An outsider's view

Yesterday I had a long chat with a friend whom I hold in very high regards. He is the man who gave me my first responsible job and guided me patiently, acting not only as a friend but as a mentor as well. He is not born and bred in Malaysia, but is a Singaporean. However being in Malaysia for the past 5 years has given him a good understanding of how Malaysia works internally and he is able to compare and contrast the government we have, and the government he is used to having back in Singapore.

He raised a few crucial points which perhaps we have always known and felt all the while, but it is interesting to see how our country is perceived by an objective bystander looking in. The first question I raised was, how do the Singaporeans or foreigners view Malaysia's current political situation? The answer was; "it is the laughingstock of the international arena".

The second question I raised was, how does the situation in Malaysia affect its neighbouring countries like Singapore? He said; "probably not much except in terms of foreign investors when they are looking where to put their money. Of course with Malaysia in a limbo, investors would rather turn to Singapore which is perceived as a more stable environment".

Then without further questioning, he raises his views on why we are in the situation we are today. In short, he says it is sad to see a nation which is full of natural oil resources, palm oil, rubber, rice and our own agriculture be poorer than a nation which is smaller than the size of Johor Bahru, has no resources whatsoever and relies on the exports of other countries. In fact, he believes we could close our doors to the outside world and be self-sustaining, that is how rich our nation is.

He talks about Terengganu, who should be one of the richest states due to their oil reserves. The royalties alone for the past four years could have been enough to build schools, roads, better housing facilities and what-not. However, go to the state of Terengganu and you will see one of the poorest states in Malaysia, with the citizens surviving on selling "ikan masin" and "keropok lekor" at the side of the road to make a living. The sad thing is, oil reserves run out, and Terengganu is estimated to only have four years of reserves left.

Then he makes a comparison to Singapore's government; the complaint that some people have is that Singapore's ministers are one of the highest paid in the world. They rake in about $1 million per annum. However here's a good point he makes; would you rather pay 1 million a year to a government official when you know where the country's resources are going, or would you rather have ministers who siphons off 1.2 Billion a year of the country's resources to offshore foreign accounts?

Most people, in fact everyone will admit we have a corrupt government. Nobody will believe our government is clean. However the problem lies in the fact that we have accepted this as a way of life. And we have accepted that there is nothing we can do about it. This acceptance has caused us to give up our ideals of a transparent and fair, corruption free government.

This is why people say that there is nothing we can do to change anything. Even putting a new government in place will not eradicate this 'way of life' that we are so used to. But the truth is; it is because we accept it to be the way of life that it will never change.

Just like if we were born into poverty or slavery, and we accept it to be our fate and that things will never change, then it will never ever change. The mindset we have is so important in guiding us to where we want to be in life, so really the decision lies in our hands...are you willing to accept the condition we are in now? Because I know I'm not.


  1. Hey, Kell. Love your article. Your Singaporean friend is right. I read a magazine here which did a special topic on Singapore. Although the government officials there are paid a hefty sum, which is astounding for a lot of us who are only earning a tiny fraction of it, I must admit that they deserve every penny of it. Why? Just look at how their government is run. One word to describe: efficient! With a government like that, you know your tax dollars are going to the right place and multiplying in value, so that the country as a whole becomes better off in long run. In fact, I will be more willing to pay my tax dollars to Singapore than everywhere else in the world, even if it means I have to pay so much more. The government there does look after its people, and the people can really depend on their government. How hard can this formula be? Why can't countries like M'sia, its closest neighbour, learn a thing or two from Singapore? Are we asking too much? Or are we asking too little? Food for thought. Ling

  2. Malaysian ministers are too proud to learn from anyone.

    Anyway, Singapore has a lower tax structure which makes it more conducive to seek employment or invest there.