A MODEL OF HU­MAN CAP­I­TAL DE­VEL­OP­MENT

1Malaysia, TN50, and Wawasan 2020 are key el­e­ments that de­fine the Malaysian re­al­ity

New Straits Times - - Opinion -

MALAYSIA con­tin­ues to be re­garded by many as a quin­tes­sen­tial state in which “pros­per­ity thrives in di­ver­sity.” Ev­i­dently, be­ing one of the most eth­ni­cally and re­li­giously di­verse so­ci­ety in the world has not stopped it from be­ing a key re­gional eco­nomic player and one of the most peace­ful coun­tries on earth.

Man­ag­ing this suc­cess and ex­pand­ing its fu­ture would re­quire none other than in­vest­ing in the hu­man cap­i­tal of Malaysians them­selves.

In a fa­mous quote, for­mer prime min­is­ter Tun Abdullah Ah­mad Badawi pro­claimed that “we do not want a sit­u­a­tion in Malaysia where we have a first-class fa­cil­ity or in­fra­struc­ture, but a third-class men­tal­ity”.

Un­doubt­edly, the eco­nomic and in­fra­struc­ture feats that Malaysia has en­joyed since the early 1990s would amount to noth­ing with­out an equally ca­pa­ble hu­man cap­i­tal to steer them.

Pre­vi­ous def­i­ni­tions of “hu­man cap­i­tal” pri­mar­ily look at it in terms of eco­nomic worth and the po­ten­tial yields to be gained from in­vest­ing in such a “cap­i­tal”.

The lat­est de­vel­op­ments in hu­man cap­i­tal re­search, how­ever, adopt a more holis­tic and in­clu­sive un­der­stand­ing of the con­cept that looks be­yond hu­mans as an eco­nomic ag­gre­gate, but con­sid­ers a broad spec­trum of vari­ables, such as sub­jec­tive well­be­ing, hap­pi­ness, in­tel­lect, spir­i­tu­al­ity and dig­nity.

The chal­lenge re­mains as to what model is best suited for Malaysians. In vary­ing de­grees, Malaysia has ex­per­i­mented with sev­eral na­tion­wide cam­paigns re­lated to hu­man-cap­i­tal build­ing.

Among them is the Wawasan 2020 (1991-2020) cam­paign launched by for­mer prime min­is­ter Tun Dr Ma­hathir Mo­hamad that en­vi­sions Malaysia to be a self-suf­fi­cient in­dus­tri­alised na­tion by 2020, em­pow­ered by a bal­anced, mod­ern and com­pe­tent so­ci­ety, but deeply rooted in lo­cal val­ues.

The Is­lam Had­hari (2004) cam­paign spear­headed by Abdullah em­pha­sised the role of Is­lamic thought in de­riv­ing the­o­ries of good gov­er­nance and in­tegrity across all lev­els of so­ci­ety.

Un­der the cur­rent pre­mier­ship of Datuk Seri Na­jib Razak, there are two on­go­ing pro­grammes.

First, is the 1Malaysia (2010-on­go­ing) pro­gramme that pro­motes work­ing to­gether be­yond iden­tity mark­ers to­wards a shared vi­sion of har­mony, unity, and gov­ern­ment ef­fi­ciency.

The sec­ond is the TN50 (Trans­for­masi Na­sional 2050) ini­tia­tive, which picks up from the Wawasan 2020 date­line, and looks 30 years be­yond with an aim to sharpen Malaysia’s global com­pet­i­tive edge in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, cit­i­zen well­be­ing and in­no­va­tion.

Col­lec­tively, th­ese cam­paigns have cap­tured key el­e­ments that de­fine the Malaysian re­al­ity. Th­ese in­clude, as many re­searchers have shown, a strong sense of so­cio-cul­tural iden­tity, the in­dis­pens­able role of re­li­gion, and the nat­u­ral pro­cliv­ity to­wards eco­nomic pros­per­ity.

Any mod­els of hu­man cap­i­tal de­vel­op­ment that fail to ap­peal to th­ese lo­cal di­men­sions would risk be­ing in­com­pat­i­ble, or worse, de­struc­tive to Malaysians.

This was pointed out by so­ci­ol­o­gist Pro­fes­sor Rah­man Em­bong in his in­au­gu­ral speech on July 20 as the prin­ci­pal fel­low of the Malaysian In­sti­tute of In­tegrity.

Rah­man em­pha­sised the press­ing need for any na­tional model of in­tegrity to be lo­cally tai­lored, or­ganic and home­grown based on Malaysian ideals and re­al­i­ties.

Sim­ply trans­plant­ing for­eign mod­els that may have dif­fer­ent val­ues and moral ref­er­ences may un­likely be as ef­fec­tive as they were in their orig­i­nal so­cio-cul­tural ter­rains.

He re­viewed sev­eral mod­els. The Greek Tem­ple model by Jeremy Pope, for in­stance, vi­su­alises the western ideals of in­tegrity by hav­ing pil­lars rep­re­sent­ing so­ci­etal in­sti­tu­tions, which in turn, sup­port the roof rep­re­sented by “the rule of law”, sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and qual­ity of life.

This model, how­ever, does not of­fer much flex­i­bil­ity and turns a blind eye to the role of re­li­gion and its val­ues are grounded in western re­nais­sance ex­pe­ri­ence and his­tory of or­gan­ised re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions.

An­other ex­am­ple is the Bird’s Nest model, which is built upon “ma­te­ri­als” or “twigs” gath­ered from its sur­round­ings. The model pro­vides an il­lus­tra­tive metaphor on the im­por­tance of lo­cal re­sources, as well as the need to or­gan­ise in­sti­tu­tions in an in­te­gra­tive man­ner.

This up­dated model pro­posed by Charles Samp­ford pro­vides flex­i­bil­ity and adapt­abil­ity for so­ci­eties to build their hu­man cap­i­tal.

Rah­man even­tu­ally came out with his own model for Malaysia, named Sea Tur­tle Model.

The sea tur­tle is an ex­cel­lent metaphor be­cause of sev­eral rea­sons: sea tur­tles are na­tive to the nu­san­tara of which Malaysia is a part of; they have a strong sense of di­rec­tion through­out their in­ter-con­ti­nen­tal jour­neys; they are of­ten as­so­ci­ated with virtues such as per­se­ver­ance, mod­esty and longevity; and their strug­gle against the in­creas­ing threat of hu­man avarice and de­struc­tive prac­tices per­fectly sums up the goals of in­tegrity.

In this model, the shell rep­re­sents the core val­ues that need pro­tec­tion: the civil so­ci­ety, the fam­ily in­sti­tu­tion, and the com­mu­nity.

The ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers are the head, pol­i­tics and econ­omy are the front-driv­ing flaps, and re­li­gion and so­cio-cul­ture are the guid­ing hind flaps.

In short, while mod­els of hu­man cap­i­tal are bound to evolve and im­prove, what should re­main as a con­stant prin­ci­ple is the recog­ni­tion of lo­cal val­ues and re­al­i­ties.

This will en­sure not only the fea­si­bil­ity of the model, but also its ef­fec­tive­ness.

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