• Madani Sahari

Value of pragmatism to economic sustainability

It is easy for us to feel overwhelmed in a fast-changing world, where the deployment of economic solutions may not always keep up with new economic problems.

This is especially true for Malaysia, in which economically, we have built strong foundations that have raised us out of basic commodity dependence to emerge as a robust manufacturing and services hub.

All that is left for us to join the ranks of advanced nations around the world is that one missing link in the chain that will propel us forward.

A previous article in this column discussed the governance models in South Korea, seen particularly in their industrial development.

To develop rapidly, it was important for the then war-recovering nation to take pragmatic steps in ensuring that a conducive economic ecosystem was established, while keeping the citizenry above an income line that spurred growth.

Similar models were seen in China – the drive to develop a sizeable middle class population has also brought massive rewards and paved the way for its dominance in the world economy.

At the very core of the examples above are a world view and governance model that places a premium on pragmatism, efficiency and strategic planning – ingredients that create an economic ecosystem with ample space for creativity, innovation and industriousness throughout the business, academic and government sectors.

A note of caution – pragmatism in this sense does not equate to cutting corners or the lowering of standards. It is a systematic way of thinking that requires holistic considerations of the factors that conform not only to standards and theories but also the patience and sensitivities to realities on the ground.

It means that development strategies must take into account issues such as economic levels, human capital capacities, financial projections, technology penetration and other socio-economic factors when formulating policies, budgets and frameworks on economic development.

They also include decisions that are based on accurate information, rather than assertions and assumptions. The quality of information, now available through technological breakthroughs in big data management and analytics, render any excuse about such assertions obsolete.

Economic transformations certainly are not overnight tasks – it is not only the government’s burden, but also for the populace to participate and implement, as good policies depend on the implementation that creates access to the necessary job and business opportunities.

Therefore, it becomes important for all stakeholders, be it the authority or the public themselves to place our society constantly well-informed so that no opportunities are under-utilised or even worse, neglected, due to a lack of information.

While creativity, innovation and design thinking require space and time, the pragmatic approach in viewing progress lies in information speed and work efficiency, especially in administrative functions to govern the aforementioned creative aspects of our work.

In times of technological advancement – something this column has also discussed extensively – it is incumbent on all to ensure that we engineer a paradigm shift towards creating true value within ourselves, and not remain a backbencher to progress, making policymakers the victim of blame when progress does not reach us.

To move forward, it is upon us to set our own destiny as well as write our own history on our own terms.

To do that, we should be governed by our ambitions and passions – to be pragmatic and patient – in the exercise of maximising our potential.

In conclusion, we must be pragmatic in our strategic planning, we should be patient in developing creativity and innovation and most of all, work in unity towards social and economic development.

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