Why Malaysia needs more technocrats and not leaders shackled by political interests

Why Malaysia needs more technocrats and not leaders shackled by political interests
Performers wave the Malaysian national flag during National Day celebrations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, August 31, 2015.
PHOTO: Reuters

We need a generation of leaders who are not shackled by personal political interests.

Recent developments on a personal front have made me think a lot about how I want to contribute more to the nation-building process, whether through my work or outside of it.

You could say I have been contemplating quite a bit about the kind of future we have envisioned for ourselves, and how we plan to achieve it.

The first thing that comes to mind in that regard is whether we are producing the kind of leaders, especially among youths, who can spearhead this foray into the next stages of development.

By extension, this has made me reflect on my own preparedness to be a leader and whether I can successfully make a difference when the opportunity arises.

While I may still be some way off from the level I expect of myself, I can say with certainty that there is no shortage of capable leaders among my peers who are ready to assume the mantle.

In my line of work so far, I have met many intelligent young professionals who possess the knowledge and foresight to take this country to the next level.

Their potential is already being harnessed via the Government-led National Transformation 2050 (TN50) project, which has placed a core emphasis on youth engagement.

When the first phase of the engagement process was launched back in January, more than 1.2 million youth leaders offered their suggestions and ideas on what they wanted the country to look like in 2050.

It produced 33,000 ideas which have been categorised into five main themes - economy and jobs, well-being, governance, lifestyle, and society.

The second phase, launched in May, will see greater youth participation in refining and analysing these ideas further to formulate an outcome that will become part of the TN50 policy document.

Hopefully, the same youth leaders will someday be implementing these very ideas from the highest decision-making levels of Government.

More importantly, I hope they also bring with them a style of leadership that is better than their predecessors.

I say this because I truly believe that in order for Malaysia to make significant strides forward from its current status, we need leaders who are willing to break away from the present mould in every sense.

What I mean by that is the need to practise a clear distinction between political and national interests.

I am certainly not suggesting that our current crop of politicians are poor or ineffective leaders.

However, many of them fall short of expectations because of the "shackles" inadvertently placed on them by the political parties they belong to.

Despite being elected to fulfil the people's aspirations, the reality is that politicians spend far too much time propping up their party's agendas instead.

Whether they care to admit it or not, they are commonly thinking along political lines first and foremost when making important decisions or drafting new policies.

This becomes even more obvious as it gets closer to election season.

The biases that come with being a player in the political process run so deep sometimes that it is almost impossible to make critical judgments about issues of public interest.

And this is true for leaders from both sides of the political divide.

It wouldn't be so bad if this culture were only prevalent among veteran politicians, but unfortunately, it is also evident among the younger ones coming through the ranks nowadays.

I have seen one too many promising youth leaders opting to join politics and ending up being sucked into the very system they had once tried to change.

And before they know it, they're drafting daily statements or blog posts to bicker and spar with their political rivals - actions that achieve little else other than to momentarily entertain the masses.

On the other hand, there are some talented individuals out there who genuinely wish to serve the people.

But they would never in a million years consider the political career that comes with it.

Which is why I feel that maybe it is time we entertained the idea of a more technocratic government, with more decision-makers chosen based on their technical expertise.

The idea for a technocrat-led government is not new and was actually mooted early last year by PAS, of all parties. Singapore already has a similar system in place, where some decision-making powers are in the hands of the technical experts.

It would essentially mean that this country is run with the aid of more scholars and intellectuals.

There would still be parliamentary elections, of course, with the winning party having the power to assemble the group of professionals they want, both as candidates for election and as advisers.

All things considered, technocracy makes the most sense for Malaysia's future and provides us with the best shot of achieving the objectives outlined under TN50.

If not immediately, then it is a process that we could slowly ease into - say, in the next decade or so.

As it is, technocrats are already being roped in as advisers to the Government and even as ministers and deputy ministers, so why not go one step further and engage more of them?

For a successful nation-building process, we need to produce a generation of leaders who can think critically and objectively, whatever their personal political interests may be.

As a young Malaysian who also wishes to be a leader in his field, that is a process I could support.

Akil Yunus wants to write more about the advancement of this great nation and less about the bickering among its leaders. That can only happen if we take politics out of government. He can be reached at akilyunus@thestar.com.my.

 

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