AUGUST 3, 2020


THE GREAT RESET – 100 days of Malaysia’s Triple Crisis




Since the start of 2020, Malaysians are being confronted with an unprecedented triple crisis, which has exposed the  inherent vulnerabilities in our nation’s political, public health and economic systems. 

And yet, as the old saying goes, every crisis is an opportunity, so it is the right time for us to start afresh. Hit the reset button. Build back a better system – economically, politically, and socially. 

Moderated by REFSA Researcher Ithrana Lawrence, in this online book launch, the author and panelists called for a Great Reset to restart and rebuild economic and social activities in a manner that safeguards  and supports an equitable recovery for all.



Dato’ Dr Ooi Kee Beng, Executive Director of Penang Institute, commented that countries may be turning more nationalistic since the COVID-19 crisis. To prevent this, he suggested working towards the ‘regionalising of nationalism,’ as closing down borders is not a long term solution.

On the topic of change, he highlighted that change is largely generational and that the older generations may talk about reform, but in practice they are more likely to take the route they are most comfortable with. For change to happen, he urged the nation to make room for the youth, as change usually comes from them.

Frederik Paulus, Economic Advisor of REFSA and Senior Fellow of Penang Institute, stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has seriously disrupted the global supply chains due to how connected the world was before the crisis. The next 2-3 years would be disruptive as some sectors, such as tourism, may be depressed for a prolonged period, while vaccines may not be readily available to the mass anytime soon. 

He highlighted that the economy is the aggregate effect of all the decisions we make as individuals, which are in turn based on external constraints and our internal beliefs. As such, the pandemic may cause behavioural change that alters consumption and spending habits, depressing some sectors but lifting others.

Hence, the current economic model, should be revisited, and nations should consider a great reset economically and socially , with the government playing a more active role to smooth the transition and lay the foundation for the future.

Wan Hamidi Hamid, Media Advisor of DAP, former Editor in Chief for the Rocket and former Deputy Director of REFSA opined that in the context of Malaysia, resets are usually caused by political factors, e.g. the government or National Operations Council attempt to make a reset after May 13, 1969 and the judiciary crisis in the late 1980s. 

He opined that racial politics is a large part of Malaysian politics, however,  one does not need to fall into the frame but rather simply navigate around it. Wan Hamidi is hopeful that the future generation will come out with new ideas and warned against copying previous models or merely reinventing the wheel.

Liew Chin Tong, DAP National Political Education Director, former Deputy Minister of Defence and author of the book stressed that as a nation, we have come to the end of a period, and familiar ideas are being challenged due to the changing landscape of geopolitics.

He started by drawing upon his experience as a Deputy Defence Minister, highlighting that with superpowers clashing at Malaysia’s doorstep, (in the South China Sea and in the Indian and Pacific Ocean) maritime defence becomes crucial. 

He opined that Malaysia’s current economic model of competing on low wages with neighbouring countries and exporting overseas may be coming to an end, not least due to global economic climate shaped by the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 and the COVID 19 pandemic where countries have “no place to export to,” among others because the middle class is struggling around the globe.

Here too, a great reset is needed: Malaysians need to be paid better so that our nation can consume locally without relying on private debt.

Politically, Chin Tong highlighted that there are great opportunities to reset the scene in this dark period. He believes that future governments in this country would likely be formed by coalitions, hence how to create stable coalitions would be key.

Lastly, he emphasised the need to redefine what we identify as Malaysian, highlighting the importance of not being absorbed in domestic definitions of race but to see beyond that, and focus on redefining ‘us being Malaysian citizens vis-a-vis the world’.

Without these efforts, we will not be able to build a society for all, but remain stuck in the same debate as the last 15-20 years.

Video excerpts of the Book Launch (3mins each)

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