Friday, February 5, 2016

Dr Mahathir needs to get real

Salleh Said Keruak

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said, “There was a time not so very long ago when Malaysia was admired for successfully raising itself from an impoverished third world country into a stable newly industrialised country. No one doubted that its announced intention to become a developed country by 2020 would be achieved.”

I think Dr Mahathir needs to get real. During that same period he is talking about, Dr Mahathir quarrelled with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and launched his ‘Buy British Last’ campaign, plus he quarrelled with US President Bill Clinton, resulting in the Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating calling Dr Mahathir a recalcitrant. Most Malaysians were embarrassed by those events.

When Dr Mahathir decided to move Malaysia away from a commodity-based economy to a heavy-industry based economy, so that Malaysia can become a fully developed nation by 2020, he overlooked one very crucial point. And that crucial point is that Malaysia does not have expertise in research and development that the other industrialised countries possess. So it was an impossible dream if all Malaysia can become is what we would call a bolt-and-nut operation.

Dr Mahathir had depended on the profits from the petroleum industry to finance the plans for 2020. But then in 1986 the oil price plunged by two-thirds in just a few months and this dashed Malaysia’s hopes. It also triggered the stock market collapse, which hit Malaysia as well, and Malaysia had to cancel many projects or scale them down because the country no longer had the money.

Dr Mahathir did not take that possibility into calculation and a decade later in 1997 it happened yet again. So Wawasan 2020 was no longer possible. It was a plan mooted under an ideal situation but 1986 and 1997 proved that there is no such thing as an ideal situation.

Dr Mahathir’s Wawasan 2020 is no longer possible. So he wants to find someone to blame rather than accept the fact that he was wrong and the plan was not really workable. His statement, “No one doubted that its announced intention to become a developed country by 2020 would be achieved,” is merely an attempt to avoid taking responsibility for its failure and to shift the failure to someone else.

As for the rest of what Dr Mahathir said today it is just a repetition of what he has said so many times and cannot seem to stop saying. It is futile to reply to something that sounds like a broken record. 

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