Can Malaysia learn from the lessons of Sri Lanka?

Will the houses of the Prime Minister and Ministers of Malaysia be set on fire by angry protestors as happened in Sri Lanka last week?

This is not going to happen today, this month or this year, but will it happen before Malaysia marks its Centennial in 2057 or 2063?

Are we following in the footsteps of Sri Lanka, at one time a “jewel” in terms of development prospects in South Asia?

But today, Sri Lanka is expected to be placed into default by rating agencies after the non-payment of coupons on two of its sovereign bonds, while the country had run out of money to pay for fuel.

An economic crisis unprecedented in the country’s history since independence in 1948 has led to a critical shortage of foreign exchange, that saw it miss two coupon payments on sovereign bonds on April 18, and critical shortages in petrol, medicines, cooking gas and other essentials, with prolonged power cuts and soaring food prices.

The new Sri Lanka Prime Minister has announced that the new Sri Lanka government plans to sell its national airline to stem losses, even as authorities are forced to print money to pay government salaries.

How has the once booming Sri Lanka come to such a terrible mess?

Malaysia did not fulfil our potential in economic development, but Sri Lanka did worse.

In GDP growth, we grew some 90 times from 1970 to 2020, but South Korea grew by over 180 times, Singapore by over 170 times, China by over 160 times, and Indonesia by some 110 times. Sri Lanka GDP grew by only 32 times in the 50 years from 1970 to 2020.

In GDP per capita terms, South Korea grew by over 80 times during 1970-2020, while Singapore grew by over 50 times, China by over 40 times and Indonesia by some 35 times. Malaysia grew only by some 25 times, but Sri Lanka was worse – by some 12 times.

Last month, the Catholic Bishops in Sri Lanka called for unity among politicians to save Sri Lanka from becoming a failed state.

They said: “The country is fast approaching the precipice of a failed state that will in its wake inflict irreversible injuries on the people.”

We have not become a failed state but are we in the trajectory of becoming a failed state in three or four decades time?

Can we learn from the mistakes of the other nations which have failed to achieve the promise of their greatness like Sri Lanka and Philippines, where the presidential election on May 9, 2022 brought back Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’Marcos Jr, where he fled the presidential palace along with his father 36 years ago in exile in an election campaign which glorified martial law and refuted narratives about [his] family’s ill-gotten wealth in a systematic campaign of social media disinformation and Internet lies?

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri