demanding. The standard of living achieved could be much lower than that enjoyed by the so=called poor in the more developed countries.
In Malaysia for example, people earning above RM1000 a month used to be able to live quite comfortably in the 60s and 70s. Now even people with an income of RM3000 a month are classified as eligible for receiving government handouts ( a Public assistance program called BR1M). Salaries in the public sector had been raised a couple of times but each time that happened the cost of living as mainly decided by the cost of housing, food, transportation and medical expanses,went up as well, sometimes preceding the actual payment of the new salary scheme. A loaf of bread which used to cost only RM1.20 now costs RM2.80. The cost of cup of coffee or tree sprinted from around RM.50 to RM1.80. The rental for a single story terrace house went up fro about RM200 a month to RM800.

So, while the economy is doing well and income had improved so much with a corresponding improvement in the standard of living, the poorer people (poorer as compared to the rich businessmen and political leaders) may not be that happy. Development and progress could be at a standstill for them, being unable to catch up with the rise in the cost of living.The evaluation of development and progress must take into consideration what the social scientists called "citizenship outcome" which include the evaluation of political alienation or support, participation in the public and economic transformation programs (is the common man outside the party circle really involved?), is the attitude of the public in tendem with the immediate goals of government, is the value-nexus of the population changing as desired by the government etc.

The irony is that the economic development of the country could be healthy but the attitude of the common man towards government policies may not though all the financial assistance given are welcomed. The situation is made worse when the billions and millions of ringgit spent on development are seen to enrich the already wealthy more than the poor and the average citizen working hard for a living.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Reality of Today

What is reality? Everything that you see and consider as reality will appear different and mean differently to other people. You see an old man trying to help a young girl who had slipped and fell on the road and someone will say that dthe old man is trying to take advantage of the young and helpless girl. You help a man escape from his pursuers and you might end up in jail for preventing a police officer from carrying out his duty to arrest a thief.

Reality does not always depend on the facts of the matter but HOW THE FACTS ARE INTERPRETED. AND PEOPLE ALWAYS INTERPRET THINGS DIFFERENTLY thus leading to different conclusions about the same thing or occurrence. Even when fed with the same information, people may still end up with different conclusions. Why?

Because a piece of information contains many facts and different people give different importance to the various facts. The facts are interpreted according to their onw viewpoint and they SELECT what is most important according to their own level of consciousness, attitude and values. ONLY PEOPLE EXPOSED TO THE SAME LIFE EXPERIENCE, EDUCATION SYSTEM AND CONDITIONS OF LIFE MAY SEE THINGS - THE REALITY- IN ABOUT THE SWAME WAY.

This is probably why people of the same ethnicity and nationality might have a more or les similar interpretation of things or a similar perspective about things while people of a different ethnicity or nationality hold a different interpretation and understanding about them entirely.Thus a man who prevents another man from being killed might be a hero to some while others might accuse him of shielding a murderer.

This is the problem facing us in trying to bring about peace in this world today. The peacemaker may be seen as the provocateur by others while some other people see the provocateur as the peacemaker.Thus different countries and people will throw their support in different direction and instead of bringing peace to the troubled country, we bring them more trouble and destruction. We are plagued not by just different PERCEPTIONS of things but by different INTERPRETATIONS of things.and can never, therefore, come to the same conclusion.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Can We ever be Happy?

I keep looking and following the life stories of the rich people in the world and in my ownn country. Powerful and rich people who seem to have everything in life in abundance. People who never know what is human sufferings.

Are they really happy in life? Is everything always rosy and are they always smiling with happiness?

You be your own judge, but I feel that underneath the cover of posh living and supreme luxury and comfort that they enjoy, they are still human beings with a lot of human problems which money alone cannot solve. Money and power can certainly solve a lot of problems but many personal problems elude the dissolving power of money and the liquidating potency of power itself. Yes you can buy off people and get them to do what you want with money, but certain things you just have to do yourself, Yes you can exert political or military power on people and countries who or which fall out of line to make them toe the line you want, but you can't stop them from creating more problems for you.

Perhaps some of the happiest people on earth are not necessarily the rich and mighty. When people smile and appear to be very happy and contented with life I take a very close look at their economic wellbeing. They are certainly not always rich, In fact some of the very rich seemed to be unable to smile because of the problems they face or more importantly, of the nagging issue: how to become richer? Or how not to become poor again? As they say, those on the lowest level of life do not have to fear falling down anymore. The higher you re the greater the fear.

Those living on the luxury of power on the other hand will always be unhappy for the power can leave them any time. Everyday they have to be concerned with their supporters so that they will keep supporting them and their enemies who will continue to tug at their pillars of support.The saying goes that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. And so those who live by guiles and pretenses will certainly be uncloaked one day. It's only a question of time when that will happen and some will be lucky to leave the world before that happens while others may not. Often the law will catch up on them once they are out of power.

In the meanwhile the smiles of the happy faces of the common men (and women) who don't have much to worry much about in terms of acquiring or losing, keep on smiling. Are they really happy? Only God knows but they give you a certain amount of comfort and satisfaction, giving you the confidence that they certainly are some happy peole in this world.

And they may not be rich or powerful.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Back to the Basic.....

After 57b years of Independence, Malaysia stands on the brink of becoming a developed country. In fact some people say that it already is, that's probably referring to the urban areas. Go to the rural areas and although one can see modern housing and some traditional houses given a very modern and sophisticated look, with many cars during holidays when the Malays go back to their 'kampungs', the farms, the rice fields, the rubber smallholdings, and the large tracks of undeveloped land give a clear sign of underdevelopment.

All countries have their unattended backyards and slum areas although they are developed and the people are living in a post-industrial era. But the farms and orchards. if the country has a significant agricultural sector, will be full of modern machinery and equipment with modern tools available for any kind of agricultural work.

That to me is the basic difference between a developed and a developing country. When farmers still use traditional tools and equipment on their farms, rice fields and small rubber holdings, use bicycles or lightweight motorcycles for transport, and produce agricultural products in small quantities for self consumption or sale to petty traders in the local area,we have underdevelopment still staring at us in the face.

The question is why can't the small and even middle-size farms, rice fields, rubber small holdings, orchards etc get modernized with the widespread use of modern equipment and agricultural tools? Uneconomical to use big machines? Why don't they use smaller machines? Costly? Or simply just not available

I would say with certainty that the small machines and equipment are just not available or just too expensive. Why? Because we've to buy them from oversea and even if they are cheap in the developed countries (probably where they are manufactured), the price over here would be exorbitant. The small Japanese Kabota hand-plough for the rice field, used to be popular in Malaysia but they are not used anymore for they are expensive and not economical to use by small farmers. The small plough-cum-tractors that were displayed at the MAHA shows, were very expensive and beyond the mens of small farmers. I've been trying to find a small lawn-mower which one can ride on without success.The one available is huge and certainly uneconomical for use in the average homes.

Can we become a fully developed country when the small-holders sector in all our 4000 or more villages are still very traditional and not very productive. Large tracks of land remained unused and undeveloped because it's too costly to hire the large back-hoe tractors to clear them. Even power-saws,blowers, fogging machines and sprayers are very costly to buy although we now have some cheap ones from China and Taiwan. But maintenance cost could be very high since they break down very often.

I wonder if the government is looking into this matter. We are so obsessed with megaprojects and million dollar programs that the production of little modern machine and equipment for the small and medium-scale farmers is totally neglected. So long as we have to buy them from oversea at exorbitant price, the small-holders sector of our economy, and it's a huge one, might remain underdeveloped.