Siaran Media, Terbitan Media

IT needs support from all

IT is heartening to note that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is introducing a new long-term vision of the country, articulated in the National Transformation 50 (TN50), which is being deliberated on and developed now. Some consultations on this matter have started and this is laudable. Briefly, TN50 is an attempt to chart our next 30 years of social and economic goals.

This, expectedly, will replace Vision 2020 of the Mahathir era, which shall come to end by 2020, when Malaysia is targeted to be a developed nation “in its own mould”.

It is quite often that the prime minister comes out with some social and visionary statements and then expects us to discuss and put the content to them. This is perhaps to ensure that there are elements of ownership to the ideas and the plans that ensue from these constructs.

We hope some assessments can be done to Vision 2020 to examine the achievements thus far. Vision 2020 was presented at a meeting of business and industry leaders in 1991 under the auspices of the National Business Council, of which the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) was the secretariat. Such an assessment will help us construct new base line economic and social statistics as well as set practical targets for the new TN50 as well as the targets for the various five yearly plans en route to TN50.

As a long-term economic and social plan, TN50 needs to be backed by several supporting studies, plans and strategies covering several areas, such as demography, economic structure, human capital master plan and not the least, social concerns, too. These supporting studies and plans will enable policymakers and planners to incorporate the major statements and objectives of TN50, the way the government did the New Economic Policy (NEP) and Outline Perspective Plan (OPP) undertaken before.

The initiative of TN50 must be supported and, in fact, taken seriously for it should articulate the long-term objectives of the nation as we move towards Bangsa Malaysia and as we strive to find a niche in the global community of nations. The geopolitical changes, the changing market dynamics and the intense competition demand nations be adaptive, innovative, creative and resilient to survive and to endure.

These expectations, novel and lofty that they are, ultimately have to be articulated and translated into words and slogans that can mobilise grassroots support while, at the same time, provide enough guidance and direction to technocrats, such as the civil servants and policymakers, to design policies and strategies both in the medium term and short term so that long-term visions are not derailed.

Thus, researchers and think tanks as well as non-governmental organisations must begin to initiate discussions and deliberations on this matter and contribute to the leadership their perspectives of this long-term concern. In fact, this is more urgent than the daily political bickering among us, which is a waste of time and derailing us from the bigger matters of the society.

The leadership in this matter should be the Economic Planning Unit, which has the experiences in undertaking long-term socio-economic plans. It, in consultation with central agencies, such as the Statistics Department, the Finance Ministry and the central bank, can undertake long-term projections of demographic patterns, labour force and employment structure, economic structure and other social concerns, such as social justice and good governance.

While these are expected building blocks for any long-term economic and social plan, we cannot but need for the plan to address major social concerns, such as national unity and social economic imbalances, the primary and overriding concern of the country since the early 70s, which are still relevant till today.

Regarding these, the government must seek inspiration and hope from our national philosophy, the Rukun Negara, which was conceived in the aftermath of interethnic tensions and great social divide.

Moving forward, Malaysia cannot afford divisiveness, discord and technological backwardness. We also need strong moral standing in the eyes of the global community.

In this regard, some local expertise in these exercises can be explored. Many may still be around though many of them are retired or are even deceased. A reliance on local capacity in this long-term soul-searching exercise is more beneficial rather than reliance upon foreign consultants, who may not have the insight of national priorities and concerns. Intimate knowledge and conscious concern and priorities of the nation and its multiracial position is a matter that deserves our utmost attention.

I applaud the effort and initiative to articulate TN50 as the next national blueprint to bring our people to greater heights. If Vision 2020 was articulated mainly by businessmen, let TN50 involve peoples from all walks of life to ensure they internalise the objectives and aspirations of the transformation plan for the benefit of future generations.

Dr. Sulaiman Mahbob is chairman of the Malaysian Institute of Economic
Research (MIER)

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