7 September 1998
This summer is rather hot. Thank heavens it is nearly over. Already some 33 million
tourists have visited the Big Apple this year up to now.
We, and our neighbours, have entered the second year of economic woes. I was home
last in late May and early June and one of the most important pleasures of living
abroad is returning to find how much more pleasant one's own home is than wherever
one has been staying even if it is in one of the fashionable parts of Manhattan,
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad has urged Malaysians to be more united
and to act in concert quickly to defend the sliding economy before it becomes worse,
which will cause grave consequences for all. National solidarity could be at stake.
Everyone knows our country is rich. It was a remarkably rich nation before the Thai
contagion, rich because of abundant natural resources, emerging industries and because
of our multi-talented human resources. The wealth was and is still enough to go around
for all races.
I believe there are still many rich Malaysians, however, the number is shrinking
fast. I regret that, as every where else, there are more poor people that wealthy
ones. The good this is that we live in harmony with little visible resentment because
everybody is suffering from the Asian (soon-to-be world) recession, and eventually
depression, as some people predict.
Malaysians have very typically reacted with great dignity during this economic turndown.
Everyone is feeling the efforts of the diluted ringgit. This is something that we
can all pat ourselves on the back; we are calmer that most of our neighbours!
The government is striving to revive the economy with our own resources and the ringgit
control mechanism is an attempt to end speculation in our currency and revitalise
Of course, there is also an enough number of people who think we should have asked
for an IMF bailout - forget self-respect and sovereignty, go on bended knees and
bowl in hands to see the demigods at the IMF headquarters in Washington.
It does seem to me if we are to survive this economic hiatus new values are necessary;
old habits and traditions must change. This is the inevitable price we must be prepared
to pay to reenter the world stage.
It is a great shame that young Malaysians no longer want to stay in the kampung to
work in the agriculture sector. They want employment in Kuala Lumpur and other big
towns because they are bewitched by the bright - or laser - lights and believe that
roads in KL are paved with gold! When they fail to strike good in the cities, resentment
slowly grows in their hearts against everybody, Malaysians and foreigners, who appear
wealthy and have fun.
Poverty is age old in the world, more so in Africa, Latin American and Asia. Today's
young , Malaysians are unlike their forefathers, who coped with poverty. Perhaps
because they believed it was preordained, "nasib dan takdir."