Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Not only a failed state but a failed society as well

Not only a failed state but a failed society as well
5 May, 2009

Heaven? How can a prostitute go to heaven? And one who allows a ‘dirty’ dog to drink from her hands on top of that. And the Prophet explained that she is going to heaven because she showed compassion to the dog.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

In his recent Workers Day message, prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak says he wants Malaysia to be a high-income economy. “We will not allow the country to remain as it is but find ways to achieve a quantum leap so that we can be in the high income bracket,” he told reporters.

The prime minister has it right that Malaysia will have to make a quantum leap if figures provided by the World Bank are anything to go by.

The World Bank classifies a high-income country as having a gross national income (GNI) per capita of US$11,456 or more. According to the latest figures available from the World Bank, in 2007, Malaysia had a GNI per capita of US$6,420, far behind high-income societies such as Singapore (US$32,340), South Korea (US$19,730), Japan (US$37,790), Hong Kong (US$31,560), Australia (US$35,760), Finland (US$44,300), and Switzerland (US$60,820) and Norway (US$77,370).

Malaysia falls into the World Bank’s upper-middle-income bracket defined as GNI per capita of between US$3,706 and US$11,455. Other countries with similar GNI per capita include Gabon (US$7,020), Russia (US$7,530), Romania (US$6,390) and Botswana (US$6,120).

Industry officials warn, however, that without addressing key issues such as productivity and subsidy mentalities, Malaysia will not be able to transform itself into a sustainable high-income society. Many Malaysian companies have become dependent on a relatively weak currency, cheap foreign labour and subsidies for electricity and water instead of striving to become more efficient and developing high quality and high value good and services.

Shamsuddin Bardan, executive director at the Malaysian Employers Federation says that wages should be commensurate with productivity and points to Singapore as a benchmark that Malaysia should compare itself against.

An extract from To reach First World, Malaysia has to pass Gabon by Lee Wei Lian, The Malaysian Insiderhttp://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/malaysia/25421-to-reach-first-world-malaysia-has-to-pass-gabon)


That was the point I tried to make in my recent piece: It’s about the economy, stupid (http://mt.m2day.org/2008/content/view/21287/84/). Of course, I did not use indicators and measurements like GNI, GDP, FDI, GNP and whatnot because these terms are sometimes beyond the comprehension of the average person, which would be the majority of the Malaysian voter.

As they say, KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. And what can be more simple than the price of a chicken which is almost the staple food of most Malaysians, unless you are in the high-income bracket and can afford exotic foods. And, today, even ikan bilis, which used to be the poor man’s food, can be bloody expensive.

Today, what can the Ringgit buy compared to, say, 40 years ago? Okay, I have espoused that issue so many times in the past so I will not bore you, again, with the details. But that is what we should be focusing on. What is the Ringgit worth today compared to when we were still in school?

Today, our income has not increased that much compared to 40 years ago. Even if it may have doubled since the last 40 years that is no bloody good when costs have increased ten times over during that same period. Today, a university graduate will not earn ten times what a university graduate of 40 years ago was earning. But he or she would certainly have to pay ten times more for goods and services compared to what a university graduate of 40 years ago had to pay.

That is the bottom line. And that is what has made today’s Malaysians poorer compared to Malaysians of 40 years ago.

It may not appear like Malaysians are poorer today compared to Malaysians of 40 years ago. This is because most Malaysians of 40 years ago did not receive the benefit of a good education. And for sure those who went to university were in the minority.

Today, almost everyone receives an education, unless they choose not to go to school. And there are many who went to higher institutions of learning, universities included. So it appears like Malaysians are better off today because more have gone to school and have received a higher education compared to 40 years ago.

And this is where another problem arises. Because they are educated, have a diploma or degree, or whatever, they expect good jobs. In the past, because you are not educated, you go for menial jobs. But would an educated person or university graduate want to become a plumber of bricklayer?

The irony of this whole thing is while the educated Malaysian will never work as a plumber or bricklayer, the reality is, a skilled and hardworking plumber or bricklayer can earn more money than a fixed-wage university graduate. So has education really helped us earn more money? You might argue that education is never wasted, as many would argue. But the fact remains that educated Malaysians are sometimes not really educated in the real sense of the word in spite of the so-called education they are supposed to have received.

And that brings us to the next point, the quality of Malaysian education. Yes, we go to school. We may have even gone for higher education and have this very impressive piece of paper with our name on it hanging on our office wall. But are we really educated?

Education is not about passing exams. It is also not about how many years we have spent in a lecture hall. It is about what we have developed into at the end of it all.

Education must also reflect in how civil we have become and whether we have compassion and are considerate and all that. Malaysians may have spent many years in a lecture hall and may even have this piece of paper with their name on it, but they are as ‘educated’ as, say, the Taliban sitting in the mountains of Afghanistan who has never seen a classroom in his life and grows poppy for a living.

Yes, Malaysians look down on the Taliban, especially Malaysia Today’s readers. They think that the Taliban are a primitive lot. When they talk about backwardness, they talk about turning Malaysia into Taliban-land, the epitome of backwardness. Actually, Malaysians are just slightly better in mentality but not really that far ahead.

Take one example. How do Malaysians treat animals? Malaysians treat animals like………well, like animals. The educated people from the West do not treat animals the way Malaysians do. In the West, animals are treated as living beings. Would an educated Westerner banish 300 dogs to a deserted island where they will starve to death? In Malaysia, we would do that without any feelings whatsoever.

Fortunately it was the Chinese from Pulau Ketam who did this. If it were Malays, I would be whacking away till kingdom come. But this does not mean Malays are any kinder to dogs. The Malays from the local councils would round up stray dogs and drag them behind their motorcycles with wires tied around their necks. Imagine these dogs being dragged along the pavement. By the time they arrive at their destination the dog is dead and half of it is has been deposited all over the road.

A society is judged by the way it treats its animals. And Malaysia has failed that test. As I said, if it was just the Chinese who are cruel to animals, as many are (just go to a Chinese restaurant and see how they store those live turtles and whatnot -- sickening), maybe I would not bother to say anything. But Malays have no excuse because Malays are always foaming at the mouth screaming about Islam -- and Islam is very specific about how animals should be treated. Torturing animals or showing cruelty to animals goes against the teachings of Islam and there are no two ways about it.

I will close by relating a story about Prophet Muhammad that is quite popular and often enough related. One day, Prophet Muhammad was on a journey with some of his followers and he saw a prostitute giving a dog a drink of water in the cup of her hands. The Prophet commented that the prostitute is destined for heaven.

Heaven? How can a prostitute go to heaven? And one who allows a ‘dirty’ dog to drink from her hands on top of that. And the Prophet explained that she is going to heaven because she showed compassion to the dog.

Have the Muslims learned anything in 1,500 years?

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