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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
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, April 11, 2007

Towards A Competitive Malaysia #1

[Note: Beginning today, and on every Wednesday, I will post the serialization of my latest book, Towards A Competitive Malaysia: Development Challenges for the Twenty-First Century. Each installment would be about 1-2,000 words. At nearly500 pages, the whole book should be completely serialized in about two years. Students may get a complimentary copy of the e-version of the book by e-mailing me directly. MBM]

Towards A Competitive Malaysia

Development Challenges in the Twenty-First Century

M. Bakri Musa

Author of The Malay Dilemma Revisited

All Rights Reserved ã 2006 by M. Bakri Musa

Tanah Airku

Di atas garisan Gunung Ledang

Merenung jauh beta memandang

Tampaklah hutan rimba dan ngarai

Lagi pun sawah, telaga nan permai:

Serta gerangan lihatlah pula

Langit yang hijau bertukar warna

Oleh pucuk daun kelapa:

Itulah tanah airku

Malaysia namanya, tumpah darahku.

[With apologies to the Indonesian poet, Muhammad Yamin (1903-1962). His original poem appears in the reference.]

My translation:

My Native Land

High atop the ridge at Gunung Ledang

Amidst the vast grandeur this thought had sprung.

Yonder verdant jungle, lush fields of paddy

Sustained by springs perpetual and pristine

Such intoxicating beauty this blessed country!

The skies above with splashes of green

Lithe coconut fronds swaying so smoothly.

This is my claim, this is my stage

Malaysia is its name; my native land, my heritage.


Chapter 1: Introduction, Overview, and Acknowledgments

Part One On Being Competitive

Chapter 2: Ideas on the Evolution of Societies – From Ibn Khaldun to Jared Diamond

Chapter 3: The Diamond of Development

Chapter 4: On Being Competitive

Chapter 5: Consequences of Progress and Prosperity

Part Two Basic Building Blocks

Chapter 6: Great Nation, Great Leaders

Chapter 7: People: Our Precious Asset

Chapter 8: Culture Counts

Chapter 9: Institutions Matter

Chapter 10: Bless Our Geography

Part Three Where We Are Now

Chapter 11: Learning From Our Successes

Chapter 12: Fragmentation of Malaysian Society

Chapter 13: Deteriorating Institutions

Chapter 14: Environmental, Regional, and Global Challenges

Chapter 15: Examining Past Policies

Chapter 16: Critique of Current Strategies

Part Four Where We Could Be

Chapter 17: Granting Malaysians Their Merdeka

Chapter 18: Beacon for the Malay World

Chapter 19: Islam: The Solution, Not the Problem

Chapter 20: East, West, Islam, and Malaysia

Chapter 21: Gemilang Cemerlang, Terbilang … Atau Temberang!

(Excellence, Glory, and Distinction … Or Merely Hot Air!)

Chapter 22: Summary: Open Letter to Prime Minster Abdullah Badawi

Chapter 1:

Introduction, Overview, and Acknowledgments

Globalization brings the reality of an ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse world to the forefront. For Malaysians, such diversities have long been part of their everyday life. Today, the Malaysian drama of competing racial and other interests is also being played on a much larger scale and with far greater consequences on the global stage.

Malaysia’s success could offer the world a lesson or two on managing diversity, quite apart from the benefits Malaysians would reap. With failure, Malaysians alone would bore the terrible consequences, with the greater world simply ignoring them. Consider the global reactions to the continuing tragedy in such places as Darfur and the Balkans where ethnic diversity is a horrendous liability. That stark reality alone should motivate Malaysians, citizens and leaders alike, to succeed.

Chronicling the Malaysian story is thus a worthy endeavor. With this book I venture beyond simple narration by being critical as well as prescriptive. My motivation is to contribute to the success of the Malaysian experiment.

I began formulating my ideas soon after the 1999 general elections when it was obvious that it would be Prime Minister Mahathir’s last. I had hoped to be done by the time his successor assumed office on November 2003. The delay was fortuitous as it enabled me to assess his successor’s early performance instead of merely speculating how Abdullah Badawi would turn out to be.

If Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi were to complete his full five-year mandate that he received in the general elections of May 2004, the midway point would be November 2006. That would also mark his third anniversary in office. He had presented three Federal budgets, and on March 31st, 2006 he unveiled the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP), his development blueprint for the next five years.

We should be able to discern the direction he is heading, or whether he has been merely running around in circles. From his tracks we should also be able to gauge whether his steps are sure and deliberate, or flighty and light.

A few months before Mahathir transferred power to Abdullah, I participated in a panel discussion in Washington, D.C, on what to expect in the post-Mahathir years. My view was that we should not expect much from Abdullah. At best he would merely coast along; Malaysia should count its blessings if he would not mess things up. Mine was definitely a minority viewpoint.1

It is premature to give Abdullah his final report card, but we can give him an interim evaluation. That is my purpose with this book.

Unlike with an undergraduate’s progress report where there is a graded evaluation, this exercise is more akin to a preliminary preview of a graduate student’s development. There are no grades, merely suggestions on improving the experimental model and ideas for possible further exploration. The objective is to ensure that valuable time would not be wasted and that the final dissertation would be complete, acceptable, and possibly exemplary.

The primary beneficiary of an excellent dissertation would be the candidate, with the supervisors and department sharing in the reflected glory. If Abdullah’ tenure is successful, the primary beneficiaries would be Malaysia and Malaysians. For Abdullah, he would have earned the gratitude of the nation. That must surely be the greatest reward and an enduring legacy.

The mark of great leadership is not where you have been or started at, rather where you are headed for and ended up. Initial reservations and expectations are therefore irrelevant; only the final results matter.

Next: The Power of Words


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