Few years ago, I sat down and talked to a local lady. Here we manage to discuss the entrepreneurial scenery in the country. I lamented at her how many of my friends are frustrated for not being able to take part in consulting the government to enhance their entrepreneurship policy programmes.
“There are many bright young people I know who just wanted to propose ideas for the public sector in this area, that if implemented would have us, young entrepreneurs, and the nation better of as a whole. But their hopes just shatter when no one was there to show up or to at least hear us. Furthermore there is no obvious person in charge we could go to,” I commented.
The lady who worked in the private sector then replied, somewhat angrily over what I say on the reasons I do not know why, how “my friends and I are naturally ignorant.” She then continued how “people my age (I was then seventeen) would be better off to stay quiet.”
“You think you guys know, but you do not. But all of you are ignorant.” She commented, “So be quiet.”
If there is such a thing as disempowerment that was it. Looking back at the experience I do not feel angry over the lady. I only feel sad and disappointed. In a rapidly changing world, how can we, the young people, just stay quiet? Why was there the need for her to want to exclude a large part of the society (youth makes up over 45% of the populace) from suggesting ideas such as the national entrepreneurship policy?
As a rule, a great nation has never exclude any part of her society from ever trying to suggest or give ideas for the state to implement. When Andalusia, the great Islamic civilization based in Spain, entered its Golden Age, it was an age where everyone can suggest ideas and take part in the decision making process. Jews, Christians, and Muslims were brothers and sisters alike, and all were equal before the law set by the Caliphate.
The civilization grew into one of the most powerful, richest, and civilized empire in its time. It is here where Greek and Roman philosophy was saved and regenerated, and infused to trigger what would eventually be known as the Renaissance. Had there be no Andalusia, Europe would have stuck in the Dark Ages and as a result history would have been significantly different today.
What made Andalusia so great? Simply, they have an inclusive framework. An inclusive framework is a public policy theory conjured by the authors of “Why Nations Fail”, a book highly recommend by many leaders today, where it is defined as a framework to enable society to suggest and to have a say in the national policy process regardless of their differences.
Those nations that implement this usually succeeds in the long-run, the authors of “Why Nations Fail” argued.
An exact opposite of the inclusive phenomenon is what they would call “extractive framework”. It is a process to discredit and to exclude segments of populations from the decision making process. When Andalusia fell under the yoke of the Christian Spanish conquerors, they introduced the inquisition, a process to weed out Muslim and Jewish elements in the former seat of Islamic empire. Quickly the civilization disintegrated. Many Jews and Muslims fell and those who lived, escaped.
As karma would have it, Spain subsequently destroyed itself from the inside with the divisive, extractive nature of its framework. According to Harvard historian Nail Ferguson in his great book “Ascent of Money”, Spain subsequently experienced twenty-thee civil wars, went bankrupt over sixteen times, and was humiliatingly conquered by neighboring state, the French Republic.
In this rapidly changing world, no one should be left out in the policy making process. To exclude them is to slow down national growth. Next, the nation would lose out ideas, mostly fresh and new ones, and worse, will only succeed in making its citizens largely self-interested and passive devoid from any long-lasting contribution to the country. Young people has to be included in the process. This is important for Bruneian society to learn and to understand if intends to build Wawasan 2035 successfully.
If Brunei implemented a more pro-inclusive framework policy, such as in its entrepreneurship programme policy, it will stand a better chance of adjusting itself with the changing ages. The state, the people, and the nation will be better off in the long-run. Brunei will also improve remarkably when it comes to allocating its finite resources, Oil and Gas to ultimately diversify and strengthen its economic base.
Which goes back to the experience which I faced when I was advised by the lady to stay quiet just because “we were young” and “hence ignorant”. No. I do not believe anyone is better of just because he or she is “different”, especially if that difference is based on age.
A kid might have better ideas on fixing a problem than a double PhD would do. The difference in this situation is, are both given the opportunity to say their ideas? Or would the boy be shut from the room, while the double PhD got all the ears? The former shows an inclusive framework, while the latter extractive.
Next, in the matter of wartime decision, wouldn’t the able strategist shape his decisions by the vast options held before him rather than having to recourse of only one? Common sense shows the former. The more information the better the decisions would be.
An inclusive framework as a rule involves society to have a say in the national decision process no matter the “difference” that may entail. An extractive framework, on the other hand, excludes segments of societies by any “difference” there is, such as age. For Brunei to succeed it in the long-run has to implement a pro-inclusive framework.
The lady would then argue how the youths do not know anything beyond “playing their PS3 games or iPhones”. There are cases in which that is obviously very true. No one is eager to include a Sixth Form student to make a NASA spacecraft.
But there is a great difference by means of attitude resulting from inclusive and extractive framework. In an extractive framework, that Sixth Form student would be told off to continue his studies or to be asked to keep quiet.
Within an inclusive framework, the NASA people would at least give the child that bit of exposure to give out ideas and suggestions. The attitude would also be encapsulated as follows: “Tell me your ideas. It is OK if you are wrong. Do not worry. At least you tried. And even if you fail, from these failures you can you improve yourself. And from these failure can you derive strength and inspiration from. So when the time comes, you can join us or at least make great changes to your chosen field of endeavor one day. But if you do succeed then congrats!”
Why do young people matter? Afterall Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were children once. Even one of the great American physicist and Nobel Prize winner, Richard Feynman derived his early inspiration to dive into physics from his father quizzing him about sciences in his early childhood.
Thus to reply to the lady earlier is this (if she is reading this right now): If we do not give the youths a chance then we will never know. Next, if we exclude them, they will in turn become passive, self-interested citizen devoid from making any lasting contribution to the country.
But if we do involve them, we might just be surprised by the ideas they have. And if they do fail to come up with ideas, there is no stopping the determined from becoming better the next time around.
What is the objective of this article? It is to request all decision-makers to realize that having a pro-inclusive framework greatly enhances the chances of Brunei to adjust in the changing realities of the 21st century. Doing so would also give the youths the chance to share their ideas. Even if their ideas are bad, at least it gives them the empowerment to make further changes knowing that their ‘ideas were heard and considered’. For ideas that are good, then it will be better off for the entire nation.
In the bid of building Wawasan 2035, Brunei has to build a pro-inclusive framework to close the ranks of her people to enjoin the cause that would make us better off in the end. No one should be left behind just because they are different, especially on age.
However the inclusive framework policy has its limitations: if the people or student do not show up or stay quiet when asked, then what is the point of the public sector of holding, say, an “ideas forum” in the first place? What is the point of engaging the “unengaged public”? Both programmes will only waste government’s money.
But let it be bear in mind that there is a long-road ahead and if we persist in this process, we can increase the chance of digging out the treasure in people. And treasures are a rare find. But once found will make every effort worth the patience.
Also apart from Oil and Gas, our next treasure is none other than Human Capital. Thus we must enhance the country’s Human Capital to drive up economic and national growth. Nothing intensifies the unlocking of that hidden treasure by involving the youth in the decision making process through a pro-inclusive national framework.
In regards to this article, I ultimately call for the creation of a pro-inclusive national entrepreneurship policy programme that would include representatives from both the government and private sector, and those from the rest of the society who is interested, such as students or teachers to suggest ideas that would be aimed at building roadmap to enhance entrepreneurship in the country. Everyone should be given the chance to suggest ideas. As said, if the ideas are bad, so what? They can learn to be better in the end. If the ideas are good, then I see why we should not consider or implement it.