Friday, September 26, 2008

Asta la vista, baby!

The news of Malaysia’s foreign direct investment (FDI) outflow hitting a record high in 2007 comes at the heel of a series of depressing news on several fronts for Abdullah Badawi. As Malaysiakini had reported, ‘Malaysian outflow had surged by 81.9 percent to RM38 billion in 2007 from RM20.89 billion the year before. Inflow, on the other hand, increased by only 39 percent to RM29.07 billion versus RM20.91 billion in 2006.’ This was by no means healthy news for the economy, consumer confidence, and certainly the Badawi regime, especially when you put our scenario within the context of the other nations in the Asean bloc. Well, I will just quote from the same report above which I think sums up the situation rather vividly: ‘Within the 10-member Asean trading bloc, Malaysia was glaring as the only country to record a negative flow. This took place despite the fact that the Southeast Asian region recorded its highest ever FDI inflow - which leapt 81.1 percent to RM209.2 billion in 2007 from RM115.5 billion in 2006.’

With inflation having crept up to a 27 year high mark by hitting 8.5 percent in August, it sure seems like the overall economic picture has put the Badawi regime even more precariously on its heels. Of course while it might look like this is tantamount to adding salt to the wound, we cannot overlook the news from this month that Malaysia slipped from 36th place in 2001 to 47th place in the 2008 Corruption Perception Index.

Now, surely you see the pattern emerging from these facts above, right? Yes, it’s not a pretty picture by any means. Not surprisingly there are all kinds of convenient explanations and rationalisations one will uncover from the official government mouthpieces. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that those in the driver’s seat might as well have been asleep. Oops, did I say asleep? Wow, what’ya know, we’ve got a prime minister who has been known to be fond of naps! Could it be…? Naaa! I’m sure it’s a mere coincidence.

Anyway, as you well know, there has not been much for Badawi to blow his horn on the political front either. Aside from the persistent pressure from Pakatan Rakyat to topple his regime, he’s had to repeatedly put out some rapidly spreading wildfires within Umno. Which of course brings us to this most recent ‘emergency meeting’ of the Umno cabal.

No matter how you cut it, one thing about politics is clear: when a supposed leader doesn’t deliver on his promises, he undermine himself. Typically, the eventual outcome is that ‘aspiring successors’ find ways to further consolidate their positions while leaving the wounded ‘leader’ to become even weaker.

The undeniable fact is that Badawi could never seem to get his supposed reforms off the ground. Rather than breaking from the corroded regime that preceded him, he too became rusty by association. He and his regime became the very heart of what they promised to change. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of his competence, is it?

It’s not difficult to see how Badawi allowed himself to get into such a bind, which eventually undermined his own position. Not only has he had to ‘cut a deal’ with his deputy, but we’ve now seen the timetable for his departure moved forward. That’s what bad economic news can do; and when you have bad news as cited above flowing steadily on just about all fronts, it becomes next to impossible to expect your troops to stand by you. Well, maybe your son-in-law has to, but that loyalty too, arguably, may have its limits.

Seeing a weakened and discredited leader’s political career collapse does not in any way guarantee that things will change for the better. In fact, I am convinced that as an ideologically bankrupt regime, Barisan Nasional cannot take us any further. It can only hold us back from advancing.

Nevertheless, while the country may not yet be ready to say goodbye to BN, I think we can indeed say: asta la vista, Badawi.

G. Krishnan