Is Anwar wise to skip Davos? What has Tengku Zafrul brought back from WEF 2023?

IT is always interesting to witness the outcome when two seasoned journalists clash in their opinions – this time if Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has made the right decision to skip the recently concluded World Economic Forum (WEF) 2023 in the renowned Swiss Alps vicinity.

The Malaysian Reserve corporate editor Habhajan Singh in an opinion editorial today reckoned that at the current juncture, “Anwar does not have anything tangible to ‘sell’ at Davos, be it about himself or the nation”.

“The world has followed his struggles, well-documented and widely reported. But those struggles may be a little too distant into the past,” suggested Habhajan who was one of the founding editors of the The Malaysian Reserve which was first published in 2007.

Habhajan Singh

“Thus, it made political sense for Anwar to skip Davos. In doing so, he was able to send two important messages. One, his razor-sharp focus is on the rakyat and the nation. Second, the two administrations prior to him did not leave anything noteworthy.”

Habhajan went on to argue that after its momentous victory in 2018, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government fell not too long later with “the two administrations that followed did not really inspire the nation”.

“Some may argue that they even brought about stagnation, if not actually putting the nation on a reverse gear. So, at this point of time, Malaysia really does not have a success story it can shout out loud,” he opined.

“So, Anwar and his team were wise to give Davos a miss, this time round. Imagine having him globe-trotting before he gets his house in order. That would be embarrassing.”

While praising Anwar for ‘ignoring’ Davos, Habhajan asked International Trade and Industry Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz to justify his presence in Davos, courtesy of the taxpayer.

“For Tengku Zafrul and company who went to Davos on taxpayers’ money, as we would presume, they should give a detailed account as to how their presence in the Alpine resort town in Switzerland has benefited the country,” he cheekily asserted.

“Perhaps, one of the MPs can raise this question when Parliament sits next. The rakyat will rest easy when they know the government’s kitty was not used to splurge on some fanciful tryst or a trifling meeting.”

However, veteran journalist Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar begged to differ, reckoning that WEF 2023 would have been the perfect platform for Anwar – the newly-elected Malaysian PM to make his debut on the world stage.

“And knowing him, Anwar would have made a tremendous impact at the most watched, evaluated and debated platform in the free world – the World Economic Forum (WEF),” he wrote in a commentary in The Star dated Jan 26.

“The four-day WEF that ended on Jan 20 had assembled statesmen, titans of industry, civil society leaders, economists, futurists, thinkers, spies – 2,700 of them from at least 120 countries. The glitterati of the capitalist realm were all there. Unlike politically-laden sessions in the form of G7, APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) and such groupings, this is a unique forum.”

Johan went on to cite former chief executive of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Mohd Herizal Hazri who believes that hat the world is lacking an internationalist as a head of state.

Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar

“Anwar is seen as one – a natural born reformist, an internationalist indeed yet rooted to his strong religious credentials, and very much a nationalist at heart,” opined the 12th recipient of the National Journalism Laureate (Tokoh Wartawan Negara).

In Tengku Zafrul’s defence, Johan noted that the former Finance Minister who represented Malaysia had promoted how business-friendly Malaysia is.

“He wanted participants to know that Malaysia is a quality investment destination,” shared Johan. “Tengku Zafrul was reported to have participated in discussions on the cost of economic fragmentation, supply chain and transport. He was also a panellist in a session entitled ‘Living with Risk’.”

All-in-all, Johan is adamant that Anwar could have made an indelible mark in Davos.

“He is the man at the helm now. He is by far the best-known leader from Asean. And he is still in touch with the bigwigs of the world stage. It is true he was hardly 54 days in office when WEF began. And he has lots of issues at home,” reckoned the former chairman of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) and Media Prima Bhd.

“But this is one platform made for someone like him. A platform that awaits no one. I was hoping he would be there to help set the agenda for the future, a tradition that we have lost due to incompetent and inward-looking leaders.”

Added Johan: “Anwar could have mesmerised this year’s participants with his vision of the current and future world. He excels on such a stage.” – Jan 31, 2023

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