This weekend, we close the year’s season in the celebration of freedom and nationalism. For me, it also serves as a reminder of how far we, as a nation, have progressed.
Although progress is often judged through economic indicators, capitalist ideals of personal wealth posession can in no way be a yardstick for true progress. It is difficult to fathom the social acceptance of being only rich by bank account, and bankrupt morally and principally.
From the economic standpoint, the last few years have been challenging. We felt the pinch of dropping oil prices, unfavourable currency exchange rates and rising costs of living.
We had to make some tough decisions that included tax restructuring and budget re-prioritisation for the sake of sustainability.
Apparently, social media and economic uncertainty is not a good mix. Tough times can bring the harshest of emotions and muddle meaningful discussions.
Positive indicators are often at high risk of being specialist knowledge, such as being ranked among the top 25 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, or The Economist’s ranking Malaysia as the 8th fastest growing economy for last year.
We have also been ranked within the top five countries in terms of healthcare, and best countries to invest or start a business in.
Economically, we have performed well on many accounts despite difficulties we have had to face. As humble as Malaysians are known to be, we should be proud of our resilience.
This column has always advocated fair judgement, and defining progress must be done holistically in order to be fair.
As mentioned above, great civilisations have the ability to advance forward while mitigating the risk of bankruptcy of our moral values, compassion and passion. Societies that have human compassion tend to have better wealth distribution, exemplified by a significant middle class.
Since independence and the formation of our nation, this has always been our guiding principle. We have developed this ecosystem of opportunity through the leveraging of our multi-cultural difference, and peacefully overcome disputes.
Our compassion and humane nature have resulted in a low poverty rate, compared with regional counterparts.
When one of the worst floods hit the state of Kelantan in 2015, Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI), organised a flood relief drive with the automotive industry to alleviate the suffering of our countrymen in the northeast.
To our surprise, the support we received was very overwhelming, we received more than we ourselves could carry.
Recently, we have taken the next step towards regional leadership in humanitarian efforts.
I applaud the administration’s courage in leading humanitarian efforts in addressing the suffering of the Rohingya.
Along with Indonesia, we have agreed to provide temporary shelter to the migrants, to allow the international community to address such a complex humanitarian issue.
This Malaysia Day, let us realign our thoughts to what it means to be a great nation. We are not perfect, and we may have our own issues to work on.
However, as long as we are smart about our problems, and we have that human touch, I believe that would be the formula to not just economic greatness, but a sustainable economic resilience.
Let us be known not only as the nation of great wealth, but also great compassion.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.