Corruption:Things are never as bad as they seem, says Malaysia’s Idris Jala

Waldorf-Astoria, New York City

wall-street-bullThe Wall Street  Bull, NYC

June 25, 2013

MY COMMENT: There is corruption but it is not bad as theySAM_0232 seem, says Malaysia’s super salesman aka Mr. Transformation. Like the irate Malaysian, I am also disappointed with this kind of spin. It is standard practice for Minister Jala to throw statistics and make dubious comparisons. His objective to blur our thinking in the hope of persuading us and others that everything is fine and rosy in our country.

We have a lot of problems yet we have not shown the political will to deal with them. I know that problems do not disappear with the waving of the magic wand. But as citizens we expect the authorities to show that they have the determination to deal with them. In stead politics gets in the way.

Fighting corruption is a shared responsibility, yes it is true. But the government has the responsibility for good governance. The Prime Minister must deal with corrupt members of UMNO-BN who are known to make loads of money by abusing their positions. Their takings are known as commissions. We need a leader with strong convictions, not someone who pretends that corruption is non-existent or believes like Minister Jala that it is not bad as they seem.

najib-taib-mahmudThe Policeman is corrupt when he accepts RM50 from a traffic offender , but people like the Chief Minister of Sarawak and others like him who have amassed huge fortunes are above the law. The MACC, the corruption buster, is unable to investigate them. Instead, the Chief  Commissioner Tan Sri Abu Kassim tells us that he needs more power to go after the corrupt. We can give him the power he needs, but will he go after the corrupt in high places? I wonder.–Din Merican

Corruption in Malaysia

Things are never as bad as they seem, says Malaysia’s Idris Jala

by Idris Jala@http://www.kinibiz .com(o6-24-13)

idris-jalaRecently, I had a robust conversation with a Malaysian. He was very angry. He had so much to complain about everything in our country. To him, nothing is right in Malaysia.I reproduce my responses to his complaints, in the hope that it might shed some light and provide some hope to those who feel our country is in a hopeless decline. To maintain his anonymity and privacy, I simply call him “Angry Malaysian”:

Angry Malaysian (AM): I think Malaysia is the most corrupt country in the world. If the government is not corrupt, we will solve all the problems in this country. There will be no poverty and everyone in Malaysia will be prosperous and happy.

Idris: That’s not true. Last year, Malaysia improved in Transparency International (TI)’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI). Malaysia’s 2012 score improved compared to 2011 to 49 out of 100 from 4.3 out of 10 (TI’s new scoring methodology changed in 2012 from assigning a score between 1 to 10 in 2011 to 1 to 100 in 2012) . Also Malaysia’s ranking improved from 60 in 2011 to 54 in 2012.

It is equally wrong to say that the only solution to poverty, prosperity and happiness is government corruption. Almost all the countries that are ahead of Malaysia in the world corruption ranking still have absolute and relative poverty. For instance, not everyone in US, UK, Germany or Singapore is rich.

Crime still exists in these countries. Whilst there is hardly any corruption in many rural villages in Malaysia or anywhere else in the world, yet the people are still poor. When I grew up in Bario, in the Borneo highlands we were almost isolated from the rest of the world and there was no corruption in the village. Yet, we were poor.

We should stop looking at corruption as something that leads to otherMoney-Malaysia-Flag-300x202 peoples’ problem – the poor, the marginalised and expect only the Government to tackle the issue. It is true that corruption must be eradicated in the interest of creating a level-playing field and enhancing standards of living. The Government is serious about implementing this through various initiatives. Whilst we deploy policy measures to arrest corruption, there is also a responsibility upon every Malaysian to ensure they do not engage in or encourage corrupt practices. As long as there is giving, there will be taking – it is a vicious cycle. Eradicating corruption is not the job of the Government alone, it is a shared responsibility.

AM: Anwar Ibrahim said at a rally before GE13, that Malaysia’s illicit capital outflow over ten years of RM873 billion, as reported by Global Financial Integrity, is proof that corruption is the scourge of Malaysia. According to him, if we stop this corruption by the government and its cronies, there is enough money for Malaysia.

Idris: Bank Negara Malaysia has refuted this claim. They have clarified that 80% of illicit capital outflow is trade mispricing or transfer pricing. This means private companies produce receipts or invoices which differ from the actual amount of money transacted, usually to pay lower taxes to the government. This is not government corruption.

Bank Negara established that the remaining 20% of illicit capital outflows is due to “errors and omissions”, which includes small residual amounts due to illegal business and corrupt practices. Based on the Bank Negara report released in March, it is totally wrong to say that RM873 billion of “illicit capital” outflow is due to government corruption.

AM: Twenty years ago, Malaysia was on par with South Korea in many ways for example GNI (gross national income) per capita. Even in soccer, we used to beat them. I believe Malaysia lost its competitiveness because of the New Economic Policy (NEP). If we remove the NEP, then Malaysia will immediately improve its competitiveness and catch up with South Korea.


Idris: It is true that South Korea has made a lot more progress compared to us. However, I do not agree that as soon as we abolish NEP, Malaysia will be on the road to catching up with them. The South Koreans did it because they did not complain incessantly about not getting government contracts. They did not incessantly complain about everything that was not perfect around them.

They simply focused on innovating their products to be the best in the world and trained their sights on marketing and selling them in the world market.

AM: A lot of people, particularly non-bumiputeras are leaving Malaysia in droves because of unfair policies such as the NEP. Many of them migrate to Singapore where there is no NEP and it is a fair society.

Idris: That’s not true. A Mindshare survey of 2,000 Singaporeans carried out last year showed that over half of them (56%) wanted to migrate, although there is no NEP in Singapore. According to the World Bank, Singapore had 300,000 migrants in 2010, nearly 10% of Singapore citizens. Reasons for migration are complex and varied and cannot be just pinpointed to the NEP.

AM: The government collects lots of taxes from all of us. So many of us work hard only to pay so much in taxes. The government wastes the tax revenue through corrupt practices and cronyism.

Idris: I don’t agree that Malaysia is taxing everybody and also over-taxing the people. First, Malaysia has a population of 29 million people. Last year, our working population was 12.5 million people. Out of this, only 1.5 million people were registered taxpayers but only 1.2 million paid taxes. Second, most of the government tax revenue comes from Petronas and the oil and gas companies, followed by other corporate taxes and then by the 1.2 million taxpayers.

Third, it is not true that Malaysia is over-taxing. Its corporate and personal income tax is competitive when compared with all other countries worldwide.

Fourth, Malaysia is one of the few countries that has not implemented the Goods and Services Tax (GST). More than 140 countries have already implemented GST.

Fifth, since Malaysia wants to keep income taxes at reasonable rates, and since the government continues to pay huge sums of money on subsidies for the rakyat, our tax revenue is insufficient to pay all our operating and developing expenditure. So Malaysia has a fiscal deficit. Under the leadership of our prime minister, we have been steadily reducing our fiscal deficit from 6.6% in 2009 to 4.5% last year.

AM: I hear that the Government will be introducing GST. This will hurt the poor people and the middle-income group in this country. GST will bring untold suffering to our people and Malaysia’s economy will collapse.

Idris: No decision has been made by the government to implement GST More than 140 countries worldwide have implemented GST and this includes many developed and developing countries eg US, UK, France, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Singapore, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Indonesia and many more. Under GST, many items that are typically consumed by the poor and the middle-income group are exempted from GST. Some items are “zero rated”, which also reduces the impact of GST. This is why the implementation of GST was done in many developing and poor countries.

rasuah1I don’t agree with you that GST will bring “untold suffering to our people”, nor will our economy collapse. Let’s be clear, these problems did not happen in the 140 countries which implemented GST.

AM: Crime is happening everywhere in Malaysia. Everyday, I read in the newspapers about street crime and violent crimes. The police are not doing anything. The government doesn’t care about the safety and security of its people.

Idris: The Government considers crime as one of the top national priorities to address. It is indeed one of the National Key Results Areas (NKRA) under the Government Transformation Programme (GTP). The Deputy Prime Minister, Home Minister, IGP and the Police are all working hard to implement initiatives to fight crime. As a result of our collective efforts, crime has dropped from 575 cases per day in 2009 to 407 cases per day in the first five months of 2013, which is an improvement of over 29%. But that does not mean crime does not occur. It still does, but the rate has reduced. Whilst we take note of this, we continue to address problem areas and ensure we continue to make our streets, villages, towns and cities safe. This is a priority.

Bag Snatching signIt is pertinent for us to look into UK’s experience in 1998, when ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair launched an intense nation-wide program to fight crime. Significant amount of resources were provided to strengthen UK’s police force to fight crime.

This program succeeded in turning around crime trend. However, while the crime rates have started to drop in 1998, the general UK public perception was the exact opposite – believing that crime rate continued to increase. It was only six years later, in 2004, that the UK public perception of crime finally started to turnaround. This was how long it took for the UK public to catch on with their country’s improving crime situation.

Malaysia is experiencing this same syndrome, called the ‘Crime Perception Lag’. We are in the third year of the Crime NKRA programme – half-way into the perception lag period experienced by the UK. I believe we need to redouble our efforts to fight crime – by strengthening police presence in our streets, improving investigation and prosecution outcomes, engaging the larger community to fight crime via to be United Against Crime, and incorporating Safe City elements in the development of our cities and townships.

Merdeka dari RasuahWell, that was the gist of my conversation with the Angry Malaysian. Yes, things are not perfect in this country of ours. Where is it perfect? But we have a lot going for us and it is up to us – each and every one of us – to grasp the opportunities available to progress and help our country and ourselves to become developed.

Things are never as bad as they seem.

Idris Jala is CEO of Pemandu, the Performance Management and Delivery Unit, and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department. Fair and reasonable comments are most welcome at

27 thoughts on “Corruption:Things are never as bad as they seem, says Malaysia’s Idris Jala

  1. funny thing does he mean we condone it because it petty, it like saying we should except, things the way it is. We must always do better and anything less is failure on our part, I am 54 but the future is for younger Malaysian who deserve better shame on you sir as a minister you should set higher standards a wrong does not justify a right.

  2. When the whole ethos of from UMNO to MCA to MIC is structured to function by warlords and corruption how can the governance under these goons be free of corruption. Dream on and don’t fool yourself. It is in their blood, i.e corruption and there is no antiserum for this ailment.

  3. Revi, it is Minister Jala’s job to spin on behalf of the government. You and I agree that we have a duty to do what is right. I am glad you share the same views as this 74 year old. My late mother, God Bless her soul, taught my siblings and I that the best dollar is the honest dollar. That does not make you filthy rich, but it makes you sleep better. With education, I have been able to to live a reasonably comfortable life. Thanks for your comment.–Din Merican

  4. Leadership by example.
    Najib should started fighting corruption at home.

    10 Hermes bikin bag with different color.
    Chopad watch worth million ringgit.etc etc.

    Idris,you country man Chief Minister,Taib live in a house worth 100 m ringgit.
    The only chief minister driving Roll Royce to office.
    Are you blind or you drink too much toddy in the long house.

  5. Corruption is the Mirror Image of the Prevailing Haze .
    It Blinds and Chokes…Eventually Destroys.

    Only Those Involved Could Never See How Bad it is …
    for Scaling Untold Damages and Miseries to the Rakyat.

    Nothing looks as Bad when Compared to Countries like Zambawi

  6. Work expands to fill itself: Peter’s principal 1.
    An honest $ is a good $; might not be fifty rich but sleep like a baby is best.
    Some tycoons so afraid of their own shadows.
    In the end of the day, each of us has to meet our creator for a one-on-one viva voce.

  7. When i was 5 , i stole 5 sen for my favorite sweet in Kampung. Needless to say, my mom, later in the day dad and soon for a period aunt and uncle had made it sure verbally and physically to ensure no such occurrence. This has stuck in my memory , now at 47. Now Spin this brothers. We have many people beyond their income in positions of power with simple maths warrants investigation just take any pet ministry drill down wards from top like spending. its not a joke really,. Idris , how do you sleep in the night, is your soul dead?

  8. How does one have a “robust” conversation? Do you slap each other around while you converse? Or perhaps wrestle with your conversee during the verbal intercourse?
    Looks like an imaginary friend concocted by Jala. Top marks in the imagination dept tho facts on the ground are sparse .

  9. We went from bumpkin excuse making of Mahathir era to smarter excuse making like Idris Jala.. Mahathir has to be congratulated for making EXCUSE MAKING our national character and disease especially among our leaders. In fact our contribution to the world is making EXCUSE MAKING LEADERSHIP exceptional..

  10. mate, I am a malaysian who has lived abroad for nearly 25 years I could like many malaysian of my origin given up my citizen because of being treated and label as sorts of things by the powers to be believe that it is a unique country but being mislead by a few, as heard ffom some fool some of the people some of the time some of the time but you can never fool all of the people all of the time I am hopeful but too much damaged has being done?

  11. Bank Negara Malaysia has refuted this claim. They have clarified that 80% of illicit capital outflow is trade mispricing or transfer pricing. This means private companies produce receipts or invoices which differ from the actual amount of money transacted, usually to pay lower taxes to the government. This is not government corruption.
    Any action on this 80% tax invaders. Nope why? Cronies like CM or family of politicians or just blatant lies from Idris Jala. Show proof take action or just plain shut up.

  12. Dato
    What ever happened to the age old principle of honest pay for an honest day’s work? The young generation probably never been taught the virtues of the said principle

  13. Idris Jala, no fire no smoke. Please explain PKFZ, Scorpene, Crooked Bridge, KLIA2, Cowcondo, BR1M, the Bruno Manser expose, and many many more. How can you say things are not as bad as they seem. Corruption is corruption, no such thing as good corruption or bad corruption or corruption of a lesser level.

  14. I think we are all over-reacting… corruption in Malaysia, like crime rate index, is just a perception, according to Hishammuddin Hussein. And perception, according to Najib Razak, is the biggest problem facing the ruling Barisan Nasional government.

    Therefore we should just focus on the root cause and tackle the problem of perception. Pls bring in APCO guys………

  15. I have a simpler answer. Every snatch thieve victim, Kugan. Teo Beng Hock family etc and restaurants patron who experienced robbery in plain daylight go see Idris Jala and ask him to personally pay up for their losses and trauma..

  16. @Kamal Ariffin

    With respect to illicit capital outflows, three things you should know

    1. Most of this tax evasion is being done by multinationals, not local companies;

    2. Most of it also does not involve actual transfers of money; rather it is a transfer of (taxable) accounting profit;

    3. Unfortunately, under the current law and the price changes occuring at the crossing of international borders, it’s also all perfectly legal.

    Google, Microsoft, and Apple are some of the better known culprits for transferring IP revenue, but manufacturers do it too.

  17. Things are not so bad – Why is Syed Mocktar given 4G license worth BILLIONS for peanuts? Why did Syed Mocktar get to buy Proton for the price of just what the property in Shah Alam is worth? Also have paid billions to subsidized Proton for decades, and now that it no longer owned by the govt, why are we subsidizing it to the tunes of BILLIONS each year in protection WHEN THEY HAVE THE WRONG STRATEGY OF MAKING MANY MODELS THAT DON’T SCALE..

    Its not so bad? Billions for supposed Syed Mockhar and Mukrhiz says Penang should pay Kedah for water Penang owns because Kedah is poor?

  18. There is a difference between “korupsi balat” and “korupsi sistamia” Please address both of them before it is too late and becomes a way of life. Corruption is like a drop of indigo in a pot of pure milk. The whole pot of milk become spoilt once that “O” guy finds his way into the pot.

  19. Look at Penang, All projects are by open tender and still affirmative action incorporated. These Fools in UMNOMelayu dominated BN will not ever do this as it means closing the rasuah system which is the oxygen for the warlords and cronies and to powers that may be. As I said dream on until the country depletes itself of the oxygen.

  20. The new vice-presidents will be Hisham, Shafie and Mukhriz…. you just wait and see. Zahid will be sidelined, kicked-out because they will point to his “suspicious” PhD and probably his criminal charges in court and because he cannot speak Japanese like Mukhriz…. well Zahid, you don’t like it, go migrate elsewhere (how does it feel to be at the receiving end, heh?)

  21. Narayan,

    When I was 9, i had to give a bayi 5sen each day else he will beat me up. Bayi used to be quite big those days or maybe I was little so everything looked bigger. Then a friendly taiko intervened.

    No this Idris fellow can eat crow for collecting protection money in sort of ways like those who pay to get ISO 9000 which stand for I Ass Holed 9000x. So this Idris fellow just IAH us and we paid him for his lies of fabricated numbers just like ISO9000

    I had a friend who lives in Frasers Hill. He decided to call his dog Idris so that he can scold it every day. I better start calling every dog Idris and cat as well.

  22. We have with us a super salesman aka Mr.Transformation that the corruption and malprctices in Malaysia is not as bad or perception as what they people have in their mind. IdrisJala should have released facts and figures to allow those having doubts during the election time to win more seats for BN with his replies to the questions. Malaysians in general voted against BN due to the perception of wrong doings of outflow of funds, corruption scandals and other national issues like cowgate of RM250 million soft loan to an individual without collateral support for such huge sum of money. Minister Jala did press the “PANIC” button when he was newly appointed as a minister in his position that Malaysia would go bankrupt by 2019 with that statement that caused uneasiness to all Malaysians.

  23. Yes Idris turns out to be Najib’s most dependable spinner. As a Sarawakian, I am deeply disappointed in him. Every Sarawakian was proud of him when he hemmed MAS and clean up the airline. Now he’s just another propagandist trying hard to be the best man for the job.

  24. Minister Jala is correct in saying that in the Malaysian context the corruption is not that bad . After all 48 % of Malaysians accept corruption as it exists for they too have peculiar value by voting BN to power. When the evil deeds get repeated , even against Islam, evil becomes angelic and tolerated. Apa lagi u cerita?

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