If the youth are the future of a nation, how can we bring that hope?
Even before the pandemic hit our shores in 2020, Malaysia was struggling.
In 1991, we had aspirations to become an industrialised nation by 2020, giving birth to Vision 2020 which listed nine challenges the country was to overcome in order to be a prosperous nation.
When Vision 2020 was nowhere close to being achieved, the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 rolled out in 2019 to replace the previous plan. But looking at it now, is the new plan destined to be another aspiration that cannot be accomplished?
It’s with no question that the lack of leadership, political instability, and the fight for power have highly impacted the development of our country throughout the years. With no time to make adjustments for the new plan, our economy suffered losses after losses when the pandemic surfaced, leaving us behind our neighbouring countries. While Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam managed to pull in more than 80% of US$156 billion in 2020, Malaysia was only able to capture 5% or the equivalent of US$7.8 billion.
Adding more salt to the wound, Indonesia introduced the Omnibus Law in October 2020 in order to contribute to their economy during this pandemic. Looking at the amount of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) our neighbouring countries have captured, how can we say that we’re not threatened?
It’s agreeable that making a successful recovery while still in a pandemic crisis is difficult, but while other countries have been competing with each other, we’re only just announcing our long-term recovery plan in October 2021. With that, can we truly say we have a long-term recovery plan?
Here’s another question to ask: Would it be too late? The truth is right there — our long-term recovery is too far from our grasp.
Malaysia, it’s time to stop being dependent. While the government is struggling to fix the economy, we can’t delay our recovery any longer.
We, the youth and future of Malaysia, must continue to grow on our own. And here’s how.
We’ve been stuck in a pattern where we’re heading to universities to earn a certification that would lead us to secure a job in the workforce. While this isn’t necessarily bad, we’re lacking innovation that results in change.
Let’s put it this way. Unemployment amongst university graduates has been high in Malaysia. Our universities produce over 50,000 graduates every year and yet almost 60% remain unemployed after 1 year from their graduation.
And yet most of us still go through that cycle, competing in an economy where jobs are too scarce especially for graduates with no experience.
So how do we bypass a system that’s been prevalent for ages? How do we bring change so we can achieve a new Vision 2030?
To answer this, we must ask ourselves, are we investing in what matters most for Malaysia?
Education isn’t bound to only official secondary or tertiary education. Rather, there needs to be a reallocation of training and up-skilling youths to adapt to the new changes of the generation.
Invest in the creation of young leaders, not young workers.
One way to become a young leader is to not ignore your entrepreneurial mind just because you’re afraid of the risk or comments by others.
Startup Malaysia, MaGIC, and even Taylor’s very own BizPod are some available sites that provide assistance for youths and entrepreneurs alike to elevate their entrepreneurial minds and eventually start a company of their own. While it may look daunting and difficult, there are government programmes like the Young Entrepreneur Fund (YEF) that can also help fund a start-up.
This, however, isn’t limited to becoming an entrepreneur. Making a change can come from various sectors so aim to create an impact in our own ways. You could always create a platform and represent issues that need attention in Malaysia such as gender inequality, poverty, providing quality education, and so forth.
Don’t ever settle for the minimum and always try to think outside the box. Because in this world, in this generation, we must bring a change to ourselves as well as our country.
Speaking of change, it’s without doubt that Malaysian students are more interested in migrating to several first world countries to pursue higher education. A survey conducted by Oxford University showed that Malaysian youths don’t feel a strong attachment to our country, with Malaysian politics being one the main reasons to leave to another.
It’s obvious to say that the youths haven’t been properly represented in formal political institutions — which validates why many lack a strong attachment. For countless times, politicians and those alike have undermined the youths of Malaysia deeming us as not knowledgeable enough.
And this even goes on to the professional political settings when our very own Syed Saddiq was called ‘budak’ in the parliament more than once. I speak to all Malaysian youths that we need to stop depending on others to determine our value. We mustn’t let society set our age as a barrier from using our voices for the good of our country.
Take Indonesia for example, Indonesian youths have used their voice and responded to political parties led by the older generation by forming their own political party — The Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) founded by Grace Natalie who believed that minorities, especially youth and women, were under-represented which has now flourished from its first assembly in 2014, to an approximate number of 400,000 members.
We need to take a step forward and increase our political involvement especially in this needed time. How? Education.
By educating ourselves in the world of politics, increasing awareness of events happening in Malaysia, and even participating in events available to us.
Parlimen Digital was an event created by several groups of Malaysian youth associations as a virtual mock parliament discussion. It saw the involvement of 222 youth representing actual constituencies and discussing debate questions and economic challenges along with how to overcome them.
Despite it being a mock, it was an insightful debate — one that lacked interruptions and criticisms that we’d typically see in a parliament. It showed a glimpse of how Malaysia’s youth are well-educated but are currently fighting to be heard.
Thus, to everyone in doubt, we mustn’t abandon our country in this disarray but help it thrive.
When young people are given an opportunity to be more engaged with politics, we’re definitely the driving force of our nation.
After a year of ups and downs, are we still capable of growing from it and becoming a better Malaysia?
In November 2019, Putri Tanjung, an Indonesian youth aged 23 years old was invited by President Jokowi to be a special staff member for the president. He said, “You need to be involved in business. Give the government insights and expertise of the younger generation.” Under the advisers of the presidential board, she has inspired numerous young people in developing their entrepreneurial mind.
In order to move forward, Malaysia must majorly invest in what is important — its youth. We’ve been increasing our voices day by day, hoping to be heard, hoping to get the same recognition and backing from the government just like other countries have.
So, from a passionate youth, please turn your ears and listen to our cries.
As the saying goes, the youth are the future of the nation. When we invest in the future, perhaps we’d have a shot at achieving our goals of a better Malaysia by 2030.
Afrina Arfa is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s in Business (Hons) Finance and Economics at Taylor's University. She is currently an active member of Taylor’s Orientation Leaders and Taylor’s ETC Magazine Club.
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