The year of living dangerously

The year of living dangerously

2019 was a tricky year for Pakatan Harapan. After winning the election the previous year, the pressure was on full steam for the new government to meet the high expectations of the electorate.

Perhaps a resounding success was never realistic, but when you belt out a tune that is so different from what’s written on the song sheet, then there is no choice but to face the music.

In quick succession, Harapan wavered on repatriation of 1MDB’s stolen cash, dithered on punishing the criminals responsible, withered in the parliamentary by-elections and – most importantly – haven’t delivered on economic fulfilment of the rakyat.

The list goes on, but suffice to say the missed opportunities have weakened the coalition’s stability, stunted foreign investment, encouraged the opposition and discounted the government’s credibility.

This is a dangerous cocktail as we head to the mid-way point of Harapan’s maiden term. The same concurrence of outliers that converged to sink BN in GE14 could potentially do the same for Harapan in GE15.

Still, before you cork the bubbly and smother the sparklers, there is still reason to hope in 2020, which has now become a make or break year for Harapan – and for Bersatu and PKR in particular.

After fumbling through much of this year, it is imperative the administration takes decisive action in the coming year in order to give itself enough runway to showcase definitive results ahead of the general election in 2023.

This includes clarity on many of the big debates that fill the digital newsprint and social media, namely, those of leadership succession, economic vision, digital transformation, recouping stolen funds from the 1MDB conspirators and hunting down, prosecuting and jailing the criminals involved.

This means a direction from the top on prioritising objectives and discipline among the ranks in achieving them.

This isn’t the time to get sidetracked on pie-in-the-sky schemes around flying cars; rather, it means grassroots common-sense policy around curbing inflation, increasing knowledge workers, enhancing food security and, most importantly, setting a generational course for transforming Malaysia from a low-cost manufacturing economy to a high-wages innovation one.

Indeed, this was the very objective laid out for the country in the 1990s by the then (and now) prime minister in his Vision 2020 programme.

Let us use 2020 to set us on the path towards this destination, even if takes us a generation to achieve it.

We played with fire to get the chance to build a new Malaysia, and achieved what many thought was impossible.

No doubt there will be critical challenges ahead, as the opposition turns up the dial on divisive identity politics and we look down the barrel of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

2020 is the year to walk tall and carry a big stick, for, truly, fortune favours the bold.

Happy New Year, Malaysia, may we enjoy the peace and prosperity we all deserve in the year ahead.


RAIS HUSSIN is president and CEO at Emir Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of The Leaders Online