Monday, September 27, 2010

Wisdom and foolishness — Lim Mun Fah

July 14, 2010

JULY 14 — Singapore has a rather complicated unique historical relations with our country, and the unpredictable but tolerable relations have often changed to accommodate the contemporary situation.

During the era of Tunku Abdul Rahman, just like a newly-wed couple, the two countries were originally passionately in love. Unfortunately, the happiness was short-lived, with the marriage turning sour and ending in a divorce.

During the eras of Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Hussein Onn, each country lived its own life, minding its own affairs, with little interactions. The bilateral relations increasingly became lukewarm.

During Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s era, there were many controversies over issues like water supply, railways, crooked bridge, territory and the Singapore Central Provident Fund (CPF). The two countries were literally involved in a dog-and-cat fight, even to the extent of going to the courts.

When Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was the prime minister, he was eager to pick the low-hanging fruits. However, he faced great internal resistance and caused the improvement for the cross-strait relations seemed to be limited only to the diplomatic level with little progress.

When Datuk Seri Najib Razak took over as Malaysia’s chief executive, the two countries have begun a new romance.

They have reached an agreement on the relocation of the Tanjong Pagar railway station which has been delayed for 20 years. The agreement has brought hopes that several historical issues would be resolved.

Najib had visited Singapore several times to show his goodwill and, at the same time, promote his New Economic Model (NEM).

In the area of economy, Najib seems to be very ambitious and very eager to achieve some fast results. But, many plans are yet to be implemented.

Najib obviously has to face both internal and external pressures in his decision-making of several major plans, including the 1 Malaysia concept, the NEM, and the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP). These plans and programmes will be costly if they miss the opportune time to be implemented.

Nowadays, the international competition has become more and more intense and the world no longer allows us to tightly embrace protectionism.

In fact, the more privileges and self-protections in economy, the more extreme conservative views will be spread and the more foreign investors will be scared away. It may even lead to the outflow of domestic funds to other more liberal and open markets.

When tycoon Tan Sri Robert Kuok Hock Nien, one of the five advisers of the Iskandar Development Region Authority (IDRA), abandoned his title of the “Sugar King of Malaysia” to acquire Sydney-based CSR Ltd’s sugar business for RM4.73 billion and develop some 200,000 hectares of sugar cane plantation in Indonesia, shouldn’t we take a good look as to why?

When the Genting Group’s funds were taken into Singapore to build the republic’s first casino, shouldn’t we ask why?

Why did the IDRA, which was custom-made for Singaporean investors, fail to bring the desired results?

Najib, apparently worried about some reckless and rash local politicians making some foolhardy remarks, has reminded Umno leaders not to express views that are inconsistent with the government stand and undermines his efforts in attracting Singaporean investors to invest in Iskandar Malaysia.

“It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness... we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short...” Aren’t these famous words of Charles Dickens written 150 years ago still very inspiring today? —

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or the publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.