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Sakmongkol ak 47

ariff.sabri@gmail.com

Saturday, 6 June 2009

NEP, UMNOnomics and Change.

Ironically, the NEP has prepared the material basis for a real change in Malay politics. It has brought into being the new Malay whose very life existence brings it into conflict with UMNOnomics. This is what NEP has degenerated into-UMNOnomics.

When you impose the full weight of the government on economics believing that by doing so, you will sort out all the economic injustices, what you are doing is DEMAND desired economic results by a central authority based on a collective command over economic resources. This was something pointed out by F.A Hayek in The Fatal Conceit.

The key words here are central authority and collective command. We in Malaysia know collective command means the sum total of government rules and regulations, quota enforcements, the creation of obese GLCs to compete with individual economic actors. I have spoken about GLCs being thoroughbred horses employed to pull milk carts and that is crying shame. It only shows the GLCs are run by petty minded individuals whose 'excellence' is unjustly amplified by the officious positions they hold.

The central feature of UMNOnomics is the idea of the omnipotence of the UMNO government in sorting out economic problems and issues. It is grounded on this fatally conceited idea that the government knows best. When our Prime Minister recently announced that the age of government knows best is over, that was the clearest acknowledgement and admission that all this while, that was how the government behaved. It behaved as though it knows best what the people want, how much they want, where and when they want.

Furthermore, when those who derived even some semblance of legitimacy from the idea that government knows best (which is but just another word for central authority with collective command over resources), feel they are empowered, they start throwing their weight all around. Those who think they have legitimacy are not confined to those who have formal powers and authority but also extend to those who have informal legitimacy- the ketua bahagians, the ajk bahagians and UMNO people in general. This government is ours, we can do what we like seem to be their creed.

That fatal conceit has only led to the creation of a bigger number of people who are disillusioned, sidelined and marginalized. The end results of UMNOnomics?- BENEFITS FOR THE FEW, COSTS BY THE MANY. On the basis of this experience, a larger class of marginalized people came into being. They become fully conscious of their position in society and they will be transformed, as a force fighting for its material interests. What are they looking for? They demand nothing short of the dismantling of UMNOnomics.

CHANGE.

We must challenge the idea that the natural order of things is immutable. We must reject the silly idea that it's useless to rock the boat. We have to ask ourselves: what kind of power structure do we want? Do we want one that is self continuing i.e. one that goes on independent of us? Or do we want a power structure that is self perpetrating, i.e. we clone ourselves to ensure the system we set will be prolonged indefinitely?

We have seen these two perceptions being played out in the recent UMNO election. Some people talk about change- or should I say, posturing about change without understanding what change essentially means. Because of that, after one year from the last general elections where UMNO was soundly trashed, no revolutionary changes are forthcoming. None came for the simple reason; change is understood as mere replacement of an old order.

It is on the meaning of change, we differ fundamentally. You think we can change by just mouthing the slogan 'berani berubah'? It does not matter if the phrase is muttered by our PM- it is not a qualification of a PM to know and understand everything. It is still something that must be subjected to the test of life. Has the change spoken of by the UMNO leadership been reflected in the everyday life of UMNO? I am afraid, the answer will be no.

I think if the change that was once touted actually took place, what we would have seen was the replacement of one group adopting the business-as-usual culture by another group. It would have been more of the same. It would have been quantitative changes augmenting the implosive undercurrents.

The cornerstone of our understanding of change is as follows. Change does not take place gradually in a straight smooth line. Change can never be just the changing of the guards. Change must essentially be disruptive and explosive. Karl Marx termed it a revolution which would lead to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Joseph Schumpeter saw the same thing, but arrived at a different conclusion. Both saw progress in terms of destruction of the old order to be replaced with a newer order, more vibrant one. Hence, if the berani berubah simply means the replacement of the perpetrators of the old culture with a new set of perpetrators of the same culture, you don't have change.

For real change, you need to have an agenda to carry out a complete overhaul of the business–as-usual culture of UMNO. You want change? Press for direct elections of office bearers at cawangans, bahagians and national levels. Insist on quality leadership at cawangan, bahagian and national levels. You want change- gradually dismantle the abused aspects of the NEP- UMNOnomics.

The problem is UMNO does not dare to change. The NEP is for instance has turned into a vicious and angry tiger from which UMNO is scared to dismount. Having taught the Malays to receive free fish, UMNO could not afford to abandon those they have not taught to fish.

Failure to see the essence of change can only lead the UMNO leadership churning out analgesics and unconvincing assurances. So far we have seen nothing explosive or disruptive about UMNO power structures. We still see the UMNO landscape being dominated by UMNO warlords whose hold over their respective divisions or cawangans is made possible only by personal ability to keep dishing out goodies. Hence the loyalty of UMNO members is held tenuously by patronage and welfarism. Loyalty not held and bound by conviction is of course, ephemeral. As a rule, with probably on the rarest of exceptions, the agenda of the UMNO warlords is enriching themselves.

Meanwhile, the quantitative changes are steadily undermining the old order and will later emerge into the light in a sudden overturn. In other words, quantitative differences gave rise to a qualitative change. Gradual changes in the consciousness of workers lead to an explosion in the political consciousness of the masses that all this while, they have been duped. A sudden change in voting preference is not caused by outside "agitators", but is produced by an accumulation of changes within the hearts and minds of voters that finally push them to strike. And struck they did in the 12th GE.

It wasn't due the goodness of the PKR and other parties. The majority of the 5.7 million Malay voters were not politically affiliated. Many I suspect didn't care two hoots about what PKR and Anwar Ibrahim were fighting for. Over the years, the frustrations and disillusionment have multiplied in quantity and waiting for an excuse to explode. The immediate 'cause' of the social explosion was maybe something quite inconsequential such as the flaccidness of Pak Lah or the alleged undue influence of the 4th Floor boys or even Malaysia's favourite whipping boy, KJ. Their role was to become "the last straw that breaks the camel's back". They were just the catalyst whereby quantity changes into quality.

The whole series of opposition electoral victories recently are a product of a long accumulation of discontent within the rakyat. I take note of the account given by the blogger Aspan Alias about the problems facing the present UMNO generation. They can be comforted by the fact that what they are facing is not confined to them only. On the whole, UMNO is suffering from a massive deficit in credibility. UMNO has become a reference point for all things bad. The younger generation are rejecting UMNO outright. Government servants whisper unmentionable things on ketua cawangans, the AJK Bahagians and even make fun of the Prime Minister.

They laughed at the hypocrisy and shallowness of the pronouncements made by UMNO information chief about wanting to sleep at kampong houses. That idea represents the highest point of hypocrisy and mendaciousness simply because people can smell their hollowness. The UMNO goons should have been doing whatever the UMNO Propaganda Chief was saying on a continuous basis not because elections are coming, but because UMNO is a party of the people.

Only those with a sense of being victimised or with the keenest empathy with the majority could foresee this development, i.e. the build-up of internal disillusionment which is rooted in the changing objective situation. The objective situation includes the worsening economic relations caused by the 'big government' which in turn allowed rampant corruption and economic abuses, worsening political relations caused by the ruling elite's defence of their economic interests and so forth.

These changes of mood, which are already taking place in the majority of the rakyat and also within the rank and file of UMNO itself, will be reflected within UMNO at a certain stage that will result in the possible demise of UMNO under Najib.

The fact of the matter is, the present top leadership in UMNO and the larger proportion of the UMNO warlords represent the ruling elite bent on preserving their material interests. There are pockets of UMNO progressives who have written off UMNO as a Party that could never be changed. It could never be changed because of a fundamental flaw in leadership philosophy.

The top leadership and the UMNO power brokers only have an empirical and formalistic outlook that only sees the surface of reality. They fail to draw a distinction between appearance and reality - between the immediate appearance evident to observation and the hidden processes, interconnections and laws that underlie the observed facts. In other words, they are blind to the subterranean processes taking place before their very eyes.

UMNO leadership deceived themselves into thinking they have popular support when they see large congregations at their functions. But they forget these are crowds for rent- you pay them, give pocket money, and supply them with nasi bungkus. You pay people to line up and shout ululations holding bunga Manggar to welcome you. These are appearances which are deceiving. And possibly because of that , the UMNO propaganda chief was able to say, " I think UMNO has got a better chance to win...". What Ahmad Maslan thinks has no bearing on the outcome.

That is why we must challenge also the common statement that politics is just a mater of perception. In order to save UMNO we must always proceed from the immediate knowledge of appearances to the discovery of reality, of the essence, of the laws underlying the appearances. The way of thinking of the bad politicians derives from the fact that it is always only the immediate form in which relationships appear which is reflected in the brain, and not their inner connections.

Let us look closely at what happened to the NEP of late. Tun Razak set out to create millionaires out of FELDA settlers, but today, FELDA Bhd is a multi million Ringgit business organisation while the settlers are nowhere near. FELDA has become a separate business entity at odds with an organisation entrusted to nurture millionaire settlers. Regulations and various forms of quota accorded vast opportunities for corruption. Indiscriminate discretionary powers at interpreting the elements of NEP have succeeded to enrich a minority.

Yes, there is nothing wrong for a venture capitalist to take away the lion's share from men of straw. But we need to ask, how the venture capitalists got to their position in the first place. And once there, why is the segmentation of society into like them and us the rest must remain immutable? Can us the rest attain similar positions as like them?

And what do the little napoleons, the government functionaries vested with some powers at decision making turn the government into? They have turned the government into a state capitalist. When that happened, those controlling the levers of power and decision making, saw many opportunities. The original idea may have been to regard state capitalism- represented by the SEDCS, government owned businesses, even government departments as a trustee for the benefit of the masses. Eventually, state capitalism degenerated into an excuse to pilfer in the name of the rakyat. That of course is UMNOnomics.

Tun Razak set out to establish a government that sought to establish the common good. One of the means to achieve that was the NEP. If the agenda of the NEP was properly executed, we would have achieved a better government. What became of the NEP was, it degenerated into a grand excuse for legalised pilfering. With the rapid flourishing of economic enterprises in the name of Malay interests, the economy in fact, became gradually nationalised. When nationalisation takes place, we got a new bureaucracy. The bureaucracy was not a new ruling class, but a parasitic growth on the state, which usurped political power.

Only a new political revolution could eliminate the bureaucracy and reintroduce democracy. So far what the leadership of UMNO has done is far from revolutionary. The business as usual power structures are still intact. UMNO warlords having their principal agenda of enriching themselves still dominate UMNO culture. Nothing has changed really.

11 comments:

Anonymous,  6 June 2009 at 09:43  

A good piece of what is generally known but cant be done about it.

If you had led UMNO, it would not be what it is today... still dreaming of the good old days unchanged.

The BN structure is essentially flawed when the other component parties practically have no say who should be the leader of the coalition and how the country is led. UMNO divisions have more say than say MCA to decide who should lead. This has essentially led to the rejection of the component parties.

Just dont think there will be any change.

The warlords are just too many and too engrossed for today not tomorrow.

Anonymous,  6 June 2009 at 09:47  

Tabik spring, Dato.

Frank, decisive & cut through the chase!

Thanks for acknowledging the BIG felony in Felda - creating numerous million RM handaran given napoleons, to the opportunities depletion of the land-tilting settlers.

anomie

kuldeep 6 June 2009 at 10:23  

Good analysis as always Dato.

The thinking have not changed an iota.When a drastic change is needed,the thought processes must come from the top.

Appointment of an accountant (with no CEO /little property development experience) to head UEM Land Bhd is indicative of "things change but they remain the same."

Appointment of an ex EPU Minister Banker to head a new era Economic Council is not likely to generate ground breaking initiatives.

Sime Darby is touted to be the world No 1 plantation company but the plantation division chief is an accountant.Where are the Golden boys who are acknowledged planters right down to their boots (not Guccis)?

Khazanah top ten is packed with accountants and economics graduates all sharing same backgrounds i.e. no hands on business experience;mainly analyst.Temasek top ten has a more diverse background with the common factor of their experience in running and developing businesses.



Well,Dato same chefs same food but at least it taste ok.What we have are "cook books analyst/critics" running our kitchen.
Can you expect any change?

kuldeep 6 June 2009 at 10:49  

Dato,

The first step to embracing change is to adopt technology to improve communications with the rakyat especially the younger (soon to be PRU 13 decision makers) generation.

Our top politicians are equipped with all the necessary tools i.e. lap tops,instant connectivity,blackberries,Iphones...and have qualified assistants and access to IT specialists.

Communications thru the net gives valuable feedback and a plethora of ideas..and is an effective supplement to on the ground communications.Those bunga manggar kompang functions costs a lot more than streamyx and are usually one way dialogues with well fed subsidized attendees.

But,seriously,how many of our Ministers bother to read emails,interact on their blogs,communicate thru their facebooks or update their twitters?

Every Minister publishes their emails...lets do a test by sending a short email to each and see how many responds.

Your friend Ismail Sabri may be the only one.

A CEO of a medium sized company typically attends to 150 emails per day.

tq

Anonymous,  6 June 2009 at 12:49  

Sak,

Be realistic lah ...government knows best just because they control the purse strings and just like Daddy ;decides where we go for dinner.
And how can they change?The government run by politicians..civil servants kow tow or gets cold storage..so bodek aja lah.
And to be politicians not cheap?
They go to visit their constituency have to belanja all round and some duit senyum boss..sure few thousand fly.Some more have to jaga so many people.Saliva only siapa mau?

And the Mak Datin at home have to keep up with other Mak Datins too.Cannot shopping at Masjid India,cannot wear same baju to functions..hairdresser?spa?driver?..itu also need money.
Some more children minima have to drive Mini Cooper,study kurang2 di Australia..

Dato sorry lah..susah mau change ini culture.Bukan macam microbes..kita ambil new petri dish boleh bikin baru terus.

Its not so easy lah.On my way to Muktamar Pas..maybe there the petri dish still new?

Anonymous,  6 June 2009 at 17:46  

An eye opener,

The NEP was hijacked and abused under Mahathir, so one can say that Mahathir is the guy who puts the first nail into Umno's coffin.

The NEP "medicine" has been abuse. In the right dose, it gives a cure however when taken indiscriminately and in excess, it has mutated into a vicious form of CANCER which seems to have no cure.

I think the only "cure" for this cancer which you called Umnonomics is only possible on the demise of the patient.

I hope I am proven wrong.

A Malaysian.

GreenBug 6 June 2009 at 23:37  

The culture is so deeply entranched that one cannot deny that it will take a 'revolution' to change. Even now, the new leadership in UMNO has not demonstrated a full understanding of this problem leave alone taking steps to change. I think this country is damaged beyond repair. We will be joining the ranks of Zimbabwe and Myanmar pretty soon.

Satish 7 June 2009 at 00:25  

To bring all this change..

GE13..Kick out BN.

Anonymous,  7 June 2009 at 01:58  

Some notable thoughts from our leaders over the last few weeks..

PENANTI...only 30% voted for PR..it reflects on the Rakyat's frustration with PR's politics and is a victory for BN

PAS ELECTIONS...Husam's loss is a major rejection of PKR/PR and victory for UMNO

EDUCATION...Minister instructs for a full audit of whats needed by schools around the country and also projections >>after PKFZ,audits is the in thing but it begs the question>>what was Hishamuddin doing all these past years??You mean MOE was running blind.

CHINA...agreed on framework and now Ministries to operationalse >> wow..don't we do feasibilty,cost benefits studies prior to operationalisation?Is this a Government that doesn't know best.

MANIK URAI..sleepovers?pyjama parties?do some rubber tap tap tap.

I don't really know..maybe I am stupid and can't see the wood for the trees.Maybe my sense of logic is outmoded and not in the same sphere as the Oxford trained brigade..or maybe I am just senile.

Sak,walla and friends.. help me to decipher the smoke signals from our leaders please

Nik 7 June 2009 at 08:27  

Dato'

The BIG QUESTION DS Najib has to ask himself is :

Is UMNO MORALLY BANKRUPT?

As CEO of the Organization he will have to determine this and try to turn the Organization around.

Turning around a MORALLY BANKRUPT Organization is hardly easier than turning a FINANCIALLY BANKRUPT Organization....Especially if the Current CEO himself has been in the Organization for 30 years...

DS Najib will find that even his Favourite Management Guru of "Blue Ocean" cannot help him as he has to REENGINEER HIMSELF FIRST before he can Reengineer the Organization.
After 30 years in the Organization, he is party to the Problem and needs PERSONAL REENGINEERING before he is able to reflect on the situation. The state of affairs in PERAK reflects his current management capability.

Under Normal Circumstances, when an organization is bankrupt, the receiver would look for a totally new CEO who has the ability to turn the Organization around. Not in the case of UMNO, as it is literally a Family Company....

Tun Dr M knew the problem and has complained about the reemployment of certain morally questionable wrongdoers back into the party's management.....

Although he knew full well that things are not going well, he will not advise nor criticize.
Why?...
A person would not admit that he has made the SAME MISTAKE TWICE.
Especially not Tun Dr Mahathir.

Anonymous,  7 June 2009 at 11:17  

Ministers too busy.

Ministers caught between being popular in UMNO,being popular with voters and being popular with the bosses.

Ministers not specialists but they need to show that they are the BOSS.They fail to appreciate that the civil servants knows more.But civil servants also more political or get cold storaged.Smart ones gets directorships and projects after retirement.

Ministers have little focus and go for SOUNDBITES.Their thinking processes is by nature for short term gains.

Only cure is demarcation between Ministers and Management.Ministers is the Board of Directors (sets and monitor policies,performance)..Management (civil servants with professionals/ appointed KSUs from within or outside) are the executives.

Then Ministers can focus on politics.Executives manage.Less corruption.More performance.All transparent.

Now MB is everything..Imam,structural engineer,automotive specialist,special branch boss.human resource director,house maintenance guy/painter,cook,baby carrier...where got such superhuman person?

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