It’s been more or less a week since Pak Lah (the current Prime Minister of Malaysia) launched the Kelantan state-level East Coast Economic Region (ECER). The launching ceremony of the project was perhaps something worth remembering. For, after nearly two decades, the top leaders of the two biggest Malay-Muslim political parties in Malaysia finally sat together on stage. Although it was just a brief stint, it gives a refreshing hope for unity and a sign of a better future for the Malays, and more importantly, the Muslims in Malaysia. It is hoped that the leaders of both political parties (UMNO and PAS) would set aside their political ideologies’ differences aside and work together for the benefit of the ummah. If it takes the ECER for that to happen, then so be it – let’s make it happen!

The ECER would – as suggested by the plan – bring technological progress and development to wider and broader areas which would mean that the development in Malaysia would be more balanced out instead of being focused only on major cities such as Kuala Lumpur. In other words, people in the east coast region would benefit just as much from the developments of Malaysia as what other states benefit. Thus, the people living in the east coast region – especially the youth – must take full advantage of this. It is estimated that there will be around 2 million jobs created from the ECER. Therefore, the youth, the university students, must prepare themselves to take up the task and lend a hand in the developments within ECER. University graduates must bear in mind that if they choose to be employed, then they have little freedom to choose the jobs that they want. If they want freedom, then it’s the business world that they should venture into. Otherwise, they can’t be too picky and choosy. It should be remembered that university graduates and youth face tough competition in foreign labours. These foreign workers are not choosy, their salary expectation is much lower, and they have the skills. What most of our graduates and youth lack are the attitude and the skills. We’ll really need to polish on that.

Apart from the unifying prospect and employment opportunities brought by the ECER, there are several fundamental matters which must not go overlooked when talking about ECER. These matters are matters which have always been overlooked when talking about development – thus making development unbalanced. Balanced development is not just about spreading development thoroughly throughout all the places in this country. Balanced development is also about developing all the aspects that matters concurrently. What we are facing today is development that focuses mainly on the technological and physical aspects; and setting aside human development matters.

When I read that the financial allocation for ECER would be a thumping RM112 billion, I hoped that such a large amount would be split evenly and fairly for developing both aspects in improving human life – the physical and non-physical aspects. True enough, we should aim high and invest in ‘big projects’ that would make Malaysia clearer on the world map. However, all the big projects and giant developments would mean little towards improving human life if we do not prepare the human – the people, the society – with the fundamental values and knowledge to handle the developments that are being brought into their lives. Therefore, the ECER must also give the same focus – if not more – on the aspect of human development as what is being given to the technological and physical developments. Only then, can we anticipate a truly better future.

Gombak, 6.40p.m.
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