Here Are The 7 Facts Why Malaysia Is Heading Towards A Failed State

How did things get so bad? What went wrong? So many Malaysians are angry, frustrated, jaded and are at their wit’s – and their will’s – end.

Just when we thought that we had emerged from the Covid-19 nightmare bruised but not beaten, the virus managed to ensnare us in its venomous tentacles and pull us into the seemingly bottomless abyss.

Sure, the Covid-19 virus is what has caused Malaysia’s descent into despondency, but I can’t help but feel that it only accelerated the rot that had been festering for decades. Just like a diabetic who only needs an ordinarily harmless papercut to have a fatal gangrenous infection set in, Covid-19 has exposed our disease-riddled body politic, which, if unrectified, would invariably lead to its – and our – untimely demise.

I also can’t help but draw parallels between the situation in Malaysia to that of Lebanon, which is mired in a financial crisis, with large swaths of its population deprived of food, money and basic supplies.

A recent article in The Economist quoted Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab as saying: “Lebanon is days away from a social explosion.” The report added: “For nearly a year the country’s politicians, divided by sect and notoriously corrupt, have failed to agree on a new government – and failed to make reforms called for by foreign leaders.”

Sound familiar?

Sure, our situation isn’t nearly as dire as Lebanon’s… yet. But it does feel like we’re heading in that direction, as a recent article in Bloomberg titled “Malaysia Is Staggering Down The Road To Failed Statehood” suggests.

That got me thinking. Are we really heading towards becoming a failed state or is the article mere hyperbolic clickbait? To find out, we need to look at the definition of “failed state” and find out if Malaysia fits the bill.

According to the authoritative Encyclopedia Britannica, a few conditions need to be met for a nation to become a failed state. We’ll look at them one by one and decide if Malaysia is indeed a failed state.

  1. Inability to fulfill the administrative and organisational tasks required to control people and resources, and one that can provide only minimal public services.

Thankfully, the government still has control over its people and resources, and most public services are still functional, albeit functioning at a compromised capacity. The glaring exception to this is, of course, our healthcare system that has been inundated and is on the brink of collapse due to the recent avalanche of Covid-19 cases.

Plus our vaccination drive has been far from seamless, with only around 10% of the population having been fully vaccinated as of yet. Our poor vaccination rate even pales in comparison with nations such as Mexico, Brazil and Colombia.

In addition, one could also make the case that our national education system has been steadily deteriorating for decades, causing so much disillusionment that parents are sending their children to private and vernacular schools in record numbers. The recent debacle with the subpar study aid phones doled out by the ministry exploding and catching fire is emblematic of the systemic rot that has set in.

Verdict: Partially failed

  1. Its citizens no longer believe that their government is legitimate, and the state becomes illegitimate in the eyes of the international community.

The raging bendera hitam and #kerajaangagal movements strongly indicate that many, if not most, Malaysians no longer believe that the current unelected government is legitimate. Malaysians, who aren’t typically known for their outspoken nature, seem to have had enough of what they deem to be governmental incompetence and apathy and are railing for change.

A large part of this loss of confidence in the government stems from its inability to curb the climbing Covid-19 cases, in spite of the ever heavier lockdowns it has introduced. Instead of making the situation better, the lockdowns seem to have worsened it, with thousands, if not millions being deprived of their livelihoods and the financial means to keep their families fed.

This in turn has led to an alarming spike in suicides, with around 1,100 people deciding to forfeit their own lives in desperation between last year and now.

Almost every day, we see snaking lines of starving Malaysians lining up to collect food and basic supplies at soup kitchens and from random good samaritans. Never did I think I’d see such deeply unsettling sights in Malaysia.

However, in the eyes of the international community, the current government has not lost legitimacy.

Verdict: Partially failed

  1. The executive barely functions, while the legislature, judiciary, bureaucracy, and armed forces have lost their capacity and professional independence.

Arguments could be made for how the toxic culture of politicking, manoeuvring and party-hopping seem to have taken precedence over the governing of the country, effectively stymying the decisive actions we need to get us out of the Covid-19 hell we’re in, but on a technical level, our executive, judiciary and armed forces are still functional. However, the issue of whether some or all of them maintain their professional independence is certainly up for debate.

Verdict: Partially failed

  1. Suffers from crumbling infrastructures, faltering utility supplies and educational and health facilities, and deteriorating basic human-development indicators, such as infant mortality and literacy rates.

Our infrastructure is largely intact, utilities are functional, infant mortality is low and literacy rates are high, which are all good things. Although the Covid-19 carnage has exposed the frailty of our medical and educational sectors, as previously elucidated, most others are operational. So let’s give it the benefit of the doubt.

Verdict: Passed

  1. Creates an environment of flourishing corruption and negative growth rates, where honest economic activity cannot flourish.

At number 62 out of 180 countries, our corruption ranking isn’t something to be particularly proud of. However, it still isn’t dire enough that economic activity can’t flourish. We have a decent entrepreneurial culture and enough success stories to prove that businesses can thrive and succeed in Malaysia.

However, the government’s bungled handling of the resurgence of Covid-19 cases has foreign investors worried and seriously considering relocation. Japanese, German and Dutch trade groups have panned the government’s haphazardly orchestrated lockdowns and vague, inconsistent guidelines.

For instance, in a letter to Johor menteri besar Hasni Mohammad, the Malaysian Dutch Business Council said: “Any further closures from the EMCO areas mentioned above will result in the HQ of these established companies to rethink current and future investments in Johor. We call on you to help stop the flight of those investors that have trusted Johor with their investments. We urge you to be precise and targeted in action, using data not as a sentiment but as a guide”.

Echoing this, the Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry wrote to the prime minister saying: “Most importantly, consistent and clear communication is necessary, so that enforcement, publication of SOPs and recovery plans are well-aligned. We suggest executing stricter controls at manufacturing facilities and related dormitories, rather than closing down all facilities and harming the entire economy.”

Verdict: Partially failed

  1. Cannot maintain a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence and minimise internal conflict.

The government still has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence and there aren’t any major conflicts, besides occasional gang fights and pockets of criminal activity.

Verdict: Passed

  1. Cannot provide for the representation and political empowerment of its citizens or protect civil liberties and fundamental human rights.

According to think tank Freedom House, Malaysia has a history of “maintaining power by manipulating electoral districts, appealing to ethnic nationalism, and suppressing criticism through restrictive speech laws and politicised prosecutions of opposition leaders”. Citing these reasons, it gives our nation a freedom rating of 52 over 100 – a barely passing grade.

In addition, Malaysia was recently moved down to the lowest tier possible by the US State Department’s Human Trafficking Report. At Tier 3, we rank lower even than Bangladesh and Thailand and are brushing shoulders with the likes of North Korea and Afghanistan. Quite the company we keep these days.

The report said that: “…the government continued to conflate human trafficking and migrant smuggling crimes and did not adequately address or criminally pursue credible allegations from multiple sources alleging labour trafficking, including in the rubber manufacturing industry and palm oil sector, with the government owning 33% of the third largest palm oil company in the world”.

In addition, local activists have slammed the government for clamping down on dissent and criticism, noting that even cartoonists are being investigated by the police.

Also, the government declared a state of emergency and suspended Parliament in January. It was only after pressure from both the Rulers and the public that the government scheduled a sitting of Parliament for five days from July 26.

Verdict: Partially failed

In conclusion, out of the seven metrics that Encyclopedia Britannica prescribed for a “failed state”, Malaysia passes only two and partially fulfills five. So it’s apparent that even though Malaysia isn’t a failed state now, it certainly seems to be heading in that direction.

Source : FMT

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