Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Political leverage from a bad economy

In the wake of the U.S. Presidential Inauguration, like many, my mind is directed towards the importance of speech as a form of communicating and framing key policy issues. Not just any speech, mind you. Not the type of speech that we have to endure when attending seminars or conferences.

I mean important speeches that set the tone, tempo and timbre of a major economic policy shift.

Before I launch into this point, I have to say that I have been rather perplexed by the BN Federal Government for many, many months now.

Certainly, since the March 8, 2008 General Elections there has been evidence of shell-shock within the ranks of BN component parties and, within UMNO itself. Losing the Permatang Pauh and Kuala Terengganu by-elections has added to the negative pall.

There has been much fixation on internal issues within BN component parties on reform and re-branding.

There has also been excessive concentration of time, energy and resources on staging pitched battles with Pakatan Rakyat and the states under PR control. It is a truncated trench warfare that will yield mere inches of political advantage either way.

Such a political tactic never gives the incumbent party any advantage. Such a political tactic only serves the challenger. If you don't believe me just watch the original Rocky movie. The unknown challenger lost on points but immediately gained celebrity status while the world champion was disgraced despite being a victor.

Frankly, all the potshots taken between BN and PR and the Federal Government with Pakatan -controlled states is just tactical political nonsense that hardly carries any real impact on the wider plebiscite.

Worse still, such matters can be classified as trivial nonsense that is meant to occur in a robust democracy anyway.

Worst of all, playing up such politicking earns hardly any plus points but, instead, puts the UMNO and the BN component parties in a bad light in the eyes of the general public.

The public perception may well be, that the apex leadership of UMNO and BN component parties should be focusing on things that matter in the daily lives of all Malaysians. And, what is that? To colour my point I need to borrow the famous line written (possibly by James Carville) on a white board in the basement of the Arkansas Governor's Mansion in 1991 (or, was it 1992) that the thing which matters to all Malaysians is, It's the economy, stupid!

Here's my humble suggestion of a game plan:

Say that Malaysia's economic contraction is due to externalities
Take a leaf from Dr M's playbook in 1997-1998. Our economic contraction is due to the economic crisis that started in the U.S. It has affected the whole world. No one can blame UMNO or BN for the shit. But loads of blame can go to Wall Street and the Western capital markets and their unwieldy financial systems and their lack of regulations or good governance. Blame them for creating a global economic crisis that is hitting countries like Malaysia who needs export income and, is dependent on global trade.

So, why is the First Minister of Finance (and Prime Minister-in-Waiting) so reticent about stating loudly the prognosis of the Malaysian economy in 2009? Why is the entire slate of economic managers within the Federal Government so nervous about disclosing any bad news? Why are they so defensive?

Najib should demonstrate his leadership credentials by marshalling all these economic agencies to manage the expectations of the Malaysian public. Blame the Western world for their greed. Cry out that the economic tsunami is hitting Malaysia and, it may get worse.

A blood, sweat, toil and tears speech is needed
Najib should give a Churchillian blood, sweat toil and tears speech on the economic challenges.

He should start by painting a gloomy picture. In the first part of such a speech, he should trot out negative economic forecasts on affected economic sectors. He must warn all Malaysians regardless of race, colour, creed or class, that the economic downturn will leave no one safe. That, these are dire economic times.

In the second part of that speech, he should begin to bring a stentorian voice to challenge all Malaysians regardless of race, colour, creed or class, that in the face of such adversity Malaysians need to rise above petty partisan politicking that does not serve the national interest, which is to create a shared prosperity and peaceful way of life.

In the final part of the speech he must outline specific target sectors for the second economic stimulus package.

Repeat the above many times
Keep hammering away at the dire economy. Keep challenging Malaysians to rise above their stations. Challenge Malaysians to set aside petty differences. Challenge them to unite for the sake of common goals - a good job, good health, good education, a safe home, a peaceful way of life. Now, which Malaysian can say no to this?

I believe this op-ed piece supports my proposition above. Muhiyiddin is off-tangent when he decries the need for UMNO to have a "wow" factor. This is not the Malaysian Idol show. But a strong assertion on sound economic management and clear economic stimulus goals will provide a very sound platform from which UMNO and BN will have a fighting chance to avoid perdition. 


Raison D'etre said...

Alas. we are talking about he-who-take-the-safest-route Najib here.

Remember his "We don't want to talk ourselves into a recession" speech?

You'd need balls of iron and steel here, and there's hardly any candidate around to provide it.

de minimis said...


It never hurts to put this idea out there. If the man picks it up and runs with it things may become better managed.

Eyes Wide Open said...

"A blood, sweat, toil and tears speech is needed
Najib should give a Churchillian blood, sweat toil and tears speech on the economic challenges."

Sadly, the BN govt has trained Malaysians well to solely rely on the government for everything. This mechanism of control is biting them in the ass now.

Unfortunately for Malaysians, the BN is in no position to lift us out of this mess as they have been so used to squandering public money and natural resources.

Unfortunately for BN, the voices who are seeking to regain power for the rakyat and restore good governance are from within the Pakatan ranks and from civil society.

Unfortunately for Malaysians, the BN is stamping down these voices.

Unfortunately for BN, this will be their last chance to prove themselves before the next general elections.

Unfortunately for Malaysians, BN is incapable of reform.

Unfortunately for BN, Malaysians only need to wait a maximum of 4 more years, then we can finally get rid of the BN!

Jarod said...

Sir, I do not think Najib will be able to do as what you have suggested for his speech.

He is NOT the type of person. HE cannot be change. He does not have the leadership quality. Worst still, he DOES not have the WOW factor.

Yes, all Malaysians need to face CHALLENGES to improve them self and HELP Malaysia. But Malaysians have been too LAZY at times. We have been spoon fed for years.

How will the MALAYSIANS be motivated when we have such a weak leader?

If we want a better MAlaysia, we should have a motivated leaders who are transparent enough to his peoples.