Leslie Lopez wrote a good commentary in the Spore Sunday Times today on the Umno annual meeting this week and the challenges facing Pak Lah therein.
Lopez makes the point that if Pak Lah "panders to the narrow interests of Umno" (reviving the patronage machine through govt projects and contracts, threats against Islam), there would be serious economic consequences for the country:
>> slowing foreign investment in Msia in the face of increasing competition from Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam "where pro-business policies and large domestic markets have attracted strong international investor interest" (in this context, MITI must surely have taken note of Intel's decision to set up a US$300 million chip assembly and testing plant in Vietnam, with projected investment anticipated to reach around US$1 billion and the proposed Intel-Micron JV to set up a US$3 billion plant in Spore for manufacturing advanced chips).
Umno bigwigs are fixated on the ethnic division of riches and "preoccupied with the distribution of wealth among themselves and their supporters and not its creation."
Lopez makes the stark conclusion that Msia needs to realise that it's state-directed capitalism has reached it's limits and that the country "needs to liberalise it's economy or risk being ignored by the international investing community."
Can Pak Lah convince Umno to put the interests of the country first? Will the Umno assembly give him the chance "to seize the political initiative" and confound his critics who claim that he has lost focus and is merely trumpeting reformist tunes without delivering on them?