On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

For the love of the nation

IT’S time for Malaysia to change its narrative. For a start, our leaders must end the hyperbole of how the previous Barisan Nasional government stripped and looted the country’s wealth.

We generally know enough about the financial crime of the century, the hunt and arrests of those implicated in the cases.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, are facing a barrage of corruption and money laundering charges, and they are expected to spend the next five years in court.

The main character, the infamous Jho Low, and his family, are on the run, and it’s a given fact that the long arm of the law will eventually reach them.

A corrupt government has collapsed, and it’s now coming to a year since the new federal leaders took charge.

Malaysia can’t continue telling the world how we’re a troubled country with a deep financial hole, and neither should we keep contradicting our stand.

We can’t be saying we’re near bankrupt one day, and the next, concede that our economy is in good shape.

The Pakatan Harapan government marks its first year at office in May. So, its ministers can’t still be whining about inherited problems of a 60-year-old government forever.

Many of the current leaders, including the Prime Minister, were part of the system, and in the case of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, he was at the helm for 22 years, lest we forget.

Admittedly, an eye-watering amount of money has been pilfered, so, the government needs to retrieve what’s stolen.

Ironically, PH was elected to fix these problems.

Malaysia can’t seem like an attractive business proposition with our troubled nation in full parade, especially when investors have many countries to choose from.

The country’s economy for the next two years will be turbulent, but forming the Economic Action Council is a good start to indicate that we intend to tackle the issues together, with public and private participation.

The Prime Minister has made the right move, but the EAC must run fast to come up with confidence-building measures.

Against the backdrop of a challenging environment for global equity markets and a US-China trade war, Malaysia has continued to tread on a steady economic path. It’s slower than we want to, but at least a recession isn’t looming.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng must continue his positive tones, as he has finally been doing, to renew confidence both locally and internationally.

The idea of revenue through taxation should be canned, but grumblings among the small base of individual taxpayers is ringing out loud.

It’s unfair to keep scrapping for crumbs from these taxpayers. A more progressive tax regime should be in place. Give it a name if necessary, but importantly, a firmer consumption tax is required because it will be fairer. It’s simple, if you don’t spend, you don’t pay.

In a way, it needs to be balanced out since individuals can’t be paying both income tax and consumption tax.

Lim has taken the right direction to keep selling the messages of how Malaysia has introduced policies and measures to invigorate the capital market.

“Our stock market has remained resilient in comparison with our peers in Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and China.

“Amidst large capital outflows among emerging markets and Asean countries this year, the FBM KLCI benchmark index registered a year-to-date decline of 5.8% as at end-November, compared with other Asian markets that have experienced declines ranging from 9.1% to 22.7%.

“And, we are the second-best performing stock market in the Asia Pacific region,” he said recently.

There is other good news which we’ve yet to shout out loud enough for, like Malaysia currently ranking 15 from 190 economies in its facilitation of commerce, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings.

Malaysia’s ranking improved to 15 in 2018 from 24 in 2017. Ease of Doing Business in Malaysia averaged 18.18 from 2008 until 2018, reaching an all-time high of 24 in 2017 and a record low of 6 in 2013, it was reported.

Although we may have lost crucial time, we still have a year to make Malaysia look good because two major events take place next year.

Highlights for 2020 include Malaysia celebrating Visit Malaysia Year, and hosting the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) leaders’ summit, some 22 years after doing so for the first time.

Let’s do it right and make Malaysia proud. It’s not just an occasion befitting Dr Mahathir, but all Malaysians as stakeholders.

The government’s proverbial tale of empty pockets isn’t an excuse anymore. It just doesn’t work that way. If we need to spend, we need to find the money, because we expect a return on investments.

We need to tell a good story internationally, it’s that simple.

However, the lack of momentum to galvanise the nation hasn’t been motivational.

The world doesn’t want to keep hearing our negative stories and neither do Malaysians.

Tell the world we have fixed it and now we’re on the road again.

Come May, and it’ll be crunch time for underachieving ministers.

Everyone invariably tries their best, but those who are unfit just shouldn’t get the nod. After all, the last thing PH needs is painting a picture of a failed administration, but the coalition should be wary of many Malaysians believing the Barisan government fared better.

It’s unfair how some ministers are passing the buck to the PM because they lack the confidence to decide or are just indecisive because the responsibilities of their portfolios exceed their ability.

Visitors to Dr Mahathir’s office have noticed the growing mountain of uncleared documents, which is surely too much a task for anyone, what more a 93-year-old man.

We need to take advantage of the new Malaysia to construct a fresh national narrative which emphasises Malaysia and Malaysians.

There is a need to build national pride over the coming years, one which makes trust and integrity its main framework.

A shared vision beyond 2020 is crucial. Also, to bring Malaysians together and not let race and religion hijack the national discourse.

The question now is, do our leaders have the gumption for this, or will they just let New Malaysia be another piped dream?

By the time world leaders take the stage in KL, Malaysia should be ready to display a new sense of direction, purpose and plan.