Behind Malaysia's "Miracle": A Veblenian Perspective on Mahathir's Era of Economic Modernization
Keong, Choy Yee, Journal of Economic Issues
Thorstein Veblen was one of the most original American socio-economic thinkers. It may be said that he was ahead of his time in explaining many of the theoretical problems of today's economics. In the Theory of the Leisure Class, for instance, his cogent elaboration on the predatory behavior of human economic actions provides an important conceptual point of entry into many of the critical inquiries of global capitalist emulation in contemporary Asian regions. More specifically, his precinct of invidious distinction characterized by wasteful expenditure on symbolic, rather than instrumental functions of economic activities shows that pecuniary emulation of global capitalism is not necessarily akin to economic modernization as commonly perceived by many of the developing Asian countries. Instead, it connotes ceremonial wastes of resources, time and efforts on unproductive processes. Pecuniary emulation occurs when a less advanced nation-state displays its mark of pecuniary strength vis-a-vis the reputable standing of the advanced countries. It may well be that for the less developed nations, invidious displays of monumental structures with marks of superfluous extravagance represent a conspicuous indicator of global distinction and honor, and that the evidence of honorific distinction is grounded on their ability to emulate highly industrialized nations.
Against this premise, the main objective of this article is to re-examine and enrich the continuing relevance of Veblen's expose of human proclivity to emulation and invidious comparison, and to identify and explore various aspects of economic modernization from a developing country perspective based on a case study in Malaysia. Theoretically, this article transcends Veblen's intellectual corpus of invidious distinction of consumer goods at an individual level to micro-emulation of global capitalism at a nation-state level. Empirically, it captures the relevance of Veblen's theory of the leisure class in association with the regressive relationship between economic development and the erratic sequence of socio-economic "progress" under Mahathir's (the former Malaysian Prime Minister) era of economic modernization. By raising the corner Of the veil of Mahathir's economic modernization "miracle," it contributes to an improved understanding of the complex perspectives of various socio-economic and institutional challenges governing the global capitalist emulation processes. This provides some pointers toward harnessing a sustainable mode of production, which is not only industrially serviceable but also, economically efficient and socially beneficial.
Global Capitalist Emulation--A Contemporary Perspective
Pecuniary emulation and invidious distinction take place not only at an individual level as posited by Veblen more than a century ago, but also at the nation-state level in the contemporary world. Causal observation of what is happening around the developing regions reveals that many nations attempt to emulate the industrial west in order to display their marks of pecuniary strength. For example, driven in part by its quest for global esteem and technological capabilities, China has allocated about $100 billion to construct the world's largest water project--the Three Gorges Dam (Sullivan 1995, 269). In order not to lose in the global race, Malaysia is building the largest dam (the Bakun Dam) in Southeast Asia, which cost about $2.4 billion. The completion of the Bakun project will show the world that Malaysia is as capable as the West in developing mega dam technology, an Asian icon of economic modernization.
The same motive of emulation is even more pronounced in the concrete display of great monuments like skyscrapers, which are raised up like dams as more proof of economic modernization and pecuniary prowess. Inspired by the elevated objets d'art of Chicago's aesthetic touch, Malaysia began to intensify its emulation process in order to bring its pecuniary prowess to a higher order. In 1998, it succeeded in unseating Chicago's Sears Tower from its position as the world's tallest building with its own twin towers--the Petronas Towers, which stand 451 meters tall. Since then, architects in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea, have all drawn up plans for monuments that will surpass it. At present, Taiwan has excelled in the global emulation race eclipsing the Petronas Towers from its position as the world's tallest building with its own 508 meter, $1.6 billion building, the Taipei 101. Meanwhile, China is continuing work on what may surpass Taipei 101 as the world's tallest monument--the Shanghai World Financial Center, scheduled for completion by 2008.
What may be deduced from the above discussion is that Malaysia's proclivity to emulate highly industrialized countries under the global capitalist race is not unique. However, this should not divert attention from the fact that its incessant quest for predatory emulation tends to give rise to ceremonial wastes and inefficient uses of national resources. While there may be general agreement that global capitalist emulation contributes to socio-economic modernization, there remain significant differences of opinion on how this may be accomplished. In other words, economic modernization, defined within the present context as progressive changes in terms of industrial serviceability, economic efficiency, and social sustainability; is not always at home with pecuniary capitalist emulation. Consequently, in order to come to grips with the full implication of the complex and cumulative socio-economic impacts, limits and quality norms governing the interplay between economic modernization and global capitalist emulation, it is necessary to delve further into the matter. This will be pursued systematically in the following section.
Pecuniary Canon of Taste and Mahathir's Modernization Theory: A Critical Evaluation
Malaysia began its rigorous modernization process in the early 1980s under Mahathir's leadership. Economic progress under Mahathir was so impressive that the World Bank proclaimed the Malaysian economy an "East Asian Miracle" (Khoo 2003, 24). Within this spectrum, this paper will show how Mahathir was able to achieve the "miracle" of modernization under his new global phase Of capitalism. Before proceeding further, it is apropos to point out that Mahathir had a pecuniary canon of taste for expensive, prestigious and honorific projects as he thought this to be "good for the ego" of a developing nation (Gecker 2000; see also Mahathir 1997; Khoo 1992; Jomo 2003). Mahathir's pecuniary impulse of monumental construction also admirably matched his "Vision 2020"--a long-term vision of growth, which aims to transform Malaysia into a fully developed nation economically, politically, socially, spiritually, psychologically and culturally by 2020. Above all, Mahathir's vision of economic modernization is glossed over with his famous jingoistic slogan "Malaysia Boleh" (Malaysia Can). This slogan serves to instill a sense of confidence in the people that Malaysia is as capable as the West. As Mahathir asserted: "Have confidence in our ability, and we should not believe that only foreigners are smart and able. We too are able" (cited in Kim 1999). As he confessed, "[w]e like to think big ... small projects make little impact on the economy" (Mahathir 1997). Soon, Mahathir's mission of producing an economic miracle transcended into a full-blown pecuniary plan for grandiosity; reflected in the public financing of a string of mega projects throughout his political career. Some of the most prominent ones include a $2.4 billion Bakun Dam hydroelectric project; a $2.36 billion Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA); an $8.1 billion new administrative capital (Putrajaya); and the $752 million Petronas Twin Towers. A brief remark about each project follows.
The Bakun Dam is the second largest in the world, after the Three Gorges Dam in China. About 69,640 hectares of forest ecosystem will be completely destroyed when the water is impounded behind the dam. For Mahathir, the emulation of dam technology is considered symbolic of western progress and serves as a catalyst for economic growth and a sustainable solution to enhance the social welfare of indigenous communities (Choy 2004a; 2005a). The country's most ambitious project is the new Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). The new airport is set to take over the Singapore Changi Airport's designation as the regional hub in Asia. By 2012, KLIA will have a passenger capacity of 45 million and when fully developed will be the largest airport in the world in terms of acreage. The new airport will incorporate forms and systems suggesting advancements and modernization, and bring Malaysia's global esteem to a higher order of distinction. The same motive of emulation has also been kept alive in the construction of the new administrative capital--Putrajaya. The new capital, located about 25 km south of the old capital city of Kuala Lumpur will be emblematically transformed into a 37,000-acre Garden City megalopolis--about three-fourths the size of Manhattan. The honorific architectural order is touted as the country's biggest real-estate project and one of Southeast Asia's largest (kia.net, http://www.kiat.net/putra/index.html). This magnificent city of the future, due to be fully completed by 2010, will be invidiously distinguished as one of the most sophisticated administrative centers and techno-communication infrastructures in the world, "where the beautiful and the honorific meet and blend," as Veblen would have said (1899, 128). It represents Mahathir's colossal vision of growth and economic development. Thus, he proudly jubilated: "Putrajaya is for the Nation's future, for Vision 2020, for the future generation, for a country which has matured and developed" (cited in Kim, 1999). Putrajaya has inevitably become the envy of those less successful competitors. Indonesia's president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, impressed by Putrajaya's monumental facades reportedly told his ministers to study how the tsunami-ravaged Aceh Province could be reconstructed a la Putrajaya (Fuller 2005).
The mark of superiority was unshakably elevated to another peak of distinction in August 1999, when Mahathir officially opened the gigantic Malaysian economic landmark--the Petronas Towers. The Towers are the country's most significant urban landmark. Mahathir confided that he needed to build the majestic monuments so people living in a small developing country like Malaysia could stand tall and rid themselves of their inferiority complex (e.g., Gecker 2000). He further intimated that such mega development is strategically important to sustain Malaysia's momentum of growth. This is because it would "generate activities in 140 other related industries such as the creation of jobs, the demand for building materials, and if people have disposable income, they will spend and all these will mean economic activities" (Leti 1998, see also Mahathir 1997).
Within this perspective, it is noteworthy that Mahathir's invidious vision of economic modernization was, from the outset, as much economic as political. He was aware that "races must develop together; at par with each other" in order to maintain socio-economic and political stability (Khoo 1995, 124; see also Hilley 2001). Thus, Mahathir's visions of growth were aimed not only to transform Malaysia into a modern industrialized country, but also to enrich the Bumiputras and improve the inter-ethnic distribution of wealth between the less affluent Malay (numerical) majority and the relatively wealthy Chinese (economic) minority. Bumiputras means "sons of the soil" and refer to Malays and a handful of indigenous minority groups. By fleshing out an invidious stream of mega projects, many politically well-connected groups of Malay or UMNO (United Malay National Organization)-based conglomerates benefited enormously as most contracts were/are primarily reserved for them without a tendering process. UMNO is Malaysia's largest ruling political party dominated by the Malays.
Thus, for Mahathir, expenditures incurred for "big" projects not only served to confer global esteem on Malaysia's dramatic economic success and ability, but also to improve the social well being of Malaysian communities, especially the Bumiputras at large. The World Bank praised Malaysia for managing "to drastically reduce the incidence of poverty and lessen income inequality while achieving rapid economic growth and maintaining racial harmony" (Zagha and Oleksiy 2004a; 2004b, see also MoF 2005). For example, gross national income per capita measured in purchasing power parity (PPP) has increased substantially from $7,180 in 1998 to $8,970 in 2003 (World Development Indicators database, http://devdata.worldbank.org/ dataonline/), whereas the incidence of poverty declined from 16.6 percent in 1990 to 5.1 percent in 2002 (EPU 2004). Furthermore, expenditures incurred on development of all the mega projects cannot be classified as conspicuously wasteful as lamented by Mahathir's critics (e.g., see Anil 1999, Kim 2003) because it "has utility to him by virtue of his preference" (Veblen 1899, 98, see also Cummings 1899, 427428). Thus, he once intimated, "[w]hat is there left to distinguish Malaysia from other developing countries if all these 'mega' projects are not in place?" (Ahmad 2003). Mahathir's ferocious line of defense against accusations of obsession for trophies of successes scored in the game of mega ownership is that Malaysia has the means to build all the projects without straining the national coffer or without resorting to external borrowings. Mahathir professed that "despite all these 'mega' projects, Malaysia did not become bankrupt ... We didn't beg from anyone; our financial situation is rock-solid compared with some developing countries and even certain developed nations" (Ahmad 2003).
Despite the above rosy revelation, we often hear a contradicting story from the grassroots society. It may well be that many grassroots social elites have fulminated against Mahathir's capital-centered development strategy as no more than decorative grandeur of modernism shaped by the law of conspicuous waste of national resources. In particular, they lamented that the mode of capitalist accumulation, selectively legitimated and empowered by Mahathir's institution, is progressively exploitative, socially unsustainable, economically inefficient and environmentally destructive (e.g., see Anil 1999; Muzaffar 2003; Kim 2003). En passant, the term "waste" as used in the present context refers to the conspicuous devotion of both time and goods to the creation of invidious distinction. That is to say, that expenditure and consumption devoted to that end is wasted, because it "does not serve human life or human well-being on the whole, not because it is waste or misdirection of effort or expenditure as viewed from the standpoint of the individual consumer who chooses it" (Veblen 1899, 97-98; see also Cummings 1899, 427-428).
In light of these glimmers of insight, we are forced to raise a pertinent question as to whether the devotion of capital expenditure to enhance the rapid modernization process in the country has ended up becoming a developmental cul-de-sac--that is, whether the "miracle" of economic modernization has detoured into a regressive course of the socio-economic development process. To start, causal observations of present events in Malaysia seem to imply that Mahathir's socioeconomic idealism has grown increasingly distant from what is actually happening. For instance, the construction of the Bakun Dam will result in irreversible destruction of one of the world's oldest and largest forest ecosystems and has caused immense economic hardships and social disintegration for indigenous people forced to relocate in new settlements. In addition, the project is economically inefficient because the utility market in Sarawak state, in which the dam is located, is too small to absorb the huge amount of electricity generated by the project (Choy 2003; 2004a; and 2004b).
Mahathir's pro-rich policy in favor of invidiously defined groups has resulted in an inequitable distribution of income, not only among the Malays but also between the Malays and non-Malays. Indeed, his invidious discrimination policy has put many Malays who belong to the "impecunious class" (i.e., the working class and the rural common folks) in disfavor. Mahathir's mega emulation program, for the most part, served to enhance the wealth of a selected group of powerful or politically well-connected Malay--called here the Malay "superior pecuniary class" (the cronies)--at public expense (e.g., see Anil 2001a; MGG Pillai 2002; Muzaffar 2003; Jeyakumar 2004; Fuller 2005; see also Pereira 2001; and Beng 2005).
Consequently, since income distribution is skewed toward the rich, the gap between the rich and poor will naturally widen. Indeed, the United Nation Development Report (UNDP) disclosed that Malaysia has the worst income disparity between the rich and poor in Southeast Asia; higher than the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia. It is further revealed, that the richest 10 percent in Malaysia control 38.4 percent of the economic wealth, as compared to the poorest 10 percent controlling only 1.7 percent (UNDP 2004, 189). Furthermore, squatters and slums become omnipresent in many parts of Malaysia. At least forty squatter areas exist throughout the country where residents--comprised of lower economic class Malays, Chinese and Indians--live in deplorable conditions. Within Selangor itself (the richest and most advanced state in Malaysia), there are more than 400,000 squatters from all races living in abject poverty (e.g., see Pereira 2001; Anil 2001b; MGG Pillai 2002; Sangaralingam et al. 2004; see also Ooi 2004 for a visual illustration). These underclass urban squatters, who possess none of the wealth created under the pecuniary phase of economic modernization, are the most visible symbol of the widening income gap between the rich and the poor.
It follows that what was supposed to be the era of economic modernization has slipped into an era of skyrocketing prices in the post-Mahathir era. Petrol and diesel costs, public transportation costs, toll charges, food, consumer items and services, water and electricity tariffs, and service charges have sky-rocketed since 1997. For instance, the North-South express toll rates were unreasonably increased by 10 percent at the beginning of 2005 and more increases are anticipated every three years (Kim 2005). Land tax rates increased between 30 and 95 percent for agricultural lands and between 10 and 21 percent for other property (Sin Chew Daily 2004). The ferry fee from Penang Island to mainland Malaysia shot up 100 percent for foot passengers. This list of price hikes, however, is by no means exhaustive.
Mahathir's modernization program has also given rise to a large waste of goods and services because many of the mega projects constructed in the name of economic modernization are either under utilized or in excess of economic needs in the market. For instance, if the Government's oil company had not "chosen" to move its staff to one of the Petronas Towers, more than 50 percent of the space would have been left empty (Lockwood 2003; see also Arnold 2003; Baker 2001). The ostensibly lavish display of the new administrative capital in Putrajaya also represents an "endless variety of architectural distress and of suggestions of expensive discomfort" (Veblen's words, 1899, 154). It raises the question as to whether Malaysia really needs an $8 billion capital to impress foreign visitors when we already have an impressive traditional capital--Kuala Lumpur.
Indeed, the old capital city--a traditional center of politics and commerce and a symbolic structure of Malaysian culture, constitutes a remarkable architectural avenue where "the beautiful and the honorific meet and blend" (Veblen 1899, 128). The peculiar beauty of the old capital, made up of a unique mixture of historical artifacts and high-modernist skyscrapers, aesthetically engulfed by mountain ranges and greenery, is even more splendid than Putrajaya. The old capital's architectural order is also more impressive than Hong Kong or Tokyo--megalopolis' that are artificially smeared with erotic symbols and obsessively infatuated with lifeless strains of honorific utopianism. As Fuller pointed out, it is tempting to compare Putrajaya with other manufactured cities like Canberra or Brasilia, but the Malaysian capital is different in one important way: it is only 25 km from Kuala Lumpur, making it a kind of leafy suburb of the commercial capital (Fuller 2005).
Above all, it must be pointed out that since the economic crisis, the property market in Malaysia was among the worst hit in the East Asian region. Indeed, Kuala Lumpur, which has the highest vacancy rate for office towers and shopping malls among major Asian countries, is probably the most overbuilt city in Asia (Assif 1998; 2000). The development of the Petronas Towers and the relocation of all government departments from Kuala Lumpur to Putrajaya have also exacerbated the already saturated property market by leaving more vacant buildings in the city. In 1998, the year the Petronas Towers were completed, the office vacancy rate in Kuala Lumpur had for the first time since the late 1980s, hit the double-digit mark of about 11 percent in the first quarter. Prime office prices fell by 10 percent and rents declined by 14 percent in the first quarter (Afta 1998). The vacancy rate deteriorated further, from 11.6 percent in the second quarter of 1998 to 20.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2002, although it bounced back marginally, to 18.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2004 (Jones Lang LaSalle 2005, 12; ARIC 2004, see also Figure 1). Because of the glut, office rents in Kuala Lumpur have deteriorated to about 40 percent of what they were during the mid-1990s (McIntosh 2003; see also Assif 1998), and the market is expected to remain in the doldrums for years to come.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
The state-of-the-art, international airport (KLIA) also comes under the conspicuously wasteful project category. The reason being that the number of travelers using the modern airport--currently designed to handle 25 million passengers a year and up to 60 million travelers by 2020--has been below expectations, as clearly indicated in Table 1. Despite its distinctive architectural advancement and ultramodern facilities, the new airport is half-empty and under-utilized as evidenced by its relatively low annual passenger enplanements of about 15 million. Indeed, since the new airport was commissioned in 1998, its passenger loads increased by only 7.6 percent compared to the old airport handling capacity.
What is clear from the above analysis is that aggressive government planning and massive architectural displays have given rise to massive economic waste and inefficient use of natural and financial resources. They have also exerted enormous constraints on the country's economy as indicated by its persistent budget deficit which worsened from 1.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1998 to 5.3 percent in 2003 (see Table 2). This is certainly the case as all the mega projects required heavy imports of capital, materials and technology from abroad. Furthermore, what has worsened the economic conditions is that the manufacturing export boom of the 1980s was facing a severe slowdown as the result of falling competitiveness, rising wages and stagnant productivity (Sharma 1998).
The foregoing discussion does not automatically imply that all mega projects constructed by Mahathir were wasteful. The test of wastefulness is whether they serve "directly to enhance human life on the whole ... For this is the basis of award of the instinct of workmanship, and that instinct is the court of final appeal in any question of economic truth or adequacy" (Veblen 1899, 99). The instinct of workmanship entails "a taste for effective work and a distaste for futile effort" and "a sense of the merit of serviceability or efficiency and of the demerit of futility, waste, or incapacity" (Veblen 1899, 15; see also 1904, 38-43; 1914, 33). Given this argument, it may be asserted that in contrast to the wasteful projects as discussed above, there are various projects developed by Mahathir considered industrially serviceable and socially beneficial. For instance, the $1.57 billion technologically advanced North-South Expressway (848 km) that cuts across eight states along the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia from Singapore to the border of Southern Thailand, and the $223 million Penang Bridge (the longest in Southeast Asia at 13.5 km) which links Penang Island to mainland Malaysia. Neither of these is considered wasteful despite their exorbitant cost. This is because apart from conferring invidious distinctions to the nation, they serve to promote a sustainable and efficient communication network throughout Peninsular Malaysia, beneficial not only to the economy but they also, "conform to the generically human canon of efficiency for some serviceable objective end," to put it in Veblen's words (1899, 259).
It is becoming clear that if the instinctive proclivity to emulation is guided by the pecuniary canon of taste or predatory culture of distinction rather than by the rule of investment for profits or social optima, it is likely that the economic modernization process will contribute to industrial disservice-ability, economic inefficiencies, distributional inequalities, and social injustices. For this reason, what appears to be a reassuring vision of economic modernization full of optimism is, in fact, no more than a faltering and crisis-ridden vision of growth, full of pessimism. This is what we called a developmental cul-de-sac as noted briefly above.
Long-Term Vision of Growth--The Way Forward
The discussion to this point carries a well-defined lesson. That is, if Malaysia is to progress toward a truly modernized country, it is imperative for the government to alter its economic structural ordering, which concurs with the instinct of workmanship. This will allow the country to avoid a large misdirection of industrial efforts and a ceremonial liquidation of national resources on unproductive development, which is not in accord with the fuller unfolding of human life. In order to achieve this, Malaysia has to halt development of all conspicuously wasteful projects, which ostensibly drain national resources. The Bakun project, for instance, should be scrapped for reasons stated above. The pecuniary plan to develop the second and third phases of Putrajaya must also be dismantled as the project can hardly be classified industrially serviceable and economically efficient. The heavily underutilized new airport should be put to optimum use rather than phasing the development process for the purpose of pure ostentation or invidious pecuniary comparison. The government must also review its long list of 215 outstanding or proposed projects, revealed by the Works Minister as flawed (Sin Chew Daily 2005). For example: the double-rail track; the Tioman Airport; and the Integrated Southern Gateway Project (a new Malaysia-Singapore Bridge) should be abandoned because they do not serve the immediate needs of the people, rather they serve the invidious interests of the superior pecuniary class.
To achieve the highest socio-economic efficiencies, effort and expenditure devoted to the development of wasteful projects heretofore discussed should be redirected for the development of other efficient projects. For instance, the country's national resources may be optimized to: (1) finance other industrially serviceable and socially beneficial infrastructure projects; (2) upgrade the inefficient communication system in Kuala Lumpur; (3) improve the acute housing and poverty problems; (4) improve healthcare, welfare facilities, public amenities and public security; and (5) conserve the natural environment. Equally important however, is that in order to enable Malaysia to achieve and sustain its modernization process, it is essential for it to progressively adapt and catch up with the changing competitive global economy based on higher productivity growth and economic competitiveness. This may be attained by wisely apportioning the nation's scarce resources on investment in education, research and development (R&D), endogenous human capital formation or the development of indigenous technology and modern production techniques that are relevant to the world of industry. For a manufacturing based and export-led economy like Malaysia, these strategic means are crucially important, as a country with high rates of productive growth tends to command a favorable international market share (e.g., see Howes and Singh 2000, 2). Concomitantly, this must be supported by a progressive institutional change. Within the present context, progressive institutional change is defined as that phase of institutional adjustment in which ceremonial behavior of waste and predatory culture of exploit are replaced by instrumentally warranted standards of judgment based on the emulative demonstration of the instinct of workmanship (for related arguments, see for example Choy 2005b; Bush 1987; 1989).
It may be concluded that pecuniary emulation of hyper-expensive symbolic monuments cannot be considered as modernization, no matter how the term "modern country" is defined. In addition, the construction of a futuristic city of awe and wonders is not akin to industrial serviceability or socio-economic efficiency. This is because such a display of pecuniary prowess is bound to result in a more elaborate system of wasteful spending on unproductive projects. It also leads to a myriad of socio-economic distresses as elaborated above.
Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class provides a pragmatic perspective into the critical inquiry of various aspects of Malaysia's socio-economic modernization processes for the past two decades under Mahathir's leadership. Veblen's works also illuminate important insight into Malaysia's development processes and offer suggestions regarding alternative expenditures or resource use patterns. Fundamentally, Veblen's theory points to the direction that future progressive socio-economic changes in Malaysia do not depend on the ceremonial use of national resources for invidious blending of the "honorific and beautiful." Rather, they rest on the optimal use of resources in harnessing human resource capacity building, technological advancement, industrial serviceability, and socio-economic efficiency, i.e., Veblen's workmanship efficiencies.
With the change of leadership, one can expect the new administration under Prime Minister Badawi to redirect the invidious course of the "modernization" process under the old regime toward the non-invidious course of Veblenian workmanship efficiencies. This is because Badawi is more concerned with implementing grassroots development projects that are socially and economically beneficial than expensive mega projects that are conspicuously wasteful. His decision to postpone the $3.8 billion railway double-tracking project, abruptly approved by Mahathir days before his retirement, is a good reflection of his workman-like efficiency.
However, the long-term progressive changes envisaged by Badawi cannot be accomplished without adjusting the present institutional structure, which is imbecilely dominated by the predatory culture of conspicuous consumption. The way forward for Badawi is to initiate a constructive political destruction process to dismantle those ceremonially inherited predatory forces, which serve to impede instrumental socioeconomic transformation processes and to instill a new set of values to replace the existing ones. It is high time for Badawi to take a leaf from Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class for a noble cause of progressive transformation processes before the country submerges further into the deep waters of socio-economic regress.
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The author is a Visiting Researcher at Keio University in Tokyo. He is greatly indebted to Professor Glen Atkinson, Vicki Taggart (production editor of Journal of Economic Issues), Kim Quek, and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and advice.
Table 1. Air Passenger Loads--A Comparison year to year comparison 1992/1998 1993/1999 1994/2000 Air Old 12,757 13,101 14,250 transport Subang passengers airport carried * (1992-1997) (000) New KLIA 13,654 14,985 16,561 airport (1998-2003) year to year comparison 1995/2001 1996/2002 1997/2003 Air Old 15,418 15,118 15,592 transport Subang passengers airport carried * (1992-1997) (000) New KLIA 16,107 16,275 15,214 airport (1998-2003) year to year comparison Average Increase Air Old 14,373 transport Subang passengers airport carried * (1992-1997) (000) New KLIA 15,466 7.61% airport (1998-2003) Source: computed based on data from The World Bank Group, WDI Online, http://devdata.worldbink.org/dataonline/ * Air transport passengers carried, is defined as: air passengers carried include both domestic and international aircraft passengers of air carriers registered in the country Table 2. Federal Government's Budget Surplus/Deficit (Percent of GDP) Year 1997 1998 1999 2000 Federal Government Budget Surplus/Deficit 2.4 -1.8 -3.2 -5.8 (% of GDP) Year 2001 2002 2003 2004 Federal Government Budget Surplus/Deficit -5.5 -5.6 -5.3 -4.3 (% of GDP) Source: ADP 2004; BNM 2005…
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Publication information: Article title: Behind Malaysia's "Miracle": A Veblenian Perspective on Mahathir's Era of Economic Modernization. Contributors: Keong, Choy Yee - Author. Journal title: Journal of Economic Issues. Volume: 40. Issue: 4 Publication date: December 2006. Page number: 861+. © 1999 Association for Evolutionary Economics. COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group.