MALAYSIA had a dream. About four decades ago, we aspired to be a developed nation by 2020. I was in Singapore attending a conference when the news broke. In 1981, Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was US$5,596, with Malaysia at US$1,769. In 2019, Singapore’s GDP per capita was US$65,233, Malaysia – US$11,415.
Singapore did not have that dream but they achieved double digit growth in GDP per capita and is now a developed country. They do not have natural resources and depend on our exported produce. Even their water is from us.
What did they do right?
We are blessed with so many natural resources. Our shoreline is vast and we even have oil. In terms of human capital, we have lots of entrepreneurs and graduates. Rainfall is all-year-round but where I live, for the past three months there have been water supply disruptions every month.
Without fail, every by-election and general election, we will hear politicians shout about development and most of them got elected using this battle cry. But do they really bring development or do they just develop themselves further?
In the meantime, I have not heard from the minister in charge of water on plans to avoid further disruptions.
We used to have the best roads but look at our roads now – PLUS may be an exception. The traffic jams and the lack of parking space. Please do not use the excuse that the public needs to use public transport. Do ask whether public transportation is efficient and fit for our purposes – we still cannot buy a return ticket!
Again, where I live, one minister is unnecessarily spending RM4.5 million to upgrade and beautify a park which was recently renamed as Taman Awam Bukit Kiara. It is the site for a controversial high-rise development and is awaiting a decision by the Court of Appeal regarding the legality of its development order issued by DBKL. The roads here have not been properly maintained for many years and recently, we experienced flooding. Massive real estate development in the area, meant traffic jams are the new norm.
At the national level, we are fighting the pandemic but what do the other ministers do? As many have pointed out, they are busy politicking. Whatever happened to the promises made for development? We may not have the money now but where are the blueprints and plans to boost funds and improve our economic position?
Vietnam has now surpassed Singapore and Malaysia to become the fourth largest economy in Southeast Asia and a World Bank report projects Vietnam’s GDP to grow at 2.8% this year, making it the world’s fifth fastest growing economy. I was in Vietnam in 1991 to visit a factory where they can’t afford to supply uniforms to their employees.
So, Malaysia, what happened to you? Is it the people or the politicians that are holding back the developed country status? Could our strength in diversity also be our weakness at the same time and is “Malaysia, Truly Asia” still relevant?
What say you? – October 18, 2020.
* Saleh Mohammed reads The Malaysian Insight.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.