On September 24th, this blog published GTP10MPETPNKRANKEANEMSRI.
In that post, I lamented the fact that the "human factor" has always been overlooked every time our government launches an economic initiative. Among others, I said :-
"I note however, that amidst the billions which are to be spent for electronics, transportation, financial centres and whatever, only 23 billions are to be spent for health services. And education will only see a 20 billion spending. Agriculture, the bedrock of our rural socio-economics scene in turn would only see 22 billion of "investment"...
That screams of major imbalances in our socio-economics engineering (or re-engineering) processes."
Later, I added :-
"The thing is, Malaysia had no, notable or at all, industrial culture. One cannot start a culture by simply cutting a pink ribbon to a large industrial factory or plant. The support industries must be there. The whole infrastructure must be there. The human resources must be there. The experience from being knocked down and learning the hard way must be there. The whole networking must be there."
And finally, I said :-
"Whenever Malaysia unveil an economic plan, scant regard is paid to the human factor. We only focus on the money factor and almost nothing else.
What about the human factor? None is projected for human development and human resource development other than the scant 20 billion provided for the education sector."
I wonder whether anybody in PEMANDU would agree with me.
However, the Malaysian Insider, on 28th September 2010 quoted a report by the World Bank saying among others :-
"Malaysia is lacking in investment in human and physical capital leading to domestic savings greatly exceeding domestic investment."
"The bank noted that Malaysia, like its fellow middle-income neighbours Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines, is trying to move out of the middle-income trap but said it requires investment in infrastructure, equipment, education and skills in levels far exceeding what they are currently experiencing, which is well short of the Republic of Korea, Japan, and Singapore when they were at similar per capita income levels, when they were at the same development stage." (emphasis is mine)
The point which I was trying to make is that we seem to be far pre-occupied with physical and material developments without taking into account our capacity, as a people, to ignite, deal and cope with those developments.
We cannot underestimate the effect of non-organic economic growth on our society. Have we ever researched the rempit culture and various sub-cultures which emanate from it, for example? Has it any correlation with lower-income and lower-education group? Where do these people live? What kind of residence do they live in? What job do they do?
A case directly on point. What happened to the FELDA settlers in Negeri Sembilan who got about a million ringgit each after selling their land to a corporation for mass development some years ago?
Have they managed to double up their money by now? Or have they lost their money? How many have invested their money? What kind of investments, if any? How many have ventured into businesses?
I have heard stories of them marrying another wife. Some bought Harley Davidson. There are some who are involved in family disputes over the money. And some have lost everything after being cheated.
This is precisely the point. Those people were not used to having wealth. That however does not mean they are not supposed to have wealth. But the growth of their wealth has to be organic. Otherwise they would just go to waste.
By suddenly getting rich, they were hard pressed on how to behave; how to use their new found wealth properly and how to manage their wealth. In the end, their wealth became a burden on them. It became a source of family disputes. It became a home breaker as they seek humanly pleasures which were hitherto unavailable to them. At the end, some of them lost the money and their family too. What a debacle!
That is one of the human factor which we fail to even think about.
In Putrajaya, the Court building (Palace of Justice) is one of the nicest building anywhere in Malaysia. It must have cost hundreds of millions.
Here we are, in a multi hundred million building, where the highest Court of the land reside; where commercial disputes worth billions of dollars are adjudicated by learned Judges; where matters pertaining life and death are heard and determined; where civil liberties and freedom are discussed, argued about and determined. But just go to the canteen.
Behind the long table, the boys and girls serving us do not even look at us when we order our cup of teh tarik and nasi lemak. While taking our orders, they will be talking to each other. They don't even care to wear suitable clothing and on some days, they even appear dirty and unkempt. They never smile. You ask them more than two questions and they would give you a sour face. And their face look as if they hate to be there and they can't wait to be somewhere else.
We seem to be able to erect buildings of massive proportions; of beautiful architecture and of monumental cost. But what we lack is the human factor. The mere fact that we did not even think of housing in that building a proper restaurant fit for the people who work there and visit the building speaks volume of our innate inability to properly plan a building and all it's necessities. (On this note, the Petronas Twin Towers also do not have a nice restaurant opened to the public on top of the building to enable visitors to enjoy the height of the then tallest building in the world and the sight it offers - strange!).
The World Bank has just validated what my thinking is. We lack human and physical capital. And it espouses us to seriously look into "investment in infrastructure, equipment, education and skills" as we seem to need them in "levels far exceeding what they (we) are currently experiencing."
The government will of course counter this argument by saying we have been producing thousands of graduates with skills in various disciplines yearly. Really? We have been producing graduates, yes. That I wholly agree. In various disciplines. Yes, I wholly agree with that too. But with skills? That I hesitate to answer.
I do not doubt the physical infrastructure that we have. The cost is however frightening. And the quality sometimes is doubtful. The usability is another matter altogether.
What is terribly clear from the recently announced initiatives though is the pittance that we are going to spend on education, healthcare and agriculture. The first two affect the whole country while the third one is the traditional rainmaker in our rural areas.
What that will create is serious imbalance between the haves and have-nots; between the urban and urbanites on one hand and the rural and its people on the other.
I am afraid that despite achieving the high income nation status (if ever we did), the gulf of divides in our society would just widen and deepen, bringing this nation into classes and sub-classes of people, each with different priorities and needs and with different attitudes, behaviours and social and economics - and even political - methodology.
As a nation, we would have failed miserably by then.