I had a gathering with a few friends on New Year's Day to discuss the potential crunch areas facing the nation this year, 2007. It was partly in reaction to the on-going number of issues, many unresolved till today, and many more arising continuously, almost swamping us to the point where many have stopped caring. We thought it was important to focus on the key issues that may place the nation in danger, in the eve of our 50th Merdeka celebrations.
By far the most critical item was agreed as being the impending USFTA. The group believed this was the biggest issue, though surprisingly the issue the rakyat were least aware of, as:
- If miss-handled, it had the potential of being the most damaging agreement the country has ever agreed upon since independence, to the risk of even sacrificing out sovereign rights to the US, a power that has shown itself to be selfish and unsympathetic to other, closer, past partners.
- The recent JapanFTA with Malaysia has indicated a degree of incompetence of the current government in concluding such agreements, resulting in an agreement clearly NOT in Malaysia's favour, when a better agreement would have been easy as Japan is a country that has a long-standing, cooperative and benign relationship with us.
- Worryingly, there has recently been anecdotal evidence from the behaviour of MITI, especially the long serving minister, that the Japan FTA was not signed with the ministry's full endorsement, but an agreement was forced by 'other forces', much as being seen recently for the USFTA.
Compared to the USFTA, the other 2 'crunch' events seen then are more benign, but are themselves major events were it not for the presence of the USFTA. The second highest ranked issue for my part was Proton, or rather what the government was going to do about it.
The Proton issue is a long-standing one, but is critical in demonstrating the seriousness of this administration in establishing good corporate governance and the building of a progressive Malaysia. Continued misshandling of Proton, by rewarding its ownership to the wrong parties, or denying its success by turning it into a second-rate subsidiary of a foreign rival, would be seen as confirming that corporate corruption and the culture of mediocrity is alive an well in Malaysia.
As mentioned on occassion by this blogger, my book of writings on Proton is coming along nicely, with materiel from former leaders and internal sources from bidding companies, hopefully, shedding more light to the whole mess so far, though we hope (naively?) nevertheless leading to a good outcome.
Finally, the issue we thought would be of interest moving later into the year was Synergy Drive and the amalgamation, and re-allocation (as there must be), of the assets of the major Plantation GLCs in the country. Synergy Drive is seen as a larger and potentially bigger test case of the extent of corporate corruption and mismanagement has progressed than Proton.
Of particular additional interest also is the way the merger will change the power-structure in Malaysia's corporate landscape, with the plantation companies wielding so much power even whilst apart, second only to Petronas in the GLC ranks. Will our plantations continue to be steered by Nationalists like those in PNB, with Nation-Building agendas, or new-age Economic Hit-men like many in Khazanah, with KPI's and 'loose change' on their minds... and little else?
We are coming into the end of Q1 2007, and I believe the above to still be pertinent, so many may ask, where is the 9MP and Singapore's Johor Economic Rape (SJER), now better known as the IDR (Iskandar Duped Repeatedly). Well, I believe the 9MP to be nothing more than a poor man's PR trick (I mean really, do you remember the 8th, 7th, 6th... MPs?). And the IDP, the biggest real-estate auction in history, deserves a separate category altogether...
As for the coming elections... well, I think the handling of USFTA, Proton and Synergy Drive should probably be guiding lights for Young Professional voters in Malaysia on how they cast their votes in any case. On these issues we can decide if the government is guiding us and our country where we think we deserve to be driven, in a decent Proton running along in 'synergy' with our nature and desires, and without some obnoxious American as a backseat driver!