Tuesday, March 28

Yes, Minister! Let’s strengthen moral, human values in development

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Anwar and Abang Johari, on his right, at a dinner event in Kuching. — Bernama photo

YES, Minister! Times have changed, and they will continue to change.

The more discerning and affluent community’s expectations are also rising.

Many communities strive to improve their living standards through economic development through better and more strategic initiatives, but some important social values are lost as a result.

Do you think the advantages of economic development outweigh the disadvantages?

Although economic development is necessary, social values such as empathy, compassion, and understanding must never be sacrificed. These are some of the fundamental human values that we must uphold in order to remain human.

Financial advancement can provide a person with all of life’s luxuries, but it can never replace human bonding, which is at the heart of life and must be preserved and developed.

Moral issues

Economists prefer to avoid moral issues. They’d rather stay focused on trade-offs, incentives, and interactions, leaving value judgements to the political process and society. This is a path fraught with contradictions in preferences and judgements, leaving tax-paying citizens at the tail end of the unilateral line.

Yes, Minister. The onus is thus on leaders, development planners, and economists to work within the intended scope, where profitability and physical growth must not overshadow social values and the larger thrust of humanity.

The United Nations (UN) has set the course for greater economic humanisation, as well as the need to reconnect macroeconomic policies with the lives of ordinary people. These are enormous challenges that the South East Asian community faces as it enters the new wave of the global economy and the fourth industrial revolution.

Sarawak is no exception to these challenges.

Humanity factors

Understanding humanisation is a good starting point for the discussion that leads us to consider development within a relational context in which humanity factors, social and religious values, and morality, are constituents as well as definers of a community’s participatory development.

Yes, Minister. While an unbridled emphasis on the free market has occasionally affected the role of the state in promoting social policies, where the private sector tends to have an upper hand over the rural masses, there is a growing recognition that the public sector is critical in providing infrastructure for the private sector, defending a broader set of social values, and acting as a counterbalance to the unpredictability of the unregulated market.

Development must be done by and for people, not machines or systems, and it must allow people to live dignified lives while protecting their fundamental rights.

Economic growth is essential, but it is only a means to an end of bettering people’s lives.

Therefore, if development and the community are to be viewed from a broader social-anthropological context, they are essentially social dynamics that define, create and enhance a civilisational order of a given economy or community.

Human element critical

Yes, Minister. The human element is critical to development. One aspect of this is that people who are deprived frequently have a strong determination, will, and motivation. Their ability, self-reliance, ingenuity, and effort in their daily struggle for survival can make them competent agents for change in their circumstances or dependable partners in the implementation of development programmes.

Self-help projects must respond to the actual needs of the local community, both material and non-material, and should seek to involve community members in both design and execution.

Equitable distribution of the fruits of economic growth will then empower people, rather than marginalise them.

‘Madani’

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s vision of the new Malaysia captures the essence of a vibrant economy lifted and sustained by sound social and religious values steeped in humanity. He places on a high pedestal the collective pursuit of a nation that is civilised, skilled, and inclusive founded on six core values; namely, sustainability, prosperity, innovation, respect, trust, and compassion.

In fact, the humanist commitment to reason, compassion, and hope for the future of humanity can be found at the heart of every major advance in human living ever made.

Anwar has chosen to expand its definition and adapt it to his ‘Madani’ visionary concept.

Yes, Minister. Humanism today is either creating its own natural presence in the heart of our society or being ushered in to take a place of centrality in the heart of governance and development planning.

Abang Johari (right) giving a warm welcome to Anwar upon the Prime Minister’s arrival in Kuching. – Bernama photo

Humanism

As a result, humanism must be viewed as a collaborative effort in which governments, civil society, the private sector, and human individuals share equal responsibility for realising its values and designing and implementing a humanist approach to a sustainable society based on economic, social, and environmental development.

Yes, Minister. The only way forward for a developing economy like ours that values diversity of identities and interests is to embrace new humanism, which is based on inclusive, democratic, and, yes, humanist values.

We cannot muddle along with an unpredictable paradigm. A new, human-centric and ecologically sensitive paradigm of progress is necessary. No such thing as an ideal policy exists.

Each is a compromise in and of itself.

To choose between good and bad compromises, you need an ideal.

This ideal policy must be imagined from the perspective of the poorest citizens in a human-centred development paradigm. Often, the top-down growth approach defies this and side-steps the human factor.

‘Development shaped and driven by compassion and the sweet forces of humanity’ is a loaded statement that few leaders can claim to have embraced, in theory and practice. Compassion in leadership fosters stronger interpersonal bonds. It boosts collaboration, trust, and loyalty.

Furthermore, studies show that compassionate leaders are perceived as stronger and more competent.

Yes, Minister. While our leaders are not lacking in compassion and other human qualities, they have a tendency to keep them hidden while focusing on physical growth and economic performance. But good economic indicators and sectorial growth figures alone are not sufficient to weave transformative magic and elevate the livelihood and lifestyle of a rural community. A holistic transformation is expected.

Compassion, a relational value

Yes, Minister. Compassion, which is expected to be embedded in the economic development agenda, must also find expression in leaders as a relational value capable of seeking out the emic perspective on community beliefs and problems; otherwise, development will continue to take the familiar textbook top-down approach, which will undermine the much-needed humanity for development and development planners.

Prime Minister Anwar is confident Malaysians will continue to contribute to the country’s economic growth even when they are abroad. He says the ‘Malaysia Madani’ concept, which is the thrust of his administration, is proof of the inclusivity of every level of society without prejudice.

It all starts with a new tradition built on unity. Slogans would not suffice to persuade because what is more important is to understand the concept through appreciation and practise.

Truth, justice, unity, humanity, courtesy, and grace are wonderful ideas, but they must be put into action.

Yes, Minister. Indeed, what is life without humanity and blessings, or life without values and morals.

Sarawak hailed as model of unity

In January, Anwar reiterated the same message in Kuching, taking the opportunity to praise Sarawak as a role model where unity and humanity had thrived and remained foundational pillars of political stability.

The Sarawak government’s policy to step up infrastructure development and open up the rural hinterlands for the new wave of development and major transformation will enhance distributive growth and enhance the economic livelihood of the people, who find themselves progressing to higher level of integrated value system.

Yes, Minister. The policy thrust of the Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Abang Openg is consistent with the vision of the ‘Unity Government’ under Anwar, who sees in Sarawak a natural melting pot, with various ethnic and religious groups, to produce a success story that can readily fit into the new narrative where human and social values conjoin with economic pursuit in a balanced manner to form a matrix of admirable civilisational development and growth.

Nowadays, societies require political leaders who can identify, recognise, and address the suffering of others, as well as govern effectively.

In this sense, empathy becomes not only a desirable trait, but also a requirement.