“An imperfect nation, but Malaysia is no failed state”

RECENTLY, an article in Bloomberg titled “Malaysia is Staggering Down the Road to Failed Statehood” has raised eyebrows in the country. The author says systemic failures, particularly in managing the COVID-19 pandemic, will see the country going down the path of “failed states”.

According to the Oxford dictionary, a “failed state” is one whose “political or economic system has become so weak that the government is no longer in control”. Last I checked, Malaysia is not showing any signs of descending into utter chaos in the way Yemen, Somalia or Syria are.

The Malaysian Government may not be perfect but a failed state it is not. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives like never before as infection and numbers and death toll continue to rise, leaving a trail of economic destruction in its path.

But this is a global phenomenon as countries previously thought to have managed the pandemic well like Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand struggle to keep a lid on surging cases.

Critics are fond to point out that the “white flag” campaign is proof that there are not enough economic safeguards for the B40 group, as the prolonged lockdown has robbed them of the opportunity to earn a living, with many going to bed on an empty stomach.

Critics ignore the fact that since January this year, over 700,000 food baskets had been distributed to underprivileged households, worth RM150 mil. This was started way before the “white flag” campaign kicked off.

The Bloomberg article also criticised Malaysia for being slow in rolling out its COVID-19 vaccination. As of today, Malaysia’s vaccination rate is second only to Singapore according to Our World in Data.

Some eight million Malaysians have received at least one dose of the vaccine and our healthcare workers are administering over 300,000 doses a day now.

A few weeks ago, Bloomberg had estimated that the country would take five years to vaccinate 75% of its population. Going by our vaccination rate today, it’d take only five months.

Within a short period, over 300 vaccination centres (PPV) are already operating, most of them running seven days a week. This will undoubtedly speed up our herd immunity target by year-end or earlier. How are all these indications of a failed state?

On the economic front, S&P Global Ratings has in June 2021 affirmed its “A-” long-term and “A-2” short-term sovereign credit ratings on Malaysia. It has also affirmed its ‘A’ long-term and ‘A-1’ short-term local currency ratings on the country.

The Economist Intelligence Unit last July rated Syria’s sovereign risk as “D”. Such a comparison is an insult to Malaysia but a contrast is necessary since the Bloomberg columnist lumps Malaysia into the same category as other “failed states”.

In terms of foreign direct investments (FDI), RM80.6 bil worth of investments in the manufacturing, services and primary sectors had been approved in the first quarter of this year, a surge of 95.6% from RM41.2 bil a year ago. A failed state should see capital flight, not a surge in FDI.

In terms of jobs, the Government’s wage subsidy programme had saved 2.7 million jobs costing the Government RM20.5 bil, involving some 330,000 employers while unemployment rate in Syria is 50% and Burkina Faso is 77%.

And finally let’s talk about the economic stimulus packages announced by the Government since the pandemic hit our shores. There were eight such packages (comprising Prihatin, Prihatin PKS, Penjana, KitaPrihatin, Permai, Pemerkasa, Pemerkasa+ and Pemulih) besides Budget 2021. They all cost the Government a staggering RM530 bil! A failed state would never spend that kind of money keeping the heads of its people above water.

In conclusion, Malaysia is not perfect. But a lot is being done not just to tide us over during this difficult time, but also help propel the nation to the next stage of growth, post-pandemic. And for that I still love this country, warts and all.

By : Wong Kye Jun – FOCUS MALAYSIA

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Stringer.

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