The State of a Paranoid Government: Malaysia’s Freedom in Jeopardy


December 4, 2016

The State of a Paranoid Government: Malaysia’s Freedom in Jeopardy

by Aedi Asri@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Zahid Hamidi says the task force, consisting of the Police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Bank Negara Malaysia and the Attorney-General’s Chambers will also check on civil society movements receiving overseas funds.

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DPM Zahid Hamid, that’s what happens when you lose your legitimacy to govern; people power takes hold. Civil society organizations are formed, and citizens take to the streets to protest. Then you stifle and intimidate them, and the people react and the whole situation repeats itself in a vicious circle of repression, reaction and suppression. 

Governing for all its complexities is,  in fact, simple if you genuinely want to serve people. But not, if you are incompetent and corrupt. Our leaders like you never learn the lessons of history, and that is people power triumphs in the end.–Din Merican

The government has set up a task force to monitor and investigate movements which are seeking to “overthrow the government”, says UMNO Acting Deputy President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

In his winding up speech at the 70th Umno general assembly, Zahid, who is also home minister, said the task force comprised the police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Bank Negara Malaysia and the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

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“Let the task force do its job independently. If they find solid evidence, then action will be taken,” he said.

Zahid claimed there were some organizations here which had been been influenced by the idea of what he called “the Color Movement”, which, he said, was being pushed by an institution known as the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action Strategies (Canvas).

The Color Movement, he said, wanted to accomplish revolutions without violence by training, planning and developing strategies to oust democratically-elected governments.

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He said the Color Movement was a concept founded by Gene Sharp through the Albert Einstein Institute, which, he added, received funds from the National Endowment for Democracy, International Republic Institute , George Soros Foundation and the Open Society Foundations (OSF).

In recent years, Zahid claimed, Color Movement activities had been carried out in Ukraine, Lebanon, Iraq and Kuwait, among other countries.

“In Malaysia, some organisations have been found to be influenced by the idea of the Color Movement, too, including Suaram, BERSIH, Bar Council, Malaysiakini and Sarawak Report,” he claimed.

According to a report in the South China Morning Post (SCMP) published on Nov 3, civil society organisations in Malaysia had received funds from OSF in recent years.

This was confirmed by the OSF in their response to queries from the Hong Kong-based publication.

OSF had also admitted to providing small grants to election reform coalition BERSIH shortly after it was formed in 2011 but said it did not currently support the group.

“The Open Society Foundations are proud to have supported civil society in Malaysia for 10 years. Claims that the Open Society Foundations funded attempts to overthrow the government in Malaysia are entirely false.

“The Open Society Foundations support justice, accountability and democratic practice around the world, and in Malaysia our grant-making to civil society includes efforts to promote public health, foster fair migration policies and encourage the civic and political participation of all Malaysian citizens,” OSF was quoted as saying in an email reply to SCMP.

 

Desperate Najib Razak resorts to Fear Tactics


December 4, 2016

Desperate  Najib Razak resorts to Fear Tactics— Emboldened and defiant Malaysians will fight on

by Bridget Welsh

This week’s UMNO meeting reflects rising paranoia. So far he has managed to hold on to power, but not without incurring serious costs. Growing authoritarianism, widening political polarisation, deepening ethnic tensions and discredited immoral leadership have damaged Malaysia’s social and political fabric. Najib’s mismanagement is also evident in the economy’s contraction and the depreciating currency. That thousands braved threats of arrest and thuggery to attend the Bersih 5 rally shows that many Malaysians are willing to fight on and will  fight on and will not be cowed. –Bridget Welsh

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This week Najib Tun Razak is beating the Malay chauvinist drum at his party’s annual general assembly (AGM). Meetings of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) have regularly followed this mode, but the use of racism and paranoia have taken on greater intensity in the face of its leader’s eroding political legitimacy.

For the past two years, Malaysia’s Prime Minister has been beleaguered by the 1MDB scandal that has involved not only nearly $700 million going into Najib’s personal account but also raised issues of criminal money laundering, embezzlement and economic mismanagement involving over $3.5 billion. The case is being investigated and prosecuted in over six jurisdictions, most notably by the US Department of Justice.  The scandal featured centre stage in last month’s Bersih 5 rally in which thousands went to the streets to protest corruption, economic mismanagement and systematic inequalities in the electoral process.

Despite public discontent, Najib has adeptly used a variety of tactics to stay in power, which is crucial if he is to avoid international prosecution. The most obvious of these involves a crackdown on political opponents. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was jailed in 2015. Since then more than 10 opposition politicians have faced a variety of charges from sedition to challenges to ‘parliamentary democracy’. Last month whistleblower and parliamentarian, Rafizi Ramli, was convicted of violating the Official Secrets Act for releasing evidence associated with 1MDB. This week’s UMNO meeting has called for continued no-holds barred attacks on the opposition.

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The crackdown on dissent has also targeted civil society. On the eve of the 19 November Bersih 5 rally, its chairperson, Maria Chin Abdullah, was arrested. She was held in solitary confinement and charged as a ‘terrorist’ under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act. This follows a litany of attacks on other activists, cartoonists and artists, as well as ordinary citizens for ‘insulting’ posts on Facebook and WhatsApp. In 2015 there were 91 cases for ‘sedition’ alone. Human Rights Watch has detailed these in an October 2016 report.

The media has also been in the firing line. In 2015 the harassment of publishers led to the closure of The Malaysian Insider. Last month the online portal Malaysiakini was raided, and its editor Steven Gan was charged for simply publishing a video. This comes on the back of the Communication and Media Act being tightened in March. ‘Protection’ from insults has extended beyond Najib to those seen to be protecting him. The aim is to silence criticism of Malaysia’s most unpopular prime minister.

To complement these attacks, Najib’s government has deepened its use of racial chauvinism. From the 2013 elections onwards, it has depicted opposition to it as ‘Chinese’ and reinforced the view that Najib’s UMNO party, is the only viable protector of the Malays. This politicised framing lacks any grounding in reality as over 40 per cent of Malays voted for the opposition in 2013 and the most recent Bersih rally showcased the breadth of multi-ethnic opposition to Najib, especially among young Malays. Nevertheless, Najib’s strategy has increased ethnic tensions along political lines. His ratcheted war-like rhetoric at the UMNO meeting points to a willingness to tear the society apart for his own political survival.

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Scare tactics have extended to thuggery, most evident in the crass use of violence and intimidation by the UMNO-linked ‘red shirts’. Some of these political vigilantes – many of them allegedly paid to participate in hooliganism – have also been arrested but have clearly received favourable treatment. Despite official denials, the widespread perception is that thuggery is being promoted by the government.

Najib’s machinations also involve political manoeuvring. He has forged an alliance with conservative Islamist zealots. His government has allowed Wahhabi Islam to extend its extremist and intolerant tentacles through the unchecked and increasingly locally- and internationally-funded religious bureaucracy, with particular support from Najib’s close ally and 1MDB partner Saudi Arabia. Lacking moral authority of his own, Najib has chosen to ally himself with the discredited Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), led by Hadi Awang and his designer suit-wearing appointees. Perceptions of corruption and discriminatory land grabbing from indigenous people have corroded PAS’s public support, as Hadi has introduced a bill that hypocritically strengthens the punishment of ordinary Muslims for immoral activity. This bill, known as RUU 355, will open up opportunities for abuse by authorities in a government where the rule of law is not fairly practised and fuel ethnic tensions. It is no coincidence that bill was reactivated after the Bersih 5 rally.

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Most of Najib’s politicking has focused on maintaining the support of his own party. He has repeatedly paid off UMNO leaders for their ‘loyalty’ through patronage while also purging UMNO of its leading critics. Former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad resigned from the party earlier this year due to his opposition to Najib, while the party voted to expel former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, another prominent critic of the Prime Minister. Najib appointed the grassroots party-stalwart Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as his deputy, aiming in the short-term to deflect party challenges. He is seen to be holding off on the appointment of his favoured cousin, Hishammudin Hussein. But even within UMNO dissatisfaction remains high due to the realisation that Najib is an electoral liability and UMNO could lose. This is despite the attacks, divisions and lack of clear alternative leadership from the opposition.  The public shows of loyalty through dictator-like salutes of the leader at the UMNO AGM hide real unease among members and growing discontent between UMNO elites and the grassroots.

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It is therefore little wonder that Najib has increasingly relied on the levers of power to stay in office. His government has broadened gerrymandering and malapportionment in the 2015-2016 electoral redelineation exercise, conducting it without transparency and repeatedly dismissing the record number of challenges. He has also increased populist measures to buy support among Malaysia’s poorest citizens, a pattern that was replicated in the May 2016 Sarawak state elections. These measures have been introduced despite serious strain on operating budgets for government departments and widespread cuts to education and public services.

To compensate for the lack of funds and rising debt, Najib has turned to his new geostrategic ally – China – for money. Not only did China bail out Najib over 1MDB, but he also returned from a visit to Beijing at the beginning of last month bearing some $34 billion worth of deals, funds perceived to help greasing the patronage wheels ahead of the next elections to be scheduled before the end of 2018.

China has a vested interest in keeping a weak, dependent, autocratic leader in power. Little attention is being paid to the potential loss of Malaysian territory to the Chinese, to the unfavourable terms of these arrangements and their limited positive impact on Malaysia’s economy. Guarding against the possibility of electoral defeat, Najib has also established the new National Security Council, which came into effect in August and allows the prime minister to dictatorially declare a state of emergency through a body made up of his own appointees. At the same time, Najib has created a new special defence force and increased his personal protection.

While the Prime Minister has tried to use fear against his people, the person who has been the most afraid is Najib himself. This week’s UMNO meeting reflects rising paranoia. So far he has managed to hold on to power, but not without incurring serious costs. Growing authoritarianism, widening political polarisation, deepening ethnic tensions and discredited immoral leadership have damaged Malaysia’s social and political fabric. Najib’s mismanagement is also evident in the economy’s contraction and the depreciating currency. That thousands braved threats of arrest and thuggery to attend the Bersih 5 rally shows that many Malaysians are willing to fight on and will not be cowed. The test ahead will be the point when Najib’s fear campaign backfires more widely, and more Malaysians realize that the only thing they have to fear is Najib himself.

This piece is published in partnership with Policy Forum – Asia and the Pacific’s platform for public policy analysis and debate.

Dr, Bridget Welsh is a Senior Research Associate of the Center for East Asia Democratic Studies of National Taiwan University. She specializes in Southeast Asian politics, with particular focus on Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore. She has edited/written numerous books including, Reflections: The Mahathir Years, Legacy of Engagement in Southeast Asia, Impressions of the Goh Chok Tong Years, Democracy Takeoff? The B.J. Habibie Period, Awakening: The Abdullah Badawi Years (a Malay edition Bangkit was published in 2014) and The End of UMNO? Essays on Malaysia’s Dominant Party.  She is the Asian Barometer Survey Southeast Asia core lead, and is currently directing the survey project in Malaysia and Myanmar.

http://www.newmandala.org/40574-2/

 

Easy to catch the Corrupt,says Citizen Nades


December 3, 2016

Easy to catch the Corrupt,says Citizen Nades

http://www.thesundaily.my/node/409549

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Citizen Nades

UNTIL October 2006, few people outside political circles knew him. He rose from an obscure railway gatekeeper staying in a one-room quarters at the railway crossing where he was required to raise the barriers to allow vehicular traffic to flow after the trains had passed by.

By the time theSun front-paged the story on his “meteoric rise” and his “palace” which he had built on land meant for low-cost housing, his positions in the party and as a state assemblyman were hanging by a thread.

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The dearly departed UMNO crony of the convicted former Selangor Menteri  Besar Mohamed Khir Toyo

The late Zakaria Mat Deros (pic) (God bless his soul) gained notoriety for building his 16-bedroom house without even submitting building plans. He had not paid the assessment for 12 years on two low-cost units previously occupied by his large family.

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Jamal Yunos is arguably the richest Ikan Bakar man in the world with close connections to Najib Razak  who is the most corrupt Malaysian Prime Minister and UMNO el Presidente.

So, last week nostalgia came back when the Ikan Bakar man took journalists on a helicopter ride to show the “palace” of a politician – a divisional youth leader in the opposition.

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He is not Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police, but UMNO’s Policeman and Prime Minister Najib’s Poodle

Preceding this, Crime Watch supremo alleged that the Inspector-General of Police had himself built yet another “palace” in Mantin (pic above).

The accusers in both instances asked the relevant authorities to investigate them alleging that they must explain how they got the money to acquire such property.

This prompted a Facebook user to suggest in jest that he wants partners to start a helicopter service for aerial tours to pick out mansions of politicians. In banter, I offered my services and reasoned that I had a good track record.

Over the years, I have come across several ordinary cikgu who became millionaires after their foray into politics. There are scores of “politically connected people” (to borrow a term that has now become the new mantra for banks and bankers) living in similar luxury.

There are also good people who stepped into the dark side unable to resist their own temptation or that of their wives to lead different lifestyles and keep up with the Joneses. There are some female golfers who even have golf bags to match the colour of their attire.

Then there’s the average man who is turned over because he can’t make ends meet on his meagre salary and many dependants. But the law does not differentiate between the poor, the middle class and the rich. Perhaps, such a factor could be pleaded in mitigation for a lighter sentence.

I have been repeatedly told that being rich or wealthy does not constitute an offence. An offence only takes place if the money is obtained illegally – corruption, money laundering, criminal breach of trust, cheating and the like.

Image result for Malaysia's Most Corrupt Prime Minister and Rosmah Mansor

Asking the authorities to investigate the source of the money is dangerous territory full of mine fields and cluster bombs.

First of all, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) can only compel someone to declare his assets. Once the assets are declared, there is no offence.

Second, if he or she is caught with the cash or money in the bank, a non-acceptable explanation would lead to charges of money-laundering – NOT corruption; not getting assets through corruption; not getting money from illegal activities.

We had the perfect opportunity to put it right when former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi promulgated the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act to replace the outdated Anti-Corruption Act towards the end of his tenure.

In the proposals was a clause which stated: “It shall be an offence of any person to lead a lifestyle or possess assets which are disproportionate to his or her declared income.”

By the time this legislation was presented as a bill in Parliament, this clause had been removed from the original draft. We were then told that several “warlords” within the system opposed the clause because they themselves would have to account for their wealth!

So, instead of putting the onus on the official suspected of corruption to prove he earned the money legitimately, the prosecution has to prove that he had received a gratification. That is difficult because corruption is a victimless crime. Both giver and taker benefit and one usually will not squeal on the other.

In the absence of such legislation, the prosecution usually files money laundering charges. But the core issue of proving that he or she was a corrupt person through the legal process becomes almost impossible. In such circumstances, it leaves Joe Public’s imagination to run wild as to the source of the wealth.

Under these circumstances, shouldn’t that catch-all clause be re-visited with a view to tightening our anti-corruption laws? Hong Kong has been successful in its fight because such a clause in its legislation empowers officers from the Independent Commission Against Corruption to serve notice demanding explanations from suspected corrupt officials.

If they fail to provide a plausible or satisfactory account of their wealth, they are prosecuted. A few like-minded lawyer-friends had a discussion on this and came to the conclusion that if this clause is incorporated, our prisons would be overcrowded.

R. Nadeswaran had the benefit of seeing the “new” legislation before and after it was presented and passed in Parliament. Comments: citizen-nades@thesundaily.com

 

Maria Chin Abdullah et. al and the Fight for Regime Change


December 2, 2016

Maria Chin Abdullah et. al and the Fight for Regime Change

by Ambassador Dato’  Dennis Ignatius

Maria Chin Abdullah & the quest for change

No one should underestimate the power of the simple faith that was on display through all those days, at all those events, the belief that somehow justice will prevail in the end, that what we do as citizens, no matter how small, can make a difference.–Dennis Ignatius

maria

The crowds that turned out to support BERSIH 5.0 and the vigils and rallies to free Maria speak volumes about the hunger and thirst for change, for justice and good governance in Malaysia.

An outrageous act 

The arrest of Maria, in particular, seems to have generated an upsurge of public anger at the outrageous behaviour of those in power. That the government would treat a widow, a crusader for justice, a woman who has spent most of her adult life fighting for the disenfranchised, the dispossessed, the downtrodden in such a cruel, callous and capricious manner was simply beyond the pale.

Instead of intimidating the people, however, Maria’s arrest appears to have strengthened their conviction that their struggle for justice, for good governance, for accountability is a righteous one and must be pursued with vigour for the sake of our nation.

And they turned out in force to send a message to those in power that such actions are simply unacceptable, that no citizen should be deprived of his or her liberty and rights and incarcerated in such an arbitrary manner, that laws such as SOSMA have absolutely no place in a democratic society.

Can we still call Malaysia a democracy?

The authorities can, of course, spin their fanciful accounts of foreign interference, sinister plots to overthrow the government or undermine the state but they fool no one but themselves.

In fact, the more frantically they spew out such drivel, the more they lose credibility. The more they insist they are acting within the law when they act in such a high-handed manner, the more the law itself becomes suspect.

In any case, the state does not have the right to claim legitimacy with laws like SOSMA that are brokered on false promises and applied in bad faith.

The Prime Minister’s recent statement that he has no reason to apologize for SOSMA because it is needed to fight terrorism is appalling given that it has just been used against Maria. Is the Prime Minister now suggesting that all his critics and political opponents are terrorists?

After these events, can we even refer to Malaysia as a democracy any more?

Intimidation stiffens resolve

Somehow illiberal governments never seem to learn that harsh measures against those who fight for freedom and democracy stiffen resolve rather than weaken it. Far from discrediting human rights activists, they make martyrs of them. Instead of diminishing the stature of advocates for justice, they empower them.Have they learned nothing from history?

They tried to suppress the late Irene Fernendez, judicially harassing her for more than a decade; far from crushing her spirit, it made her stronger, more determined. In the process she became an international symbol of justice for migrant workers and refugees.

They tried to railroad another crusader for justice and change – Anwar Ibrahim – and today he has become a symbol of hope for Malaysian who long for a better nation. The longer they incarcerate him, the more his stature grows.

And now they are about to discover the full measure of Maria.Already, she is something of an icon in the struggle for freedom, good governance and justice in Malaysia. It was plain to see that the jubilant crowd that gathered in the city center last Monday night to celebrate her release, love her, admire her and look to her. Rarely do public figures evoke such enthusiasm.

A generational struggle for justice 

It is also heartening to see the generational mix in this struggle for a better Malaysia which people like Maria now lead.

The older folks, the Merdeka generation, some in their twilight years now, are coming out of retirement to join the fight. They were there when the dream of Malaysia was born and still hold on to it despite everything that has happened, still believing that we can be that nation we thought we would be.

So many youthful activists are rising up as well to fight for change and reform. It reminds me of the anti-war (Vietnam war for those of you who were not born then) movement in the US and the student activism of an earlier era in our history.

At the Free Maria – Mansuh SOSMA rally last Friday, for example, they sang protest songs and spoke with great fervor. Young student activists like Muhammad Luqman, Anis Syafiqah and Adam Adli are already paying a high price for their political convictions but they are undeterred.

They stand testimony to the fact that even the mighty power of the state – with its vast system of indoctrination, manipulation and patronage – cannot suppress the desire for change.

Clearly, the torch is being passed to a new generation with a passion for justice and democracy.

Malaysia’s wonder-women

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These smart women put Malaysian men to shame–They have guts to take on UMNO and its corrupt leader, the Rosmah controlled Najib Razak

It is said that crisis often brings out true leaders.In Malaysia, many of the remarkable leaders and voices for change that crisis has brought forth are women.

Despite deeply ingrained misogynistic attitudes, they rise like giants in the land, inspiring us all with their courage, quiet determination, fortitude and integrity; cajoling us to action.

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Mariam Mokhtar and Cartoonist ZUNAR

Women like Irene Fernandez, Wan Azizah, Maria Chin Abdullah, Ambiga Sreenevasan, Zainah Anwar, Cynthia Gabriel, Marina Mahathir, Noor Faridah Ariffin, Ivy Josiah, Anis Syafiqah, Siti Kassim, Zuraidah Kamaruddin, Theresa Kok, Hannah Yeoh, Mariam Mokhtar and others are now household names across the land.

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The Late Dr.Irene Fernandez –Champion of the Underdog and Down trodden and Human Rights

And when the authorities raid a women’s rights group aimed at encouraging women’s participation in the political process and threaten to charge them with activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy, you know that these women are becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Thank goodness for these remarkable women who inspire and encourage us to press on. Our nation is stronger, and better, because of them. They deserve our respect, admiration and gratitude.

The faith that brings change

Some may say that events like last Friday’s Free Maria-Mansuh SOSMA rally, and the vigils that preceded it, make little difference but Maria is now free!

Perhaps the authorities heard the roar of the people after all.Now the struggle continues for democracy, for justice, for the abolishment of repressive laws like SOSMA and an end to harassment and arbitrary arrests.

No one should underestimate the power of the simple faith that was on display through all those days, at all those events, the belief that somehow justice will prevail in the end, that what we do as citizens, no matter how small, can make a difference.

The words of that towering figure in the fight for justice – Martin Luther King – come to mind:

“With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

 

 

A Message for MO1 Najib Razak from President- Elect Donald J. Trump


December 1, 2016

A Message for MO1 Najib Razak from  President- Elect Donald J. Trump

Trump opts to keep Preet Bharara as U.S. Attorney for Manhattan

Image result for preet bharara with President-Elect Donald Trump

President-elect Donald Trump met with Bharara in New York on Wednesday (November 30, 2016) and asked him to stay on.

Preet Bharara, who has served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York since he was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009, will stay on the job.

President-elect Donald Trump met with Bharara in New York on Wednesday and asked him to stay on. Bharara, who has won praise for his prosecutions of corrupt public officials, accepted the offer.

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Sorry, I cannot remember the mind-boggling amount–Rm2.6 billion is just the tip of the iceberg.  Saya pun mudah lupa,

“The President-Elect asked, presumably because he’s a New Yorker and is aware of the great work that our office has done over the past seven years, asked to meet with me to discuss whether or not I’d be prepared to stay on as the United States Attorney to do the work as we have done it, independently, without fear or favor for the last seven years,”Bharara told reporters after the meeting, per a pool report.

“We had a good meeting. I said I would absolutely consider staying on. I agreed to stay on. I have already spoken to Senator Sessions, who is as you know is the nominee to be the Attorney general. He also asked that I stay on, and so I expect that I will be continuing to work at the southern district.”

Bharara is widely respected on both sides of the aisle. He won the conviction of former Speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, in May.

Matthew Nussbaum is a reporter.

 

5 ways to really ruin an economy


November 29,2016

After Brexit: 5 ways to really ruin an economy–Any resemblance to the Malaysian situation is purely coincidental

https://intheblack.com/articles/2016/08/08/5-ways-to-really-ruin-an-economy?utm_source=Taboola&utm_medium=cpc&utm_content=3&utm_campaign=KCtrial

By Jason Murphy

 

The UK’s exit from the European Union may slow European growth over the next two years – but to truly and deeply wound an economy requires more dramatic strategies.

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No-one yet knows what will be the full economic impact of Brexit, the surprise British vote to leave the European Union. The British pound quickly fell by approximately 10 per cent, and share and bond prices dropped too. It’s less clear what will happen to the “real economy” – production, consumption and jobs. Whatever happens to the UK, though, should be kept in perspective. Even if the UK economy contracts by a percentage point or two, it will be a long way from the worst economic disasters of recent years.

To produce true economic disaster, you need to do something more misguided than deciding to leave an economic bloc. Here are five ways to really ruin an economy.

Price controls – Venezuela

To the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, inflation looked easy to solve: issue a law that made it a crime to sell at high prices.Introducing the 2011 Law for Fair Costs and Prices, Chavez spoke about tortillas – priced at B7.50 at government supermarkets, they sold for up to B40 at private stalls. This could not stand – the price control law was “to advance the struggle against the injustices of capitalism,” Chavez said.Venezuela had a history of price controls. For a time a litre of petrol, for example, cost just US$0.01 under subsidy (which, not surprisingly helped spark a boom in smuggling fuel out of Venezuela).

The Law for Fair Costs and Prices didn’t use subsidies. It lacked anything more than government say-so. Shortages of food and other basic supermarket goods spread, black markets thrived, riots followed.

Neither the death of Chavez nor the collapse in oil prices that once made Venezuela viable has put an end to the policies. In May 2016, CNN reported that the country was not just running out of food, medicine and electricity but even lacked toilet paper.

According to the World Bank, 2016 will be Venezuela’s third consecutive year of shrinking GDP, and 2017 is forecast to be its fourth.

Debt – Greece

Greece’s problems were that it was allowed to build debt for too long, and that it was unable to adjust when it needed to do so. It joined the European Economic Community (later the European Union) in 1981, adopted the euro as its currency, and for years funded growing budget deficits at low rates as a member of the eurozone. The deficits pushed up Greek government debt; by 2010 it was reported at 120 percent of GDP, double the supposed Eurozone limit. But the real level of debt, audits found, was almost 150 per cent.

Analysts and foreign officials began to ask questions that ought to have been asked earlier. Greece’s annual government fiscal deficit – the gap between spending and revenue – was revealed to be larger than official statistics were letting on. It was by then in fact one of the highest in the world.

Such a situation would normally trigger a currency devaluation. As an EU member, however, Greece could not devalue – a problem which made its situation far worse. The EU eventually offered bailout funds in return for a series of 13 increasingly severe austerity packages. Gross domestic product, which reached US$354 billion in 2008, dropped to US$195 billion by 2015 and fell again in early 2016, according to World Bank reports.

The Greek unemployment rate – which was 8 per cent in 2008 – now sits at 23 per cent. The combination of high public debt and the country’s inability to adjust to changed circumstances has made Greece a byword for debt-driven economic mismanagement.

Self-sufficiency – North Korea

North Korea trades very little, boasting it is “self-sufficient”. The “self” part is these days mostly true, but the “sufficient” part is debatable.

The end of the Soviet Union was substantially less welcome in North Korea than in, say, Europe. The true reality of self-sufficiency was about to dawn, with terrible consequences. It is estimated that North Korean GDP fell by more than half in the decade after 1990, from around US$2700 per person to less than US$1000 in 2000.

This period, known officially in North Korea as The Arduous March (and named after a story of Kim il-Sung leading guerrilla fighters against Japan) included a famine that is estimated to have killed between several hundred thousand to several million people.

This is not to say self-sufficiency has been devoid of successes. North Korea is a leader in production of Vinylon. Invented by a scientist who defected from South to North Korea, Vinylon is a fabric produced from locally-sourced limestone and used in clothes, shoes, bedding and rope.

You can’t eat it, however. According to the World Food Programme, “one in every three children remain chronically malnourished or stunted” in North Korea. The country has recently allowed small-scale private business in an attempt to rebuild its economy.

Lack of property rights – Zimbabwe

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Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwe was never rich. But the lesson of meltdowns is you don’t need to climb high to start your plunge. In 1982, Zimbabwe’s GDP per capita was US$1060; by 2008 it was just US$300, according to the World Bank.

The reign of Robert Mugabe – elected Prime Minister in 1980 and President in 1987 – has had many economic policy errors, but two stand out.

The first is redistributing farmland via violence. In 2000 an existing program to move land from white to black ownership with compensation was trampled by a state-sanctioned land seizure program that helped create a famine.

The second error was the 2005 destruction of homes and businesses belonging to opposition supporters.

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Malaysians should do the Murambatsvina on Najib Razak, God’s chosen Prime Minister (Zahid Hamidi)

Operation Murambatsvina (“Clear the Rubbish”) was an attempt to clear illegal slums, the government says. The UN says it was politically motivated, coming shortly after an election at which the opposition did well.

The World Bank in its published overview says these and other crises between 2000 and 2008 “contributed to the nearly halving of its gross domestic product (GDP), the sharpest contraction of its kind in a peacetime economy, and raising poverty rates of more than 72 per cent, with a fifth of the population in extreme poverty.”

Lack of security over your possessions will never spur much in the way of investment, and with rich white and poor black alike at risk, Zimbabwe is going from bad to worse. In 2016, with Mugabe aged 92, Zimbabwe’s economic problems are said by the IMF to have “deepened” and activity is “severely constrained”.

Poor investment – Nauru

Perhaps the greatest swan dive on this list is that of Nauru. The world’s smallest independent country in terms of both population and land area, it was during the 1970s and 1980s the world’s richest, in per capita terms.

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Courtesy of its phosphate rock reserves, the country of 10,000 grew fat (quite literally – a 2007 World Health Organization report (PDF) identified 94.5 per cent of its residents as overweight). Nauru mined its tiny landmass like there was no tomorrow, digging up its dwindling phosphate reserves in the 1980s when prices were high.

The Micronesian country’s wealth was legendary, and it made attempts to diversify. Nauru bought commercial properties in Australia and the USA, and started its own airline. Among its investments was a West End musical about Leonardo da Vinci. On opening night, much of the cabinet of Nauru was in attendance. The musical (titled Leonardo the Musical: A Portrait of Love, and running for four hours) was short-lived, and so was Nauru’s status as a wealthy country.

Exactly where the incredible wealth went remains unclear, but Nauru’s eventual net debt – hundreds of millions of dollars owed all over the world – was not. Nauru is now impoverished and dependent on foreign aid.

In 2014, Sydney University geosciences professor, John Connell, told the Financial Times newspaper that mass emigration might be the only long-run solution.