On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Please grow up, will you?


LET’S not lie to ourselves or let the politicians tell us otherwise. Malaysia, like all other economies that depend on international trade, will not be spared from the effects of the global economic turmoil.

Already, private sector employers are adopting cost-cutting measures before the full effects of the financial tsunami are felt next year.

That means no new recruits, reducing business travel, spending less on entertainment, lowering operating costs and even downsizing or retrenchment in some cases.

The reality is that most businesses expect less revenue next year. In order to stretch the dollar, clients are now taking a longer time to settle their bills.

The outlook for next year is not good at all. The general perception is that the effects of the global economic turmoil will run long haul. You don’t have to be an economist to foresee that the problems will not disappear overnight.

To keep their operations afloat, businessmen are keeping a tight control of their budget while seeking new revenue-making avenues.

Ahead of the bad times, Malaysians are looking to our politicians for leadership and assurances – which seem to be lacking.

We want to hear more about the measures that will be taken to soften the blow. It should not just come from Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. What have the others to say?

We are still squabbling about the 30% bumiputra equity under the New Economic Policy even when the cake is shrinking fast. No one seems to be talking about how Malay­sians, regardless of race, should work together to expand the cake.

What’s the point of quarrelling over how many slices when the cake may disappear soon?

For the vast majority of Malays – from wage-earners to traders – their needs will be greater in the months to come.

Surely, it makes sense for a policy to address the needs of those who are truly disadvantaged; and need rather than race should be the criterion.

There’s no legitimate reason to help those with political connections – regardless of whether they are Malay, Chinese or Indian – to become richer and more powerful while the majority stays the same.

It is equally baffling that there should be a controversy over the decision of the Penang state government to use more languages on a handful of signboards in tourist areas.

It’s not something new. Signages in English, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic are already prevalent at the KL International Airport.

Soon, we may even see Russian signages as the country’s new rich begin to travel extensively. Already the Russian market has been identified as the next “frontier”.

In Kuching and Miri, signs on main roads are in Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese and have been there for decades.

Certainly, the identity of the national language will not be threatened nor will the dominant position of the Malays.

We can choose to believe those politicians who spew racist and narrow nationalistic remarks to win votes in party elections or we can be pragmatic and open-minded in a world that has become more competitive and connected.

It is no secret that some of these hypocritical communal champions prefer to holiday in London and send their children, even at primary school level, to study in Britain or Australia. At the same time, they extol “the world-class standard” of our education system.

Fifty years after independence, many politicians, whether in government or the opposition, are still talking about the same issues that have either been resolved or are no longer relevant.

All of a sudden, we have to look up the history books to learn whether the social contract was cast in stone. Worse still, those who brought up the subject do not know much about it.

There seems to be a vacuum for fresh politics. Some of our more youthful leaders are parroting their elders, either out of reverence or for self-preservation. The result is we are getting more of the same.

The sad, if not frightening, part is that many of our politicians do not realise how detached they are from the New Politics of Malaysia, where the minds and hearts of the electorate have so radically changed after March 8.

With 2009 weeks away, Malaysians have to prepare to face a year of uncertainty.

By March, a new political leadership takes over. There’s hope and opportunity if the country is led along the right path.

The results of the general election show that Malaysians have grown up, yet many of our politicians have not.

It’s time they change or be changed.