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Sunday, 12 July 2009

The 100 Days Myth.

The New Deal


The 100 days is one of the most nefarious myths culled from American politics. Coincidentally, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah in a speech at a private function mentioned the term, a New Deal. The American president most associated with the term new deal was FDR.

In one sense, PM Najib is making a series of deals with the rakyat. He has offered them a slew of changes with the aim of saving UMNO and the country. We have a possible analogy between our PM Najib and FDR.

Franklin D. Roosevelt took office at a time of national emergency when the instruments of government under Herbert Hoover and his laissez-faire Republican predecessors were wholly inadequate to the challenge. FDR went into action with a slew of reforms and invented new institutions to save the American economy.

PM Najib came into power after a brokered transition which allowed PM Najib to move into office and Pak Lah to ride into the sunset a happy and prosperous man. He (Pak Lah) was able to say patronisingly- the man I chose has done well. History will judge this to be a misstatement. The UMNO warlords, scared out of their wits, chose Najib over Pak Lah. What Pak Lah is saying so that he won't miss out on the euphoria- indeed Najib is a better PM than he can ever be.

In a similar sense, PM Najib came into power at a time of national emergency too. At the last general elections, if Pak Lah can be compared to Hoover, his administration of which PM Najib was a part, promised security, peace and prosperity. The instruments of government under Hoover Pak Lah- the police, (security), the judiciary and the civil service and the economy are in disarray. The RM8 billion given to the Police to enhance their operations and management have not result in better crime prevention. Peace has ceded place to anxieties given the negative perception on our judiciary. As for the economy, a new economic model is needed to replace the NEP which has become a tool to legitimise the seizure of economic opportunities by the elite. The stimulus packages which PM Najib announced, have not given results other than transferring funds to, again, selected beneficiaries.

Ok lah, let us be charitable a bit and accept that what PM Najib has done so far were well meaning. But they are not going to be boxed up in the 100 days myth created by the media. History has judged what FDR did as ushering in a brilliant moment. However those did not materialise within 100 days but came much later. It is highly improbable that substantial changes have taken place during PM Najib's hundred days. The 100 days thing is just a myth created by the local media, aping its nefarious kin in America.

Everyone is transfixed on talking about PM Najib's 100 days. It is as though the first 100 days provide a definitive stamp of leadership and governance. More important than offering excessive homage, we should ask, what has PM Najib done? A few changes were announced. Liberalisation of certain sectors within the service industry, liberalisation of selected financial sectors, the abolition of the 30% requirement, announcing that from henceforth scholarship will be awarded on the basis of merits, the teaching of science and maths back into Bahasa Malaysia. Perhaps all these will result in Malaysians moving into higher income groups.

Two important statesmen don't seem to be too enthusiastic about the first 100 days. Tun Mahathir thought the negatives have been bigger than positives but quickly added that his disapproval does not mean he doesn't support PM Najib. Clever.

In his aptly termed straight talk, Tengku Razaleigh has been more forthright. The 100 days thing is no big thing. The bigger picture is to evaluate what PM Najib has done against the promises made since March 8, 2008. Its not that Dato Najib took over after a general elections. He inherits what has been laid down by Pak Lah since the last general elections. PM Najib took over on 2nd April 2009 in accordance to a peaceful transfer of power.

This 100 days thing is a much hyped concept. We may well be reminded by the caution given by Richard Nixon- The term has been an unreliable indicator for presidential success...

Roosevelt took office on the face of the worst panic and fear that engulfed America. He took over from Hoover who presided over the great crash and the deepest recession. During his first 100 days, he undertook 2 important measures. First alleviate the suffering of the poor, the have-nots, the marginalised by redistributing income. He took income from the rich to give to the poor. He didn't do a full Monty Keynesian- doing a deficit spending in wanton abandon. Two, he reorganised the economy.

Roosevelt's strategy consisted of two parts: first, provide relief for those who needed it most, which often involved a redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. Second, provide long-lasting reform to the nation's economy, through reorganization and the creation of new agencies. Most of Roosevelt's policies can be described as "taking from one pocket to put in the other." Fixated with a balanced budget and fretful when it was not, Roosevelt made sure that anything given to one sector of the economy was taken from somewhere else. He did not accept Keynes' recommendation to begin heavy deficit spending, and did not do so until the threat of World War II forced him to.

What were the measures taken by PM Najib in these 100 days to provide relief to the poor and the lower income groups? The measures taken to liberalise the service sector were hardly impactful on Malay economic interest as Malay participation there is very insignificant. The liberalisation of the 30% quota rule will not cause the majority of Malays lose sleep. They will have insomniac effects only on those who have benefited by these secretive 30% quota rules.

Roosevelt's legendary "First 100 Days" concentrated on the first part of his strategy: immediate relief. In 3 months March to June 1933, FDR sent Congress a record number of bills, all of which passed easily. These included the creation of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Congress also gave the Federal Trade Commission broad new regulatory powers, and provided mortgage relief to millions of farmers and homeowners. FDR's first hundred days in office were a flurry of activity, with 15 major bills signed into law. Later presidents have aspired to match his record.

What we have heard after these 100 days, are the announcements made by PM Najib. None of these were sent to Parliament to be debated. Hence Tengku Razaleigh's call for relying more on enduring institutions and to policies must be heeded.

We need to trust less in personalities and more in policies, look less to politics and more to principle, less to rhetoric and more to tangible outcomes, less to the government of the day and more to enduring institutions, first among which must be the Federal Constitution.

Not only is this jubilation over these 100 days misleading, it is also crafted to give the impression that everything will be all right, with a change at the top. We are focussing on the clock maker and not the clock.

The success of the First 100 Days was important to Roosevelt and Americ- because it got the New Deal off to a strong and early start. Later, the conservative Supreme Court would declare much of the New Deal unconstitutional, and Roosevelt's political prestige would decline as his policies failed to resolve the Depression. If Roosevelt had not passed his agenda early, we would probably be without many New Deal programs Americans take for granted today.

PM Najib has missed the opportunities to initiate radical reforms in relation to the election manifesto of 2008. He could have shown he is serious about the security of this country by implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the most important civilian security instrument- the Police. He should have seized the chance to implement the IPCMC. He should have seized the opportunities to get early wins.

And this is the key point; it's not that PM's hundred days will either doom him to failure or guarantee his success. It's that transitions are times when momentum builds or it doesn't, when opinion about the new leader begin to crystallize. It's a time when feedback loops - virtuous cycles or vicious ones - get established. Significant missteps feed downward spirals that can be hard to arrest. So it's far better for new leaders to get early wins that build personal credibility and political capital, rather than dig themselves into holes and have to clamber back out.

We are giving PM Najib pressure to work magic in a mere 100 days. After that what? PM Najib should study Kennedy. As Kennedy and his chief aide, Ted Sorensen, were writing his inaugural address, he said. "Let's put in that this won't all be finished in a hundred days or a thousand." Knowing this, Kennedy and Sorensen inserted into his speech its famous "thousand days" line. For good measure, they added an even bigger caveat, warning that the new administration probably wouldn't meet its goals "even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet."

JFK knew that the hundred-day yardstick for measuring presidential progress was as misleading as it is ubiquitous. The roundness of the number, though aesthetically seductive, is arbitrary; and while the short time span suggests swift, purposeful action, it really means that newcomers to the office will usually be too green to demonstrate true mastery.

Let's not do a media circus hype over these 100 days. The hundred days is surely, as historian Arthur Schlesinger once said, a "trap."

17 comments:

Anonymous,  12 July 2009 at 11:00  

You say lets not do a media circus - but is the Star or the NST or even the new Mirror listening?

jo

Nik 12 July 2009 at 13:24  

Dato'

You missed the statement by Tun Dr M when he was asked about previous measures to improve the economy taken by the present PM and he said that these measures were populist measures...
ALL of the announcements made by DS Najib are understandably MEANT to enhance his Image. This is important as his Image had been tarred by the opposition and needs cleaning and polishing...

So really the Objective of the first 100 days was that of Reconstructing the Personal Image of the New PM.

Let us hope that these Personal Image Reconstructing Measures will be followed by genuine measures that will truly improve the lives of Malaysians...

Anonymous,  12 July 2009 at 13:28  

Dato,

The more I read about what U have written the more I believe that yr effort will be like a whistle in the roaring wind!

Umno is too entrenched in her politics. Nothing will change. Her other compatriots, like Kuomintang (KMT) & Indian National Congress (INC) r all riding into the sunset while umno is limping along unwillingly!

Iff umno has been lead by people like U &/or TR then her inevitable demise/relevancy to the modern internet epoch might be prolong, with something good done in her twilight years!

Another opportunity lost for M'sia?

BTW a toast to yr consummate readership in all those that U have quoted.

anomie

Anonymous,  12 July 2009 at 13:39  

The Star, NST, Utusan etc etc etc are all govt propaganda machines.

It is 110% incapable of any SINGLE independent line of thinking especially when it comes to being critical of the govt.

So stupid. We are missing the forest for the trees with this kind of media silencing.

donplaypuks® 12 July 2009 at 13:48  

Absolutely right. This 100 days thing is drivel, utterly meaningless.

And this sudden 20 point jump in popularity - I don't believe it. I smell a rat! Abolish FIC which no one bothers with since many use Ali Baba rules to avoid it, and your popularity increases. I don't think think so.

I thibk he's set to lead UMNO/BN to extinction with consummate distinction. Watch and see!

How do you trust a PM who first publicly denied meeting Saiful and then fudged on it, twice?

Anonymous,  12 July 2009 at 14:44  

We can summarize that he did a few populist things but nothing really important that can change the life of ordinary Malaysians for the better. Above all he hasn't cleared his name of the people's perception that he is somehow connected to the gruesome murder of the Mongolian lady.

Suci Dalam Debu 12 July 2009 at 17:57  

Sir,

The way you are writing, I am afraid someone might knock on your door at night.

Be strong Sir.

Anonymous,  12 July 2009 at 20:01  

People don't really bother of Najib's 100 days as PM.
If he continues to believe that Malaysians are stupid then, the line is clear for the final journey for UMNO/BN in power. Then the next 100 days will be the usual Malay tradition for the 'TAHLIL 100 HARI".
At least Pak Lah sleep through during his premiership but this guy is either in a denial mode or he is so confused and unsure of his own ground. I think he needs to stand in front of the mirror and knock his head and tell himself that he is a Malay leader and there are at least 27 millions people in Malaysia that he is accountable.
UMNO members if the other component members have no balls should start telling him enough is enough and the nation needs direction and populist measures do not help.
Feel real scary Dato' and let me ask you sincerely, are we still OK?!!! dh9753

Anonymous,  12 July 2009 at 23:58  

Even if Najib had the original spin master Edward Bernays leading his Public Relations team, he would still be where he is currently. Where is all this leading to?

Satish 13 July 2009 at 02:35  

Najib has given us crap wrapped in glitter.

For example,his announcement of 20% discount for people who use the toll at least 80 times a month.

How many people use the tolls 80 times a month ?!

30 days a month, using toll twice a day = 60 times only.


Corruption is still alive...& he himself is involved a lot.

For Najib to kill corruption is like killing himself.

BN sucks.

Tony 13 July 2009 at 02:37  

Dear Suchi dalam debu,

There is really nothing to be afraid of, nothing can be worse than putting our generations to come, in jeopardy.

Speak your hearts out, do them a service.

Tony 13 July 2009 at 02:40  

Datuk, a good piece of thought.

Certainly, this 100 day is but the usual EMNO warlords living in denial

Anonymous,  13 July 2009 at 09:08  

Dato'
100 days or 1000 days is irrelevant. The initial sincerity of intent and the subsequent policies announced profile the direction. As it is announcements made thus far are not sufficiently visionary to address the woes of the country. I agree totally with Tengku Razaleigh. However, the reality is our politicians worry more about voter support than citizen and national welfare.

walla 13 July 2009 at 13:07  

C: "While waiting for A and B to bring over the teh tarik, i might as well ask you what you think of Najib's 100 days."

D: "I would look at the big picture, C. I would for instance ask what is the difference between the prime minister of a country and the chief executive officer of a public-listed company, let's say one of those on the NYSE.

I would think there is no real difference. By right, they should have the same qualities of leadership - integrity and intelligence, people skills, balancing wisdom, vision built on analytical foresight, and the rare courage and interfacing deftness to stimulate directional actions by others.

Of course they should also show that they will not suffer the foibles of human duplicity. That should keep those surrounding them on their toes. And end the bloody third world mentality.

Now, if you take the case of the CEO, these days he has to make quarterly reports to his shareholders. Under heightened scrutiny, if i may add.

So too with politicians. Gone are those heydays when one can blabber the way through in front of starry-eyed, low-focused and ignorant hoi polloi, those quietly called the grass-roots. Like fodder for cows.

Nowadays, those very fodder are turning into extremely prickly and sharp weeds that spread all over the garden. They have suddenly developed minds and their piercing stares can incinerate not just the rostrum, mike and backdrop but the speaker and his speech strategist as well. Some of those weeds have even taken root as political commentators, kekeke.

Therefore, any PM worth his salt should take his first 100-days as only the first of many quarterly reports he makes to the rakyat. To put himself and his cohort under the same lens of accountability as applied to public-listed companies, he has to project the rakyat not as voters but as concerned and active shareholders of a public-listed company called Malaysia Bhd.

He shouldn't say that he's here because of the people as if it is the wish of the people to put him there. They didn't; it was Pepi Slumberjack.'

C: " That's not entirely fair, D. A leader is as much made by the people he leads as he is by himself. Sometimes, things get done better and faster because good perceptions pave a smoother and more united way forward. Therefore, popularity does count. Because it reflects acceptance. And acceptance is what he needs. Which explains why he gave out goodies."

D: "Hah! you sure need that teh tarik kick, don't you? Tell me how many of those 11 goodies are not something a good PM would have ensured done eons ago without having to dress them like some parade hamper for the hungry masses?

Take the motorbike license. What's the point of collecting a few hundred bucks from the motorist every year? You spend money on a new jet, take holiday to Disneyland purportedly to study canal management, whitewash reasons for squandering millions on all sorts of juvenile sports projects and then come back and tsk-tsk when you see a parent wobbling two children on one junkable bike to school. Now they cut the rate but say learners need to pay two ringgit. Why not non-learners pay two ringgit for the L plate and put it on forever, thereby saving two hundred every year?'

C: "Yeah, also those citizenship applications in Sabah and Sarawak. Come to think of it, there is still no announcement on the actual situation there. Certainly the rakyat will want to know how many of the applicants are in fact illegals from across the borders. Many would think it is treasonous to slyly give easy citizenship to foreigners while holding back for twenty years the same from locals born, bred and blooded in the country just so to make up some favorable political constituency for the next elections, don't you think so too?"

walla 13 July 2009 at 13:08  

D: "Sigh. Without facts and figures, we can't answer that, C. The biggest thing amiss that can be called a real goody is transparency. I would have expected him to stand up and say his administration is now going to be transparent one hundred percent upfront. Not for the rakyat and the press to have to wait for the parliament sessions to take place so that they can expectantly and expectedly hear MPs in fine suits give waffling answers to sleepy attendees. And certainly no more for the rakyat and the media to find out after the event has taken place, the project crumbled in a heap of dust, the money all gone, the culprits sun-basking in Acapulco and those remaining behind pointing fingers everywhere except on themselves.

You know, C, it was the absence of transparency upfront that caused things like PFKZ and plush bungalows in Port Kelang and Shah Alam. And if you think those take the cake, wait for the others. Try Silterra, for one. There are many more, signores and signorinas.

Who suffer in the end? The cows. Why? Because the fodder gets devitaminized.'

C: "And that's why i think TRH is perceptive. He wants a barrage of change fired from a battery of institutions, not spun by political personalities today only to run aground on the beaches of normandy tomorrow because the little napoleons have planted land mines all over the place.

Take this reversal of the PPSMI. The alternative approach to english they now say will be from five billion put in after the last forty million had been squandered. But you also hear how bad and untrained some past foreign teachers of english are. So where to find the thousands needed? If you take from Nottingham forest, they will cost a bomb, even at present exchange rate. And if you take from the Philippines, one particular MP will say how can because he's saying filipinos are good in english but not going anywhere. And if you take from retirees with weak dentures, how long can they teach and do you think many will sacrifice their last years in some ulu place when even urban jobless disdain training allowances in rural institutes?

As the most intelligent of the malay bloggers has written, the market will punish all of us but it will punish the malay students the most.

Perhaps that would explain why the ministry is making sure the new number of hours for english in chinese and tamil schools stay the same. People are now suspecting it is to make sure the national schools have an advantage.

Do you see what i mean, D? Little napoleons playing politics in their small ponds while the whole nation crumbles to dust."

D: "It may just be an oversight, C. I am sure the MOE will rectify that and perk up hours and support for english studies for those schools. You know, those in charge of our young brains are not very bright. They are themselves the product of the system they are still trying to sell to the blood-boiling parents who have also just found out from one professor that in the '60s the japs were translating one book a month to english but our own translation body could only do one book a year. We are committing academic infanticide of our young, C. Why can't they just offer english-stream schools as an additional system and see the light?

Yet, it remains as before. New lamps for old, new tilam for old, new blah-blah (tongue rolls out)."

walla 13 July 2009 at 13:08  

C: "TRH is saying reform should be institution-driven. I am saying it should be root-driven. The whole system is wrong because the way they all think on everything affecting this country is koyak.

Take the new economic council. You see any expert on development of SMEs? None, and yet they say SMEs are the backbone of this country. With the MNCs hollowing out at night like the remnant airborne sappers caught in the vice of the encroaching panzer divisions at Arnhem, the SMEs will be the ones left holding what's left of our fort.

Get real planners who know the industries to come up and help our SMEs develop real capabilities faster in this topsy turvy world.

D, all i am saying is win the trust of the rakyat again. Goodies today will go tomorrow. What are the real changes that will be done and done all the way to the root? This is the question to ask, to answer, to do and to report back. Do you see anyone of them doing it?"

D: "Well, let's hope they take real measures with their KPIs, C. You know, the siege of Stalingrad was 199 days. He should take it like it is a seige. The first 100 days are over. The next but one day off for self-recriminations must start now."

C: "Draw the graph, D. Horizontal axis is depth of intervention and vertical axis is degree of difficulty. Your four points on that curve will cover a strategic change process. First, operational. What are you doing that is already right but just needs to be done better? Next, strategic. Are the fundamentals still right but focus needs to be changed? Then, cultural. How do you change the way you think and act? Lastly, paradigm. How do you recreate the entity or perish? Now your KPIs are arrows shooting out from that flat graph."

D: "But don't you have to add the anthropological dimensions of race to the graph? I must admit though that will make it an unwieldy four dimensions."

C: "To flatten it then to a single continuum, we must embrace 1Malaysia, namely everyone to help everyone up in accordance with the dictates of the world market."

D: "So when do we start embracing, C?"

C: "You're a menace to society, D. Ah, A and B are finally here with our teh tarik. Just don't use that word in B's presence. He's still innocent."

kuldeep 13 July 2009 at 21:10  

20% discount for toll users >>who compensates the operator?Its us the tax payers..so eventually at the most basic level we are paying the tolls for those guys driving their cayennes,x5 and ferraris>>isn't that plain stupidity?

Just as the govt missed the concept of PPSMI (where focus is on English for Science and Maths and not Shakespeare)..they're doing the same with tolls i.e concept is USER pays for convenience BUT govt MUST provide suitable alternative route for the public who wishes to avoid the toll.The operative word is "SUITABLE" i.e should be at least equivalent to the roads available before the tollways came into existence.

And the toll operators must meet a minimum service level that they are to provide to their users.I guess being caught in traffic jam of 30 mins to traverse 6 km shld be by no means the standard expected of a tolled hiway.Neither is the bumpy seasickness inducing East Coast Expressway an example of hiway standards.

Now..the RM 10 billion 1 Malaysia Fund..is this a govt guaranteed fund?Will the returns be better then the banks?Wats the returns & maturity period?Where will the money be invested in?Have anyone analysed the impact the fund will have on govt costs and the banking system itself?I doubt it...but personally,I think its a good idea by itself.

The motorcycle caper..its timely BUT will there be compensation paid to some private companies too?Isn't the driving schools a closed loop too?

Its the dreaded kneejerks season..much the same way the Quarterly Reporting have driven a lot of grey accounting for the PLCs in USA n the world.

But hopefully,the head was in the right place.The mind maybe focussed elsewhere tho..

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