Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Dictatorship, Army Recruitment, and a Non-combusting Engine

Written by johnleemk on 1:03:33 am Feb 17, 2007.

Before we break for the Chinese New Year festivities, let's recap the mail we've had over the past week or so.

Dictators and autocrats

Quoted from: Say Lee
Coincidentally, the Parade Magazine has just published their annual report on who is the world's worst dictator ( and we may find solace in the fact that Both Dr. M and Chavez are both not on the list, but the so-called good pal of Dr. M, Mugabe, is.

Actually Dr. M's dismal record of running Malaysia pales in comparison to Mugabe's litany of "atrocities" commited to his own country as highlighted in the article.

No doubt the list is Americanocentric, meaning it is assessed from the US's perspective, but it does go to show how well-regarded Dr. M may have been seen in the international arena despite his anti-western rheotoric as exemplified by his purported nomination for the Nobel's Peace Prize.

If the comments section are anything to go by, most Americans do think that GWB's claim to the (in)famous throne is second to none.

I think it is certainly beyond question that Dr. M remains behind Mugabe and Bush in the hall of dictatorial infamy. Unlike Bush, Dr. M has confined himself to ruining one country - and even then, at least he has had the good sense to avert serious bloodshed in doing so (unlike Mugabe). Still, I feel the effects of Dr. M's insidious regime will become progressively worse in the long run.

The main reason Malaysia remains so progressive is simply because our revenues from petroleum have permitted the country to grow at an astonishing rate, despite all the tremendous wastage and inefficiencies that are the result of huge government involvement in the commercial field. The result is that we are overwhelmingly dependent on oil as a revenue source, despite its finite nature, while we have ignored our infinite resource of human capital - just look at the horrid state our schools and universities are in. The only attention Dr. M paid to human capital was planning for a 70 million population by 2100, which is simply ridiculous - how can we expect to create rising standards of living for all while also having a vastly growing population?

Dr. M's main positive contributions were his serendipitous decision to impose capital controls in 1998, and his work to stem (somewhat) the tide of Islamism. Aside from that, I believe that in a few decades, especially after our oil reserves start to dwindle, we will see that Dr. M failed to adequately prepare our country to prosper and develop beyond its current inefficient, oil-dependent state.

Territorial Army Recruitment

Quoted from: tanstaafl
I've never actually heard of the TA doing recruitment in my entire life ... which kinda shows either how oblivious I am or how low-key this is. Where was this recruitment drive done and who was the intended audience?

It was in KDU College, and the obvious audience was the students.

Anyhow, most armed forces recruits with prior exposure tend to come from Cadet Corps in school. Not a particularly popular uniform group from what I can see based on how few there are. Guess serving in the armed forces doesn't have much of an appeal in Malaysia.

Yup, although the recruiter that day made a bit of noise about how several people (he named names) had already signed up.

Interesting to note was that back in my day, the Cadet Corps in my school was 100% Malay at least as far as I can recall.

Hm...the Malay name is Kadet Remaja Sekolah, is it? If so, then yeah, generally it's still only Malays who join up. I remember I had several Chinese and Indian friends who joined in Form 1, but later switched to Scouts or the Red Crescent. I wonder if the KRS is rather racial, or if they just unintentionally turned off my friends.

No Ideas in an Idea Article

Quoted from: Nathaniel Tan

i was nearly tearing my hair out in frustration at your valentines article :P :) aheh.. despite the title and intent, couldn't find much constructiveness or new ideas :) in essence, i personally believe that these countries problems are not due to a lack of ideas. it's not complicated - stop being corrupt, and stop being racist. in the case of corruption especially, all that's really needed is integrity and the political will to enforce it. it's not like trying to find the God particle (theSun :P :)

Hehe, I know that my piece was lacking in actual constructive ideas, because its main thrust was to encourage others to produce constructive ideas.

I know people like to focus on corruption, wastage, etc. as the major problems plaguing the country (if you look at my rebuttals to responses to my piece at theCicak, I've used this angle quite substantially), but I don't believe that it's enough to simply say "we'll stop corruption" and end it there. As I said in my article, we need a roadmap - a specific sketch of how to get from where we are to the stage where there is no corruption and no racism. Corruption is entrenched in our civil service and our politics - how do we end it? It's not enough to say "we'll kick out UMNO", because that doesn't solve the problem directly (and even if it did, you'd need to come up with ideas about how to kick out UMNO). We need ideas like, for example, providing early retirements for those who refuse to change, while promoting those who are committed to a non-corrupt culture.

Similarly, our education system needs reform, and it's not enough to say "stop being corrupt, and stop being racist" - how do you change the mindset of our educators? How do you restructure our syllabus, our curriculum? In the first place, is it the government's place to be setting the syllabuses and the curricula? These are important questions that need to be answered.

I hope you get the gist of my point - we're not lacking in ideals, like "stop corruption" or "stop racism". It's that we're lacking in ideas on how to achieve this ideals. You say we need the political will to enforce our ideals, and things will sort themselves out - but without a specific plan on how to enforce the new incentive structure, where will we go? Ad hoc implementations rarely work out well.

Furthermore, there are other long-term structural problems that have to be addressed, such as the high reproduction rate (which makes increasing GDP per capita very difficult - countries like Ireland and China only took off after they tackled their birth rates), the horrid education system, and the very state-centric focus of our economy. Resolving these issues takes not just political will, but ideas and plans on how to utilise that political will.

Till then, farewell...

Infernal Ramblings will be taking a break for the Chinese New Year holidays. We should resume by Tuesday, or Wednesday at the latest. To my Chinese readers, have a prosperous year of the pig...and for my non-Chinese readers who live in Malaysia (or anywhere else that celebrates CNY), enjoy your holidays.

If you'd like to keep informed about updates to the site, consider subscribing to our web feed:

Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.

Najib's Orwellian 1Malaysia

Most Recently Read

  1. Globalisation in Anecdotes
  2. Malaysia, A Statist Economy
  3. Don't Let the Abdullah-Mahathir Fight Distract
  4. The Problem With Free Trade, and How to Solve It
  5. Externalities and Poverty
  6. Barisan Nasional Still in Denial
  7. Rephrase the Problem
  8. When Law Enforcers Become Law Breakers
  9. Revisiting the 1988 Constitutional Crisis
  10. An Argument For Vernacular Schools?
Quoth the webserver...
The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.
— Thomas Jefferson