Airbrushing Wawasan 2020?

BY the time the next government takes office we will be at the threshold of 2020 in fewer than 600 days. Going by the official script we will be a "developed country" in our "own mould". The prerequisites are the nine challenges that must be met to define its status. This has been the rallying call for Malaysia all along. A symbol of pride that the nation has moved forward, more or less as scripted. Boosted by the New Economic Model unleashed some years ago, Wawasan 2020 (W2020) is a much talked about hope for the future.

Now it does not seem to carry much weight. It has been inadvertently overshadowed. This despite repeated assurances that the Wawasan has not been abandoned although there were expressions of scepticism as to whether we will meet the target.

The "middle-income trap" is said to be one factor that is holding back the lofty vision but it is not the only one. It is therefore understandable why the lustre of W2020 is left to fade as years go by. Still it will not be totally forgotten especially come 2020.

Whichever government is given the privilege to rule will be faced with tough questions if W2020 targets fail to materialise – meaning there is "no" developed country status to look forward to beyond just "high income" and "externalities".

For example, take the first challenge of establishing a united Malaysian nation made up of one Bangsa Malaysia. Where will we be then? Observations over the years indicate that we are still far off target. Ironically, the election setting provides much of the evidence of not just deepening inter-racial divides, but intra-racially too! And worsening with new state-based "bangsa" in the offing being left unchallenged.

So it is a marked down for challenge 1 — a key idea of W2020 for a "developed" nation status. Similarly for challenge 2 (creating a psychologically free, secure and developed Malaysian society); more so for challenge 3 (fostering and developing a mature democratic society) and 4 (establishing a fully moral and ethical society). Add to this challenge 8 (ensuring an economically just society, in which there is a fair and equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation), we have more than half of the challenges in a limbo vis-a-vis the scripted targets of W2020. Yet these are not addressed head on in the manifestos, namely, how are these to be resolved in the next 600 days or so. Let alone the ecological "blind spot" of W2020? The ecological situation has further deteriorated (for example the bauxite fiasco).

While there are initiatives to look ahead into the next 30 years (think TN50), the cry is how can this be reconciled if W2020 can only act as a "frail" springboard to launch any new and even more robust initiative. Worst if the generation that needs to be the next pioneers are left wanting. Put simply, to "airbrush" off W2020 like Petronas Twin Towers is to deny "reality" – as the image will remain in our memories for generations.

It is against this reality that Malaysians must ask all parties to account in detail the state of each of the nine challenges of W2020. These must be then judged against the "new" promises made in the manifestos so as to seriously gauge where Malaysia will be in the next 600 days. This is the best measure yet of how "capable" (and "honest") the next government will be in living up to its words to implement W2020 and the follow-up (by whatever name it is called) as the next journey. Otherwise they are "empty" promises just as "empty" if W2020 fails to be the preferred future for Malaysia. Based on this informed outlook, we can best decide with clear conscience who to vote for come May 9.

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that "another world is possible". Comments: letters@thesundaily.com