By Naren Rajan
What makes MoMU, uniquely MoMU? I’ve heard people talk about the great list of sponsors, free food, or perhaps the absolutely fun activities and events we host as a club. That's all true, but let us take a moment to ponder about what truly brings us together and the basis of our club - Beautiful MALAYSIA.
For those of you who don't remember (if you don't shame on you :'), we’ll be celebrating the independence of our nation in a couple of days. The anniversary of our freedom, our liberation from over a century of colonialism. Sounds like a pretty big deal? Well, yes it is. We have persisted as an independent nation for 58 years, through many highs and lows that defined that very fabric of the society we live in today.
I could go on rambling about unity and how ‘politically correct’ we are, but it’s undeniable that we always have room for improvement in our journey towards becoming a developed nation (remember Wawasan 2020?). Loving and wanting to contribute to your country is one thing, but the recent political and economic tremors from back home has left a lot of Malaysians, both overseas and local, disheartened about the country.
The tumbling Malaysian Ringgit (MYR) happens to be just one of the major discontent amongst Malaysians as they see it the main negative indicator of the health of the economy as a whole. Many go around blaming the government and lambasting certain political figures for this when the real causes are caused by the global economic arena. The media, naturally, loves printing news that sells. As educated Malaysians, it is entirely our responsibility to check on the facts before we come to conclusions.
In the case of the falling MYR, I’ve heard many claim that it was caused by the falling investor confidence in Malaysia due the largely publicized 1MDB scandal. However does any data available support such a conclusion? Here are 3 facts for you to consider:
- In the latest Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, Denmark and New Zealand are ranked number one and number two least corrupt countries in the world out of 174 countries. Malaysia was ranked 50th and yet, their currencies have plummeted against the US Dollar over the past year by about the same percentage as the MYR's fall.(1)
- Total approved investments in Malaysia during the first half of 2015 rose slightly to RM113.5 billion, up from RM112 billion in the first half of 2014. (2)
- Previously, Malaysia was widely expected to have its credit rating downgraded to BBB+ by Fitch in its half-yearly review, but the firm maintained Malaysia’s local currency rating at A, with outlook revised to stable.
Other than that, China's devaluation of their currency hurts Malaysia's economy a whole lot more than the US raising interest rates since it is our 2nd largest export market (after Singapore, which is mostly re-exports). So, the falling MYR doesn’t necessarily reflect a bad economy but it could possible just be the side effect of a worldwide economic whirl.
Okay, enough about the currency. The growing political culture in Malaysia can be disappointing at times yet we need to keep in mind that being disheartened and complaining isn’t going to help either. Malaysians need to able to identify sensationalist news and move beyond the problems and think about solutions. What Malaysia needs is solution based politics.
There’s no point expecting the government to do everything. The people need to be more engaged and connected with the country’s governance. Instead of whining at home or on Facebook about how your local municipal is providing inefficient services, use your keyboard warrior skills to start writing to the council and discuss with the local community about possible solutions to the problem.
Do the political troubles affect Malaysia? Yes. Mostly because investors typically do not welcome a sudden change of leadership as such changes normally mean a change in policies. So, a coup d’etat or immediate dismissal of government wouldn’t exactly be the wisest thing to do. It’s perfectly fine to disagree and doubt the governance in a democracy. At the same time, we need to make educated and informed conclusions when evaluating the state of our nation.
Every great nation has faced a pitfall once before achieving excellence. Europe had the Great Depression; Japan faced 2 devastating atomic bombs; and the US withstood the almighty blow of Global Financial Crisis. As author Alexis De Toucqueville once said, ’The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.’ The potential greatness we could achieve possibly lies in our ability to persevere and push through tough times like these. A country is defined by its people. If we don't stand up for our country, don’t expect anyone else (i.e. other countries) to.
When the title questions if we are we a truly liberated nation, it meant to ask if we have liberated our culture of dependence towards governance and start taking real responsibility about our nation.
We as students can begin to contribute to our nation even if we’re not back in Malaysia. For those of us in Melbourne, we have various different platforms to engage in discourse and widen our minds. Join the political interest club in uni to learn about the various political ideologies around the world, take up sociology as a breadth, or if you prefer a more specific approach consider attending a student discussion such as those organised by the Malaysian Aspiration Program.
We don't aim to be politically forward, but we want our members to be a progressive generation with open minds and open hearts. Melbourne may seem like a better place to be at the moment, but Malaysia is after all, our home whether or not we’ve stayed there our entire lives or migrated at a young age. The place to be for our late night mamak talks and shit ton of traffic jams.
We know what makes Malaysia, Malaysia. But what makes YOU, a full fledged Malaysian? Be proactive and take our nation’s future into your own hands! This year let us celebrate our freedom by freeing our minds!
(1) Alegria, K. (2015, August 19). The Rakyat Post. Retrieved August 26, 2015, fromhttp://www.therakyatpost.com/business/2015/08/19/investments-into-malaysia-remain-strong-in-1st-half/
(2) Corruptions Perceptions Index. (2014). Retrieved from https://www.transparency.org/cpi2014/results