Hadi’s bill controversy subsides, allowing us to focus on critical priorities

The government’s decision not to table Hadi’s bill that would have paved the way for the implementation of hudud has sparked a sense of relief.

Apr 07, 2017

By Anil Netto
The government’s decision not to table Hadi’s bill that would have paved the way for the implementation of hudud has sparked a sense of relief.

This was a controversy that was unnecessary and even unconstitutional as some have suggested.

We cannot let down our guard.

The government’s decision not to table Hadi’s bill suggests one of two main possible scenarios:
it was an enlightened decision that recognised the serious implications the bill would have had for national unity, diversity and inclusiveness and the state of the economy. If this was really an enlightened decision, then this would be the end of the road for

Hadi’s bill and many Malaysians would heave a huge sigh of relief. it is only a temporary reprieve ahead of the coming general election. The government can ill-afford to alienate Sabah and Sarawak, the non-Muslims and not a few within the Muslim community by going along with Hadi’s proposals especially with an impending general election. But what happens after the general election? Will the bill then receive a new lease of life? So we cannot let down our guard.

Now, it all depends if and when the parliamentary speaker decides push this private member’s bill up the agenda.

What the controversy over Hadi’s bill did achieve was to divert attention from the many critical issues facing our nation: rampant corruption including the 1MDB debacle, ecological issues, and many economic problems.

The economic problems include high youth unemployment (about 10 per cent), worrying federal government debt and government guarantees, expensive house prices which have contributed to high household debt, the rising cost of food.

All this has contributed to a sense of misery among many people.

While all this was happening, the United Nations released its 2017 World Happiness Report, placing Norway as the happiest country in the world among the 155 nations surveyed, followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and Finland. Four of the top five nations are Nordic nations.

Malaysia is down the list in 42nd place and fourth in Asia behind Singapore (26th), Thailand (32nd) and Taiwan (33rd). Surprisingly, Japan (51st) and South Korea (56th) are further below among the Asian nations.

The report uses seven benchmarks to measure happiness: a sense of caring or social support, freedom, generosity, good governance, honesty, health and income.

Benedict Lopez, a Malaysian who covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work with a Malaysian government agency, wrote recently, “Being familiar with the Nordic countries, I can understand why the Nordic nations are among the happiest. What they have in common is the sense of security they give their citizens: free healthcare services from cradle to grave, free education from school to university, pensions guaranteed by the state, transparency and good governance, and societies that are almost free of corruption.”

He said Norway has made great strides in its economic and social development since the discovery of oil more than 45 years ago.

This oil wealth was carefully managed and invested by the Government Pension Fund Global, also known as the Norwegian National Oil Fund.

“The oil wealth has filtered down to the masses in terms of excellent free healthcare, education and maternity benefits. What’s more, good and transparent governance and the almost complete absence of corrupt practices contribute to society’s sense of wellbeing.”

Professor Jeffrey Sachs attributes the Nordic nations’ success to “personal freedom, social support, and lower corruption”.

This is what Malaysia has to aim for. Unfortunately, corruption and lavish spending have drained the nation of a sizeable chunk of its wealth. Moreover, privatisation and neoliberal policies have widened wealth and income inequality.

Malaysia is not short of resources but they must be carefully managed for the wellbeing of the people.

We would also do well to consider what Hossein Askari, an Iranian-born professor of international affairs at George Washington University said a few years ago. After a study of about 200 countries, he came up with an Economic Islamicity Index:

“Looking at an index of Economic Islamicity, or how closely the policies and achievements of countries reflect Islamic economic teachings — Ireland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Singapore, Finland, Norway, and Belgium round up the first 10,” he was reported as saying.

You will note that the Nordic countries of Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway figure prominently in this list as well. Malaysia is at 33rd spot in this list, the highest ranked among the OIC nations.

Unfortunately, Hossein said many of these OIC nations are “unjust, corrupt, and underdeveloped and are in fact not ‘Islamic’ by any stretch of the imagination.”

The main thing that sets apart the Nordic countries and other countries at the top of these lists is their community solidarity. It is their concern for the wellbeing of everyone in society that has put in place a strong system of community solidarity. The taxes in those nations may be high but few people seem to mind as those nations are relatively free of corruption and tax money is well spent on the people.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we read of how the early Christian community had a strong sense of community solidarity, shared their money and belongings, and saw to it that everyone was taken care of.

The countries at the top of the Happiness rankings, including the Nordic nations, show us in some way, how a society’s happiness and wellbeing can be improved if some of these Gospel principles — also found in Catholic Social Teaching — can be put in practice in economic policy formulation at the national level.

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