By Salahuddin Hisham
AMONG Prime Minister Datuk Najib Razak’s policies, BR1M and GST are high on Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s hit list.
Mahathir , Malaysia’s former prime minister, views BR1M as an unproductive giving away of money.
During his time, tax reform was not high priority as Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) was available for the government to rely on for revenue and policy implementation “correction”. Neither giver nor taker.
However, BR1M is accepted by opposition leaders but GST is not. The reason is politics. Voters have an affinity for policies that put money than take money out of their pocket.
As 2016 ends and 2017 begins, the current decade is ending and the 21st century will soon enter its third decade. Time has changed and the challenges and the way to do things need change.
BR1M and GST represent a distinct philosophical change in managing the economy. It also highlights generational differences in the understanding of public policies and processes to derive it.
Dr Mahathir’s style of administration was representative of his generation – the generation that survived the world wars.
They were the traditionalist generation that was more synonymous with strong work ethics, authority and hierarchy. And thrift.
Naturally, policies were centrally planned, top-down, and conservative.
However, the values, attributes and work process may not be suitable with today’s globalised world and the prevailing generation of Baby Boomers and Generation X. The years may differ but it is generally accepted that Baby Boomers represent those born between 1946 and 1964, and Gen X born between 1965 and 1980.
Baby Boomers who came after the end of the war started out as less conformist, believed in causes and questioned authorities. That made governments do more listening and were responsive to public concern.
While generation X has similarities with the baby boomers, they are generally seen as less skeptical towards the previous generation, and less idealistic, more pragmatic.
As baby boomers grew older, they tend to be more and more traditionalist.
Will generations lose their unique characteristics and become more traditionalists over time?
As baby boomers and generation X take charge, they have to contend with an important emerging demography – those born between 1981 and 2000. This generation is described as Generation Y or the Millennials.
Baby boomers and to a lesser extent, Gen X parents believe in making it easier for their children and this has produced a generation with a sense of entitlement.
The more positive thinking and globalization-emracing Millennials dispute such generalization.
Millennials see themselves as more pragmatic in facing up to the challenges of their era like unemployment and rising costs.
They prefer a less structured lifestyle and workplace. Though independent and entrepreneurial, they are seldom heard complaining that government policies do not understand them.
When Najib announced Transformasi Nasional or TN50 in the last budget speech, he assigned the Youth and Sports Ministry led by Millenial (Minister) Khairy Jamaluddin to engage his peer to obtain their input.
It is unique to engage a major stakeholder of the future before the plan is laid out. The bottom-up approach to seek input from the governed is unheard of.
In the past, engagement with the governed was purely explanatory.
For Khairy, who was left out of the Cabinet, to rebrand himself after winning the Umno Youth Chief position, the opportunity to have a leading role in a national blueprint is a good break.
Or it could break.
The analysis and debate on the Millennial is on-going and the findings hotly contested. The biggest challenge will be to get realistic expectation and make realistic assessment.
The demographic diversity must be considered. The differences will not only be education, employment and ethnics/religion, but also the urban versus rural, and Peninsular versus Sabah and Sarawak to consider.
Horrifying as it is for Khairy, an effective engagement will not only contribute to policy formulation, but will get the buy-in from future stakeholders of the nation.