Transport Minister Anthony Loke has pointed out how Malaysia, despite all its modern infrastructure, is suffering from a ‘third world’ maintenance culture.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has hammered home a message calling for professionalism and honesty from the country’s single largest workforce, the civil service.
What is stunting and crippling our nation is the lack of the ‘big A’ factor, ie poor attitudes. Poor attitudes have made us less competitive in so many ways compared to our neighbours – and in the global marketplace.
Tax and petroleum revenue has been used to finance the building of first world infrastructure, ranging from skyscrapers and modern transport infrastructure to a sparkling administrative capital.
But aside from an entrenched culture of corruption, poor attitudes are hindering us from becoming one of the most successful financial, economic and cultural hubs in the region.
Even tourism has suffered much, despite the modern infrastructure and the resorts that have been developed all over the country, some of them with the support of policies that empower bumiputra enterprises.
People in Malaysia have long been known for the lack of a maintenance culture. We also have a record for corruption, rent-seeking and a tendency to make quick profits, instead of nurturing steadier businesses over the long haul.
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The social architecture of the nation needs to be redrawn fast if we want to overcome negative sociocultural attitudes and tendencies.
We need to stop making excuses or looking for scapegoats for all our failures and weaknesses.
Perhaps the problem also lies with a below-par education system and narrow religious agendas, which have been irresponsibly emphasised for political leverage.
To reshape our future might prove to be a challenging task, given such poor attitudes towards maintenance, accountability and long-term business sustainability.
It will require a ‘reform-driven’ revolution to change these public attitudes.
This does not mean it cannot be done, but such change will be difficult. We must be prepared to make the effort now or risk the nation fading into oblivion.