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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Poll Position: The Good, The Bad and The ETP

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Recently, Walski put up a poll via Twitter and posted on the sidebar of this blog. The poll closed a couple of weeks ago, but this is the first opportunity Walski has had to address it. Better late than never, he always says.

In any case, here are the consolidated results:

Poll Position results, image hosting by Photobucket

Consolidated, because all the Other choices indicated that the ETP will “enrich the cronies only”. Since this, in essence, is similar to “entrenching the status quo”, Walski has decided to lump the results into a single category.

Consolidating the results further, we could also add up the Good and the Bad responses, giving us 53% who think the ETP is Good, and 47% who think it’s Bad. The red line you see in the result graphic above shows this divide.

Mathematics aside, that’s a very good indication that the general public’s feelings about the ETP are mixed. Almost straight down the middle, with a slight upside to it being Good. These days, any upside counts. 
(poll analysis, Walski’s viewpoint, and more,  in the full post)

What Walski found particularly interesting was that 11% thought that the ETP does not address National Interests. He doesn’t have any demographic idea of who selected what, and so he can only make a guess as to which group this represents.

And his guess is that the 11% represents those who are against economic liberalization and transformation, on the grounds such transformation puts racial quotas and entitlements at risk. Walski doesn’t need to elaborate further. Suffice it to say that this is merely a guess, based on the current Malaysian socio-politico-economic atmosphere.

Walski’s personal feel is that the ETP is a good program overall. However, that said, he is part of the 35% who have expressed cautious optimism. But in his case, this is only because our track record of implementing any institutionalized programs in the past have left a lot to be desired.

The ETP, however, is designed to be driven by the private sector, which is a big departure from previous initiatives, which have been public sector driven. Perhaps this is the key ingredient that may make the program a success.

Another reservation that Walski has is the timeline of achieving the lofty goals of this program, which is racing for the transformation to bear fruit by year 2020. His personal opinion is this: this is a good program, but 10 years may not be enough to fix areas that need fixing AND achieve the goals of the program.

In particular, Walski feels that what needs fixing most is our education system. And such changes require time, in addition to a good fixer-upper plan. As it is, the Ministry of Education has hinted that a total overhaul of the education system may be required, although the specifics have not been announced.

That said, there are other workarounds that could be put in place, but some of these involve the attempt at bringing home Malaysian talent currently living and working abroad. The New York Times recently published an article about how this very brain drain is holding Malaysia back.

Although the article focuses on income levels, education, and (to some extent), the NEP, Walski’s personal feel is that there are other factors that make returning to Malaysia a not-so attractive prospect. One of those factors, he thinks, is civil liberties, something that he feels has deteriorated significantly.

Walski’s not just talking about freedom of speech and freedom of expression, but the freedom to live one’s life the way one sees fit. The increased policing of personal freedoms is one thing that the government needs to address if it wants to make its Talent Corporation initiative a success (via The Star).

What we need, he thinks, is something he calls Re-Liberalization of Society. Walski will elaborate more on this concept in a separate post.

The bottom line is this – the Economic Transformation Program is not something that can succeed in a vacuum. It is reliant on a lot of other things to transform in tandem, one of them being a successful GTP – Government Transformation Program – that is also being spearheaded by Pemandu almost in parallel.

Most of all, it takes a government that has the maturity and political will to see these programs through. And herein lies Walski’s biggest worry. Its performance in this department has so far not been encouraging.

At the end of the day, what Walski thinks we all want, as Malaysians, is for the country to progress and be a better place not just for ourselves, but for our future generation. If it takes an alphabet soup of initiatives to get us there, then that’s what must be done.

As the saying goes, “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. But the question that lingers in Walski’s mind is whether that crucial will is already there or not.

No idea or initiative will be without it’s critics and detractors. From a political standpoint, however, if an initiative is for the greater good of the nation, the political opposition should be critical, but not criticize simply for the sake of criticism. Neither is any initiative or program flawless, and therefore requires criticism. But this criticism needs to be constructive in nature.

For Walski, he thinks that the ETP is a good move in the right direction and he’s optimistic. But that optimism is a cautious one – the government also needs to prove it has the will to transform.

And so far, in Walski’s book, while there’s apparently a want to transform, the actual transformation is still forthcoming. The time for flowery rhetoric is over – what he needs to see is action, and real results.

The good cannot exist without the bad. That’s a reality of life. But the good needs to supersede the bad. Otherwise, all we’re left with is the ugly. In this case, an ugly alphabet soup that tastes as horrid as it looks.

And that, Walski’s quite confident, is something that nobody wants.