A glass bubble that starts to crack

Malaysia is on the verge of a recession that the future looks worse than the hypocentre of a nuclear blast


THE celebration of the RM250 billion stimulus package has all but come to just backdoor whispers. Many applauded the government’s move, especially the cash handouts and wide-ranging distributions.

Others see the package as total anathema to the principle of saving enterprises from total annihilation. While supporters and detractors will continue to throw rocks at each other for some time to come, one thing for sure, “Makcik Kiah” has entered the country’s hall of fame.

But what is next for Malaysia? The country, for most part of its history, has been blessed and fortunate. It has been largely free of wars and conflicts. There were battles and fights like most nations.

But ours could only be traced back to the Portuguese occupation of Melaka, Dutch-Portuguese War and The Brothers War in Pahang and other smaller skirmishes. World War I was limited to the sinking of two Allied ships of Penang by a German cruiser.

Our fathers tell us of the sufferings during World War II, the Japanese occupation, the deaths and killings and cruelty. Subsequently, the Malayan Emergency between 1948 and 1960, Sarawak Communist Insurgency and the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation had Malaysians on edge. But there were no massive deaths and destruction.

China for one had its first recorded war dating back to the 26th century BC. China’s history tells of the thousands of battles, wars and conflicts between emperors, dynasties, rebellions and civil wars, battles against the Japanese, Russia and other countries. Hundreds of millions fought these battles and millions died. Compared to China, Malaysia is whiter than Switzerland.

Malaysia is also free of major disasters. It does not sit on the Pacific Plate, experience rumbling earthquakes, erupting volcanoes, flowing hot lava, deadly gasses and massive earth shifts.

Natural disasters have been few and far between. The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami was the closest to a real shattering disaster.

The coronavirus pandemic, the selected lockdown, the fear of infections and spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus have forced 32 million people to stay home. It is unprecedented in the country’s history.

Malaysians for the longest time have been living in a bubble of comfort, free of catastrophes and disasters, wars and battles and deaths, to a level that the people are more vulnerable than others.

Malaysia never had to rebuild itself from the ruins of war or destruction like Hiroshima or Europe after the Germans were defeated in 1945 or Korea after its civil wars. Malaysia is, to a larger extent, a pampered society, lavished with subsidies, social protections and safety nets. Goodies that make even the strong weak, and Hercules and giants vulnerable.

But the country is on the verge of a recession. Millions of jobs are at stake. Depending on how fast the world can cut the chain of the infection and bring the cure to billions of people before the next viral eruption, the future looks worse than the hypocentre of a nuclear blast. There seems to be no clouds on the horizon.

If and when the country comes out of this calamity, many will realise how vulnerable the country and people are. We are, for most times, our own Achilles heel, and change we must or we will never survive the next acid test.

  • Mohamad Azlan Jaafar is the editor- in-chief of The Malaysian Reserve.