Are the similarities strong and deep and the differences shallow? Or vice versa?
Are we moved to say, "there but for the grace of god/gods/fate, goeth I"?
Or does success breeds certainty in predestination?
The contrasting fates of S’pore and M’sia
By Devadas Krishnadas
"...Despite where things stand, Singapore’s future is not necessarily more assured than Malaysia’s."
Fifty years ago, Singapore was ejected from the Malaysian Federation. The two countries have since travelled very divergent paths while sharing some common characteristics. Both countries were colonised by the British, both were occupied by the Japanese during the World War II, both are multi-racial and multi-religious, and both have experienced considerable economic improvement since independence.
They also have significant differences. These differences should have been telling in favour of Malaysia. It was the hinterland for the Singapore economy. It had land, a multi-source commodity economy and a sizeable population. Singapore found itself suddenly distinct from its major market, dependent on Malaysia for water and faced with the hurdles of setting up shop as a newly sovereign state.
However, today, Singapore has celebrated its 50th year of independence in the best possible shape — politically stable, economically promising and socially affluent.
Malaysia, in contrast, lags behind Singapore on these counts. Putrajaya’s credibility has been undermined by its handling of the controversy over 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The political landscape is poisoned by suspicion and distrust among the races.
The Malaysian economy is running on fumes. The ringgit is at a 17-year low as investor confidence bleeds away.
Malaysia has for decades suffered a brain drain of its most talented, with Singapore a major beneficiary.
What lessons can be learnt from this dichotomy that seemed so unlikely 50 years ago?
FINDING THE RIGHT LEADERSHIP
First, what seemed like a disadvantage — not having a resource economy to rely on — proved to be a blessing for Singapore. The absence of the easy option of selling natural resources forced the Republic to focus intently on finding a myriad ways of making herself relevant to the global economy. This continues to be a perennial preoccupation for Singapore’s economic planners.
Second, an emphasis on human capital. Singapore’s leaders recognised that to make a go of things, it had only the quality of the people to rely on. Hence, it had to mobilise the full extent of Singapore’s human capital and to deal with the world on a competitive basis. This led to a decision to make English the language of commerce, administration and education and heavy investments into public education.
The high level of literacy and education among Singaporeans has been a major factor in ensuring that our workforce is plugged into the global economy.
Malaysia chose to adopt Malay as its language of administration and education, and its public education infrastructure leaves much to be desired. The result is a population whose most-driven opt for private education to help actualise their educational and professional aspirations.
Third, from the onset Singapore adopted the principal of meritocracy. Malaysia chose to legalise racial preference through the bumiputra policy. Its politics are also explicitly organised along racial lines. The end result of the choice of meritocracy is a Singapore where there is social mobility, reward for achievement and a sense of fair play. People vote with their feet, and Singapore has been the beneficiary of decades of talent migration from across the border.
Fourth, integrity. Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s pioneer administration set a hard and uncompromising standard of incorruptibility. This reputation for political and administrative integrity has had positive spillover effects as a generally desired social value in private and economic spheres as well. Malaysia, in contrast, has been dogged by decades of allegations of impropriety, of which the ongoing case involving 1MDB is merely the latest.
However, despite where things stand, Singapore’s future is not necessarily more assured than Malaysia’s.
First, while Malaysia can continue to reply on resource extraction, Singapore is in a permanent state of economic competition. The Republic’s success has been paralleled by rising costs that make it less cost competitive. Singapore now faces competition from rising regional neighbours and from changing global chains, most particularly the opening-up of the north and north-west trade routes in the Arctic.
Second, Singapore is facing hard constraints on land and population. Malaysia has space and people to spare. Singapore has to adapt its way past these constraints through innovation in land use and with significant labour productivity improvements.
Third, neither Malaysians nor global investors have high expectations of Malaysian political and bureaucratic leaders. This is in contrast to Singapore, where both the population and investors treat a high standard of political and public leadership as synonymous with Singapore and a critical success factor.
The recurring political question for Singapore is, can it continue to find the right leadership for each generation? The formula of using academic achievement to filter out those to lead is simplistic and naive. So much of what constitutes leadership is not what is in the head, but what is in the heart. The exam for the heart is life, struggle, hardship and failure — the very opposite of unrelenting success, career ease and guaranteed professional validation.
Singapore’s greatest risk is not that we cannot find leaders, it is that we may not find the ones that really matter. We must not lose sight of what leading should mean and assume that we can administratively churn out leaders.
The more pertinent tale of two countries is ultimately not about Singapore and Malaysia — although there are lessons to be heeded — but between Singapore past and the Singapore to come.
Singapore is a hard act to follow. The contrast in performance with Malaysia is stark. But Malaysia’s future as a nation is not in doubt. Singapore’s future, however, is highly conditional. As we celebrate 50 years of independence, we would do well to keep in mind that there is no certainty that we will have another 50.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Devadas Krishnadas is chief executive of Future-Moves Group, an international strategic consultancy and executive education provider based in Singapore. This commentary first appeared on his Facebook page.
Ambassador Bilahari’s random musings after being part of NDP 2015
August 10, 2015
"We are, an impending General Election notwithstanding, at peace with ourselves."
We ought to give Tunku Abdul Rahman the Order of Temasek for kicking us out of Malaysia. Third class will do.
After all, Dr Goh Keng Swee has the First Class Order, and of all the members of our then Cabinet, it was Dr Goh who first realised that Singapore in Malaysia was unsustainable and negotiated us the best possible exit under the circumstances.
These rather irreverent thoughts came to me after listening to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day speech on August 8 and watching the National Day Parade the next day. I was too hyped up to sleep and odd thoughts drift into one’s mind in the wee hours of the morning. But I am not entirely joking.
I was 11 years old in 1965 and not unusually for a young kid, totally indifferent to politics. The curfews imposed after the racial riots of the previous year were only so many days off from school to me. My parents must have been sick with worry. But if I shared their concern, I do not remember.
It was only when I watched the TV broadcast of the press conference of then PM Lee Kuan Yew breaking down when announcing Separation as it was politely termed, that something of the apprehension that PM Lee spoke of in his National Day speech penetrated my consciousness as an inchoate, hollow feeling of indefinable uncertainty.
That I watched the broadcast at all – cartoons were my preferred TV fare – was due to my father who worked for Radio & Television Singapore (RTS) and called home to insist, on pain of a spanking, that I did so. In his memoirs, Mr Lee Kuan Yew was kind enough to credit my father [P.S. Raman] with persuading him not to cut the footage of him in tears. Today that ‘moment of anguish’ is one of the icons of our history.
We are at peace with ourselves.
What a long way we have come. Fifty years is but the blink of an eye in a nation’s history.
I don’t think I need belabour the contrast with Malaysia. Anyway no need to take my word for it. Yesterday I came across what Julia Yeow, a Malaysian journalist, had to say about the two very different countries we have become: “Singapore’s worldview has become that of a global nation, where their activists fight for a quality of life which they believe citizens of a developed nation should enjoy. We, on the other hand, battle a political system that is rife with corruption and have to endure the unending bickering over the role of Islam in our Constitution …”
Of course we are not without our problems.
Singaporeans worry about MRT breakdowns, the price of public housing, COEs, how to spend their CPF and columbariums. Not to make light of such grumbles, but they can and are being fixed and we are, an impending General Election notwithstanding, at peace with ourselves. We don’t have to reckon with billions inexplicably missing from government coffers and growing religious and racial tensions: whatever they may say, the Low Yat Plaza affray in Kuala Lumpor was a racial riot and vividly exposed what a tinderbox Malaysia has become.
When I watched the mobile column rumble pass at NDP, a reminder of the SAF’s understated power, I thought about earlier NDPs.
In 1966, my friends and I were in Secondary One and had just joined the Army Cadet Corps, the predecessor of the NCC. Only a few schools had Cadet Corps in those days, five if memory does not betray me. We were hastily given uniforms vaguely similar to ‘real’ army uniforms – Army Cadets wore khaki shorts and puttees in those days – and told to march. And march we did, no doubt awkwardly but with pride: in 1966, 1967 and 1968, carrying World War II vintage Lee Enfield Mark 4 rifles sans firing pins!
It was only very much later that it occurred to me that the SAF then being almost non-existent, we were probably there to swell the ranks to instil confidence. Those were desperate days.
When we were expelled from Malaysia, Kuala Lumpor had three instruments that they thought would keep us under their thumb and perhaps bring us crawling back: the military, water and the economy.
By the terms of the Separation Agreement, Malaysia has the right to station its armed forces in Singapore. But not too long after the 1969 NDP revealed we had armour, the Malaysians withdrew their ground forces.
A strong SAF also keeps the Malaysians honest about water. They know Singaporeans are not going to die of thirst peacefully. If we are going to give the Tunku a decoration, we ought to consider one for Dr Mahathir too because his ranting more than anything else persuaded Singaporeans to accept New Water. We have not renewed the 1961 water agreement. And when the 1962 agreement comes up for renewal, we can now decide on purely commercial grounds whether or not to buy water from Malaysia.
As for the economy, on our National Day, one Malaysian Ringgit could buy you about 35 Singapore cents. ‘Nuff said
I sometime think all this is more evident to foreigners than to some Singaporeans. I know of a few western journalists who used to delight in knocking us but upon retirement choose to settle here rather than in their own countries. I know too of some ex-foreign Ambassadors who have done the same.
Yesterday I also came across another article by a Singaporean journalist who seems to specialize in denigrating Singapore for Malaysian publications.
She grudgingly acknowledged our achievements but felt obliged to point out that Singapore was not a poor fishing village in 1965. Of course the Singapore we enjoy today did not spring into being fully formed on 9th August 1965. That is obvious. But what we have achieved since by dint of integrity, pragmatism and sweat over fifty years is our own achievement as a sovereign and independent nation. I don’t understand why she could not understand this or what she was trying to insinuate. She can’t be that obtuse. Perhaps that’s the only way she can sell her articles to Malaysian newspapers.
[Her article below. Alfian Sa'at also made a big deal of the "Singapore was not a fishing village in 1965, lah" point. There is a rebuttal in the middle of this post. Of course, that rebuttal was more pointed because Alfian Sa'at is a playwright, while the journalist is not.]
And this brings me to the last of these rambling reflections.
In his National Day speech, PM Lee Hsien Loong described our first generation leaders and our pioneer generation as “lions and the lion hearted”. I don’t know if the allusion was intentional but it was an inversion of a phrase that was used to describe incompetent World War I British Generals who caused the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of brave British soldiers – lions – during battles such as the Somme, Vimey Ridge and Passchendaele: ‘lions led by donkeys’. A reminder of the irreplaceable need for excellence in leadership if we are to survive and prosper for another fifty years.
Happy National Day everyone!
Ambassador Bilahari Kausikan is Policy Advisor with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
[Below is, I believe, the article referred to by Bilahari. ]
Singapore is not 50 years old
August 9, 2015
Surekha A. Yadav
We are more than just the past 50 years.
August 9, 2015. Fifty years in the making. Months of SG50 euphoria has placed a lot of pressure on this rare and wondrous occasion: a four-day weekend.
We have all looked forward to it since March, when the announcement was made. What would we do, we asked? Some bought flights which quickly led to a chastising by Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob – urging us to stay in Singapore to celebrate the fact that we’ve been a nation for 50 years.
Which is great — of course. Headlines from some of the major publications (including a gushing piece by home-grown academic Kishore Mahubani in The Huffington Post) declare Singapore’s five decades of state building a resounding success. Mahubani, in fact, calls Singapore the most successful society in history.
I wouldn’t go that far, but our Little Red Dot is without a doubt an exceptionally successful city.
Even more than the statistics — $500 (RM1,416) to $55,000 GDP capita, our excellent human development indicators, the HDB experiment all often trotted out by nation-praising pundits — I think what best bears testament to Singapore’s success is its utter uniqueness.
We are the world’s only major sovereign city state: independent, influential, multicultural and prosperous.
This is a real achievement, absolutely worth celebrating, and I have no interest in spoiling the party.
Instead, I just want to say as we watch the sky light up tonight in a stunning celebration of our efficiency, energy and ever-increasing wealth, please remember that we are more than just the past 50 years.
While the current administration must be given credit for steering the nation to a point of exceptional prosperity, one of their consistent follies is the need to belittle what was before.
Singapore in 1965 was no fishing village or barren rock and it was not poor. Certainly not by the standards of the region at the time. At independence, we stood only behind Japan as the second richest nation in Asia.
[Japan's per Capita income in 1965 was about $920 (Current US$). Singapore was $516. Second only to Japan? That is true in a rather untruthful way. We're second and only about half (56%) of Japan's per capita income. To be fair, MY was $333. Philippines was $187. BUT, Brunei was $1112, which is higher than Japan (and since she is nit-picky, that makes Singapore 3rd at most in Asia). And HK in 1965 had per capita GDP of $677. (And so, 4th!).
I guess she has a different definition of "Asia"]
Even more importantly than capita-GDP we had an enterprising population, well-run institutions and a solid economic model.
The Raffles Institution dates back to 1823, Tan Tock Seng Hospital — 1844, The Straits Times — 1845, Keppel Harbor to 1852.
The antecedents of our ministries and civil service all emerged not 50 but over 150 years ago at the time of the Straits Settlement which was established in 1832.
[Still not sure what her point is. If it is to say that there is history before 1965, this is true. This is also true for Malacca, and Penang as well. which leads one to ask, "so?"]
To me, this is what really marks the foundation of the modern state as the settlement included not only Singapore but Penang, Malacca and even Labuan — an assortment of trading ports of which Singapore would emerge as the heart.
That is when we became a centre for regional capital, aspiration and ambition; an entrepot par-excellence and that was the model we would follow.
Just a glance at a photograph of Raffles Place in the 1920s alone will put an end to the fishing village to metropolis in 50 years spiel.
Rather than playing up this trite simplification we should instead embrace the depth of our history.
Before the Straits Settlement, there were Rajas and Sultans and even before that Sang Nila Utama and Temasek. And of course all the races and cultures that now call the island home brought with them their own ancient histories. So though we are told Singapore is a young nation, the truth is we are rich in history and the roots of our success go back a long way.
[Not sure what is her point. If her point is that we are pre-destined to be rich, because we are rich in history, and culture, and tradition, her narrative is even more simplistic, more trite, and more logically suspect than the "fishing village spiel", which, while she quotes, she has not traced the original quote. or put it in context. "Rajas, Sultans and Sang Nila Utama"? Of the three, all the Malay states also have to a greater or lesser extent. Only Sang Nila Utama is perhaps unique to Singapore. Hence for her hypothesis to stand, she needs to state more than just the name "Sang Nila Utama", and how one myopic (or hallucinating) prince set the foundation of Singapore's success in modern times.
Otherwise, she is just quoting the only name she remembers from Secondary school history class.]
By white-washing this fact, we’re doing ourselves a great disservice.
Weeks ago, I watched a delightful production, Another Country. The musical performance was a carefully curated anthology of short stories, historical snippets, poetry and music from Malaya. And in its showcasing of the depth of our literary heritage, it highlights that “Singapore” is by no means the creation of one man or one administration but a collection of thousands, even millions, of individual lives, stories, historical facts and circumstances.
And I think that is worth celebrating.
[And so we have the surrealistic(?) situation of a Malaysian praising Singapore (below), and a Singaporean (above) talking down? complicating? confusing the issue? ]
Singapore’s 50 years of becoming un-Malaysian
Julia has been a journalist for too long, but still counts it as her first love in spite of a brief flirtation with lecturing and the corporate world. She has a friend who calls her naïve for believing that Malaysia could one day rise from the ashes. She hopes to one day prove him wrong.
9 August 2015
As Singapore celebrates its 50th year of independence today, our former bedfellows are in fact toasting a 50-year journey that began with an unceremonious eviction from the Malaysian dream.
It was inevitable that the conditions on how Singapore attained its independence had set the stage for a tense relationship between the two nations, one that would for many years later be defined by distrust and rivalry.
Having been born in Singapore, and still having a small community of friends and family in the island-state, I’ve always had a little bit of an obsession with the “little-red-dot”.
I am intrigued by how different our people have grown to be, and how there always seems to be a feverish attempt by Singapore to distance itself from anything Malaysian (except for our water, of course).
The truth is, there is much to celebrate of the commonalities between Malaysia and Singapore. Both, for one, share a rich, Malay heritage and were once British-ruled.
Singapore’s founding father and stuff of legends, the late Lee Kuan Yew, had worked alongside our Bapa Kemerdekaan Tunku Abdul Rahman in fighting for, and setting the terms of independence from the British almost 60 years ago.
While he later came to despise what he called our leaders’ weakness for communal politics, back then Singapore and Malaysia were one, fighting for the same cause.
Lee had also admitted to feeling more at ease mixing with his Malaysian peers in England’s Cambridge University, than with Chinese nationals whom he felt he had very little more in common with than genetics.
This is a sentiment shared by the citizens of both our nations, which are a beautiful and unique hodgepodge of cultures and races.
Most Malaysians will attest that they feel more connected to their fellow countrymen of a different race, than they would with a person from their country of ethnic origin, and the same goes for Singaporeans.
Unfortunately, though, these are just about all both countries now have in common.
It doesn’t take long for an observer to note the glaring disparity between Singapore and Malaysia.
Singapore’s gross domestic product per capita is one of the highest in the world, while Malaysia continues to struggle to move out from its developing nation status.
While both are multi-cultural societies, Malaysia runs on a policy according special rights to the majority Malay race, while Singapore’s is a brutally merit-based system.
[Why "brutally"? That's like saying, "Mercilessly Fair".]
Singapore is Southeast Asia’s cleanest, and one of the world’s most corrupt-free governments, while Malaysia recently celebrated its jump up a miserable three spots in the Corruption Perceptions Index for 2014 to 52 out of 100.
Singaporeans complain about the government using their retirement fund, the Central Provident Fund, for investments to increase public coffers and reserves, while Malaysians today still have no idea what happened to RM42 billion in losses incurred by state investment arm 1Malaysia Development Berhad, much less be able to demand for a more efficient use of our Employees Provident Fund monies.
Singaporeans’ worldview has become that of a global nation, where their activists fight for a quality of life which they believe citizens of a developed nation should enjoy.
We, on the other hand, battle a political system that is rife with corruption and have to endure the unending bickering over the role of Islam in our Constitution, while urban poverty is slowly but surely rising.
If we had so much in common when both nations started out; if even our people seem to be made of the same stock; and if we in Malaysia have the obvious advantage of a larger talent pool and abundant resources – why are we tailing so far behind?
The obvious answer is not that Singaporeans are more capable (although most of my Singaporean friends will swear that’s the case), but that Singapore has become what it is because of its hard-nosed stance against corruption, and their leaderships' almost-religious passion that the greater good of the nation surpassed all personal glory.
[What's the alternative to a "hard-nosed stance against corruption"? soft-nosed stance? wishy-washy stance? morally negotiable stance? temperamental stance?]
The incidents of the past two weeks in Malaysia have left most Malaysians with a feeling of despair and fatigue –hopes that our government will be forced to be made accountable to allegations of corruption and mismanagement by 1MDB have all but been wiped out with the suspension of the Public Accounts Committee, the disbanding of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission team in charge of 1MDB investigations and the silencing of government critics within the ruling Umno party itself.
We have become the topic of amused discussions all over the world, with international media coverage of the 1MDB debacle making us an object of pity and ridicule.
We have leaders who change their stance as quickly as the tides change, sealing the perception that many of those in power are there purely for self-gratification, and not to serve this nation.
As Singapore celebrates its independence day with pride and sense of accomplishment today, Malaysians are planning to mark our Hari Merdeka at the end of the month with a mammoth street protest against a government far removed from the sentiments of the people it is meant to serve.
The difference between two former compatriots couldn’t get any more jarring.
So Happy Birthday, Singapore, from the country you could have become, but are today far ahead of. – August 9, 2015.
Paper says Singapore better than Malaysia despite authoritarian government
A hard-hitting opinion piece by international business daily Financial Times (FT) has compared Singapore's achievements with Malaysia’s, saying that despite the city-state's tightly controlled society, its ruling party is largely appreciated by Singaporeans due to the success of its socio-economic policies.
In comments on Singapore's Golden Jubilee celebrations yesterday, which marked 50 years since it separation from Malaysia, FT said the difficulties faced by Singapore "paled in comparison with those in Malaysia".
"Not only is Malaysia going through its worst political crisis in years after hundreds of millions of dollars found their way into the bank accounts of (Datuk Seri) Najib Razak, the prime minister," said FT, referring to allegations surrounding Najib in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) saga.
"More critically, Malaysia has been undergoing a long-term meltdown in which the political, religious and ethnic compact that has underpinned the country since independence groans under its own rotten contradictions," said the paper, noting that Singapore's per capita gross domestic product is five times that of Malaysia's.
FT said Malaysia could learn from Singapore, adding that its fight against corruption should start with Najib coming clean on the 1MDB affair, or stepping down.
Drawing comparisons between PAP and Umno, the two political parties which have dominated Singapore and Malaysia respectively since independence, FT said Singaporeans still regarded PAP as "honest and competent", despite recent inroads by opposition parties in the republic.
On the other hand, it said the Malaysian public "senses" that Umno has long fronted a corrupt system.
But the paper acknowledged that both countries are vastly different in terms of demography, and that Singapore's micromanagement style might not work for Malaysia.
"Still, both countries have potentially combustible ethnic mixes. Singapore has done better at forging a sense of fairness and national unity, through language, meritocracy and incorruptibility.
"Malaysia, in the name of protecting Malays through positive discrimination, has by contrast created a crony capitalist state," said FT, calling for the dismantling of religion and race-based policies. – August 10, 2015.
Malaysia can learn from Singapore’s governance
UMNO should lance scandal and overhaul the nation’s rotten system
Fifty years ago, Malaysia expelled Singapore from the federation and the two entities went their separate ways. So distraught was Lee Kuan Yew, then Singapore’s chief minister, that he shed tears in public for the first and last time in his long and extraordinary career. Half a century later, it should be Malaysians who are crying.
Undoubtedly, Singapore has its problems. Its brand of authoritarian guided development has delivered prosperity and produced the world’s slickest city state. But many Singaporeans feel something is missing in their controlled society, a hole that cannot be filled by economic growth. Yet whatever difficulties Singapore faces, these pale in comparison with those of Malaysia. Not only is Malaysia going through its worst political crisis in years after hundreds of millions of dollars found their way into the bank account of Najib Razak, the prime minister. More critically, Malaysia has been undergoing a long-term meltdown in which the political, religious and ethnic compact that has underpinned the country since independence groans under its own rotten contradictions.
For all the doubts that nag at Singapore, from democracy to demography, the city has been an incredible success. Its per capita gross domestic product, $56,000 in nominal terms, is more than five times that of Malaysia’s $11,000.
True, in the post-Lee era, Singapore’s People’s Action party, which has held power since independence, has lost its aura of infallibility. Nearly 40 per cent of Singaporeans voted against it in the last elections. Yet, the PAP is still widely regarded as honest and competent. The same cannot be said for the United Malays National Organisation, which has clung on to power for nearly six decades. Its leader is now embroiled in a scandal linked to state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, which has racked up $11bn in debt. The country’s anti-corruption agency has denied media allegations that $675m in Mr Razak’s account came from 1MDB — it says the money came from an unnamed Middle East donor. Mr Razak denies any wrongdoing. But whatever the truth in that case, UMNO has long fronted a thoroughly corrupt political system. Malaysia’s public senses this. In the 2013 election, UMNO lost the popular vote but scraped into power thanks to an electoral system stacked in its favour. Since then, the state, too often synonymous with UMNO, has turned its guns on the opposition, jailing its leader Anwar Ibrahim, on charges of sodomy.
In one sense comparing the two countries is unfair. Singapore, with a population of only 5m, is a city. Malaysia, with 450 times the land area and a population of 30m, is harder to govern. Lee, Singapore’s founding father who died in March, held Singapore tightly in his mostly benevolent grip. It is hard to see how such micromanagement could have worked in a much bigger country.
Still, both countries have potentially combustible ethnic mixes. Singapore has done better at forging a sense of fairness and national unity, through language, meritocracy and incorruptibility. Malaysia, in the name of protecting Malays through positive discrimination, has by contrast created a crony capitalist state. It should learn from Singapore. It should show zero tolerance for corruption, starting with Mr Najib, who must clear his name or step down. Preferential treatment for Malays should be phased out and the government should forge policies of national unity, not ones of division based on religion or Malay ethnicity. Singapore has created a strong foundation from which it can move forward. Malaysia must stop the rot, or slip disastrously backwards.