Friday, September 29

When humane economy matters most in Malaysia Madani


(From left) Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg and Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal pose for a group photo during the national unity government agreement signing ceremony at Perdana Putra in Putrajaya December 16, 2022. – Malay Mail photo

ALL things are measured by MAN. What matters most at the end of the equation is the happiness of citizens, more than the economic might and modernisation of the nation-state. Despite the centrality of man, often almost as a cliché, the human face is frequently missing or unnoticeable in the grand narrative of development.

Instead of being carried out by or for machines or systems, development must be carried out by and for people, and it must enable people to live honourable lives, confident that their fundamental rights are being upheld. Economic growth is necessary, but it only works as a tool to raise people’s living standards.

Two relevant concepts, which are interrelated, come to mind when we set our discussion on people centricity in the context of ‘Madani’, which is a key definer of the country’s rejuvenation agenda initiated by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to put the country on a reset mode under the Unity Government.

The concept of ‘Madani’ may not be new to those who have followed Anwar Ibrahim’s early political career, especially his ideology which began with a strong rooting in progressive Islam, and later shifted to a combination of adaptive Islam with modern market economy.

Despite some swaying between the religious and free market parameters in his ideological inclination over the years, his commitment to the partnership power and value of the common people has remained constant and unwavering.

Value definer

The inclusion of ‘Madani’ as a key driver and value definer of Anwar’s government’s transformation agenda marks a shift away from the primarily top-down policy and development initiatives of previous regimes to collective partnership.

Yes, the ‘Madani’ economy is a moral economy based on three main tasks: to reverse economic decline, to stop elite abuses of power, and to put into place a fair social policy agenda.

This is true for the average Malaysian who is aware of the need to uphold collective morality. The actions would put the nation back on a morally sound path and pave the way for the healthy rejuvenation of the economy.

However, implementing the morality agenda is just one part of the story that helps us understand the ‘Madani’ economic development. The market economy of productivity and profitability is not excluded by ‘Madani’, despite the fact that it emphasises the value of upholding social obligations and acting in the public interest.

Humanistic approach

Anwar’s concept of ‘Madani’ in rebuilding the nation and its people views the progress of a nation as the accumulation of the contented lives of all its people. Having a life that is worthwhile is the ultimate goal of development.

Anwar’s humanistic approach adds a new and key dimension to economic development and supports the idea of ‘humane development’.

Indeed, ‘humane development’ may be the most appropriate term to provide a thorough definition of development à la ‘Madani’.

Whilst it is widely understood to focus mainly on good governance, sustainable development and racial harmony, Malaysia Madani seeks to ensure that the core values of ethics and morality, which are accepted and propagated by all religions, are practised.

In this sense, economic growth can no longer be used to gauge human achievement and progress. A larger context and a humane economy that prioritises the needs of the populace, especially the poor and the marginalised, are required to achieve growth and development.

On the aforementioned, Anwar speaks bluntly about the need to instil civilisational values in the Malaysian people, as well as the necessity of raising the bar to reach higher levels of social, moral and economic accomplishments.

Roots in Anwar’s Islamic-economics thoughts

Anwar’s theories laid the groundwork for the ‘humane economy’ that he imagined and promoted after getting back into politics in 2006.

The concept of a ‘humane economy’ is significant from a personal, ideological and political perspective at this particular political-turning point in Malaysian history.

The socio-economic road map leading to a revitalised Malaysia is established, serving as the focal point of Anwar’s ‘Madani’ concept of development.

Making economic growth more humane by ensuring that equity, employment, democratic rights and the environment are taken into account along with trade balances and financial gains.

A NEW compass has been put in place for the journey ahead, following the tabling of the Budget. It is all about humanising growth — putting humanity back at the heart of economic policies and articulating a greater purpose in economic development.

It is important to remember that economics must have specific objectives in order to be successful. It should not be viewed as an effort to manage scarcity, or to identify the rules that govern the market and industry.

This means that in the case of Malaysia, the government must ensure that every Malaysian gains from economic growth.

Anwar adheres steadfastly to the claim.

Approaches to humanised development

Life quality needs to be assessed from all perspectives, NOT just from an economic standpoint. The specifics will determine which aspects are highlighted, when they are, and for how long.

This answers the question on humane economy that Anwar is advocating through Malaysia Madani.

A growing number of academics from developed and developing nations favour an approach that straddles the capitalist and Marxist schools of thought. The ultimate goal is to create policies or strategies that, at the very least, make the lives of the poor better so that they become more assertive and actively involved in development.

Over the past few decades, as economies matured, industrial economies gave way to knowledge economies. Another watershed event is the current shift to human economies, which will have a big impact on how communities and economies are managed and developed.

Malaysia is a good example because of the current Malaysia Madani agenda, which emphasises a humane economy.

From knowledge to human economy

The most valuable employees in the human economy will be hired for their hearts. They no longer possess the knowledge and analytical abilities that made them indispensable in the knowledge economy, giving machines that are becoming more intelligent the upper hand.

However, they will still bring important qualities to their work — qualities like humanity, creativity, passion, character, and a spirit of cooperation — that cannot, and will not, be programmed into software.

The ability of one organisation to take advantage of these advantages will determine its competitive advantage over another.

As Peter Drucker so eloquently predicted, the challenge for leaders is to create human operating systems that allow humanity to be expressed. He realised that in a human economy, simply following the rules is no longer enough.

It is attributed to him that he said: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

This crucial distinction needs to be scaled into our human operating systems and deeply internalised.

Anwar’s human economy

The quest for growth must always be balanced by a profound concern for social justice and equity, which Anwar describes as the master key to unlocking the secrets of the ‘Asian Renaissance’ in his book of the same title published in 1996.

The same master key is to be used to unlock the secrets of the Malaysian renaissance.

Anwar has remained consistent and unwavering in his commitment to the claim, which now finds expression in the Malaysia Madani agenda.

Anwar then represented the new generation of Asian leaders who were guiding their countries into the new millennium while being aware that they were doing so in a community that was both politically and culturally diverse.

As when he first outlined it in his book, his vision for a more tolerant, pluralistic Asia is still relevant and significant today. It encapsulates the learning and perception of a vibrant and resonant voice in Southeast Asian politics.

The principles of renaissance and revitalisation of fundamental civilisational values, which are dear to Anwar, are now taking centre-stage and offering a thorough roadmap for Malaysia Madani under the Unity Government.

* Toman Mamora is ‘Tokoh Media Sarawak 2022’, recipient of Shell Journalism Gold Award (1996) and AZAM Best Writer Gold Award (1998). He remains true to his decades-long passion for critical writing as he seeks to gain insight into some untold stories of societal value.