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Sakmongkol ak 47

Wednesday 17 February 2010

UMNO’s Middle Income Trap

UMNO's middle income trap.

Since Sunday, I have been writing issues relating to UMNO. These are in anticipation of the Pahang UMNO convention this weekend. My objective is to have as many UMNO people read and ponder the issues before they participate in the convention. Let's have a serious convention. The convention is not a jamboree where you get to sing scout songs.
Let's talk now of UMNO's middle income trap. As you know, a middle income trap occurs when a middle income country finds it cannot compete technologically with an advanced country nor can it compete in terms of low cost with a low income country.
UMNO finds itself in such a situation, albeit a political one. It can't compete with the technical superiority of its political adversaries while at the same time; it can't compete in winning adherents to its cause among the common folks. UMNO's currency is its people. The quality and productivity of its members. Its exports are its ideas, cause, vision articulated.
The quality and productivity of its members is suspect. Its losing ground competing to offer a coherent vision for the future, arrest the fears of the Malay heartland. It appears unable to secure the confidence of the younger and intelligent set. It cannot also compete to secure the allegiance of the poorer sections of the population who gravitate towards religious solutions and therefore to parties offering religious agenda.
When I was covering the Bukit Gantang by elections the last time, I took note of two things. The Pakatan Rakyat people, especially the PKR and DAP were tech savvy. They had notebooks around, computer gadgets and other machines of one type or another. They sent sms, e mails and what not, of which we UMNO people were not aware of. En route to a kampong, I saw Anwar Ibrahim on a screen speaking live from somewhere else but his image was projected there. A few kilometers away, some old men clad in sarongs were putting up banners and posters.
Were there lessons to be learnt? What does familiarity with the latest technology reflect? It reflects modernity, advancement and possibly rich. What do sarongs indicate? If I were to use Ungku Aziz's sarong index theory, they would indicate poverty, backwardness, less advancement.
Where does UMNO stand? It slowness and lethargy over embracing technology suggests that it hasn't arrived at a stage of modernity, advancement or rich. Only the top Bumiputeras are rich- the puteras more than the bumis. But more importantly to me, it exposes the vulnerability of UMNO in that important department- it is failing to attract higher quality people to its cause. Good and intelligent people are not coming your way to dedicate themselves to your cause. Instead they gravitate to the other side or chose to stay out.
So what happens in the end? You end up having a strong body, but weak head. You become a sports jock, good at physical and rough sports but lose out in the battle of the minds, in activities that demand the nimbleness of the mind.
The scarcity of its people clad in sarongs would suggest that it's not poor either. So, UMNO despite having 3.5 million members is neither a modern/advanced nor a poor and backward party either. It's neither here nor there.
So what happens in the end? You don't have strong legs to carry you over the distance. You lose out on stamina.
This is double jeopardy for UMNO. It has failed to address the issue of quality of people at the top, i.e. at leadership levels and it has also failed to address issues at the bottom.
UMNO is actually caught in its own middle income trap. Middle Income trap illustration: - blueprints flow from California to China, while manufacturing goods flow in the opposite direction, leaving middle-income countries in limbo: they are not technology-savvy enough to compete with rich countries and are not cheap enough to compete with China.
UMNO's middle income trap: UMNO is not technologically proficient enough to compete with the technological keenness and the zealotry of PR party workers and not poor and humble enough to attract the PAS type crowds. Usage of blogs, tweeter, facebooks is not extensive as we would like to think. UMNO couldn't hold their own trying to convince the PAS types- those wearing skullcaps and folksy clothes more interested to asking you to pray alongside them. UMNO people are either shy/scared to make walkabouts at Pasar Malams.
UMNO can't compete at the high end technology with its adversaries. Opposition parties are using the new media to the hilt. They aim at one particular group- the intelligentsia. It is sufficient for ideas to form within an enclave of inquisitorial and potent minds. Small groups serve as catalysts to spread ideas, thinking, mood and perception.
Look around you. Does UMNO have its equivalent answer to Malaysia Today? Does it have an answer to Malaysian Insider and other Online Media Communicators that appeal to the inquisitive and critical crowd? It thinks it can neutralize the small but powerful groups by trying to appeal to the raw senses of the people outside the reaches of the new media. The ordinary people who are more likely to respond to stories about perceived threats, about threats to their religion, special position and all that. Aiya- clever Malays are not going to fall for those same tricks.
But UMNO is also losing at the low end technology- ceramahs, public speaking, mass gatherings. Why do you think, that UMNO the Goliath of Malay politics is stopping that low to embrace Perkasa? It doesn't hide its shamelessness by cavorting with a group whose very ideas and reason for existing stand in stark contrast with the vision of PM Najib.
This is the clearest example of UMNO losing its plot on how to galvanize Malay adherence. You can't compete at the high end and you are also losing at the lower end. You can't yet become a high incomer but not poor enough to become a low incomer.
This is of course an oversimplification. It doesn't mean that UMNO being trapped as a middle incomer, isn't attractive to rich incomer or less incomer. As the political market becomes fluid, party workers from the technologically advanced party can migrate to the other side. We have seen that happening already- the low calibers from the technologically advanced party are crossing over to UMNO.
Will UMNO gain? Difficult to say because the recent migrants are low enders- 2 of the Perak migrants still have some charges hanging over their heads while the DAP deserter has her shortcomings. As for Zahrain, no one is impressed with some personal endorsements of his character. UMNO will lose because accepting these people augments the low quality talent pool that's already dominating UMNO. This will lead to dominance by type B politicians.
It's like some sort of political second-order general equilibrium effects. You do get some spillover effects from the fluidity of the market, but the impacts of the spillovers are not certain. Boon or bane?


Anonymous,  17 February 2010 at 06:35  

Dear dato,
The chart below explains everything:
GNI = Gross National Income/ head
Non-Muslim C Muslim C
Australia Malaysia
US$40350 US$6970
Japan Iran
US$38210 US$3540
Singapore Indonesia
US$34760 US$2010
South Korea Egypt
US$21530 US$1800
Taiwan Pakistan
US$17230 US$980
Why is the muslim countries lagging beind? Well Dato you know the answer; you wrote an article few months back and these figures proved it. Malaysia is lucky to be in the middle income group. The worst could come and you drop down to Pakistan level. This is know a national problem; not UMNO nor PR.


Anonymous,  17 February 2010 at 06:59  

UMNO hanya boleh dilihat aktif dengan mensailang NGO penyokongnya macam KJ buat terhadap Perkasa dalam demo Australia.

Demo YBK di Shah Alam, UMNO hanya hantar dua orang.

Macam orang middle age mati pucuk. Kemahuan kuat tapi keupayaan terhadap.

Unknown 17 February 2010 at 09:09  


Despite Denials by our Timbalan Perdana Menteri (he still doesn't know which country he is living in!), this Country is going through a period of Turmoil, Confusion and Uncertainty.

During any period of Turmoil and Uncertainty, we are bound to see Mad Hats coming out of the woodworks to exploit the situation. These people thrive on environments clouded by confusion and uncertainty...

Anyone or Anything that takes 'Perkasa' seriously are just fools being exploited by these Mad Hatters.

Anonymous,  17 February 2010 at 10:42  

You are spinning something that has alrady spun out of control. In the 70s Korea had a lower income level than Malaysia. Since then the Korean income has grown by 10 to 12 times while the Malaysian income level has grown by at the very best by 4 times. Why is this so with all our natural resources. Oil in the goround oil on the ground, and free of flood and other calamities.The money that was to have been put in the hands of the workers has been used by for all that expensive projects that were built based on open ended cost. Now you tell us that we are in danger of Sovereign Default. Where were you when all this was going on.

It may be a little late. But neverthelss better late than never. I hope that GOD will give my leader the wisdom to do at the beginning what he will be forced to do unsuccessfully in the end. Ramalx

Anonymous,  17 February 2010 at 10:58  

YB Dato'
UMNO ok, yang kami meluat orang-orang UMNO.

kuldeep 17 February 2010 at 12:46  

1.BN is a good product but the brand have been adulterated lately due to gross mismanagement.
2.PR is a yet to be tested product..but have some good branding elements that is driving the market acceptance.
3.BN is putting too much focus on fighting PR as a product rather then improving its own brand image.
4.The new "rebranding" initiatives by BN have further adulterated the original ;without tangible market acceptance i.e Diet Coke Vs Original Coke
5.PR is a moving towards the original Perikatan branding with their leaders more attuned towards the Perikatan ideals then BN itself.

The people are getting restless with the visibly sluggish economic situation with no vibrancy from the leaders to indicate a positive and realistic path going forward.

The continuous failure of the GLCs have emphasized clearly that rhetoric and PR exercises do not create economic wealth.

The continuous onslaught of the PR dominant states on personal and often with "racial and religious undertones" is not a destructive strategy and is counter to the 1Malaysia rebranding.

The answer lies within...

Anonymous,  17 February 2010 at 13:04  

Anon 6:35 AA

Do you know the reason for Malaysia being in the middle income group as compared to the other Muslim countries ?

Malaysia is the only country with a very large percentage of Chinese.

Look around south East Asia and the stages of development of all countries in the region. The levels of income and development are in direct proportion to the % of the Chinese in those countries.

Now why are we heading towards Pakistan level? Well many of these high achievers are migrating for lack of opportunties in this country and all the extreme politiking which made no sense coming out mostly of ..... you name it.

It really hurts to see how one party thinks that they can run the whole country by themselves and expect others to be subservient to continue to serve.

As I see it, the entire political system is too warped and trapped and there is very little anyone can do anything about it. We shall have to wait for the days when the majority (especially the poor not so informed ones )realise it.

Realise that we cannot afford racism nor too religiously extreme in our thinking to really develop and compete.

Anyone able to see the light of change in this so far? I dont thinks so. It is just shocking why certain people can spew out sooo racist and sensitive venums while others dare not think about it let alone say it.

If these kinds of double standards persist and continue to persist we can be sure no sane investor nor good brains want to be around.

Those stupid brains just do not comprehend what makes a country.

Dream on Malaysia.

Anonymous,  17 February 2010 at 14:28  

If UMNO members becomes technologically savvy, they would be able to read and analyse the "other' side of the story thru blogs, facebooks, youtube etc. If this happens then in all probability they will be "turned over" and this is detrimental to UMNO. So UMNO must keep these people backward to remain in power.

Two, almost all students pursuing pre-u and tertiary education, be it in public and private universities, have access to internet facilities with most of them having personal laptops and mobile phones. The new media is all they know. These are young people who will be a formidable force to influence their parents, pak ciks and mak ciks to stop mismanagement, abuse of power, corruption, wastages and leakages that are rampant in this country.

Three, the equivalent to Malaysia Today and Malaysian Insider is Utusan Malaysia. That is the best UMNO can offer. Who bothers to read anyway.

Four, "Perkasa" was formed simply kill 1 Malaysia. Can sombody propose to the frog to change it to "Perkosa" instead? It is more apt, I think. Only the not so technologically savvy Malays are the followers and they become suckers.

Five, the way to improve the Malays is not thru Perkasa. The Malay mindset must be changed. The way to change the mindset must start with sincere, capable and effective leaders. There is no substitute to hardwork, be knowledgeable, perseverance, intergrity, honesty, be competitive, doing research, improve interpersonal and communcation skills etc. This is what BTN should be teaching its participants most of them Malays and not about ketuanan itu, ketuanan ini.

Six, Malays must perform and not be under siege mentality all the time. Sadly UMNO has miserably failed in this area as it practice politics of patronage and ultimately breeds mediocrity.
"Katak dibawah tempurung" is ok because the katak cannot see what is going around him. Not many of them anyway. The problem now is that we have a lot of "Kataks di bawah gelas". They know what is going on around them as they can see but either they deny it or simply ignore it for vested personal interest. Most of current leaders are "kataks di bawah gelas". Sad but true.

Anonymous,  17 February 2010 at 15:32  

Many hate to admit it that many criticism related to UMNO is because they want UMNO to make-up and stop treating people as if we are still in feudal system.

BTW related recent news on top 40 billionaires in Malaysia, I wonder weather Type A or B politician will produce more Malay billionaires? and can UMNO claim they have succeeded in DEB with such indicator?

Admin 17 February 2010 at 15:41  

"UMNO people are either shy/scared to make walkabouts at Pasar Malams."

Sure after robbing the rakyat of so much money and bringing so much miseries, I too would be shy to be seen at pasar malams if I am in anyway associated with this political patronage mad party.

Anonymous,  17 February 2010 at 15:55  

UMNO = Perkasa
They are the same people wearing different hats. These are the third rate politicians whose expiry date is near.
UMNO does not have intellectual answers to questions.
For example - Malays are under threat but no facts/evidence to corroborate their claims.
Malays are poor but why they never say nor do they have a comprehensive plan to uplift the poor.

When Australian MPs question our Judiciary they reply you mind your own business, respect our laws, you are homosexual.
The only language gutter politicians know is to organize demonstrations and read Utusan with smugness the next day.

Anonymous,  17 February 2010 at 16:20  

Excellent, thought-provoking article! It says a lot about UMNO's dilemma. It does not have many top-level thinkers in its midst; it does not have manymedium-level thinkers. It only has low-level thinkers who only know rough tactics--- stomping ona cow's head in Shah Alam, stamping on the former Penang CM's photo; burning th effigy of the present Penang CM; marching to Embassies to hand over memorandums; burning or painting places of worship; shoutin at the top of their voices like rowdies.

See the image and perception the voters at large have of UMNO?

So, where do you stand? Neither here nor there! A pathetic sight!
Where is 1 Malaysia: people FIRST; PERFORMANCE NOW? Where is the ONENESS of all Malaysians? Respect all religions; and have the Police enfroce the law fairly-- all must follow the law; not just some must follow while others do not have to follow the law.

What does the PM mean when he said that "we could not stop the protests" ? Is he powerless to stop them ?

Then, People FIRST? Or peopel last, personal interests come first?
Then where are the performances NOW? The ISA has not been reviewed in Parliament! Now? What happened to the Lingam case? Perform NOW! Otherwise, setting up the Royal Commission of enquiry rings hollow!

Then the IPCMC after the Royal Commission of Enquiry! Where is the performance NOW? Why bother whether certain Police personnel are against it? JUST DO IT! as NIKE advertises!

So, where is "1 Malaysia: Peopel FIRST: PERFORMANCES NOW?"
The public PERCEPTION is very is very important.

S.H. Huang

walla 17 February 2010 at 17:13  

The situation is asymmetric. Umno has a bigger baggage of dubious practices than the opposition. Therefore, more can be disseminated on what it has done or not done than what the opposition has done or not done.

Information technology only moves content quickly. But it is content alone which moves minds and hearts.

The content left by Umno which is grist for rakyat to get riled is full of things one would have expected this country to no longer have.

Toyo's charges have been squashed but people still ask where did he get so much dough to build such a big place. Azalina's motorcade no longer attracts attention but people still wonder how did she make so much dough to buy them.

When there are too many questions left unanswered or just swept away by institutions which are supposed to protect the interests of the rakyat, then no one can blame the rakyat for not believing anything anymore. Especially when they think it is so easy to come out and tell the truth and yet truths are not told so that means things are deliberately hidden by only telling half-truths which are therefore no better than full lies.

Umno can have the best technologies in the world but to what end? What will be the content it will be pushing? That it has turned over a new leaf? How to prove that without incurring doubts that it is only doing things purely for GE13? And how can winning GE13 get the rakyat out of the middle income traps - political, economic, and social - of this country? And if Umno says it needs support from GE13 to run programs to do so, why haven't they been done by now, and where are the results?

Umno is not about being friendly or helpful. Anyone can be that, furthermore without a personal agenda. Umno is not about defending the race. Anyone can ask defend what that's still relevant in today's world, and defend from whom? Umno is not about building a better future for all Malaysians. Anyone can ask you mean that is a new objective? What has it not been doing all these years?

So to build the content that IT is to use to galvanize the rakyat, the first question to honestly ask is: what is Umno, now?

The Pahang Convention should try and answer that question. Make it the opening question so that the rest of the session can close for everyone to go enjoy the beach instead - because the answer is already known. Now.

walla 17 February 2010 at 17:13  

You have leadership who are weak to the core, mid-rungs who are self-servers, and low-rungs who are photophobic because they have been canopied for years from the sky.

Umno breeds feudalism and patronage. Beyond the political, economic and social middle-income traps, feudalism and patronage are also middle-income traps. Without feudalism and patronage, the structure collapses and all start to argue. Since the low-rungs are bigger in numbers but lower in knowhow, they will outgun those who know the situation but are bad towards the country's future.

With both feudalism and patronage, the status quo continues, propagating the same setup as an end in itself so that real changes and improvements will not be made by decision-makers, and not acted upon by those responsible to do so.

The feudalism and patronage middle-income trap is as dangerous as the other three income traps.

All four will be even more dangerous when they fall into vicious cycles and spiral down while the national propaganda machine continues to spin and institutions continue to forgo real closures on issues outstanding.

Does Umno's middle income trap come about because Umno's middle name is denial?

Let that be the second question at the Pahang Convention this weekend.

His name is Muhammad Jaikal Abdullah Zain. He is 13 years old. He completed his primary school in 2008. And he just scored straight A's for his GCE A-Level maths, biology, physics and chemistry. He said his motivation to take the exams before his time was to see how good he was and how far he could go. If age is not a problem, he can now get into med school and come out before 20 as a full-fledged MBBS.

Maybe our Umno gomen can pick a tip or two on affirmative policies as practised for minorities from that state. Jaikal is singaporean malay.

I like to end by asking a favour. If you happen by Melaka town, go to Jalan Bukit Beruang early in the morning. It's next to the big gomen building with a big screen. Along the road and opposite the sekolah kebangsaan is a small hut. Side of it has an ad saying Ohm fitness centre. It has only a few tables, this Awang roti canai. The family of four are hardworking and simple folks. Their fare is tasty, the price too cheap. Do the needful. Thanks.

clear conscience 17 February 2010 at 17:18  

Hello Dato,

The likes of Zahrain, Tan Tee Beng, Zul Nording etc who had quit or about to quit were the products of UMNO/BN component parties.

For them to come over to PR & then return to BN, Dato, I need to correct you in your last paragraph. A leopard doesn't change its spots sums up all.

Anonymous,  17 February 2010 at 18:01  

You are not too bright! If the so called "middle income" people become knowledgeable and smart they will abandon UMNO.
Even the great Mahathir have said-such people are not welcome by the established.

Unknown 17 February 2010 at 18:03  

....My objective is to have as many UMNO people read and ponder the issues before they participate in the convention.....

Rasanya ramai yang tidak membaca tulisan Dato sebab majoriti tidak faham apa yang Dato tuliskan dalam bahasa Inggeris.

Anonymous,  17 February 2010 at 19:05  

why bother going to pahang UMNo convention in the first place. We know that mlaysia has a big government. And big govenrment is expensive to maintain. More so after badawi announced pension increase by up to 30%.
Now with the completion of Putrajaya, the govenrment has to pay RM8/sq ft for decades to come.

Anonymous,  17 February 2010 at 19:47  


Kalau tulis dalam Bahasa Melayu pun ada ramai yang tak paham.
Menurut Dato, mereka ini ramai yang "FLCE"

Azli Othman,  17 February 2010 at 20:07  

Being an UMNO member carries a stigma - you are corrupt. A successful UMNO politician is a corrupt one.
Until UMNO embraces meritocracy and abandon racialism, UMNO will remain a despised party.

Ramli Mohd Yunus 17 February 2010 at 21:36  

Dear Dato,

Some people in UMNO/BN are proud of being a garbage collector.

As you have perfectly stated, most `political garbages' collected are of C class.

Go back to tha and say the right thing and behave well!

Anonymous,  17 February 2010 at 23:57  


You are truly a gem in the making. Wonder where you have been all this while. Anyhow, your article hits the nail on the coffin as per UMNO being stuck in the middle.

I concur with you on most issues mentioned and would like to share with you what I have learnt in the last 10 years of product management in the world of business. You know for most product managers, we also would not like to categorise our product in the middle market as for us the market is a pyramid, the upper part is small but with huge margins and the lower part is a large market, but with lower margins. It is the middle market that is cursed, as you are neither there nor here. For many if they could, they would buy the product that sits in the upper part of the market coz' the perception of expensive here means quality. For the less fortunate or lower income groups they would go for the product that sits within the lower part of the market, this is where the mass is.

So based on your theory, I have a strong feeling that what you said is true, the people with intelligence will vote for quality, in this case PR due to its effective marketing campaigns and for the rural folk, looks like they will be giving their vote to PAS this time around. So where does that leave UMNO in the next GE??? I think nowhere!

Anonymous,  18 February 2010 at 02:20  

You should know why UMNO is not attractive to the young, intelligent Muslim population.

Let me tell you why. I am one of them. My friends and I find UMNO corrupt, unfair, stupid and does not rule the country with the Rakyat's interest in mind.


Anonymous,  18 February 2010 at 11:37  

Saya adalah orang UMNO yang kini boleh dikategorikan sebagai "bekas UMNO" kerana sudah meluat dan bosan dengan karenah "Ketua-ketua" UMNO yang kolot dan ketinggalan zaman. Mereka tidak bersedia untuk menerima pembaharuan mahupun perubahan. Mereka menolak sebarang unsur yang mungkin mencabar kedudukan mereka kerana mereka beranggapan UMNO adalah untuk matlamat peribadi mereka, bukan untuk masyarakat. Ketua-ketua UMNO dan yang berpengaruh adalah golongan "cikai" yang sedang menghancurkan UMNO dan orang Melayu sendiri, tanpa mereka sedari kerana kegagalan mereka melihat atau menilai tindakan mereka dari luar kepentingan diri sendiri. Saya dan ramai golongan Melayu muda tidak mahu tergolong di dalam kumpulan yang berfikiran sempit dan destruktive ini.

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