Wednesday, July 28, 2004

PAHIT MANIS: It’s in our hands to make the country great

By Ahmad A. Talib

Let’s make this a great country. Everything points to a bright future, provided we maintain a level head and do not get distracted by petty issues and internal bickering. We will only have ourselves to blame if we miss out on the big picture and allow the differences to undermine our collective effort. Let’s give some thought to a couple of pointers raised by a research house and disseminated to many people recently. Some of the pointers may not be new to you but I thought it worthwhile for everyone to chew on them. For instance:* The difference between poor countries and the rich ones is not age. This can be shown by countries like India and Egypt that are more than 2,000 years old, but not on the list of wealthy countries. On the other hand, Canada, Australia and New Zealand which 150 years ago were nowhere, today are developed countries and rich.* The difference between poor and rich countries does not reside in the available natural resources. Japan has limited territory, 80 per cent of it mountainous, inadequate for agriculture and cattle raising. But it is the second world economy. The country is an immense floating factory, importing raw materials from the whole world and exporting manufactured products.Another example is Switzerland, which does not grow cocoa but has the best chocolate in the world. In their little territory the Swiss raise animals and plant the soil only four months a year. But Switzerland produces dairy products of the best quality. It is a small country that transmits an image of security, order and labour, which has made it the world’s strong-room.Furthermore, executives from rich countries who communicate with their counterparts in poor countries show that there is no significant intellectual difference. Race or skin colour are also not important: immigrants labelled lazy in their countries of origin are the productive power in rich European countriesWhat is the difference, then?The difference is the attitude of the people, framed through the years by education and culture. On analysing the behaviour of people in rich and developed countries, the researchers concluded that the great majority follow the following principles in their lives:* Ethics as a basic principle.* Integrity.* Responsibility.* Respect for laws and rules.* Respect for rights of other citizens.* Work-loving.* Strive for saving and investment.* Will for action is extremely strong.* Punctuality.In poor countries, the researchers concluded, only a minority follow these basic principles. The discipline shown by successful countries ought to be emulated, not to mention their enhanced awareness that only a collective effort will lead to better per capita income.What of we Malaysians? We are certainly not poor, but not in the same category as Japan and Switzerland. But we have shown enough ability to really become a developed nation. We have enough energy and creativity to make the grade. There is more than ample evidence of this. There is also evidence of indiscipline and lack of focus in certain areas, though this is easily rectified.When Malaysians really put their mind to it, they can surprise the world (and themselves). The country is set to step up a gear and advance its efforts to become a truly developed nation. The leadership (and conviction) is there, the vision is clear — what is needed, really, is more effort on the lines of the nine principles listed above. Let’s make it happen.Not a zero-sum gameMOST Umno divisions have concluded their meetings. Some new leaders have emerged, taking over from those who have been defeated or retired. Generally, the election of office-bearers has been well conducted, reflecting more maturity from contestants and their supporters. But it’s not over yet.In September, a far bigger election will take place. While Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak have won their posts of president and deputy respectively, many others will fight to earn their rightful places as vice-presidents and supreme council members. From the lists shown to date, the contest is not going to be too easy for party heavyweights.There’ll be intense lobbying and vote-swapping. Deals will be made as contestants seek to win support from delegates. At this point, contestants must guard against abuses and be mindful of scrutiny against allegations of money politics. Granted, some money will be used during campaigning, but this must be ethically used. The contestants are also aware that the giving of money does not guarantee victory.They must also be mindful of Pak Lah's advice against character assassination. Delegates must pick candidates on merit. And when the votes are cast, the winners and losers must get together and close ranks. It’s not a zero-sum game where winner takes all and the loser loses all. The interests of those whom they serve must be above all other interests. Let’s vote for a clean and fair contest.

nst :: julai 2004

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