Faris Durrani, MSGA
13 years ago, the small kid of me dreamt of being in Malaysia in 2020 when we would have flying cars, bullet trains, high-rise skyscrapers. It was the target year of Wawasan 2020 (Vision 2020) when Malaysia aimed to be a fully developed nation. But, that target was never achieved, atleast not this year. What happened to Wawasan 2020?
The vision was introduced by then Malaysia’s fourth Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1991. In essence, the vision called for Malaysia to
be a self-sufficient industrialised nation, a united country whose citizens would call themselves Bangsa Malaysia (people of Malaysia), and a society of equitable economic prosperity, filled with democratic values,tolerance, and progress. And, a very credible goal it was in Mahathir’s time.The rise of our agricultural-based economy was directing the course of our success towards a more developed and self-sustainable nation. It was the time when we developed our first national car, Proton.
We built the North-South highway,the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA),the Petronas Twin Towers to which this day I am proud to tell aboutto other nationals. We created Putrajaya and the Multimedia Super Corridor. With a list of Malaysians who had reached the summit, Mount Everest is only seen as an obstacle ready to be overcome. Urbanisation and the middleclass were expanding fast.
Our GDP growth was 8, 10, 12 percent high. School assignments were asking students what it is they see in 2020? What can you do to help propel Malaysia to reach its vision of 2020? The possibilities in the 1980sto 1990s were endless. People of all races were proud and definite that Malaysia would achieve the goal of eliminating the 9 Challenges of Wawasan2020.
Economic and Political Crises
But then, 1997 came. First, it was the Baht that fell, then the Indonesian Rupiah, before the Asian Financial Crisis crashed the markets inMalaysia. The effects were devastating to our GDP growth when it fell far beyond into negative territory as capital was moved to other countries. On top of that, the KL Stock Exchange lost half of its value, and the Malaysian Ringgit value plummeted . A political fallout began as Anwar, the then-Deputy Prime Minister and Mahathir disagreed on the economic policies that were needed in response to the financial crisis.
In 1998, Anwar was sacked from finance minister by Mahathir and charged with corruption offenses, detained without trial under the Internal Security Act. Make no mistake, Mahathir was not perfect.A BBC article reads: “the elderly statesman not only paved Mr Najib's path to power but also stood accused of authoritarianism during his own long tenure at the top.”
Mahathir’s successors, Abdullah Badawi and Najib Razak,had shown to be incapable of governing Malaysia and representing the citizens to the best they can as well.The former failed to be transparent on the issues of corruption while the latter were found guilty of seven counts of multi-million-dollar corruption charges. The Malaysian 2020 political crisis made national and global headlines, and even has its own Wikipedia page.This calls into question how far are we with the 4th Challenge of Wawasan2020 – establishing a fully moral and ethical society.It is still a long way to go before we can complete that quest.
That being said, it would be unwise to point all fingers at our politicians as we also have to reflect within ourselves as Malaysians and how we have contributed to the greater good of the nation. How do we define ourselves? How do we allocate resources? Hannah Yeoh, the MP of the Segambut, KL constituency who is also married to an ethnic Indian, once said that she dreams of one day when her children can declare themselves as Malaysians first rather than Chinese or Indian. And, in fact,that is the attitude each Malaysian should have for us to complete the critical 1st Challenge– establishing a united Malaysian nation made up of one Bangsa Malaysia. It has been 63 years since we gained independence and yet, we still cling to our race-based politics and societal functions.
It is as if we have implicitly accepted the status quo of dividing ourselves based on the colour of our skin and the religion that we practice. To paint a clearconstant picture of political consequences, one primeexample would be when the Chinese majority in Tanjung Piai, which is represented critically well by MCA’s MP, Wee Jeck Seng, as they linked with BN votersthat led to Pakatan Harapan’s defeat. With the dilemma of the PH government was in, theywere put in a positionto focus not only on economic reformation in Malaysia, but as well as managing the expectations of non-Malays whenthey failed to fulfil their promises, on top ofhandling threatened constitutional rights the Malays believed theywere in.
Easiersaid than done,governance in Malaysiawill have to take intoaccount multifacetedpolitical, economic and social approaches through affirmative actions,representing voters, continuously be inclusive and diverse, and various more inorder to ascertain smooth progression and proper growth.
It cannot be denied affirmative actionpolicies were born out of good intentions – toreduce the racialinequality between the economically richChinese and lessprivileged Malays – and they have achieved some great successes ingenerating more wealth compared to the Malays.However, slowly we can makethe changes we want to see by changing our attitudes.
When Mahathir was faced with a strong all-Malay opposition front in 1991,his response to the challenge was to emphasise on the identity of Bangsa Malaysia. Race-based policiesare here to stay, but we can complement them with more need-based policiesor policies that focus on the gender gap or geographic and demographic disparitydepending on the problem to solve.
Before BN’s defeat in 2018, then-PM Najib Razak launched a new dream, theTransformasi Nasional 2050, targeting a 30-year development plan before being dismantled by the new PH government. Instead, 7th Prime MinisterMahathir launched the Wawasan Kemakmuran Bersama 2030 (SPV2030) to improve certain problems such as incomeinequality and to jumpstart theeconomy. However, even with internal matters
solved, there are still external factors that impede our development. Theslump in oil prices, the ongoingtrade war between the US and China, and the pandemic have all brokenmany economies with the worst might have yet to come. Despite not achievingwhat was envisioned under the Wawasan 2020 targets, Mahathir added that, with the right policies, his vision forMalaysia could reach its target by 2025.