We can rebuild Malaysia amidst Covid-19, ugly politics and gloomy economy

It’s the start of 2021. A new year, a fresh slate, a chance to change things up for Malaysia.

Let’s face it – 2020 was not what we envisioned it to be.

Since the start of last year, we have been facing trials and tribulations that significantly impacted our country.

We had a high-stakes political volatility playing out, with three leaders holding different visions battling for the country’s leadership, resulting in a series of twists and turns. However, it is Covid-19 that takes the cake in paralysing our country and economy since the Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented in March.

In the age of Covid-19 we must all put aside our prejudices and stand together. This pandemic is not going to go away anytime soon. We need to learn how to live with it. Our country and our people have been seriously hit economically, with livelihoods lost, businesses closing down, and many struggling to make ends meet for themselves and their families.

But rather than talking about what went wrong or the ‘what-ifs’, it is time for us to look forward to how we can rebuild Malaysia, a better Malaysia for all of us.

Here’s my wishlist for Malaysia in 2021.

Pay more attention to SMEs

Our SMEs are the backbone of the nation’s economy. Without them, our economy will falter. They have been facing the brunt of the Covid-19 fallout in 2020 and we cannot let that continue in 2021.

The recently announced Budget 2021 does offer several benefits that could aid SMEs. There are a few programmes set out to relieve their financial liabilities, such as the Enhanced Targeted Loan Repayment Assistance, and Enhanced Access to Financing Aid where RM1.9 billion soft loans and grants via Prihatin and Penjana packages, will be provided to help SMEs and micro-SME entrepreneurs facing difficulties accessing financing aid.

Whether that amount is enough, I have my reservations on that. But larger organisations can and must do more. My colleagues and I at Petra Group are in the midst of launching an initiative for the next 12 months to help these businesses.

Take care of the people

Prioritising the welfare of the people – that is the responsibility of every nation’s government. Politicians who create uncertainty and unrest are a danger to the soul of our nation and the stability of society.

Yes, I’m upset and disappointed with many aspects of politics. But as tough as things are now, I believe we still have leaders who can stand tall and that we can proudly follow. This journey of rebuilding Malaysia was never going to be easy. It was never going to be painless. And it certainly was never going to be quick.

This pain we are going through is confirmation of progress – three steps forward and two steps back is still one step forward. We have shown our government our unhappiness. By now, they should know they can be thrown out because the power of democracy is still with the people of Malaysia.

It’s time that they fully recognise that they need to step up and do what’s best for the people. Return Malaysia to its past glory, repair what needs to be improved, and repeat successes that have made our nation respected in the past.

Despite what the situation may seem now, I believe Malaysia is still in the process of evolution and will soon be on the right path to reach its true potential. Our golden age is yet to come. And it will come.

Don’t forget arts, culture, nature and wildlife

Amidst Covid-19 and the political unrest in Malaysia, our arts and culture scenes took a back seat. The government can’t afford to spend money on arts and culture in the middle of this crisis, perhaps because there are more significant issues that are impacting the people immediately. But it’s time to give our arts and culture the attention it deserves.

Culture plays a vital role in every society because it retains the historical memories of our nation. It contributes to better understanding and unity among our people.

Similarly, we can’t afford to lose sight of our nature and wildlife. From our flora and fauna, to our wildlife and ecological systems, we Malaysians, are singularly responsible for protecting them.

Sadly, Malaysia has a history of deforestation for urban development, wildlife exploitation, and species extinction. One of them is our national symbol, the Malayan tigers, which I’ve written about.

It is our responsibility to preserve and safeguard our true cultural and natural heritage so that we can pass it on to our future generations. A combination of the private sector and public support will help to sustain and rejuvenate our local arts and culture scene, and conserve our nature.

Let’s not destroy our environment. Let’s not deny our true heritage. Don’t let them become a distant memory of ours.

Singularly plural Malaysia

I know many Malaysians from different spectrums are unhappy and disappointed for one reason or another. Not enough religion, too much religion; not enough race, too much race; too little freedom, too much freedom.

For nearly 40 years we’ve been brainwashed into believing we are distinctively different. That each race is separate in its hopes and aspirations, when the fact is we are singularly plural.

We all want to succeed in life and ensure our children have a good education, with opportunities for employment, healthcare for our families and the chance to shine. We all want the right to pray to whoever we choose to. Basically, at the end of the day, our aspirations and our hopes are the same.

There is still no country like Malaysia. With all our faults, there is no nation that comes close to this place we call home. We definitely have challenges ahead of us in the new year. But there is nothing we cannot face and overcome.

I have faith in us. I have faith in our nation. I have faith we will see a better and united Malaysia in 2021.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.