Skip to content

Pluralisme agama: Mencari Pencerahan?

November 10, 2014

DR DZULKEFLY AHMAD | 10 November 2014. (Harakahdaily)

Polemik ‘pluralisme agama’ kembali mengambil ruang utama diskusi awam. Kali ini pastinya lebih sengit dan ganas. Sebabnya? Kali ini sebuah NGO, Sisters in Islam (SIS) telah mencabar fatwa yang dikeluarkan oleh Majlis Agama Islam Selangor (MAIS).

Lebih menarik kerana sekumpulan ahli Parlimen PAS masuk gelanggang wacana ini seawal mulanya. Ahli-ahli yang berhormat PAS ini tegasn mengingatkan MAIS supaya jangan drastik membuat ‘fatwa’ khasnya yang menghukum orang persendirian atau organisasi sebagai ‘sesat dan menyeleweng’ daripada agama Islam. Umum tidak memahami dan masih kebingungan apa itu pluralisme agama.

Justeru kerana istilah dan konsep pluralisme agama ini rumit, ilmiah dan tidak mudah untuk ditanggapi golongan awam, maka ia sangat memerlukan penelitian dan pencerahan. (Sengaja tidak saya tambah perbahasan fahaman liberalisme dalam penulisan kali ini).

Sangat malang kalau ia disilap faham. Lebih malang lagi kalau ia secara mudah-mudah digunakan sebagai satu senjata atau bogeyman untuk menjatuhkan lawan dengan menghukum mereka sebagai pengamal atau memiliki unsur-unsur fahaman pluralisme agama.

Tidak perlu penulis bariskan mereka yang turut jadi mangsa serangan ini. Penulis juga salah seorang mangsa kegiatan ini. Amat pelik kerana serangan datang dari dalam partinya sendiri.

Untuk ingatan umum, bukan sahaja Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim dikecam kerana dikatakan menyebarkan fahaman pluralisme agama, malah Mursyidul Am PAS Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat juga tidak terlepas daripada kritikan kerana menghadiri acara rasmi di kuil Buddha di Kelantan.

Melengkapkan contoh, sebuah forum ilmuwan Islam sedikit waktu dahulu, mengingatkan semua pemimpin Muslim, termasuk Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Najib Razak, supaya tidak menghadiri majlis perayaan agama lain, dengan alasan ia menjejaskan Akidah.

Jom cuba kita fahami perkara yang ‘fundamental’ dahulu. Saya akan cuba memudahkan wacana ini.

Pertikaian semantik?

Benar, pluralisme agama bukanlah satu istilah yang hanya bermaksud ‘kepelbagaian agama’ atau disebut sebagai religious pluralism. Konsep ini tidak hanya sekadar meraikan wujudnya pelbagai agama dalam laluan sejarah pengalaman tamadun manusia. Pertikaian bukan hanya bersifat semantik.

Meneliti perkembangan fahaman ini, kita akan menemui hakikat bahawa pluralisme agama adalah sebuah ‘isme’, sebuah ‘‘ideologi’ dan sebuah falsafah yang mendalam dan mempunyai pelbagai doktrin, epistemologi dan ‘naratif’ tersendiri serta implikasi kefahaman ke atas ‘penganutnya’.

Sesuai dengan kedudukannya sebagai sebuah ‘isme’ atau ideologi yang punya asas falsafahnya, pluralisme agama telah tampil dalam sejarah persis satu ‘agama baru’ dan mempunyai ‘prophet’ atau ‘ahli-ahli falsafah’ mereka seperti Ernst Troeltsch (1865-19230), Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975), Wilfred Carnwell Smith (1916-2000). Antara ahli falsafah kontemporarinya ialah Prof John Harwood Hick yang baru meninggal (1922-2012).

Secara mudah dan tegasnya, mengikut fahaman mereka ‘semua agama adalah sama, sekali gus menafikan hak dan tuntutan setiap agama akan kebenaran hakiki agama mereka, sehingga meletakkan semua agama sifatnya nisbi (relatif), tidak sempurna, terbatas dan merupakan satu sisi pandang terhadap Kebenaran Agung.

(All religions are equal, simultaneously denouncing and undermining the claim to absolute truth of all religions on the world stage. It has ‘relativised’ all truth claims and has equated all religions to be essentially and relatively the same limited, partial and incomplete, one way of looking at something.)

Lantas pluralisme agama mengisytiharkan ‘persamaan agama’ dan ‘semua agama sebagai jalan-jalan kepada kemuncak yang sama.(All the paths lead to the summit – John Hick).

Inilah doktrin utama yang ‘fundamental’ serta ‘cardinal’ dalam fahaman pluralisme agama. Nah, di sini letak tunggak pemikiran ‘persamaan agama’ John Hick yang mengiktiraf bahawa dakwaan semua agama ada sama.

Sesungguhnya, ‘persamaan agama’ lantas ‘pluralisme agama’ pada hakikatnya dan mengikut pandangan ahli agama adalah falsafah yang sebenar-benarnya ‘merosakkan dan mendobrak agama itu sendiri’!

Di saat ini, saya tampilkan penegasan kedudukan Islam dan implikasinya dalam isu yang dipolemikkan ini.

Sesungguhnya Islam bukan sahaja mengisytiharkan penerimaan akan kewujudan pelbagai agama tetapi ‘mengiktiraf dan meraikan’ ‘perbezaan agama’ tanpa ‘mengurangkan’ dan menafikan hak mereka kepada dakwaan eksklusif mereka meskipun bertentangan dengan ajaran dan prinsip Islam.

(Islam recognises ‘religious plurality’ and accords respect for all religions as ‘fully others’ without reduction, relativisation and deconstruction.)

Toleransi Islam

Pengiktirafan ‘perbezaan agama’ itu lantas menampilkan sikap ‘tasamuh’ (toleransi) Islam serta bersedia mengizinkan penganut agama lain tertakluk kepada hukum dan prinsip undang-undang agama mereka.

(Islam acknowledges the ‘plurality’ of religion and allows the adherents of all religions the plurality of laws to govern their lives within the aegis of their religious belief and precepts.)

Sesungguhnya Islam mengiktiraf ‘religious plurality’ dan bukan ‘religious pluralism’ sebagai satu ‘sunnahtullah’ dalam kejadian seluruh mahkluk Allah SWT. Secara umum hakikat itu termaktub dan tersimpul dalam firman Allah SWT:

“Sesungguhnya Kami telah mengutus pada setiap umat seorang rasul dengan perintah: Sembahlah Allah dan jauhilah taghut (yang selain dari Allah). Maka di kalangan mereka ada yang diberi hidayah dan ada yang berhak ditimpa kesesatan… (Al-Nahl:36).
Sekali lagi pengiktirafan ‘pluraliti agama’ ini tersirat secara lebih tegas dalam firman Allah dalam Surah Al-Maidah: 48.

Ayat ini sangat jelas maksudnya dan tidak perlu ditafsirkan lagi.
“Sekiranya Allah menghendaki nescaya Dia jadikan kamu satu (yang bersatu dalam agama yang satu), tetapi Dia hendak menguji kamu (dalam menjalankan) apa yang telah disampaikan kepada kamu.”

Lebih jelas lagi adalah pengisytiharan yang Allah SWT abadikan dalam surah Al-Kaafirun (109:6).

Penegasan itu dinyatakan melalui ayat “lakum diinukum waliyadiin (untuk kamu agamamu dan untuk kami agama kami”.

Bukan terima agama lain

Pengisytiharan perbezaan agama sangat jelas terpapar dalam ayat ini bagi memperkukuhkan fahaman “religious plurality” yang ‘bukan dan tidak’ bermaksud menerima pula segala kepercayaan agama lain. Ini sangat penting!

Bagi umat Islam, pastinya keyakinan dan iktikad kita bahawa Islam adalah agama yang benar di sisi Allah seperti ditegaskan:

“Sesungguhnya, agama cara hidup di sisi ialah Islam.” (Ali Imran:19).

Namun umat Islam wajar diingatkan bahawa begitu juga keyakinan dari sisi pandang penganut agama lain sama ada yang bersifat agama samawi (langit) atau pun bukan Samawi.

Dari sisi pandang mereka, agama merekalah yang benar dan betul. Masakan mereka akan menganut agama tersebut kalau mereka percaya bahawa Islamlah agama yang paling benar.

Mengungkap apa yang disebut oleh Thomas Lee (MYSinchew.com) bahawa setiap penganut agama Kristian menyakini dan mendakwa agama mereka sebagai penyelamat manusia dan tidak ada penyelamat lain selain melalui al-Masih Isa, seperti ditegaskan dalam Bible:

“Lord Jesus Christ is the ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ and “no one comes to the Father (God) except through me (Jesus).” (John 14:6).

Dalam menggarap pertikaian ‘puraliti agama atau kepelbagaian perbezaan agama’, Islam tidak pula merumuskan dan mendamaikan perbezaan ini dengan menyamakan semua tuntutan kebenaran agama.

Penegasannya adalah untuk mengizinkan semua agama membuat dakwaan dan tuntutan mereka masing-masing dan tidak perlu dinisbah, dikurangkan atau dirungkaikan (deconstruction) kerana tidak diizinkan menyamakan agama sama sekali.

Maka bertolak dan bertitik punca dari pemahaman konsep ini, wacana di ruang umum tidak lagi wajar berkisar tentang agama siapa atau yang mana yang lebih ‘superior’ dan penganut agama mana dan siapa yang akan ke syurga dan siapa pula yang disumbat ke neraka.

Isu teologi yang sangat emotif itu wajar dikekang dan dihadkan dalam ruang iktikad dan keyakinan serta pencerahan penganut masing-masing.

Akidah terbit dari kerelaan

Meneruskan debat antara agama ke garis teologi yang mendalam itu pasti akan mencetuskan satu pertentangan dan perang besar. Ia pasti akan bersifat ‘kalah-menang’ atau ‘zero-sum’, dan pastinya agresif, dan ‘destruktif’.

Sebaliknya dialog dan wacana yang wajar adalah berganjak kepada satu garis dan paradigma yang lebih bersifat konstruktif dan positif dalam menentukan sumbangan agama masing-masing dalam membangunkan kemuliaan kehidupan, kemakmuran negara dan kesejahteraan rakyat. Itulah wacana dan agenda yang harus menjadi tawaran yang dipelopori oleh pendukung “political Islam”.

Advokasi inilah yang mesti digarap dengan pendekatan yang persuasive, inklusif, ‘prudent-bijak’ serta ditala dalam ‘konteks’ demografi serta kerencaman realiti politik negara masing-masing.

Demi keharmonian perhubungan antara agama maka wacana ‘pluraliti agama’ memperkukuhkan sendi-sendi pembinaan kembali negara. Sekali gus ia memaknakan erti kedamaian perhubungan antara agama dan peranan agama secara positif dan langsung dalam kehidupan serta tata-kelola bermasyarakat dan bernegara.

Tentunya ia mampu menangkis sifat pegangan sempit serta melampau. Ia memaparkan sifat “wasatiyyah” atau kesederhanaan yang sebenarnya dalam Islam.

Kembali kepada tajuk asal kita, maka adalah sangat wajar bagi pihak MAIS dan badan-badan seumpamanya, dalam pendekatan dan semangat dakwah Islamiah untuk mewujudkan keterlibatan dengan mana-mana badan yang dikesani atau didakwa telah ‘menyimpang’ dari anutan Islam yang sebenarnya.

Cara dialog atau hiwar dan wacana adalah jalan terbaik dalam menyelesaikan isu-isu pemikiran dan keyakinan agar benar-benar pemurnian pegangan akidah umat dapat diperkukuhkan.

Bukankah anutan akidah dan amalan Islam itu mesti terbit dari kerelaan dan keredaan dan bukan paksaan dan tekanan?

Dr Dzulkefly ahmad, Pengarah Eksekutif Pusat Penyelidikan PAS.

Is there a hidden agenda on water pact?

November 7, 2014

Reasons for not disclosing the details of the water agreement between the Selangor government and Putrajaya does not make sense and raises suspicion.

By Charles Santiago

OngkiliEnergy, Green Technology and Water Minister Maximus Ongkili has put forward three arguments in refusing to declassify the master agreement detailing the water-restructuring exercise between the federal government and the state government of Selangor.

None of them makes any sense to me.

In fact, his arguments only raises my suspicion that the underlying reason for keeping the agreement hushed up is because it is lop-sided in favour of the federal government.

The Umno-led ruling government will have ownership and control of the project and the Selangor state government is relegated to a status of a junior partner.

The federal government will make decisions on costs, financing, technology, contractors, infrastructure and other key areas.

The Selangor government’s responsibility will be to facilitate land acquisition, issuing development orders and getting the local authorities to expedite various approvals.

The implications of such a skewed division of labour are serious.

For one, Selangor will have no control over costs, including cost escalation. We have seen huge cost overruns in projects managed by the federal government or GLCs, like KLIA2.

The construction of KLIA2 was initially estimated at RM1.7 billion but the final cost doubled to about RM4 billion.

The state and the people of Selangor will have to absorb the increases and this will be passed on to consumers in terms of higher tariffs.

It will unnecessarily burden the people of Selangor, especially the lower and middle class and the poor.

Open tenders can be put aside and crony companies could be awarded contracts, negating principles of transparency and good governance promoted by the state government.

So clearly, Ongkili and the government have decided to keep a lid on the real reasons, fearing it will create dissatisfaction among the people.

During the parliamentary debate on the 2015 budget involving his ministry, Ongkili indicated that he was unable to disclose the agreement as it would have an impact on the buying and selling or valuation of concessionaire company stocks in the market.

Ongkili also mentioned that the federal government would have to get permission from Selangor, Pengurusan Aset Air Berhad, concession companies and cabinet before he could disclose the agreement.

However, the new Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali indicated that he wants the agreement made public based on the principles of transparency, good governance and accountability.

The markets have already factored-in the cost involved in the buying and selling of concession companies’ asset and stock values based on media reports.

Thus, Ongkili’s concern that disclosing the agreement would create speculation and a major impact on the value of concessionaire stock has no basis. And the minister agreed with me in Parliament on this point.

Therefore, one can conclude the stumbling block in making the agreement public is the federal government.

The federal government realises if the master agreement is made public, it will create anger and disgust against them, especially from the people of Selangor.

Can the federal government and Ongkili prove me wrong?

Charles Santiago is the MP for Klang

Mampukah Najib menangguhkan GST?

November 1, 2014

5:50PM – 2 Nov 2014 (MKini)

Kritikan Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah pada saat-saat ini adalah sangat menggugat kedudukan kerajaan Persekutuan.

Selaku mantan menteri kewangan, beliau masih punya pengaruh politik yang luas dan pandangannya masih berbisa dalam tadbir-urus kewangan negara.

Belanjawaan 2015 merupakan ikhtiar Datuk Seri Najib Razak bagi mengimbangi tuntutan fiskal dan keperluan rakyat. Dewan Rakyat sedang sengit membahaskan belanjawaan ini.

Cukai Barangan dan Perkhidmatan atau GST, adalah antara peruntukan penting dalam perbahasan Rang Undang-undang Perbekalan 2015.

Sebagai sebuah sistem percukaian yang berasas-meluas (broad-based) yang kononnya lebih adil, pentadbiran Najib telah berkempen agresif untuk rakyat terima propaganda mereka.

Betul ia sedikit membebankan rakyat dakwa mereka, tetapi slogan dan tag-line kempen BN adalah ‘GST baik untuk anda dan akan membantu rakyat’.

Lebih berani lagi, ada tag-line yang berbunyi ‘GST menurunkan harga barangan dan perkhidmatan’.

Peliknya, bagi mengurangkan beban yang bakal ditanggung rakyat, kerajaan prihatin Najib dan BN telah meningkatkan pemberian Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BRIM) dan pelbagai pengurangan cukai pendapatan peribadi dan korporat.

Dalam surat setebal 16 muka surat yang diedarkannya, Ku Li (panggilan mesranya) memohon semua ahli parlimen menyokong usulnya untuk GST ditangguhkan. Ku Li lantas mengecam Najib sebagai tidak peduli rakyat atau ‘uncaring’!

Bagai dek kata, kalau Najib punya kawan seperti Ku Li dalam BN, maka dia tidak lagi memerlukan seteru dan musuh seperti Pakatan Rakyat.

Kukuh saranan Ku Li

Penulisan ringkas ini bertujuan untuk mengukuhkan saranan dan usul Ku Li ini.

Gesaan Ahli Parlimen Gua Musang supaya GST ditangguh, selari dengan Bajet 2015 Pakatan Rakyat. Kedua-dua Pakatan Rakyat dan Ku Li tidak menolak GST sebagai sistem cukai yang punya kebaikan tersendiri berbanding sistem cukai lama Jualan dan Perkhidmatan atau SST.

Namun perlaksanaan secara gelojoh bakal membeban rakyat. Juga, beberapa syarat ketat mengikut perspektif Pakatan Rakyat wajar dan wajib dipenuhi dahulu.

Ini adalah untuk mengurangkan sifat ‘regresif’ GST yang mencetuskan impak negatif dan beban yang lebih parah kepada golongan berpendapatan rendah pada perbelanjaan yang sama. Perkara-perkara tersebut tidak perlu diulangi di sini.

Maka wajarkah Najib menangguhkan perlaksanaan GST? Apakah hujah-hujah terkini?

Pendeknya, Pakatan Rakyat dan kini Ku Li meyakini bahawa pentadbiran Najib silap membaca atau tidak mempedulikan senario ekonomi tahun 2015.

Menafikan atau sengaja tidak membuat perhitungan senario ekonomi global bakal membawa impak buruk kepada negara.

Dengan pelbagai ketidaktentuan, khasnya rakan dagangan utama China yang menampakkan ekonomi yang perlahan dan akibat dasar Amerika Syarikat untuk menamatkan dasar “Quantitative Easing’ dan juga kesan di Timur Tengah dan Ukraine-Rusia atas harga minyak mentah, maka mengharapkan pertumbuhan dipacu oleh permintaan global adalah satu yang tidak menasabah dan meleset.

Ia pastinya akan mengurangkan lagi ‘lebihan akaun semasa’ negara yang telah pun mengalami penguncupan. Dapatan mutakhir oleh Malaysian Institute of Economic Research atau MIER telah mempamerkan isyarat yang jelas.

Dua indeks utama yakni: 1) Business Conditions Index dan 2) Consumer Sentiment Index telah mula menunjukkan penurunan dalam bulan Julai-Ogos lalu.

Pacu pemintaan domestik

Dengan senario seperti ini, Najib wajar segera mempastikan bahawa pacuan pertumbuhan akan diteruskan dengan permintaan domestik. Pacuan pertumbuhan dua suku pertama dalam tahun 2014 ini dibantu oleh permintaan domestik yang kukuh.

Najib perlu meningkatkan permintaan domestik ketika permintaan global sudah jelas menampakkan kelembapan atau ‘slowing-down’.

Malangnya, dengan tindakan yang dibuat Najib dan pentadbirannya, untuk teruskan perlaksanaan GST, Najib pasti mengurangkan ‘kuasa membeli’ atau ‘permintaan domestik’.

Menambah lagi himpitan adalah harga komoditi minyak sawit dan getah yang terus menjunam ke paras harga paling rendah dalam lima tahun. Ini adalah disebabkan lebihan bekalan dan pengurangan permintaan. Kedudukan ini menjejaskan warga luar bandar serta kuasa membeli mereka.

Tambahan lagi, dalam senario ekonomi global yang serba kelam dan sugul, kenaikan RM0.20 harga bahan bakar pada 2 Oktober lalu, sebelum dari pembentangan Belanjawaan 2015, adalah sangat ‘tidak sopan’ bahkan ‘sangat culas’.

Najib sengaja lupa bahawa kenaikan RM0.20 pada September 2013 dahulu telah mencetuskan kenaikan Indeks Harga Pengguna (CPI) sepanjang tahun dan ke paras tertinggi 3.2% pada Julai 2014 lalu. CPI hanya turun pada September 2014 yang lalu pada CPI 2.6%.

Untuk ingatan semua, ketika mantan Tun Abdulllah Badawi menaikkan harga petrol sebanyak RM0.78 (kepada RM2.70) dan diesel sebanyak RM1 (kepada RM2.58) pada Jun 2008, beliau berani meramalkan bahawa inflasi hanya akan naik paling tinggi ke paras 4 peratusc ke 5 peratus.

Malang buat beliau, sekaligus menyebabkan beliau tersingkir, inflasi melonjak ke paras 8.5%! Umum mungkin tidak lupa agaknya beliau secara bersahaja menjawab pihak media, bahawa rakyat tidak agak bangkit ke jalan raya berdemonstrasi.

Justeru, apakah yang boleh diramalkan kali ini kerana kenaikan harga bahan bakar dibuat dibuat bersekali dengan penguatkuasaan GST pada kadar 6 peratus.

‘Jatuh timpa tangga’

Seolah-olah tidak cukup mendera rakyat, Najib akan meneruskan program ‘rasionalisasi subsidi’nya meskipun rakyat sudah ‘jatuh ditimpa tangga’.

Berapa peratuskah ‘inflasi’ yang bakal tercetus dan apakah angka CPI dalam tahun 2015 nanti? Hanya Allah yang tahu…

Ketika itu pastinya Najib akan dilihat ‘tidak rasional’. Seandainya Najib teruskan juga maka jelasnya beliau sudah sangat ‘desperate’ dan tidak lagi mampu berfikir secara waras. Kehilangan ‘kewarasan’ adalah kehilangan kelayakan memimpin.

Sebaliknya Pakatan Rakyat dan Ku Li mencadangkan supaya pentadbiran Najib melipatgandakan usaha dan komitmen untuk menutup lubang-lubang rasuah dan penyelewangan sebagai menjana penambahan hasil. Saban tahun Laporan Ketua Audit Negara memaparkan sumber-sumber hasil yang tiris dan bocor.

Perhitungan Pakatan Rakyat buat Bajet 2015 ini, menganggarkan peruntukan bekalan yang tertakluk kepada pelbagai perolehan, kenaan/bayaran, perjanjian penswastaan dan sebagianya adalah sebanyak RM124 bilion.

Seandainya 10 peratus dapat dijimatkan melalu tadbir urus yang telus dan cara tender terbuka, maka RM12.4 bilion dapat dijana dan diselamatkan.

Atas hujah kenaikan harga barang dan pertumbuhan yang bakal ‘menurun’ atau ‘slowing down growth’, maka sangat patut untuk Najib menangguhkan perlaksanaan GST sehingga datang satu waktu yang lebih wajar. Bila?

Ketika itu adalah bila pendapatan rakyat lebih baik dan menasabah dan lubang-lubang ketirisan telah dapat ditutup dan sumber dari hasil yang lain (CGT dsbnya) juga akan bertambah.

Keberkatan akan dapat dinikmati dan kesejahteraan dikecapi serta kemakmuran rakyat terserlah sekaligus rakyat hidup dengan lebih bermaruah.

DR DZULKEFLY AHMAD pengarah eksekutif Pusat Penyelidikan PAS.

The 10th Khazanah Megatrend Forum and Budget 2015 – A Disconnect? by Dzulkefly Ahmad.

October 31, 2014

Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, PAS Research Centre | 31 Oktober 2014. (Harakahdaily.com)

Granted, as someone who helms an Opposition party think-tank, I was indeed privileged to be invited to attend the 10th Khazanah Megatrend Forum (KMF) last month. I have no qualms to admit that the two-day engagement was indeed intellectually enriching.

Permit me to quickly revisit pertinent observations from the many very distinguished speakers. Admittedly, I can only be selective. Speeches, forum and events traversed the usual realms of economics and finance, evidently depicting Khazanah’s leadership grasp of what it takes to propel the nation further.

That novel characteristic alone has entitled this year’s KMF to be relatively unique i.e., away from obsession with economic growth numbers to defining the challenges of the nation going forward.

Simply put though, it was a gathering of thought leaders and experts to address the critical malaise of the nation i.e. of why Malaysia is stuck in the middle-income trap and what does it take to transition her to a high-income economy and by logical extension,  a ’truly developed nation’.

For the record again, our history of socio-economic development is arguably one of relative underperformance. While we edged our regional peers like Thailand and Indonesia, we have been out-performed by South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Going back to basic economics, it has long been observed that the productive capacity of an economy is capped by the availability of inputs i.e. labour and capital, given a set of technological conditions.

The maximum potential level of production or the productive efficiency frontier of an economy is graphically represented by the ‘Production Possibility Frontier’ (PPF) or the Production Proficiency Capacity (PPC).

It was with this backdrop that its theme of “Scaling the Efficiency Frontier: Institutions, Innovation and Inclusion” was indisputably most apt.

In their respective ways all the keynote speakers namely HRH Sultan Nazrin Shah, Professor Ha-Joon Chang and Tan Sri Andrew Sheng and others provided compelling arguments for the need for Malaysia to affect a productivity challenge, moving beyond the “miracle” of input growth.

To develop a different trajectory of growth, Ha-Joon singly provided new insights of what it takes to do things differently. To paraphrase Ha Joon, we are not to rely only on our comparative advantage as it will impede our productivity growth and stifle our further innovative endeavours.

Significantly too, Ha-Joon stressed on the need to embrace the downside of innovation. This is done by instituting legal provisions to provide for a second chance for entrepreneurs in the face of liquidation and other risks of doing new things and getting into unchartered markets.

Other speakers also alluded to the critical need for government to incentivise these risk-taking efforts in an eco-system that would allow for innovation by ‘serial entrepreneurs’, who invariably exhibit ‘dysfunctional personalities’.

Companies are reminded to be more robust enough to diversify in the face of the eventuality and trade-offs of Schumpeter’s creative destruction in the innovative economy. That must surely be worth pursuing, though arguably always easier said than done.

Be that as it may, let us now turn our attention to the recently tabled Budget 2015. It doesn’t take any more reminders that the budget proposals haven’t allowed much fiscal space for the Finance Minister to manoeuvre his way.

This piece however, is not about to comment any further about his arduous task of balancing fiscal prudence with the rakyat’s needs. There have been ample critical comments both from detractors and supporters alike.

But being the last building block in the five-year development blueprint, it is expected to provide an allocation for the creation of the desired structural changes as envisaged by the 10MP. It is from this perspective that this writing is keen to query further.

Simply put, has Budget 2015 laid down the strategic initiatives for the transition to the next Eleventh Malaysia Plan (11MP)? Has the Budget sufficiently addressed the structural issues of getting the nation out of the ‘Middle-Income Trap’?

The premier must take heed that no amount of huge spending of capital in infrastructural projects would take us out of this middle-income rut. A slew of big-ticket infrastructural projects have been lined up as relentlessly as before in this budget.

To cite, seven highways and rail projects are to be built in 2015 at a cost of RM48.2 billion, including the 56 km MRT2 Line from Selayang to Putrajaya at RM23 billion.

Surely this will provide good macroeconomic (input) boost to growth and with it, the attendant debt build-up. We are not against it per se but the issue is always about the ‘opportunity cost’. What should be our priority and what needs doing first, as imperatives to propel the nation into a higher income economy?

What is it that we couldn’t do else, when Najib has committed RM711 million for Permata? For R&D&C, the Finance Minister could only cough up a meagre RM 1.3 billion for the Ministry of Science and Technology and Innovation.

To highlight further, another RM10 million will be allocated for the Business Accelerator Programme under SME. To enhance use of new technology, automation and innovation in the development of SMEs, RM80 million is allocated for a Soft Loan Scheme for Automation and Modernisation of SMEs under Malaysian Industrial Development Finance Bhd.

To further promote industry, a Digital Content Industry Fund will be set up under industry regulator the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, with an allocation of RM100 million. All this amounting to a mere RM 190 million (let us be generous, RM200 million!), to encourage national innovativeness, against RM75billion (for the combined MRT2 and Pan-Borneo Highway) for infrastructure, which will only lead to more lining of the pockets of crony companies!  The “innovativeness budget” is not even one-seventh of the Permata genius-production initiative.

On a serious note, if the above is not serious enough, we should ask whether upgrading roads, schools, hospitals and providing critical utilities and infrastructure, particularly in Sabah and Sarawak costing even as much as RM27 billion be an imperative, as opposed to the Pan-Borneo Highway which will also cost RM27 billion?

For the record, of the big ideas of the 10MP, when first launched, wasn’t unleashing productivity-led growth and innovation among the central themes? For all that we now come to know at the end of the 10MP, productivity levels have remained flat. Besides, the economy continues to be anaemic on talent and skilled labour availability amply depicted by the total factor productivity (TFP), which evidently suggests a weakening dynamism in key sectors of the economy.

A recent report from The Asia Foundation (TAF) conceded that while Malaysia has effected some positive policy innovation in recent years, the stated reform measures have only been on addressing the symptoms of the ‘middle-class trap’, rather than the underlying causes of the country’s economic ‘incompetitiveness’.

Worse, according to TAF, one of the sore points is that Malaysia’s economic progress had not been accompanied by reforms of the country’s political institutions. The insufficient checks and balances continue to dog the country’s economy, thus leading to increasing concentration of power within the executive branch and persistence in rent-seeking behaviour, patronage politics, opaque governance practices and pervasive corruption.  Is it any wonder then that Malaysia is perceived as among the world’s worst countries on integrity?

Yes, Malaysia’s economy has no option but to transition from an input-led growth model towards one driven by innovation and productivity.

But to be on the trajectory of a high-income and inclusive economy and a truly ‘developed nation’ where growth benefits all, Malaysia must embrace a sea-change in its social, institutional and economic systems and a ‘revolution in the mind-sets’ of all stakeholder, firstly the ‘leadership’ and collectively ‘the rakyat’!

From that perspective, the Budget 2015 is a far cry from realizing the imperative of ‘Scaling the Efficiency Frontier’ where a commitment for Change and Reform must be effected through the ‘3Is’of Institutions, Innovation and Inclusion as mooted by Khazanah.

In this sense, there is a clear disconnect between the 10th KMF and Budget 2015.- ES

This article first appeared in The Edge dated 24th October 2014.

Why Ennahda Lost Tunisian Elections? – A Lesson for All Islamists…

October 30, 2014

By Adel al-Thabti, Anadolu Agency

Tuesday, 28 October 2014 00:00
Editor’s Note: Initial projections place the secular Nidaa Tounes party ahead in Tunisia’s upcoming parliament with about 80 out of 217 seats, while the Islamic Ennahda party came in second place with approximately 70 seats. This is a short analysis attempting to explain the reasons behind such results.
Why Ennahda Lost Tunisian Elections?

Some Ennahda members helped in the image distortion through their unstudied appearances in satellite and radio programs.(Reuters)

It was clear since its inception in June 2012 that the Nidaa Tounes party is an undeclared coalition between the members of the dissolved Democratic Constitutional Rally (DRC), the party of the former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, and trade unionists and leftists from various walks of the left and some independents.

According to its discourse since its inception, Nidaa presented itself as an alternative to Ennahda Movement and its allies in the power-sharing “troika” government, Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties, and the Congress for the Republic.

In the light of the party mobilized all its powers in the campaign for the legislative elections in the period between October 4 and 24 in order to rally its supporters, sometimes relying on the tactic of frightening the electorate from Ennahda that it might restrict the personal freedoms of Tunisians.

This paid-off among a sector of Tunisian electorates despite repeated assurances by Ennahda.

Absence of Media Strategy

Nidaa party found more than an ally to support it even from outside its political spectrum, at a time when there was no available influential ally to aid Ennahda.

Seemingly, Ennahda was not able to manage a dialogue with the influential and capable Tunisian media establishment, something that can be attributed to the absence of a clear media policy for the party; hence, it was not able to direct compelling messages to this sector of the Tunisians in the face of the policy of fear used by Nidaa.

Ennahda was able to gather large crowds in its election meetings through good advertising campaigns compared to other forces, which worried its opponents who considered it as a show of power.

Consequently, they were able to forge secret electoral alliances in order to manage a good battle and defeat an adversary that cannot be defeated in a state of dispersion.

Perhaps what proves the existence of that secret alliance is the fact that the DRC — which ran on several party lists — had one of its leaders, according to some sources, voting in a polling station that ended up getting almost no votes for the DRC, implying that his vote and those of the DRC supporters went to the Nidaa party.

Therefore, there is a possibility that Ennahda adversaries of the constitutional leftist bloc had settled one way or another to focus their votes in support of Nidaa in order to avoid a costly defeat in front of Ennahda.

Some other analysts say that some leftists in some constituencies have voted for Nidaa with an aim of changing the balance of power, which made the party get the highest percentage of seats in the people’s assembly elections.

Absence of Alliances

Often, leftist demonstrators chanted slogans against Ennahda’s president Rashid Ghannouchi across many parts of the country accusing him of responsibility for the assassination of leftist opposition leader Chokri Belaid, who was assassinated by affiliates of the Ansar al-Sharia’h Islamic movement in 2013 as indicated by the investigations of the Ministry of Interior.

According to some observers, Ennahda’s failure in managing some economic issues and attending to social demands during the time of the troika government remains a secondary reason for their loss in the elections compared to the party’s failure to manage the battle of image distortion.

Some Ennahda members helped in the image distortion through their unstudied appearances in satellite and radio programs.

Finally, it may suffice to say that the Nidaa party found more than an ally to support it even from outside its political spectrum, at a time when there was no available influential ally to aid Ennahda, which made it face alone several political forces in the elections, with its initial mass support-base rendering useless.

PAS pertahan kerjasama dalam PR, tentang kezaliman

October 28, 2014

SALMIYAH HARUN | 27 Oktober 2014. (Harakahdaily)

KUALA LUMPUR: PAS dan Pakatan Rakyat akan terus mempertahankan kerjasama mereka untuk berjuang menentang kezaliman di dalam negara ini.

Timbalan Presiden PAS Mohamad Sabu berkata, kezaliman yang berlaku termasuklah ketidakadilan undang-undang dan kehakimam begitu juga kezaliman Akta Hasutan 1948.

“Kita Pakatan Rakyat dan NGO akan bersama-sama menentang Akta Hasutan yang disalahgunakan dan rata-rata dikenakan kepada mereka yang tidak sehaluan dengan kerajaan,”katanya dalam sidang media selepas mesyuarat Majlis Pimpinan Tetinggi Pakatan Rakyat.

Malah beliau yang juga Pengerusi Lajnah Demokrasi dan Mobilisasi PAS Pusat juga akan terus memberi tekanan kepada kerajaan agar memansuhkan akta tersebut.

“Seperti kita tekan kerajaan untuk mansuhkan ISA akhirnya diganti dengan Sosma begitu juga Akta Polis ditukar jadi Akta Himpunan Aman. Kita akan lawan sampai Akta Hasutan dimansuhkan,”katanya.

Malam ini satu langkah awal PAS di bawah Lajnah Mobilisasi menyatakan solidariti buat mangsa Akta Hasutan, menganjurkan makan malam yang akan dihadiri beberapa pimpinan utama Pakatan Rakyat iaitu Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang, Azmin Ali dan beberapa pimpinan PAS termasuk Naib Presiden Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man.

Masih relevan

Sementara itu, Anwar menegaskan mesyuarat Majlis Pimpinan Pakatan Rakyat hari ini menunjukkam gabungan pembangkang masih relevan.

“Perselisihan kecil diketepikan dan sekarang kita mara sebagai satu pasukan padu menentang Umno dengan trend perkauman makin sempit dan jelik.

“Mesyuarat hari ini menguatkan komitmen kami untuk kuatkan hubungan dan teruskan program tak kira apa yang berlaku Rabu ini,” kata beliau.

Turut bersama dalam mesyuarat itu Setiausaha Agung PAS Datuk Mustafa Ali, Ketua Penerangan PAS Datuk Mahfuz Omar, Dr Hatta Ramli, Suhaizan Kaiat dan Siti Zailah Mohd Yusof. – HARAKAHDAILY 27/10/2014

Define ‘high income’ before launching petrol plan – FOMCA

October 25, 2014

Fomca urges government to define ‘high income’ before implementing MyKad-for-petrol plan.

petrol-upThe government should provide a clear definition on those referred to as “high income earners” before implementing new regulations on the subsidised RON95 petrol.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) deputy president, Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman said this was because the definition of this group differed according to the situation and where they were located.

While describing the announcement as something much awaited, Yusof said the rich were those who were not the least affected by the rise in costs.

“Those earning RM5,000 to RM10,000 are still pressured by the rising cost of living in the city,” he said when contacted by Bernama.

“Firstly, the government has to narrow down on those eligible to receive the subsidy, secondly, remove from the list the industries not qualified for the subsidy, and thirdly, the government needs to fix the leakages and then only, turn to the domestic consumers,” he said.

Yesterday, Deputy Finance Minister Ahmad Maslan said the selling price of RON95 petrol for the high-income group would be in accordance with the market price starting in June next year.

Ahmad said the mechanism and method of implementation were being finalised by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism using MyKad or other cards.

Low and middle-income earners will continue to enjoy RON95 at the subsidised price.

Economic analyst, Mohd Yusof Kassim said the move by the government would bring significant benefits to low and middle-income earners and make a positive impact on national development.

The savings from the measures taken could be channelled to projects beneficial to the people and national income distributed to the middle-income group, he said. – Bernama

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 58,398 other followers