Last updated on 22/02/2014 - 08:20
OUTSPOKEN: Fifty-seven years after Merdeka in 1957, where are Malaysians and Malaysia today in terms of wealth?
Isn’t it long overdue for the rakyat to review their one and only known federal government’s managing or mismanaging of the country’s wealth?
What do we have and where are we now in the world in terms of wealth? How about comparing Malaysia with Singapore, again at the risk of detractors screaming “that’s unfair”.
“You must compare an apple to an apple.”
Why do I insist on comparing Malaysia with Singapore?
Singapore was once part of the Federation of Malaysia and is our closest neighbour. It does not have any natural resources, like oil, tin ore, rubber, oil palm, etc – unlike resource-rich Malaysia.
Am I being unfair to compare Singapore, such a handicapped state, with Malaysia, a country blessed with natural wealth?
Singapore broke away from the federation in 1965 to become a republic.
After 49 years, Singapore is the third richest country in the world, as listed by SaveMoney.my. Where’s Malaysia?
In fact Singapore is among the top five richest in the world, behind Qatar (No.1) and Luxembourg (No.2) but ahead of Norway (No.4) and Brunei Darussalam (No.5).
SaveMoney.my is an online consumer advice portal that aims to help Malaysians save money through smart savings in their daily banking, technology, and lifestyle spending habits.
According to its investigative journalist Caitlyn Ng, based on per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on a purchasing power parity in the greenback of US dollars, Brunei’s per capita income is US$54,000 (RM180,171).
Brunei’s wealth accumulation, after gaining independence in 1984, is dependent on its extensive petroleum and natural gas fields.
With a population of about 400,000 citizens, the people enjoy one of the finest health care systems in Asia and even though the medical and health care is not provided free of charge, there is only a token payment of B$1 (about RM3) at all government-run hospitals, health centres and health clinics state wide.
The best part is, children aged 12 and below, receive free medical care. In addition, the citizens are given free formal education at government schools and institutions as well as free hostel accommodation at certain schools and institutions.
Fourth richest Norway has a GDP per capita of US$55,000 (RM183,508).
The Nordic nation discovered oil and gas in the late 1960s that helped boost its economic fortunes with a prosperous mixed economy featuring a combination of “free market activity and large state ownership in certain key sectors”.
Not only does this country have a strong economy, it is also blessed with wondrous natural beauty such as fjords, mountains, northern lights and the midnight sun.
The government maintains a welfare model with free public health care (above a certain level), free schooling for the government-run schools, subsidised higher education, and a comprehensive social security system. In addition to all those, the parents have 46 weeks’ paid parental leave as birth and child benefits.
Next, we have Singapore with GDP per capita of US$61,000 (RM203,527).
Singapore is about 475 times smaller than Malaysia with a market-based economy (defined as “decisions regarding investment, production and distribution based on supply and demand, and prices of goods and services are determined in a free price system). Its economy is strong, both globalised and diversified, but highly dependent on trade, especially in manufacturing.
For government-run schools, at the primary level schooling is free whereas secondary and pre-university education is subsidised by the state, charging only S$60 (about RM157) and S$72 (about RM188) respectively.
The nation boasts one of the most efficient universal healthcare systems that is non-modified where the government ensures affordability of health care within the public health system.
With almost the entire population having access to improved water and sanitation facilities, it is no wonder Singapore has one of the highest life expectancy of 80 years for males and 85 years for females, according to WHO (World Health Organisation).
The second richest in the world, Luxembourg has a US$77,000 (RM256,911) per capita GDP.
It’s a country with many beautiful attractions, from nature reserves to lakes and rivers, from old architecture to modern wonders.
It has a market-based economy like Singapore’s with various sectors such as banking, steel, financial, chemicals, and other products supporting the economy and a country with more than 500,000 people.
Its citizens enjoy a variety of advantages such as unemployment benefits (up to 80% of the insured’s average earnings), old age and widowers’ pensions (all economically active people are entitled to a retirement pension) as well as sickness, maternity and parental leave benefits.
In addition, the healthcare system is one of the best in Europe, offering free basic medical coverage to all the citizens.
And, the world’s richest, Qatar, has a GDP per capita of US$102,000 (RM340,323).
It is blessed with the world’s third largest natural gas reserves and oil reserves.
With an absolute monarchy that has the Al-Thani family as the rulers since the mid-1800s, the country is dependent mostly on its petroleum exports, which account for more than 70% of total government revenue.
Since the reserves of natural resources are predicted to run out by 2023, the government is thus looking to expand industrial development as it is an integral part of its plan to diversify the economy.
Being a Qatari citizen comes with a host of amazing benefits which others can only dream of!
They enjoy free education from school to university and free books as well as not having to pay for electricity, water or health care.
They are also given easy access to residential plots of land and low-cost housing loans. Finally, they are also eligible for public assistance if they do not have a job and if they do, they have post-retirement benefits such as generous pensions.
What’s the moral of this article, so far?
What is it that the Top 5 richest have that Malaysia doesn’t have? Nothing. In fact, the five richest don’t have all that we have.
Next, why then is Malaysia in debt to the tune of at least RM800 billion?
Why are Malaysians not even half as better off than any of the people in the five richest nations?
The answer surely lies in the way the Malaysian government manages our wealth. Therein lies the question of competency, accountability and transparency (CAT, pun intended if you get what I mean).
Perhaps, if not the more important, throw in sincerity and honesty to serve the rakyat and country.
Certainly we have much to learn from the governance of the five richest countries in the world?
Those who are still unconvinced and want to challenge facts and statistics and compare apple to apple based on splitting hairs, good luck to you with a super corrupt nation.
Ng Kee Seng believes that God helps those who help themselves. In a healthy democracy, every Malaysian has a role in politics and nation-building.
~ The Ant Daily