Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The NEM without rent-seeker and patronage require new politics

The previous weekend, this blogger attended the book launch of a fellow blogger Nobisha. [His new link is here].

As the author described, the book entitled "Tunggu apa lagi" is about the change from the current political practise away from endless games of perception.

It is time for archaic politics of "jaga kawasan" moveon to the real politics of legislating law and "jaga kawasan" via serious scrutiny of public policies.

Deputy Education Minister and sociologically trained, Dr Puad Zarkashi, who officiate the launch, had the previlage to read the manuscript on his trip to and from his Batu Pahat constituency and gave a good review. Buy and read the book.

Coincidently, the Prime Minister's first phase unveling of the New Economic Model yesterday spoke indirectly on a similar subject.

Before this blogger could thoroughly study his full speech and a 200-page document that comes with it to give a comment, the first reaction to the NEM would be towards PM's brevity to call for a need to change away from the rent-seeking and patronage culture pervading our business culture.

The PM would not be uttering such words without realising it entails undertaking a major political reform to end rent-seeking and patronage practise related to politics and move political practise to the new politics partly described by Nobisha's book.

To what extent will the PM and UMNO President ready to deal with the well embedded political patronage culture?

Whether it is practised by Barisan Nasional in the past or currently being adopted beyond the public eyes by Pakatan Rakyat state Government, rent-seeking and patronage practices is a pragmatic way to deal with party financing.

Donors to the party coffer are crudely third world in their attitude. They need to see the payback from their political investment to be immediate if not within a short time and direct in the form of contracts.

This is unlike donors in more develop democracies, which donate to support for the position taken by candidates or the political party they represent. The return they seek is in intangible or indirect form.

The reality is politics cannot survive merely great ideas and/or personalities. It needs office, hold event, donation to constituencies, and fund the division and branches operation or activites. Politics like many things in life need money to get going.

They may say revolution needs an empty stomach but beyond the history taught in school, not mentioned is the French revolution had bankers' bankrolling it.

Without sufficient donors, political parties have to find ways to maintain their incumbencies. Unless there are politicians already well endowed with personal wealth, there is no other choice then siphoning contracts to cronies with the agreement that part of the profit is donated back to the party.

Here lies rent-seeking and patronage practice.

To make matter worse, money is needed is to keep party workers and cadre going. Politics is actually a full time job and we are lying to ourselves to say it is supposed to be on a volunteer basis. There is only so much government post available to keep them on payroll.

Nevertheless, the practise in developed democracies is such. The party membership is minimal but come campaign time, it relies on volunteers that helped manned the campaign. These volunteers come forward out of their own conviction and usually work for free or sustainance.

Thats what new politics all about. Politics of conviction, agenda, programs and ideology.

In the case of Malaysia, it means our wakil rakyat has to stop taking charge of "jaga kawasan" and leave the menial task to the local authorities and Government Department.

In fact, assisting the constituencies was described by one opposition YB to this blogger as the 10th role of a parliamentarian. The primary being lawmakers.

The new politics devoid of rent-seeking and patronage means voters for party positions or public offices is not dependent on "filled" handshake but his or her ideas, vision, and capability as leader and lawmakers.

On this note, UMNO have made the first step to dilute the impact of Kepala Agung by increasing the number of voters in party election and diluting the influence of any money politic practise.

But this need to be complimented by a strong action against past offenders. Dato Najib mentioned going after the offenders as one of three main points he expressed in his inaugral address as UMNO President. Till today, what has happened to the 2,500 reported complains? It is unbelievable that none is found guilty.

To reduce rent seeking and patronage, UMNO does not need huge membership in the millions. In most part, the million of party members are fulfilling the role of volunteers in developed politics.

Party membership must be distinctively about those able to comprehend and contribute the serious politics of agenda, issues and law and not about merely filling up halls, putting up posters and banners, become boo boys, etc.

It may mean a smaller and more effective size UMNO. It may mean building networks with NGOs with different profiles, roles and focus. As demonstrated by the emergence of Perkasa, NGO may hold the trump card of power in the future.

Securing votes and support in the future in this agenda-based politics will be about negotiating with this self interest groups. Lessen will be the art of politics but more the science of it. And no more is it about dirty tricks but honouring promises and fulfilling agenda.

But will Dato Najib dare to take such drastic change towards something remotely different from the present? More so, when Pakatan Rakyat are emulating the same rent seeking and patronage practise of the past that he blamed for wrecking the system.

Maybe it is not too bizarre an idea for an initiative to call all political players parties to lay out a new political code of ethics towards a new politics that is free from waste and inefficiencies.

If he dare, this blogger see another Tun Razak in the making.

1 comment:

de minimis said...


You have given some very solid suggestions. I hope the points will be taken up by the powers that be.

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