31st of August this year will mark 60 years of Malaysia as an independent and sovereign nation. To look back on some of our ecnnomic achievements for the past 60 years, from only US$402 GNI per capita in 1970 to US$10,796 GNI per capita in 2014 and between the same period, the incidence of poverty in general was reduced from 49.3% to 0.6% while hardcore poverty has been eradicated.
It is fair enough to say that it has been a long journey from where we were back then and to where we are now today as a nation. With the recently launched MRT 2nd phase which connects the Semantan station to Muzium Negara station, this facilitates for an integrated public transportation system all the way from Sungai Buloh to Kajang with transit stations in between for easy access from one line to another. With future projects in planning and some are already executed, Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak said that MRT is only the beginning for Putrajaya’s plans to improve the country’s public transportation infrastructure with the aim to have a fully integrated public transportation system by 2027. To achieve the target, the Government has planned several projects and some are already under construction. For example, the LRT3 is currently under construction and scheduled for completion by 2020, while MRT2 is expected to ready by 2022. A planned MRT3 is also targeted for 2027.
However, like every great story, it has antagonist and protagonist. In this case, in our MRT’s story, the protagonists are in the forms of vandalism within the first 5 days of its operation. It is sad to see that MRT is a first-class facility but the people’s mentalities are still on the third-class mentality. It is a classic example of – ‘first-class facility, third-class mentality’. It has always been the case for Malaysia for the past decades as we have invested millions or even billions of taxpayers’ money in building these infrastructures and yet there will always be this group of people who vandalise them. To make things worse, we are only 3 years away from 2020 but to our fear, we are still struggling to change the people’s mentalities. We can’t say that it is purely the problem of free-riding of public goods as the people pay for the service or even to say that it is purely the tragedy of the commons on the selfishness of these people to reap the greatest benefit from a given resource, in this case – the MRT. Nevertheless, the problem of ‘first-class facility, third-class mentality’ that we are facing now has the damaging effects of these two as it costs unnecessary economic burden to maintain the infrastructures in terms of repairing the vandalised facilities. Furthermore, the people should be proud that we have a public transportation system that is on par with Singapore’s MRT and some would say that our MRT is better than the London Tube and the New York Subway. However, we must admit that these two were built more than 100 years ago and it is unfair to compare an orange to an apple. The fact that MRT was built using the taxpayers’ money through public spending should give weight to the argument that we have to take care of these facilities and not to vandalise them. It is a straightforward common sense for those with first-class mentality but for some who aren’t, quoting Voltaire:
“Common sense is not so common”
Lastly, our efforts in nation-building should be continued progressively and through education, inevitably it will take years for the country to reap from the human capital investment it took a long time ago. Hopefully for years to come with an emerging educated public in the society and with TN50 blueprint in-the-making, the country can move forward with confidence to unleash its full potential by the year 2050.
UPDATE: This write-up was published by the New Straits Times Malaysia and it can be accessible here.