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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

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Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Towards A Competitive Malaysia #113

Chapter 16: Critique of Current Strategies

Right Decision, Right Time, Right Reason, and Right Execution


The NEP, MSC, and Bio Valley represented good ideas but as their implementations were flawed, their merits were easily overlooked. Having the right idea or making the prudent decision based on the right reason is not enough, for if the timing were off or execution faulty, the consequences would be the same as if you had a bad idea, made the wrong decision, or based it upon the wrong reasons. Worse, when the execution is faulty and the plan fails, the people would now blame the original idea and reasoning even though they may have been perfectly sensible. This makes the resurrection of what essentially was a good idea that much more difficult.

In April 2006, the government abruptly abandoned its crooked bridge project to replace the Malaysian half of the causeway in Johore Baru. It was a good decision, meaning, I supported it; the only problem was the timing. The government had already signed the contract with the builders. Had the decision been made earlier, the government would have been spared the exorbitant penalty payments. The latest estimate had the total penalty payments exceeding the actual cost of the bridge had it been built! That was the quantifiable damage. More devastating and not readily quantifiable was the damage to the government’s image and credibility. The impression conveyed was of a government unable to deliberate or consider all the relevant facts before making an important decision.

Even the cancellation was executed poorly. Abdullah and his ministers all gave different reasons at different times, again the image of a bumbling bunch. Unfortunately, such instances of good decisions being nullified because they were made at the most inopportune times or executed badly are all too common. A few years earlier, the government made the right decision to teach science and mathematics in English. I had long advocated this. If this decision had been made a decade earlier, our schools and students would have been spared the appalling decline.

If the timing of that decision was off, its execution was worse. No one had thought through the scheme, like where to secure the textbooks and teachers. It would have been better had the government introduced the scheme incrementally. In my Education book, I suggested that the scheme be first introduced at residential schools where the students are above average and teachers better trained. Work out the kinks in that controlled environment, make the necessary modifications, and when successful, only then adopt it for wider implementation.
I find it astounding that there is little attempt at learning from past mistakes. The tendency is to spin them not as mistakes but as genuinely wise decisions! The choruses of praises and adulations from the apologists and cheerleaders merely reinforce the delusions of these leaders. Meanwhile, the price tags for their mistakes keep ballooning. Had these leaders paused to learn from their mistakes, their collective learning curve would be considerably less flat. All—leaders and followers alike—would then benefit.


Next: Part IV: Where We Could Be
Chapter 17: Granting Malaysians Their Merdeka

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