Friday, 20 July 2007

Independence days in August

Three countries in ASEAN are celebrating their Independence this month: Singapore on 9th, Indonesia on 17th and Malaysia on 31st. I wonder what their leaders and their people will ask themselves on their Independence days?

By far, Singapore seems to be the one doing best, considering their stable political situation and a booming economy. The government seems to be more open and intent on making Singapore a "truly" global city rich in culture and the arts as well as entertainment and nightlife. But culture and arts aren't attributes one can cultivate over a few years, nor even a decade. Wonder whether the next generation of leaders in their government will have the same resolve as the current in this aspect.

Malaysia? Well the quarreling between the ex and current prime ministers seems to have subsided somewhat. But they have deep racial issues which have to be resolved if they want to catch up with the rest of the world. Or perhaps they don't? Seems like the Malaysian government and some of the deprived people of the Malay race (never forget this forms their electorate) are content with what Malaysia is now and where they stand in the world.

Indonesia is the BIG brother of ASEAN. Having gone through their share of instability and political woes, they've yet to admit officially that terrorism is rampant in their country and that they harbor some of the most radical "brain washers" of terrorism. And the quarreling and jostling for power (for obvious reasons to get enrichment through corruption) within the weak coalition government continue unabated.

So, should they feel that they're better off having their own flags rather than those of their colonizers?

Definitely I would say. Better to have their own people governing them than someone sitting in their cushy offices in some European capital city dictating their faiths. But gaining independence is one thing, administering it is another. There's really no quick fix for any one country as problems are unique to each. But the tendency for some of these people to reject what is happening in affluent civilizations in the West on the pretext that their people are different certainly won't help.

Life is a learning process. So is civilization. But why would people not want to learn from the mistakes that other countries went through and tailor fit those solutions to the characteristics of their own people and country? Perhaps they think they're doing that already, I'm sure. But one can do that over a century or one can short-circuit that to the minimum time possible. To me, it's a case of how tolerable is continuing poverty and literacy.

The poor and impoverished cannot afford to put themselves and their children through education, and hence are unable to tap into normal channels of independent news on affairs around the world. They are more narrow minded and become more and more so as their governments continually treat them like illiterates and feed them with information and propaganda meant for illiterates. When election time comes, the people running for government will have to take measures which appeal to this "illiterate" electorate and forget and forgo what the county really needs. It's really a vicious circle for the longer they take to lift them out of poverty and literacy, the longer it'll take them to steer their country out of the third world abyss.

To my friends in Malaysia, I would tell them to forget about how much more the Chinese and Indians are making compared to some of the poorer Malays for now; liberalize the economy and let businesses compete openly on a level playing field, attract as much foreign investments as possible before they all head to China and India; swallow their national pride for a moment and rope in a foreign strategic partner (or partners) for their loss making Proton car company, and possibly Malaysian airlines as well.

To friends in Indonesia, they should forget about wasting public resources on high profile "weak" legal cases such as those of the Suharto family which will surely be thrown out by the courts; instead, go for currently active corrupts who haven't had the chance to destroy incriminating records yet and move fast on them so as to set good examples to the rest. Get their unions to come to terms with the competitive labor market in Asia and spend more time on increasing productivity rather than holding demonstrations and protests in busy Jakarta streets. Get rid of business-unfriendly laws and regulations and bring as much foreign investments into Indonesia as possible, especially on much needed infrastructure projects. Forget about current woes and natural disasters. Don't ask what God has done to men, but what men has done to men!

To friends in Singapore who perhaps needs the least advice, I'd say start getting used to the fact that the world is hungry for information and people are going to write and talk about you -- so open up to unrestricted free speech. You won't achieve anything by suing every publication which comments negatively about one or two issues in your country. Don't scare away foreign investors by taking over-zealous measures, FOR the minute you decided to let in the billions of dollars for mega casino resorts, you should have known that property and other prices will rise in your land scarce country. Next year is the debut of the Formula-1 race there and the whole world will be watching. Do not make a fool of your country and yourselves.

Happy Independence Days friends...

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