It is becoming clear that Malaysians are now beginning to struggle with the “deficiency needs” on Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs.
The inability to meet basic psychological needs, as expressed in Maslow’s Theory (see chart above), is growing more serious and could leave many people struggling.
Many other countries are taking quick strategic action to protect their people from a looming food supply chain breakdown and soaring price hikes that will make essential goods unaffordable for the masses.
Global news reports tell us that countries like India, Thailand and Indonesia are restricting exports of essential commodities and stockpiling imported raw resources like fuel and wheat to prepare for an expected long-drawn global crisis.
Somehow, many Malaysians are experiencing a serious deficit in meeting psychological needs, namely ‘esteem’ and a sense of ‘belonging’ or trust needs. The inability to meet basic ‘physiological’ and ‘safety’ needs is growing and turning into a nightmare for many.
Political instability and the absence of strong, inspiring leadership underlie public frustrations.
The Ismail Sabri Yaakob government’s stop-gap measures are not gaining public trust nor are they reassuring the masses. Just look at the brickbats from the public.
Take the latest announcement that food importers need not apply for approved permits. This free-for-all attempt to reduce shortages and curb price hikes for essential goods smacks of the government washing its hands off the responsibility of safeguarding the ‘physiological’ and psychological needs of its people.
How can we depend on food importers to fight unprecedented inflation? Remember, our ringgit is also weakening against foreign currencies.
How can we pin our hopes on national reserves when fuel is in short supply the world over and some countries have collapsed or are saddled with huge national debt?
Here are some creative potential solutions that the government should have thought out. At least, it should listen to the voices of concerned people.
Tell the public the truth about the global geopolitical scenario. Stop rolling out the red carpet and holding up banners to welcome leaders returning from important overseas stints.
Shape up the civil service. The decades-long ‘holiday’ within a cocoon of guaranteed jobs is over. Redeploy and prepare the huge civil service to deliver with strategic preparations for an emergency.
Get residential areas to start community farming, ‘gotong-royong’-style, to ensure that the daily basic food needs of families can be met at lower cost.
The government must mobilise aid. Supply free top soil to residential areas, as developers have depleted the topsoil in many areas. Provide seeds and seedlings to grow vegetables and fruits.
Deploy agricultural ministry staff to guide residents on the proper techniques to grow and harvest cash crops.
Engage the communications ministry to go on overdrive to disseminate information and raise awareness of how to meet the people’s esteem level of needs.
Review our national food bowls like Cameron Highlands. Impose export limits and ensure cartels do not bully the authorities.
Come up with up nationwide programme to educate the people on how to save energy, promote effective energy use and slash energy waste.
Tackle nationwide traffic jams, which have been vastly ignored. Stop preaching about using public transport when point-to-point mobility is so disjointed and inconvenient.
Cease all political warring and battles for survival. Hold all parties responsible for protecting, guaranteeing and tackling widening food and safety concerns.
Come up with tax incentives for manufacturers of essential commodities and rein in a national service culture among the business community.
If need be, the government must guarantee a payback of special incentives to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and manufacturers when the economy stabilises. It is better than borrowing with interest from foreign powers.
We are running out of time to make our domestic economy more resilient and vibrant against growing global instability.
Ismail Sabri needs to engage local brains – irrespective of political, racial and religious differences – and put in motion a vast machinery to stem the national slide on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
There is no room for failure. We can either race against the clock to stem the slide or collapse into chaos.