TOWARDS A VALUE-LADEN PLANNING DOCTRINE
According to a recent newspaper headline, the possibility of achieving Vision 2020 targets appeared to be uncertain. This is mostly due to the current economic problems.
It would be sad if this has to happen. Many Malaysians have psyched up to deal with the nine challenges first proposed by the Prime Minister, Dato Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad about seven years ago.
Nevertheless, even if the economic dimension of the Vision is not achievable by 2020, there is no reason why the other challenges cannot be pursued with the same amount of zeal.
Malaysians can still improve upon its intangible assets, like values for example. It is anticipated that values would become imperative in all areas of life in the next century. Everyone should consider doing a quick check on his or her value system.
Actually, failure to maximise our value system can have a negative impact on other more tangible indicators, like productivity, profitability and accountability. Actual figures to prove this are hard to come by, but a random observation should be sufficient to substantiate it.
One notable example is our value system in relation to treating the environment. We have to admit that some of us have made blunders in term s of taking too many things for granted as far as environmental care is concerned. Now, we have to bear the brunt. It is unfortunate that so much time and resources have to be dispensed towards correcting the ecological imbalances that Man have consciously or subconsciously engineered.
Imagine, if only a value-laden planning and development strategy has been subscribed to by our planners and developers from the very beginning, then we would not have to face an environmental crisis of this magnitude. Furthermore, our resources can be fully utilised towards combating the more provocative economic crisis.
The growth of the economy prior to the 1997, the increase in the population and the augmentation of urbanization have signalled the need to formulate a comprehensive and dynamic planning and development policy which focuses on an enduring and balanced spiritual and material development.
Degraded environment, including the breaking down of the natural life support system is becoming a reality. Depletion of the land and soil, destruction of water catchment areas, and deforestation of green belts are the outstanding environmental problems.
Despite determined efforts by the local authorities, some of the more common negative effects of urbanization still refuse to go away. For example, pockets of overcrowded squatter communities which lack basic sanitation, clean water-supply, waste-disposal facilities and adequate recreational services still persist. It has been argued that one of the root causes of these societal and ecological problems is the inadequacy of Malaysia’s planning and development policy.
Thus far, Malaysia’s planning and development policy has mimicked its former colonial master, the British. The concept of Garden City put forth by Ebenezer Howard in 1902 led to the creation, among the British middle-class, champions of the ‘Garden City’. The ‘Garden City’ movement propagated the idea of a comprehensive planning where business ventures could be harmoniously mixed with the development of suburbs with a general plan to control growth.
Many people have taken exceptions to the “Garden City” concept of planning and development. Thus, began the normative approach which consists of two relevant features. Firstly, development is value-Iaden, involving human attitude and preferences, self-defined goals and criteria for determining what are tolerable costs to be borne in the course of change.
These are far more important than better resource allocation, upgrading of skills, or the rationalization of administrative procedures. Secondly, it is a multifaceted concept which is best expressed as the human ascent in the integral humanity, including the economic, biological, psychological, social, cultural, ideological, spiritual, mystical and transcendental dimensions.
Apart from economic growth, there must also be social justice since people prefer to live in a society, where our sense of well-being is influenced by the way others in the same society live. Similarly, other people’s wellness is somewhat dependent on our way of life. This interdependency cannot be ignored by a society aiming for a meaningful and sustainable development. The actions of both the producers and consumers have ecological implications. If not properly governed, these may result in an environmental crisis.
Today’s world environmental crisis is a case in point. It has become a concern for all mankind. Failure to address this issue through the various programs thus far implemented signifies the need to have a deeper understanding of the malaise and strikes out at the root values where religion is most potent.
There is also a need to recognise the role of religion in establishing guidelines in efforts to protect the environment, while we move gracefully forward towards economic success. The intensity of religious commitment and the growing prevalence of religion in the world, despite modernization and globalization, is indeed a healthy sign.
One particular dimension of planning stands out from other moments in history, that is the ability of the Islamic civilization to produce, shape and maintain citizens of a high calibre, intellectually and morally, bound only by their complete submission to their religious precepts. Therefore, this may possibly be the key to the problems of planning. While modem planning tend to address physical, economic, social and environmental problems, the Islamic approach looks at the total man (insan).
As for the physical world, Islam subscribes to the “design earth” concept, which states that the world was created by God who provides a profound spiritual relationship towards all aspects of nature. There exists a strong link which binds God, man and nature. God created both man and nature, the former being given total jurisdiction over the latter.
The Islamic precept is based on an Islamic way of life which implies living in peace and harmony with oneself, with fellow being and with everything else that God has created, including the environment. The misuse of God’s creation, may be interpreted as a transgression of the absolute authority of God. This is in line with the concept of the ordained role of man as God’s trustees on earth.
Thus, the theocentric strategies for planning and development need to be adopted. Malaysian planners find it imperative to free themselves from the foreign-based concepts that have little or no relevance to the country’s specific problems.
Two years ago a groups of them gathered to ask the question: “Is there a way out?” Looking at the tradition of sound city planning evident during the period of Islamic dominance over the world, they tried to draw lessons that would be relevant to solving the current problems faced by the developing Malaysia.
Thus, what is now known as the Total Planning and Development Doctrine, has been put forth. The most important aspect of the doctrine is the emphasis on the integration of spiritual and moral values into planning and development.’ These values should be reflective of the relationships between, Man and his Creator, fellow human beings, the environment and technology.
The doctrine requires that as far as planning and development are concerned, all micro urban decisions of the public, and macro urban decision of the planners and policy-makers, must be guided by theocentricity (God-centred and revelation based), rather than authropocentricity (purely based on human intellect and rational). The universal values and development principles embedded within the doctrine are aimed at achieving and maintaining “As-Salam” (security, peace and tranquillity) and “Al-Falah” (victory, prosperity and profit).
As for the implementation, it has the potential to be workable. This is due to the fact that the eco-systems in Malaysia is still reasonably well-preserved. There is a vast area of natural and virgin forest. Urbanization is still manageable and has yet to come to a point of diseconomical. And last but not least, the universal values are still very much in evidence in the daily practices of Malaysians. The potential for the doctrine to be successful is there.