Current Political Trends and Their Impact on the Social and Economic Direction of Malaysia
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
- Tan Sri Dato’ Dr. Micheal Yeoh, ASLI
- Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah
- Mohd. Nizam Mahshar
- Dr. Hamidin Abdul hamid (Moderator)
PDS 17: Current Political Trends and Their Impact on the Economic and Social Direction of Malaysia
In ‘Why Nations Fail’, authors Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson state that it is politics and political institutions that determine the trajectory of a nation. If so, then are current political trends in Malaysia a cause for concern or hope?
Since our Independence in 1957, Malaysia has experienced political stability that has allowed the nation to prosper and enabled Malaysians to enjoy upward social mobility. The stability was achieved through the concerted effort of leaders who recognised the need to keep the peace among the various communities of Malaysia; topics deemed sensitive were discussed privately among the country’s decision-makers and policies were shaped to address any inter-ethnic economic and social inequality. This was particularly so in the aftermath of the 13th May 1969 race riots that resulted in deaths and destruction in Kuala Lumpur. The post-1969 landscape saw agencies, institutions and policies created to address economic and social imbalances. The efforts were earnest and the results have been positive for the most part.
Malaysia is now recognised as a successful developing, industrialised, democratic nation, a far cry from its humble independent beginnings. But have our politics matured along with our economy?
Current political discourse seem to have become much more racially- and religiously- centred with political parties claiming much more raucously to fight for the rights of particular ethnic or religious groups. Partisanship is also very much in play and the good or bad of policies are dependent on the party that introduced them rather than judged on their merits (or demerits) to the nation. “Change” and “Transformation” - while being promoted to the nation - seem to be anathema to the political parties themselves, despite the results of the 2013 General Elections that indicated a need for change. The recent elections have also seen short-term populist measures being pushed forward at the expense of the nation’s long-term well-being. Leadership succession issues are yet to be addressed in Malaysian political parties and current trends indicate unwillingness to budge from the status quo.
Amidst all these, the Malaysian population is grappling with rising costs of living, especially rising house and car prices plus higher costs of education, increasing crime rates especially in urban areas and an education system that has stymied many Malaysians from thriving in a globalised workplace. While the government touts a higher income nation by the year 2020, Malaysia’s lower and lower-middle class struggle to make ends meet and the income gap between Malaysia’s rich and poor remains among the highest in the Asian region.
Thus, the challenges ahead for Malaysia are many and the population relies on its leaders and policymakers to decide on a course that is right for the country. Questions to ask include:
- Will issues of race and religion continue to dominate politics in Malaysia and if so, will they divide the population and hurt our attempts to become “Bangsa Malaysia”?
- Is there an “ideal” state of politics for this country that will ensure a brighter and safer future?
- Is Malaysia heading towards a two-party political system? How will this then affect our policy decisions?
- Are our institutions of checks and balances strong enough to act as course correctors to ensure the rights and well-being of the rakyat are protected?
- Is our education system producing future politicians of calibre who would be able to make good decisions for the nation?
- Will political parties in Malaysia change in tandem with the needs of the times and the younger generation of Malaysians?