Are we running on the spot?

It was very heartening reading the interview with The Bank Negara Governor. It was quite reassuring when she kept saying our fundamentals are still very strong and we are nowhere near the crisis in 1997-1998. She also said the ringgit was not the only currency being hit, there are 120 other countries also face with depreciating currency, but why is the ringgit is among the worst hit? So much so people is calling it “shringgit” now.In 1997/98 TDM accused George Soros, the money speculator was attacking our currency, but what about now? We cannot say it was Soros again or DSAI again.  I think by now every body knows that the economic slow down was due to falling oil prices, plummeting commodity prices, slowing of China economy, strengthening of the USD and internal domestic instability. Not being an economist, I really do not understand why improving US economy will depress ours? The whole point Governor Zeti was saying despite all the talks about economic crisis, Malaysia is still registering 4-5% growth, albeit a bit smaller than the projected 6%. Compared that to 1998 when our economy shrunk, we are still doing well. It is important that we make the necessary adjustment to weather the storm as we did in 2008. She did not really spell out the sort of adjusment that we have to do. I reckon, the bevvy of economic advisers to the government would be able to help us to make the so called adjustments.  But the gloom and doom sayers are already spreading depressing stories about company retrenching workers, company downsizing, or even closing down and even as Government servant we were told to be prudent. Not that we were extravagant all these while, with all the procedures and SOPs in place, but we really have to scrimp this year. But I still cannot quite figure out why our ringgit is among the worst hit. It was 4.21 to the USD, 4.81 to the EURO, 6.57 to the UK pound and 3.02 to the SD yesterday. Those were the rates from Bank Negara on Friday.

I am just worried that many of our ICT projects would be scaled down in terms of funding but not in terms of scope and expectation. That would render the project a lame duck right from the start.The Smart School Project was a classic example. Faced with economic slow down in 1998-1999, the fund to the project was scaled down but still implemented with full expectation. We had difficulties to fit in the objectives with the budget constraints. As a result, many things weren’t implemented as in the Blueprint even though there were supposed to be the part of the solution. But the public were not told that the project had to be scaled down and they still think it was the full blown Blueprint was being implemented. When the economy recovered (we were always told that we were facing recession but we were not quite informed when we had recovered), we embarked on a new project because we deemed the below budget project a failure and not worth continuing. We blamed the failure on poor governance and execution. very little attention were given to the amount  funding that has been reduced without reduction in scope, expectation and objectives in implementing the project. It was partly our fault, we did not explain to the powers that be on the implications of budget cuts to the project. We did not quite explain the need to cut down on scope and objectives. Our management of expectation was poor. We just gritted our teeth and implemented the project huffing and puffing. I think we need a lesson on how to manage limited resources to the optimum. So the vicious cycle continues. We embark on ambitious new project, we underfund the the project for some reasons, the project did not meet the objectives, we ditched the project and we start a new one. My friend was saying this is akin to running on the spot. We hardly made any progress. And there was this new findings recently reported that  ICT project in schools were overly rated, their successes were not that significant in improving the students’ grade. Larry Cuban had been saying this for years actually. Here we go again… students’ grade. We conveniently forget our philosophy in education is to realise the overall students potential. Their academic grades is only a small portion of the whole being of the students. And we conveniently forget what the Trust schools have achieved.

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