Bush comments on Malaysia’s ranking as the 37th best country in the world.
Before I start, I must apologise if this article comes across as nothing more than a piece of incoherent babble. However, what ought to be said should be said.
Recently, Malaysia was ranked by Newsweek as the 37th best country in the world. As usual and as expected, some of our airhead politicians started to trumpet a placement that many will not consider as a ‘success’. Quoting Bernama on the 25th of August, Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin maintained that such a ranking indicated that the opposition was wrong in alleging that the BN government was incompetent and corrupt. I understood him as saying that the country was performing well and nothing was going wrong with this country. I am not here to talk about politics today. What I intend to do is to look closely at the rankings, for an ordinal ranking on its own does not present an accurate picture. What the Yang Berhormat has said has unfortunately showed his ineptitude in statistical and critical analysis. What is more worrisome is that he is partially responsible for the country’s coffers. There goes my tax dollars…
Firstly, if there were 1000+ countries in the world, Malaysia did a bloody good job in securing 37th place. However, there are 192 members of the UN, factoring Taiwan, Vatican City and etc, we can ballpark the figure as ~195. Now 37/195 is not awfully bad either but Newsweek only ranked 100 countries. That would put us at the 63rd percentile. In some universities, that’s a C+ grade, not too far away from failing. Essentially, Malaysia is a C+ country as assessed by Newsweek. Any Yang Berhormat would want to say something?
Let us dig deeper shall we? Let us see which countries did better than us. Yikes! Greece and Portugal who are going bankrupt outperformed us who are still net exporters of oil by 10 places. A bunch of former communist eastern European countries outperformed us too. Even tiny impoverished Costa Rica beat us. What do 53 years of democracy bring? Looking at the rankings, I think we would be better off being communist. Oh well, at least we are better than Vietnam and Indonesia and Burkina Faso…
In the 5 indicators that were used, we have essentially failed 3- Health, Quality of Life and Political Environment. Of these, I would like to comment on the Quality of Life. Oman, Costa Rica, Cuba, Greece and a bunch of former communist states did better than us. What does it say about our country after looking at the profiles of our competitors. Before the fall of communism in Europe, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Latvia etc had low levels of development, and Malaysia was among the better performing ones. What happened to our competitiveness? One might argue that we did exceptionally well in Economic Dynamism, true, but that does not make a country a nice place to leave in. In this context, Economic Dynamism signifies the ease of doing business; it does not tell us if the citizens of that country is happy. China did better than us in that aspect but is China a good place to live and work in for an average worker? Netherlands, France(bureaucracy), Norway, Germany, New Zealand fared worse than us but given a chance, would you want to work there or in Malaysia?
We are done with the stats and we can conclude that we are in a pickle. The current state of affairs in this country is nowhere near acceptable regardless of what politicians might say.
What makes a country livable then? Is there a secret recipe for this? I can’t say I know the answer but I think I know what helps a country become livable. What inspired me to write about this subject matter was the disruption of LRT service. I was stranded for 1hr at Ampang Park during rush hour. I was not angry or stressed out. What irked me was that there were a few RapidKL personnel idly sitting and chatting away in public when the service was disrupted. Sure, it wasn’t their fault that the trains broke down, but the least that they could do was to make themselves busy. The last thing RapidKL would want is for the public/commuters to see the employees sitting around borak-ing when the trains are not running. It is not good PR. But perhaps that was not something worth mentioning.
What seriously disgusted me was my experience at LCCT. I flew back from Hong Kong with AirAsia. After spending one year overseas, I truly felt that I have returned to a pariah environment. The baggage reclaim at LCCT as you would expect, is simple and rudimentary-one claiming loop and the belt goes back into the loading area. As there are only 3-4 installations, multiple flights will have to share the same baggage reclaim. There were a lot of luggage and the belt was short, a disaster waiting to happen. Bags and luggage got caught at a corner because there was simply no space for the bags to pass freely – we ended up with a bottleneck. The belt was moving, bags just kept clogging up and falling off the belt and more luggage were coming out from the loading area. Horrified, another fellow passenger and I ran toward the bottleneck to rearrange the baggage; guess what we saw? Two baggage personnel sitting inside the loading bay, laughing and borak-ing. Oblivious to what was going on outside even though they had an unobstructed view. The person with me shook his head and took photos of the two lazy-bums. At this stage, many of you will probably have a mental picture of the ethnicity of the people involved. Before you start to have ill-feelings and to suggest a certain group of people to be lazy, I have to tell you that the guy who took photos was of the same ethnicity as the bums. He juga beh tahan after seeing the conduct of the two personnel. I was furious because the airport is the first point of contact with foreigners. What first impressions are we trying to give to guests? What is the point of spending millions of dollars to run ‘Malaysia truly Asia’ Ads everywhere and then have haprak people greet them?
In Hong Kong, even the most insignificant post office worker takes his job seriously. Heck, even a janitor/garbage collector in Canada does his job with a sense of pride and duty. I do not want to talk about Singaporean workers.
I am convinced that to which degree a country is livable depends on how much the citizens of that country want that country to be livable. For things to change, there has to be a shift in perspective, a shift in paradigm, a shift in how we think and how we behave as a member of society. Looking at the situation in our country, it seems like the majority wants to live in a pariah state. Even if I’m wrong, the current government has too many structural problems to fix than to address intangible characteristics like these. It took Singapore a quarter of a century to make that shift. How long would it take Malaysia?
Do you think that there is still hope for Malaysia? Do you think that Malaysia deserves a 37th place placing despite all the madness that is happening in the country? What would you do to make Malaysia a better place to live and work in?
Bush is a quasi-physicist-economist who is going to France this autumn to begin his graduate studies in management. Bush also despises the pomposity of the SAT verbal section. English is simple, so keep it as it is.
All opinions expressed here are the author’s own, unless stated otherwise.