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Malaysia needs sustainable growth

  • Sustainability must be the key focus driver in everything that we carry out in the name of development, and equal attention must be given to People, Planet and Profit.

By Ravindran Raman Kutty

This Deepavali was more invigorating, as the monsoon rain has cleared the haze. I see many empty private clinics. When the air is clean, the healthier are our people. Likewise, we need divine intervention to bring peace to our beautiful nation, a nation endowed with luscious greenery, rich minerals, breathtaking landscape, scrumptious food and awesome people.

Malaysians bravely voted in for a change in 2018. We ushered in a new government and were hopeful that we would see changes.

Changes we saw, but were there good or otherwise? I shall leave it to you to be the judge.

Our race relations are at its lowest level. The worrying issues we contend with range from religious tolerance, economic performance, unemployment rate and graduates' employability.

The recent Ranstad Workmonitor report shows that 71% of Malaysians prefer to relocate abroad. Amongst all these issues, we must address our palm oil issues, which will affect more than 600,000 Felda smallholders and our country’s coffers.

Why are we in a state of turmoil? What went wrong? Can we overcome this? I think it all boils down to poor human capital management.

Malaysia has developed rapidly by focusing on building infrastructure rather than people. We have failed to focus on the Planet and People but diverted all our attention to Profit. This is not a good and sustainable model indeed.

We have ignored the importance of developing people, who are the critical component that will manage the planet and generate profit to all. In our desire to grow, we have neglected people development.

Economies like Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Brazil, South Africa grew while being equally focused on people and planet. They have built cars, ships, air planes, space shuttles, but everything had a research and development element to it. Equal effort was also paid to maintenance.

Research and development and maintenance were terms that are unheard of in our country. The Rubber Research Institute (RRI) and the Palm Oil Research Institute Malaysia (PORIM) were the two great institution that were serious in developing the rubber industry and palm oil, and those were some of our glorious years. These innovations transformed our nation into a world player. We were the synonyms for rubber and palm oil, and the world was knocking on our doors, wanting to learn from us.

After the reign of Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa, the country’s race relations has improved significantly. Saudi Arabia is also reaching out to Israel under the new leadership. North Korea and South Korea have engaged more than three times.

Meanwhile, here in Malaysia, we are still talking about our race and their origins. We are not paying attention to our racial strengths but our weaknesses. We are not keen on looking at our diversity as the cornerstone of unity.

We are busy bickering about our differences, which brings about animosity. We are turning our attention to what we should eat, rather than feeding someone who needs food or water. We want to know if you are of a certain religion before we offer our help. Even during an accident, some of us offer help selectively based on the other person’s skin colour. We even had fatalities involving Malaysians of different faith arguing over an accident.

This is extremely sad, and it hits me even harder since I personally know the mother of a car accident victim who is still shaken by the incident.

Malaysia needs peace. We need to go beyond race and religion. Our strength is in our diversity. We cannot allow any politician to divide us any further. We must stand united.

Different political parties or ideologies in our country do not warrant us to be divided in our thoughts and deeds. We must count our blessings and move forward. Everyone has a role to play in our beautiful nation. We must practise “live and let live”. No one should be deprived of this. Our land is so fertile that even foreigners are flourishing in their businesses, especially in the service sector. You can see that most of the grass cutters, landscapers, electricians, television and refrigerator repairs are done by foreign workers. Some of them are even running a shop!

Today, we see politicians from the ruling party and the opposition who are freely commenting on issues that are sensitive and provocative in nature.

Though we welcome openness and transparency, we must be mindful that we are a multiracial and multireligious country where we cannot debate many issues in the open. We must only promote multiracial and multireligious programs or events starting from schools.

We must focus on building a Malaysia that will be ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Our school children must be brought to speed through new educational syllabus and increased hours on mathematics, science and automotive intelligence studies.

This will be our investment in the next generation. We cannot be focusing too much on religious studies. We must gear up our students for innovations -- new ideas, new innovation derived from palm oil, new genre products from rubber, new technologies which will put our country on the map as an innovative nation. Can we come up with new products through food technologies using our pineapple, durian, mangosteen and pepper?

Malaysia can move from good to great if we make some effort. These efforts must come through our politicians first. We must welcome leaders who are empathetic and inclusive in their views about race. We must inspire Malaysians to be good citizens. Every citizen must be a critical component of building a great nation, and not as a voter alone. Every race issue must be carefully studied and brought to the cabinet for long-term solutions. All government policies must be tailored to suit the multiethnic, multiracial and multireligious societal needs.

Sustainability must be the key focus driver in everything that we carry out in the name of development. People, planet and profit must be the mantra for both the public and private sectors. Equal attention must be given to these three P's before we can bring about a balanced and sustainable development for our country. When our development is balanced, we will become more resilient and vibrant as opposed to vulnerable.

Malaysia has everything in place. We have a rich history, sustainable geography and colourful society. This is a rare combination that many countries are not blessed with. Let’s cherish this and move our Malaysia from good to great.

(Ravindran Raman Kutty is an active social worker.)


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