Sunday, February 15, 2009

Vision 2020 - Close, but no cigar?

Almost 2 decades ago, the then Prime Minister Dato' Seri Mahathir Mohamad tabled the sixth Malaysia Plan at Parliament. It was also the day which marked the birth of Vision 2020. It envisions a destination for Malaysia to attain a certain economic and social status by year 2020. The vision outlined economic prosperity among the multitude of races in the country, the advancement of science and technology application and consolidating a more robust national identity while tolerating different races and society.

Assuming Dato' Seri Najib survives the trials of fire in the years to come, he will be the PM zooming in on this target. Someone I know once asked the luminary TDM whether this vision is measurable. His eloquent answer was that one must always gauge accomplishments against history. One cannot advance without carefully studying the plight of the past, the struggle, the fight to achieve betterment in our daily lives.

From a perspective of a layman, I could safely make a conviction that the wealth creation in this country has been substantial since 1991. We've created and sustained a myriad of healthy private and public companies. Our towering jewel has always been Petronas. Would we witness another fortune 500 in the making in the next decade? I certainly hope so. Our friendly neighbor in the south boasts of 12 so far. Unfortunately, the seeds of success cannot be fully grown in a mere year or so. It has to be carefully planted and continually nurtured, its fruits guarded from pests and predators alike, its soil to be systematically nutritioned and conditioned. The current crisis of historical proportions could bear opportunities if we sift through it hard enough.

On science and technology, we have yet to see an encouraging progress. If sending an individual to tag along a team of highly trained taikonauts counts, I can't recall any other significant progression in the field of S&T. Biotech has been trendy for the last few years but the fruits would only be reaped in years especially with the historically high percentage of failures in the said industry. We continue to upgrade the stature of Proton, our home-grown automobile business. TDM had a brilliant idea to create our own Tata Nanos, until the company which had the technology was sold for 1 bag of banana fritters.

On the other hand, we are losing heaps of manufacturing business to China. Dato' Seri Khaled was quoted to have said about the need for more scientists, engineers and doctors in the years to come, yet our teaching force is reluctant to teach kids the most widely-used language in science. "The National Language would be extinct! Our culture would cease to exist!", they cried. The world is indeed growing flatter, and kids will not only be competing with fellow Malaysians, but techies from all continents in omnipresent multinationals.

With all the commotion in politics since March 2008, nothing has been optimistic for those who seek high-quality news feeds: Malaysia to aid MIT research for cure for bird flu. Malaysia to build wind farms. Proton buys Chrysler to save crippling US auto. Tesla to JV with Proton to build electric cars. Malaysian football makes first appearance in World Cup. Maybank buys Citigroup and tightens fiscal policies. Malaysia to replace NYMEX as global crude exchange.

Well, that was probably a different country on a different planet. Most news revolved around speculations of huge monetary handouts, vote buying, allegiance switching, internal bickering, sensitivies in religion and race especially highlighted by the rise of Hindraf with its allegation of ethnic cleansing in the country.

Year 2008 could be summarized as a nightmare for any national leader. It doesn't seem to have ceased either. 2 by-elections are en route. Another major party election is weeks away. Elections aside, will the leaders commence governing after March 2009?

The current plague in the world monetary system should serve as a respite for us to ponder our footing in this world. Many have asked who would be the Malaysian Obama? (Bakri Musa strongly feels we had one). I would be the happiest camper to see the next Mahathir.

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