By Hamzah Fansuri

IPOH, Malaysia: It all started out when a long established think-tank tried to reinvent itself as a consultancy in the hope of earning big bucks. One must discern the nuanced roles of the research institute or think tank and the consultancy. Think of them as distinct players in the orchestra of knowledge and problem-solving.
Picture the research institute or think-tank as the intellectual maestro, orchestrating symphonies of insight. Their mission? To delve into the intricacies of societal quandaries, harmonizing data and ideas to create a melodic discourse. The audience? Diverse and discerning – from policymakers to the ordinary citizen. These institutions, funded by a mosaic of sources, seek the high notes of independence, producing resonant research papers and policy briefs. Their impact, measured in the cadence of informed decision-making, ripples through the corridors of power.
Now, shift the spotlight to the consultancy, a pragmatic virtuoso in the business arena. Here, the clientele is the exclusive front-row audience – private enterprises, government agencies, seeking not a symphony of ideas but a tangible, actionable score. The consultancy, funded by the currency of expertise, dances to a quicker tempo. With a laser focus on immediate challenges, they deliver a crescendo of solutions, implementing strategies and hands-on assistance. Their success, judged in the applause of satisfied clients and the balance sheets of effective implementation.
Think of the research institute as the steady river, carving its path through the terrain of knowledge with a timeless commitment. Meanwhile, the consultancy operates as a nimble stream, adapting swiftly to the contours of current challenges.
However this transformation was doomed from the start, none of its stakeholders in the government were informed. Aside from keeping its patrons in the dark, key research personnel were booted out, on the grounds that they were too academic and not understood by the public.
Meanwhile, successive heads of the outfit were non subject matter experts who were unwilling to engage with the media. In the meantime, the Board of Trustees increasingly took a major role in the operations of the think tank. At times even acting rogue by organising events against the National Interest such as opposing the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
The government on the other hand, were not oblivious to these maneuvers. They obliged by having photo ops with the leaders of the outfit but refused to give them funding, not even a single sen.
In the latest episode of this long running saga, they organised their premier flagship event at an upbeat location and made it free for most of the participants. As one would expect, naturally they are now in a precarious financial position.
Not able to meet the Prime Minister nor the Minister of Economics, its senior Board Members are frantically trying to meet Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) point man on economic policy to save the sinking outfit. 
Interestingly enough they cannot bring the head of the outfit along because that person is a foreigner with a PR status (red ic). To complicate matters, the office bearer is not even an economics graduate, but instead a religious studies major.
Thus, the process of transforming a think tank into a consultancy has terribly gone awry. But why should the taxpayers bail them out?