Malaysia heading towards being a failed state, says columnist

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Beset by social, economic and political crises, Malaysia may be on its way towards becoming a failed state, says a columnist for Bloomberg.

“What started as a cry for help by Malaysians during rolling lockdowns and galloping Covid-19 infections has come to epitomise the descent of their once-proud nation,” wrote Daniel Moss.

He said the white flag movement was more of a “shorthand for discontent at the atrophying state and troubled economy”.

The people have no hope and desire to overthrow the government, although it is unclear that there is one to topple these days, he added.

While the country’s prime ministers were once credited for stable leadership despite authoritarian traits, he noted that lawmakers have been unable to guide Malaysia through its current plight.

Following Umno’s announcement to withdraw support for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and infighting within the party, Moss said no leader appeared to have sufficient support in Parliament or among the 32 million population to replace the country’s leadership.

He also pointed out that it was unclear when the general elections will be held, while the monarchy was “being forced to leave the ceremonial shadows to referee”.

“So, the surrender flag captures the end of a strutting, can-do mentality, or ‘boleh’. Citizens are stepping in where authorities have failed as the pandemic has delivered seemingly endless misery.”

Moss said this was happening as the country continued to face a high number of Covid-19 cases, a slow vaccination rate and prolonged lockdowns with factories being shut, public transportation running on a “skeleton schedule” and the military in charge of roadblocks.

For Malaysia to reach or get close to the International Monetary Fund’s forecast growth of 6.5% this year, he said the second half of 2021 needed to be “stellar”.

“Further interest rate cuts and fiscal outlays are almost assured. But whatever the numbers say, many Malaysians aren’t close to feeling the benefit.”

Moss said the country was once an emerging-market icon during Mahathir Mohamad’s premiership from 1981 to 2003, but it started to go wrong with unnecessary spending on a new airport and the Twin Towers. Najib Razak had then “bungled” the disappeareance of MH370 in front of the world.

“Mahathir’s return at the helm of an opposition bloc offered a brief moment of renewal. But he couldn’t give up on political wheeling and dealing – even well into his 90s – and opened the door for Muhyiddin to edge him out of office,” said Moss.

He added that ethnic and religious tensions had worsened in recent years, while the credibility of the ruling class would keep eroding the longer it took to vaccinate the country.

“The current intrigues sadly seem far removed from the daily needs of business, finance and even putting food on the table.

“No country can continue on this course indefinitely and be a model for anything other than dysfunction.” – Adapted from FMT

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