KUALA LUMPUR — In US railroad parlance, a mallet is a very large and powerful steam locomotive. And in the railroad industry, a locomotive that goes off the rails is a pretty disastrous thing for various reasons, economically as well as a loss in reputation.
Recently, it appears that John Malott, the former US ambassador to Malaysia, had gone off the rails when he claimed that race relations in Malaysia “are worse than at any time since 1969”.
For him to suggest this in a respected publication such as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is indeed preposterous and shows his lack of understanding of the realities in Malaysia.
And the Minister of Information, Communication and Culture Datuk Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim hit the nail on the head with his mallet when he described Malott’s comments as outdated.
If what Malott had claimed was true, then Malaysia wouldn’t have commemorated its own World Interfaith Harmony Week this week, a brainchild of the King of Jordan, Abdullah II, which was presented at the 65th UN General Assembly in New York last year
The hosting of such an event and other affirmative actions like providing scholarships to the deserving and helping the needy irrespective of race to boost better and closer ethnic relations surely beats the lip service paid to race relations of the recent decades and credit goes to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, a passionate advocate of unity in diversity and of moderation instead of extremism, for his vision of inclusiveness.
Najib had taken upon himself to officiate at the World Interfaith Harmony Week in held in Putrajaya, the seat of government, to yet again demonstrate his commitment towards better racial and religious harmony in this country.
Malaysians can take heart from his simple but powerful words when he said “we all may be different in our (religious) beliefs but there are values we have in common that can strengthen unity and promote peace and harmony”.
Najib’s 1Malaysia “People First, Performance Now” rallying cry is beginning to take root and flourish despite some initial skepticism by the narrow-minded few and is seen as the balm to soothe the disillusioned in the aftermath of the March 2008 political tsunami.
In the WSJ article, Malott also took a potshot at the Malaysian economy when he claimed that the country was “once one of the developing world”s stars” but had now underperformed for the past decade and that worsening race and religious tensions may scuttle Malaysia’s growth and development ambitions.
But for the record, over the past 10 years, Malaysia’s economy had never failed to grow below 4 per cent annually except for the miserable 0.3 per cent growth in 2002 – Between 2000 and 2010, the country’s economy had grown by between a low of 4.2 per cent to a high of 8.6 per cent.
Malott inflates the projection and claims that Malaysia needs to grow by 8 per cent annually if it hopes to attain developed status by 2020, contrary to what has been projected by the government at a modest 6 per cent annually for the rest of this decade.
Last year, the Malaysian economy grew by a robust 6.8 per cent and although projections have been set at 5.2 per cent for 2011, there are already signs that this may be revised upwards in the light of new developments, especially in the oil and gas sector.
The ringgit, which used to be pegged at RM3.80 to one US dollar in 1998, is now hovering around the RM3 level, a reflection of the strength of the local economy, and is certainly a far cry from the mutterings of the usual doomsayers.
What Najib has done in terms of the economy is to look at every possible angle to optimise its potential rather than leaving it to run on its own devices.
To be able to do that in a focused manner, the prime minister has executed several initiatives like the Government Transformation Plan (GTP) and Economic Transformation Plan (ETP) because time is of the essence for Malaysia to join the ranks of the developed.
And he has taken cognisance of the imperatives for things to work: Under the 10th Malaysia Plan from now until 2015 to lay the foundations for Malaysia’s developed status by the end of this decade, Najib has stressed on creating an environment for economic growth, having inclusive socio-economic development, retaining a first-world talent base and raising the quality of life.
To improve the government delivery process, he has established the Performance Management & Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) under the Prime Minister’s Department to oversee the implementation and assess the progress of the GTP, ETP and facilitate as well as support delivery of both the National Key Result Areas (NKRAs) and Ministries Key Result Areas (MKRAs).
It is not all talk and no action for there has been remarkable progress. After 100 days of the announcement of the ETP, Najib unveiled investments of RM67 billion and RM36 billion in Gross National Income (GNI) from several Entry Point Projects (EPPs).
In fact, Subrina Chow, Director of the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office (HKETO) in Singapore, said recently that more entrepreneurs from Hong Kong SAR, a territory known for its strong business acumen, were eager to know of Malaysia’s New Economic Model (NEM) and to take part in it.
Even the Hong Kong government is interested in Malaysia’s development initiatives, she said, as reflected by the high number of its government ministers and officials visiting the country last year.
The discipline of action advocated by PEMANDU CEO Datuk Seri Idris Jala to “chase for results” and Najib’s directive of “doing what the rakyat wants, engaging with the public” under the 1Malaysia concept of “People First, Performance Now” are beginning to bear fruit.
It is turning back the clock from mediocrity and exclusiveness at one time towards a period of harmonious excellence and inclusiveness for the rakyat, be they in settlements of the deep interior, kampungs, new villages, estates or urban areas.
It may be far too much for Malott to grasp what Najib has done for the rakyat within 22 months of the government’s transformation towards a better life for all. But that’s what the people really want. — BERNAMA