,Datuk Seri Nazir Razak
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IN the next few days, Malaysia will see the swearing-in of its ninth Prime Minister and a few days or maybe weeks later, a whole new cabinet of ministers will be sworn-in too.
They will have a good honeymoon because during this period, the pandemic will subside: it has to, given our world-beating rate of vaccinations and the number of people already infected.
Then the new government will start facing up to business as usual of governing Malaysia.
Will it prove materially different to past governments? Or will it be substantially just as frustrating for the rakyat?
If so, Malaysians will turn to the 15th general election and hope it will bring us the good government we desperately need. But what are the chances of that given the electoral system is substantially the same (even with the possible addition of the 18 to 20 year olds)?
What are the chances that we end up roughly back to where we are today?
We are in a system where no one party or coalition has a comfortable majority to govern properly.
Where deals are being cut not by trading policies but durian (apparently the codeword for cash) and positions.
Where the Prime Minister is so powerful, he can use the enforcement powers to his advantage. Where good people go into politics and turn bad in order to stay in the game. Where reforms are racially labelled so as to stop them in their tracks. Where we don’t have an economy but only a “political economy”: every business seems to rely on the government for licences, permits, contracts, regulations or ownership rules or for government companies to give way.
Where our best talents want to work overseas, yet we all know that in the fourth Industrial revolution, it is entrepreneurship and innovation that drives success. Where our social safety net has been found so wanting by the pandemic.What we need is a national reset, a holistic overhaul of our democracy, institutions and socio-economy.
This would not be the first time. We did it after May 13, 1969 when the Westminster system we inherited crashed in third general election. Our leaders realised the system the British recommended didn’t work for our multicultural society and unique history and configurations.
A National Consultative Council (NCC) of 67 individual thinkers, experts and communal leaders debated and made inter-communal trade-offs to arrive at a new system, a Malaysia 2.0.
The New Economic Policy (NEP), new sedition laws, Rukun Negara and government by a grand coalition (Barisan Nasional) was a national reset with a view to bring political stability and accelerate the economic foundations for social integration. The authors of the reset believed the system would work but they knew that it could not last forever; it would have to be improved, there might even need to be another reset. They even set a 20-year time limit in case of the NEP.