Daim’s appraisal of our academics


March 23 ,2019

Daim’s appraisal of our academics

by Tajuddin  Rasdi

Daim Zainuddin recently made two important points in his speech at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in Skudai.

Image result for daim zainuddin

Firstly, he said the Malays are being fed a narrative bordering on the idea that their race and Islam are both under threat, and that more affirmative policies will be needed in the new Pakatan Harapan government in the coming years and decades.

Secondly, and this is the main point of my article, he said Malay academics appear to be doing nothing at all but are letting this narrative play out to the opportunism of certain political parties and selfish NGOs.

I have been writing to the media for 20 years, saying absolutely the same thing, but it has earned me a negative perception from the Malay establishment especially in the public universities and even the previous higher education ministry.

Daim’s statement came as a sweet surprise to me as he was never one of my favourite politicians.

I know him as a savvy businessman who grew up within the Malay patronage system. As the economic and corporate worlds are outside of my understanding, I have shied away from trying to know anything about the man himself.

But a few days ago, I was surprised to find him articulating a historical, religious and political construct of what I consider a “Malaysia-Malay construct” as opposed to what I term a “Melayu-Malaysia” one.

A Malaysia-Malay construct is simply a Malay who understands his or her own heritage and faith within a Malaysian constitutional, multi-religious and multi-ethnic acceptance of co-existence, while a Melayu-Malaysia construct is a Malay who is just a Malay, then, now and forever, living in a land geopolitically defined as “Malaysia”. No compromise, no apologies.

The Melayu-Malaysia expects others to change for the sake of his race and faith, without the need to understand, tolerate or even acknowledge the importance of the existence of others as partners in nation-building.

The academics of this country have become purely self-serving and disinterested in nation-building.

The story of a disinterested academia began in the 1980s.

The Universities and University Colleges Act, or UUCA, was instituted to kill off or control student political activities and also that of the academics.

Under UUCA, no academic can speak or write to the media or the public without getting permission from the authorities. That basically sums it up.

A few academics were charged under the act, one of them the late Fadzil Noor who was the PAS president and an academic at a public university.

The involvement of the academia in nation-building basically died. With this law, the culture of academia turned inwards to a concentration on teaching until the idea of “world class” and being “internationally recognised” in rankings came into being in the late 1990s.

With this new mantra, academics are said to be successful if they publish in “high impact” or Scopus journals and receive million ringgit grants.

It would also sweeten the deal if an MoU were signed with European or American or Western universities deemed to be “world class” and “international”. Whether such ties would produce a culture of research and inquiry was disregarded as long as universities “dapat nama”, and a minister was there to observe the deals being signed. That’s it.

After the turn of the 21st century, public universities went full blast on rankings by journals with overseas publications. Locally published books, encyclopaedias and journals were regarded as third rate.

In the old days, books and media writings commanded a high percentage and weightage but now there is hardly a column to put them in on an evaluation or KPI form.

Once, I had to put my books, articles and 200 encyclopaedia entries in a column marked “other publications”.

I used to read Aliran, whose writers are academics from universities in the north. I found their writings to be fresh, bold and highly academic.

After 10 years, I noticed their designation was still “associate professor” and wondered when these people would be called “professor”.

I soon found out that they had migrated to the National University of Singapore. There is no future in Malaysia for “public intellectuals”.

I was lucky enough to be appointed a full professor before all the crazy journal hype began to take place in universities. I managed to squeeze by with my books, papers and other writings after attending the professor interview twice.

As my writings increasingly touched on society and the nation, my appointments at committees on the national level became fewer and fewer.

I no longer got invitations to public talks from universities, because I was told that I am “controversial” in the corridors of the chancellery.

So the only appointment letters from public universities that came to me were to be an examiner for PhD candidates and evaluator of professorships and associate professorships in architecture.

The coup de grace came after I went on optional retirement, leaving after 27 years of teaching and writing at a public university, exiting the campus alone and uncelebrated.

My application as contract professor to two public universities was rejected on grounds of me being “controversial”.

I have mentioned that the key to our future is the reeducation process of the Malay mind by Malay academics who understand that Islam is strong only if you read and understand, and not sit in front of the TV or the mosque podium listening to an ustaz giving his half-baked ideas of religion and society.

The fate of our country hinges on academics changing the narratives of what is important for Malaysians in the coming decades and centuries, to be in line with the goals of sustainable development outlined by the United Nations.

We won’t go very far listening to Friday sermons condemning progressive thinkers or LGBT that may have caused Allah to turn the hot weather on us.

Forget about STEM education if academics do not speak about it.

We are facing a Malay-Muslim society that has grown up with the Islamic resurgence of the 1980s with most Malays conscious about the afterlife and religious values for their children and society.

The International Islamic University Malaysia as well as Istac and Ikim were supposed to guide the Malays into a new era of modern and democratic understanding of Islam vis-a-vis nation-building and coexistence.

But where were these academics when two muftis encouraged the use of “kafir” on non-Muslim citizens, or when calls for “jihad” against the enemies of Islam came from the national mosque?

Daim’s speech must give pause to all the vice-chancellors of public universities to rethink their KPI for academics.

We need more public intellectuals to reform and rewrite the narratives of the nation, to bring social and religious harmony and sustainable wealth to the country.

We don’t need “high impact” journals to measure our success.

Just ask the man on the street whether he should vaccinate his children or whether the world is flat or defending minority groups would start a tsunami somewhere.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

 

Daim denounces ‘Malays under threat’ as


March 20,2019

Daim denounces ‘Malays under threat’ as nonsensical political rhetoric

https://www.malaysiakini.com

Malaysiakini  |  Published:  |  Modified:

 Malaysia has had a strong and rich history of inter-racial harmony and multi-culturalism since its very inception. But we must admit that it is still very complex with jobs and economic sectors identified with race, income inequality between the races and different educational systems existing.

Image result for Bank Negara Governor Abdul Aziz Taha

Governors of Bank Negara, Aziz Taha, Jaffar Hussein and Zeti Aziz. Professor Ungku Aziz, Zeti’s father, is a renowned economist. Zeti’s grandfather, Syed Mohammed Alsagoff, used to own Pulau Kukup, and had a concession to print his own money. Today, we use money signed by his granddaughter.

Since the last general election, the political narrative in Malaysia has centred around issues concerning race and religion, particularly the position of the Malays and Islam.

Speaking at UTM Skudai in Johor last night, former finance minister Daim Zainuddin addressed this issue and described the claim that Malays are under threat as nothing more than nonsensical political rhetoric.

“Despite being more educated and having a large educated segment, we are still unable to convince ourselves that Malays have nothing to fear in this country.

“Are Malays thinking strategically, critically and logically? It looks increasingly obvious every day that the Malays are thinking with their emotions instead of with their intellect. We must ask ourselves – what is happening to us?” he said.

According to Daim, who headed the Council of Eminent Persons, the Malays have allowed their emotions to run wild and influence their perception of others.

“When Mastika (Malay-language magazine) stopped writing ghost stories, circulation ended and now there is no more Mastika. Now instead of reading about ghosts in Mastika, we are seeing ghosts around every corner.

“Instead of depending on logic and facts, we prefer to buy into the racist rhetoric of politicians with dubious reputations,” he added.

Daim then asked his audience, comprising mainly of academicians, what role they were playing in injecting logic and facts into the Malaysia narrative.

“Do you intend to go along with the emotional flow or do you see it as your academic duty to question the irrational narratives that are being shoved down the Malays’ throats?

“Do you as ‘the educated’ speak honestly and bravely about what is happening or do you simply pretend that this growing racism is justified?

“All of you here are highly educated, but how many of you have bought into the nonsensical political rhetoric that the Malays are being threatened by the non-Malays in this country? That Islam is under threat simply because of one or two people being insensitive enough to post something on the Prophet (Muhammad)?” he added.

Daim said the current narrative, which centres around race and religion, gives the impression the Malays are on the verge of being driven out of their own country.

“There is so much anger and indignation when non-Malays were appointed to high posts in the government as if this is something new.

“Why is there not the same anger when we are confronted with facts of corruption and kleptocracy of the highest order among our Malay leaders? We don’t feel offended when it was prime news all over the world. Instead, we respond with “Malu apa? (Ashamed of what?)”. Kalau “tak malu,” apa jadi kepada iman kita (If we are not ashamed, what has happened to our faith)?

“The Malays can continue down this emotional and irrational path at our own peril or we can stop, think, reflect and call for change.

“Nobody is forcing us to be emotional and irrational. We have chosen to be that way ourselves because we have allowed ourselves to be bought over by politicians whose only goal is to gain or regain power, no matter what the cost – and the cost is almost always ours to bear,” he added.

 

Below is Daim’s speech in full:

To understand our current political climate, it is important to look back at our history. Kusut di hujung, balik ke pangkal (Messy at the end, return to the root of the problem).

The history of the Malays starts from long before the formation of Tanah Melayu. We are descendants of great empires, from Langkasuka, to Srivijaya, to Majapahit, to Melaka. Melaka, of course, is our most popular tale, that of a world-famous port whose global success led to its eventual colonisation.

And when Melaka fell to the Portuguese, those descendants of Sultan Melaka who survived founded a new empire here in Johor. They took control of the southern Malay Peninsula, spreading across Riau, Anambas, Natuna, Tambelan, Borneo, and Sumatra. Their success was attributed to the wisdom of their rulers, and their openness to international trade.

In more recent history, the formation of the Malayan Union and the subsequent opposition led by UMNO were significant events that triggered real change in the political organisation of the Malays. Onn Jaafar, himself from Bukit Gambir and an MB of Johor, founded UMNO in 1946, signalling the height of Malay political supremacy. We were united and we were strong.

But our unity did not last. We didn’t know how to deal with success; the Malays started to split. When we are successful, we are drunk with success. When we fail, we look for scapegoats and go amok.

Our battle with the Malayan Union was, in a way, the first true independence that we achieved – when the British backed down. We became masters of our own land.

But the political landscape changed, and many non-Malays began to consider Malaya home and demanded a say in their new homeland.

In 1951, Onn made the first attempt to unify the races in a single party when he tried to open the membership of UMNO to non-Malays. However, Umno members at the time rejected it, and he left the party.

Nevertheless, the 1952 elections marked the first real political collaboration between Malays and non-Malays when UMNO and MCA joined forces for political victory. They were later joined by MIC to form the Alliance, signalling political unity amongst all Malayans, achieving a sweeping victory in the 1955 elections.

Then came the negotiations for Merdeka, where all Malaysians worked hand-in-hand to shrug off the yoke of colonialism. We learned that we were stronger together – when all Malaysians were united, we could overcome challenges.

All this happened against a backdrop of consistent armed warfare against terrorists during the Emergency, when all races fought shoulder to shoulder to gain victory. We are the only country in the world to defeat terrorists.

Then came the formation of Malaysia and Konfrontasi and throughout Malays were working with non-Malays to achieve national goals.

So, Malaysia has had a strong and rich history of inter-racial harmony and multi-culturalism since its very inception. But we must admit that it is still very complex with jobs and economic sectors identified with race, income inequality between the races and different educational systems existing.

It cannot be denied that Malaysia will prosper when Malays prosper. You cannot have 50 percent of your population in low income, there will be economic instability affecting everyone, regardless of race or economic status.

For Malaysia to succeed, the Malays must succeed. But this can only be achieved within the national context, working together with non-Malays for the benefit of Malaysia.

Why is it that Malays were able to work so closely with non-Malays for so many years leading up to Merdeka and beyond? Even in the face of outside aggression, there were hardly questions of who deserved Malaysia more – the Malays or non-Malays. Indeed, it was only when politicians decided to use race and religion as tools to gain power that we fell by the wayside.

This talk is entitled ‘Naratif Malaysia: Melayu dalam Persoalan National’. My question to you is: should we not just be talking about a National Narrative? Need we break down a national narrative along racial and religious lines?

But if your intention is to find answers to inequality, and to answer why the Malays are behind economically, then I really hope that this seminar will provide the answer.

When we talk about the Malays, we must talk about Islam. The Malays and Islam are indeed deeply entwined. They cannot be discussed separately. But what this has led to is the ignoring of our cultural and regional heritage, which has been abandoned in favour of foreign cultures (Arabisation especially) which feed into the insecurity of the Malays. It seems that everyone who does not speak like us and everything that we do not agree with, is a threat to Malays and Islam.

We must ask ourselves – is this true? Why is this so? Since when have the Malays and Muslims become so insecure about our place in this country?

When the Malays were far less economically advanced and far less educated, we defeated the British by rejecting the Malayan Union. We were brave.

We knew to organise collectively and strategically. We used our brains to defeat a colonial power. We managed to gain independence without bloodshed. We had no problems working with non-Malays and even learning from other races.

As the Malays progressed, it seems so did our sense of insecurity. Why is this so? Could it be that when there were no crutches, we had dignity, and the Malays felt more secure of our place within the country?

We are not lacking in Malay heroes. Johor alone has a rich history of formidable warriors, renowned artists, poets, athletes, scientists, doctors, academicians, and businessmen.

There was Muhamad Salleh bin Perang, who was the Bentara Luar. He was the first to draw up an accurate map of Johor, without the modern technology that present-day surveyors have available. He was the Head of Land Management and State Survey, and he used his map to plan the development of Johor. He was a Malay, but he was fluent in Chinese and was knowledgeable about Chinese culture, which allowed him to work closely with them in developing the economy.

In the realm of politics alone, the list of honours is never ending. Tun Hussein Onn, our “Bapa Perpaduan”UMNO was from Johor. And so was his own “Bapa”, the founder of UMNO, Onn Jaafar. His father before him, Jaafar Muhammad, was the first and longest serving MB of Johor. Deputy Prime Ministers Tun Dr Ismail and Musa Hitam were sons of Johor. Tun Ismail’s family was illustrious on its own, including his father-in-law Seth Said, Deputy MB of Johor, who was part of the delegation for Merdeka, and signed the Merdeka agreement against the Sultan’s orders. Without him, we would not have had Merdeka.

Johor produced the President of the Senate, Rahman Yasin. He was Tun Dr Ismail’s father. Tun Dr Ismail’s brother-in-law Ghazali Seth, was Chief of Defence, and he married Sri Norziah – sister of Hussein Onn, daughter of Onn Jaafar. Tun Dr Ismail went to school in Sekolah Melayu Bukit Zaharah in JB with two other famous figures – his brother, Sulaiman Abdul Rahman, and Ahmad Perang, who became the first Malay chairman of KTM.

Mohamed Noah Omar, the first Speaker of Dewan Rakyat, was also from Johor. His family too was very special – his two daughters married the men who would go on to be our prime ministers. Rahah, the wife of Tun Razak, and Suhaila, the wife of Hussein Onn. Tun Razak studied at Raffles College, with another son of Johor, Taib Andak, after whom Felda Taib Andak in Kulai is named. His brother Rahman Andak, was one of the early campaigners for Johor’s independence, and was State Secretary of Johor in 1984.

Governors of Bank Negara, Aziz Taha, Jaffar Hussein and Zeti Aziz. Professor Ungku Aziz, Zeti’s father, is a renowned economist. Zeti’s grandfather, Syed Mohammed Alsagoff, used to own Pulau Kukup, and had a concession to print his own money. Today, we use money signed by his granddaughter.

Why should we feel insecure with a legacy as illustrious as this?

Again, could it be that after being given all sorts of crutches, the effect has been to make the Malays weak and insecure, and most noticeably, lacking in resilience? What has led to this lack of confidence? It seems that when the Malays were facing real challenges, such as fighting for independence, our resilience was so much stronger.

As ease and comfort and quality of life improved, confidence and resilience abated. These observations call for sincere self-reflection – instead of picking fights with perceived enemies, we should look inwards and try to better ourselves instead of blaming all of our ills on others. We seem to be scared of our own shadows.

Today, there is one Malay graduate for every 20 Malays. Despite being more educated and having a large educated segment, we are still unable to convince ourselves that Malays have nothing to fear in this country. Are Malays thinking strategically, critically and logically? It looks increasingly obvious every day that the Malays are thinking with their emotions instead of with their intellect. We must ask ourselves – what is happening to us?

We have allowed our emotions to run wild and influence the way we see others. We watch ghost movies at the box offices. When Mastika stopped writing ghost stories, circulation ended and now there is no more Mastika. Now instead of reading about ghosts in Mastika, we are seeing ghosts around every corner.

Instead of depending on logic and facts, we prefer to buy into the racist rhetoric of politicians with dubious reputations.

Since I am talking to academicians, I would like to pose this question to you: what role should you be playing in injecting some logic and fact into the Malaysia narrative? Do you intend to go along with the emotional flow or do you see it as your academic duty to question the irrational narratives that are being shoved down the Malays’ throats?

Do you as “the educated” speak honestly and bravely about what is happening or do you simply pretend that this growing racism is justified?

All of you here are highly educated, but how many of you have bought into the nonsensical political rhetoric that the Malays are being threatened by the non- Malays in this country? That Islam is under threat simply because of one or two people being insensitive enough to post something on the Prophet?

The religion cannot be insulted. Only people can be. If our faith is strong, we do not get insulted. In fact, we laugh at such ignorance. And our behaviour should reflect the best of our religion so that we and our religion earn the respect of others.

Our country is multi-cultural and multi-religious. We have managed to live here in peace. We are sensitive to our neighbours and respect one another. This is our way.

It is wrong to insult anybody, more so the Prophet. To make fun of religion is stupid. But we have laws, and we should respect due process. Many have forgotten our Rukun Negara. The most important document is the Constitution.

No Malaysian should make insensitive comments towards other religions and races. But what has happened with the proclamation of Jihad against non- Muslims recently?

If Muslims want to perform Jihad, it should be Jihad to better ourselves not only spiritually, but economically, academically and to contribute to the continued growth of our own country.

We talk about the Malay narrative as if we are on the verge of being driven out of our own country. There is so much anger and indignation when non- Malays were appointed to high posts in the government, as if this is something new.

Why is there not the same anger when we are confronted with facts of corruption and kleptocracy of the highest order among our Malay leaders? We don’t feel offended when it was prime news all over the world. Instead, we respond with “Malu apa?”. Kalau “tak malu”, apa jadi kepada iman kita (If we are not ashamed, what has happened to our faith)?

The Malays can continue down this emotional and irrational path at our own peril or we can stop, think, reflect and call for change. Nobody is forcing us to be emotional and irrational. We have chosen to be that way ourselves because we have allowed ourselves to be bought over by politicians whose only goal is to gain or regain power, no matter what the cost – and the cost is almost always ours to bear.

So, the choice is up to us – nak duduk macam katak di bawah tempurung (want to be like a frog beneath a coconut-shell)? Do we change and become a force to be reckoned within the context of the national agenda, Malaysia Baru, or do we go down the path we are currently treading and proclaim a narrative that is narrow, focused only on ourselves? Or will we pursue a truly National or Malaysia Narrative, in which we participate and play a very active role?

The National Agenda is not a Malay agenda or a non-Malay agenda. It is a Malaysian Agenda that takes into consideration all Malaysians. That fights poverty and inequality without discrimination, respecting the Constitution.

I am glad to note that this seminar is directed at the four sectors of politics, economy, budaya and agama. Let us get all of these right. To get all of these right, our education system must change. Don’t treat education as a political football. The education system must be right.

Our future, Malaysia’s future, will depend on giving our children the right type of education that will allow them to be confident to face the best in the world. Get education right, then politics and economy will be right. Brains minus emotions will determine our future and the future of Malaysia.

Expose our children to the world, then they will want to excel, and they will protect the best of our budaya.

There is nothing wrong with Islam. It is not under threat. It is the fastest growing religion in the world.

I would like to advise you not to follow politicians blindly. As I said earlier, for Malaysia to succeed, the Malays must succeed. I keep repeating, Iqra’ (Aik Krok) – read to acquire knowledge and to think critically. Choose the right path that will lead to success.

Time is very important and we are excellent at wasting time. We will lose to time. Let us tell ourselves from now on we shall not repeat past mistakes. We will give the best education to our children so that they can compete and succeed. Let us leave all failure of confidence behind, and start our future now.

Leave this hall confident and ok with ourselves. Tell our children that we will compete and we will succeed.

Business as usual: regime change and GLCs in Malaysia


March 14, 2019

Business as usual: regime change and GLCs in Malaysia

By Dr. Edmund Terence Gomez

https://www.newmandala.org/business-as-usual-regime-change-and-glcs-in-malaysia/

 

  • Edmund Terence Gomez is Professor of Political Economy at the Faculty of Economics & Administration, University of Malaya. His publications include Malaysia’s Political Economy: Politics, Patronage and Profits (Cambridge University Press, 1997), Political Business in East Asia (Routledge, 2002), The New Economic Policy in Malaysia: Affirmative Action, Horizontal Inequalities and Social Justice (National University of Singapore Press, 2013) and Minister of Finance Incorporated: Ownership and Control of Corporate Malaysia (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2017).

    When Pakatan Harapan unexpectedly secured power after Malaysia’s 14th General Elections (GE14) in May 2018, voters expected the coalition and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to dismantle an extremely well-entrenched government–business institutional framework that had contributed to extensive clientelism, collusion, nepotism and embezzlement. After all, the institutionalisation of more transparent and accountable governance was a Pakatan campaign pledge.

    However, barely nine months after taking control of government, Pakatan appears to be re-instituting the practice of selective patronage in the conduct of politics and through the implementation of public policies. In this inter-connected domain of public policies and selective patronage, government-linked companies (GLCs) will play a key role.

    The core institutions employed by the Barisan Nasional coalition and the hegemonic party at its helm, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), that allowed for extensive profligacy are what are collectively known as GLCs. These GLCs are, in fact, a complex ensemble of statutory bodies, foundations, trust agencies, investment enterprises, a sovereign wealth fund, as well as companies, with representation in a wide array of industries. These institutions, controlled by the central and 13 state governments in the Malaysian federation, officially function primarily as “enablers” of domestic firms, to nurture a dynamic privately-owned enterprise base. But GLCs also constitute an estimated 42% of total market capitalisation of all publicly-listed firms. 67 quoted firms can be classified as GLCs, as the government, through various institutions, has a majority equity interest in them.

    Federal ministries, under the ambit of cabinet ministers, also control a vast number of quoted and unlisted GLCs that do a variety of things, including promoting development of strategic economic sectors, redressing spatial inequities by developing rural areas and industries, and financing research and development to drive industrialisation. However, of the 25 ministries in the federal cabinet in 2017, before the fall of Barisan, three in particular, the Prime Minister’s Department, Ministry of Finance (MoF) and Ministry of Rural and Regional Development (MRRD), had control of a huge assortment of companies that were deployed to channel government-generated rents to UMNO members and well-connected businesspeople.

    At the state level, different public institutions own GLCs through the states’ chief ministers, through holding firms known as Chief Minister Incorporated (CMI). CMIs establish companies to undertake activities in specific constituencies to mobilise electoral support. Party members are liberally appointed as directors of these GLCs, a major source of political financing as their stipends are used for political activities. Through the CMIs, what had emerged was the fusing of bureaucratic and party apparatuses, allowing politicians to selectively channel government resources in a manner that would help them consolidate or enhance their political base.

    Another factor shaped modes of GLC development: a communal perspective to policy implementation, in keeping with the government’s longstanding affirmative action-based redistributive agenda to transfer corporate equity to the Bumiputera (Malays and other indigenous groups). However, rents meant for poor Bumiputera were hijacked by UMNO members. Eventually, these GLCs became sites of political struggles among elites attempting to consolidate power through patronage, a reason why critics have persistently excoriated them as inefficient and loss-making concerns.

    Interestingly enough, this GLC framework became entrenched in the economy as well as the political system during Mahathir’s long 22-year reign as prime minister, from 1981 until 2003. Other key figures who shaped how this political–business nexus evolved while they served with Mahathir previously include then-Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin (1984–1990), now his economic advisor, and Anwar Ibrahim (1990–1997), then and now the designated prime minister-in-waiting. By the time of GE14, this GLC structure had become so huge—and so abused by Barisan—that Mahathir himself described it as a “monster”.

    Despite Pakatan’s promise of a new approach to shaping Malaysia’s political economy, experience thus far suggests a surprising degree of continuity. Rather than give up an appealingly effective lever for consolidating power, Pakatan leaders seem inclined to borrow the same tools on which Barisan had so detrimentally relied.

    Power struggles, persistent patronage

    Soon after Pakatan formed the government, a disturbing series of events occurred. Shortly after the election, Prime Minister Mahathir inaugurated the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MEA), led by Azmin Ali, deputy president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Anwar’s party. Even before GE14, PKR was mired in a serious factional row, reportedly due to problems between Anwar and Azmin. Meanwhile, Mahathir is widely thought to be uncomfortable with transferring power to Anwar, who he had removed from public office in 1998.

    Image result for Anwar. mahathir and Azmin

    A PKR insider insists that the party is split into two factions, one loyal to party supremo Anwar Ibrahim and the other to deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali.

    The newly-minted MEA took control of numerous GLCs from the Ministry of Finance (MoF), under the jurisdiction of Lim Guan Eng, leader of the Democratic Action Party (DAP). In this discreet shuffling of GLCs between ministries, Malaysia’s only sovereign wealth fund, Khazanah Nasional, was channelled from MoF to the Prime Minister’s Department, under Mahathir’s control. The government did not explain why these GLCs were shifted between ministries, but MoF’s enormous influence over the corporate sector has been significantly diminished. Under Barisan, the Prime Minister had also functioned as the Finance Minister, a practice Mahathir had started in 2001, but Pakatan, while in opposition, had pledged to ensure the same politician would not hold both portfolios.

    Even though Khazanah was under the Prime Minister’s Department, Mahathir appointed himself as its chairman, which is, by convention, the practice. The convention also is that the Finance Minister serve on Khazanah’s board of directors. Instead, Minister of Economic Affairs Azmin was given this appointment. The appointment of Mahathir and Azmin as Khazanah board members was contentious as Pakatan had pledged in its election manifesto that politicians would not be appointed as directors of government enterprises.

    Next, in September 2018, Azmin’s ministry convened a Congress on the Future of Bumiputeras & the Nation. Mahathir stressed at this congress the need to reinstitute the practice of selective patronage, targeting Bumiputera, a plan his economic advisor, Daim, endorsed. The following month, when Pakatan, through the MEA, released its first public policy document, the Mid-Term Review of the 11th Malaysia Plan, it emphasised the Bumiputera policy as being imperative. In the past, GLCs have been central to government efforts to advance Bumiputera interests.

    Meanwhile, numerous ministers began actively calling for the divestment of GLCs, an issue also in the 2019 budget. Subsequently, when Khazanah began reducing its equity holdings, including in CIMB, Malaysia’s second largest bank, rather than seeming simply a step toward the larger goal of scaling back government ownership, this divestment raised the question whether it marked the commencement of a transfer of control of key enterprises to well-connected business people, even proxies of politicians, a common practice by UMNO in the 1990s. In fact, in ensuing debates about such divestments, the question was raised whether such divestments were an attempt to create a new influential economic elite, even oligarchs, who could check politicians in power in the event of a leadership change.

    Then, another contentious issue occurred. Minister of Rural & Regional Development Rina Harun, of Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), appointed politicians from her party to the boards of directors of GLCs under her control. Under UMNO, this ministry had persistently been embroiled in allegations of corruption, undermining the activities of its GLCs that had been created to redress spatial inequalities and reduce poverty. The practice of patronage through GLCs to draw electoral support was rampant under this ministry as its enterprises have an enormous presence in states with a Bumiputera-majority population. So important is this ministry, in terms of mobilising electoral support, that it was always placed under the control of a senior UMNO leader. Hence, the minister’s directorial appointments suggested a worrying trend of continuity of irresponsible practices of the old regime.

    In December 2018, Bersatu leaders openly declared their intent to persist with the practice of selectively-targeted patronage. At its first convention after securing power, when its president, Muhyiddin Yassin, declared that “Bersatu should not be apologetic to champion the Bumiputera Agenda”, his statement was enthusiastically supported by members, suggesting an element of opportunism, even self-interested rent-seeking, in the party. UMNO leaders had made similar arguments in the past to justify state intervention, including through GLCs, a process that they abused to transfer government-generated rents to party members, to the detriment of poor Bumiputera. These trends suggested that Bersatu’s primary concern was its immediate need to consolidate power, not instituting appropriate long-term socioeconomic reforms, which might do less to muster support.

    The problem of instituting real change

    All told, then, these specific, sometimes discreet, steps since GE14 have called into question the extent of political economic reforms expected of Pakatan, based on its own manifesto. Moreover, under Pakatan, by its own admission, the volume of state intervention in the economy will still be substantial. Industrial development will be fostered through GLCs, as will attempts to nurture dynamic domestic Bumiputera-owned enterprises. Worryingly, what is absent is a coherently-structured industrial plan to cultivate entrepreneurial private firms. There is similarly no roadmap to reform these GLCs, or even to get them to target specific core industries requiring heavy capital investments and extensive research and development funding to rapidly industrialise the economy. Since politicians will control most of these GLCs as directors, they will determine the recipients of rents distributed to nurture domestic enterprises.

    The current state of play raises an important question about an interesting phenomenon: what happens, in terms of dismantling rent-seeking and patronage and instituting reforms to curb corruption, when a new regime comprises politicians who see this framework as a mechanism to consolidate power? A link between two core issues remains in place after regime change: elite domination and the continued practice of selective patronage, legitimised by advocating race-based policies that are to be implemented through GLCs. Under UMNO, elite domination was obvious, with Barisan component members subservient to then-Prime Minister Najib. In Pakatan, a multi-party coalition, Prime Minister Mahathir and Daim appear to have disproportionate influence when it comes to decision-making on core issues, though the parameters of their power remain unclear.

    Meanwhile, elite domination of the economy at the state level varies as several different parties are in power. State governments are controlled by UMNO, Bersatu, PKR, DAP, Parti Warisan Sabah, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) and Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB). The latter two parties have long governed Kelantan and Sarawak respectively, while Bersatu and Warisan are new parties run by UMNO factions, though ostensibly with a reformist agenda. The governance dynamics of these parties in these state governments will differ, specifically in terms of how they employ GLCs, further indicating the ubiquity of these enterprises in the economy. These GLCs have persistently been used to distribute different types of rents such as financial aid, contracts, permits, licences, etc., to party members as well as others in the electorate in key constituencies. Even with regime change, the presence of covert networks of power created through GLCs in these states is unlikely to be reformed, thus contributing to continued serious wastage of scarce resources.

    There is plainly no clear method to the madness of how the new federal or state governments employ GLCs. Different sets of political and business elites operate at the national and state levels. In fact, before GE14, business elites were known to be creating ties with politicians in both UMNO and Pakatan parties, specifically PKR and DAP. Meanwhile, in Sarawak, wealthy businessmen had long since begun entering politics, even getting elected as parliamentarians, thus giving them access to federal government leaders. This diversity in political–business ties, where government institutions figure, is an indication of how complex the GLC problem has become. However, GLCs remain an opaque form of state intervention in the economy. And, since there is little public knowledge of GLCs, the opacity of these enterprises has allowed for their abuse by politicians.

    Fragile state and political economic outcomes

    Since Pakatan is a coalition of parties led by politicians who coalesced only because they had a common agenda—the removal of Najib from power—what prevails in the post-GE14 period can be described as a “fragile state”. This fragility is also because of the uneasy relationship between Mahathir, who leads the second-smallest party in Pakatan, and his long-time-nemesis-now-political-ally Anwar, who leads the party with the highest number of parliamentary seats. PKR, however, is ridden with serious factionalism, including an uneasy truce between Anwar and Azmin, who apparently is closely associated with Mahathir.

    What is emerging is new forms of power relations through the unhealthy circulation of political elites from the old regime into Pakatan, as well as alliances between leaders from different parties in this coalition. UMNO parliamentarians are lining up to join Bersatu, a quick route back to power for them after their unexpected ouster. By co-opting them, Mahathir’s new party can swiftly fortify its extremely weak base in Bumiputera-dominant states. Bersatu’s co-optation of discredited UMNO members is, however, seriously undermining support for Pakatan among the urban middle class, as well as Mahathir’s credibility. In fact, there has been recent talk in the public domain that a no-confidence motion against Mahathir as Prime Minister may be tabled in the March sitting of parliament, led apparently by leaders within Pakatan. Because of this complex situation of political in-fighting, there is much fear that politicians in power may move to create, through the divestment of GLCs, powerful

    Since a structural framework that allowed politicians to exploit institutions in various ways to serve vested political and economic interests remains in place, a key question has emerged. What are the possible political outcomes to this situation, in which contending elites in the new regime struggle to consolidate their respective power bases? Political outcomes can involve protecting the property rights—through ongoing and much-needed institutional reforms—of business elites who acquire privatised GLCs, thereby preventing expropriation of these companies by the government in the event of a change of premiership. Political outcomes can also entail endorsing entitlements that give one large segment of society privileged access to government-generated rents, as is already actively occurring. Inevitably, a related issue is the necessity of targeted race-based policies. These policies serve as a mechanism to retain patronage-based networks and consolidate power bases. This approach can, however, stymie domestic investments by non-Bumiputera, a serious and persistent problem during Barisan’s rule.

    Ironically, it was these forms of unproductive government–business networks that Pakatan had promised to dismantle when in opposition, in order to forge a “New Malaysia”. This New Malaysia was supposed to be devoid of race-based political discourses and policies, with the GLCs deployed to promote equitable development and redress social inequities. The GLCs were not to be led by politicians who have no clue how to utilise them productively in the economy. These pledges have been broken. Evidently, consolidating power is more important for Malaysia’s new political elites than restructuring an economy in dire need of reform.
    itutions, has a majority equity interest in them.
    The core institutions employed by the Barisan Nasional coalition and the hegemonic party at its helm, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), that allowed for extensive profligacy are what are collectively known as GLCs. These GLCs are, in fact, a complex ensemble of statutory bodies, foundations, trust agencies, investment enterprises, a sovereign wealth fund, as well as companies, with representation in a wide array of industries. These institutions, controlled by the central and 13 state governments in the Malaysian federation, officially function primarily as “enablers” of domestic firms, to nurture a dynamic privately-owned enterprise base. But GLCs also constitute an estimated 42% of total market capitalisation of all publicly-listed firms. 67 quoted firms can be classified as GLCs, as the government, through various institutions, has a majority equity interest in them.

    At the state level, different public institutions own GLCs through the states’ chief ministers, through holding firms known as Chief Minister Incorporated (CMI). CMIs establish companies to undertake activities in specific constituencies to mobilise electoral support. Party members are liberally appointed as directors of these GLCs, a major source of political financing as their stipends are used for political activities. Through the CMIs, what had emerged was the fusing of bureaucratic and party apparatuses, allowing politicians to selectively channel government resources in a manner that would help them consolidate or enhance their political base.
    Another factor shaped modes of GLC development: a communal perspective to policy implementation, in keeping with the government’s longstanding affirmative action-based redistributive agenda to transfer corporate equity to the Bumiputera (Malays and other indigenous groups). However, rents meant for poor Bumiputera were hijacked by UMNO members. Eventually, these GLCs became sites of political struggles among elites attempting to consolidate power through patronage, a reason why critics have persistently excoriated them as inefficient and loss-making concerns.
    Interestingly enough, this GLC framework became entrenched in the economy as well as the political system during Mahathir’s long 22-year reign as prime minister, from 1981 until 2003. Other key figures who shaped how this political–business nexus evolved while they served with Mahathir previously include then-Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin (1984–1990), now his economic advisor, and Anwar Ibrahim (1990–1997), then and now the designated prime minister-in-waiting. By the time of GE14, this GLC structure had become so huge—and so abused by Barisan—that Mahathir himself described it as a “monster”.
    Despite Pakatan’s promise of a new approach to shaping Malaysia’s political economy, experience thus far suggests a surprising degree of continuity. Rather than give up an appealingly effective lever for consolidating power, Pakatan leaders seem inclined to borrow the same tools on which Barisan had so detrimentally relied.

    Power struggles, persistent patronage
    Soon after Pakatan formed the government, a disturbing series of events occurred. Shortly after the election, Prime Minister Mahathir inaugurated the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MEA), led by Azmin Ali, deputy president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Anwar’s party. Even before GE14, PKR was mired in a serious factional row, reportedly due to problems between Anwar and Azmin. Meanwhile, Mahathir is widely thought to be uncomfortable with transferring power to Anwar, who he had removed from public office in 1998.
    The newly-minted MEA took control of numerous GLCs from the Ministry of Finance (MoF), under the jurisdiction of Lim Guan Eng, leader of the Democratic Action Party (DAP). In this discreet shuffling of GLCs between ministries, Malaysia’s only sovereign wealth fund, Khazanah Nasional, was channelled from MoF to the Prime Minister’s Department, under Mahathir’s control. The government did not explain why these GLCs were shifted between ministries, but MoF’s enormous influence over the corporate sector has been significantly diminished. Under Barisan, the Prime Minister had also functioned as the Finance Minister, a practice Mahathir had started in 2001, but Pakatan, while in opposition, had pledged to ensure the same politician would not hold both portfolios.
    Even though Khazanah was under the Prime Minister’s Department, Mahathir appointed himself as its chairman, which is, by convention, the practice. The convention also is that the Finance Minister serve on Khazanah’s board of directors. Instead, Minister of Economic Affairs Azmin was given this appointment. The appointment of Mahathir and Azmin as Khazanah board members was contentious as Pakatan had pledged in its election manifesto that politicians would not be appointed as directors of government enterprises.

    Next, in September 2018, Azmin’s ministry convened a Congress on the Future of Bumiputeras & the Nation. Mahathir stressed at this congress the need to reinstitute the practice of selective patronage, targeting Bumiputera, a plan his economic advisor, Daim, endorsed. The following month, when Pakatan, through the MEA, released its first public policy document, the Mid-Term Review of the 11th Malaysia Plan, it emphasised the Bumiputera policy as being imperative. In the past, GLCs have been central to government efforts to advance Bumiputera interests.
    Meanwhile, numerous ministers began actively calling for the divestment of GLCs, an issue also in the 2019 budget. Subsequently, when Khazanah began reducing its equity holdings, including in CIMB, Malaysia’s second largest bank, rather than seeming simply a step toward the larger goal of scaling back government ownership, this divestment raised the question whether it marked the commencement of a transfer of control of key enterprises to well-connected business people, even proxies of politicians, a common practice by UMNO in the 1990s. In fact, in ensuing debates about such divestments, the question was raised whether such divestments were an attempt to create a new influential economic elite, even oligarchs, who could check politicians in power in the event of a leadership change.
    Then, another contentious issue occurred. Minister of Rural & Regional Development Rina Harun, of Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), appointed politicians from her party to the boards of directors of GLCs under her control. Under UMNO, this ministry had persistently been embroiled in allegations of corruption, undermining the activities of its GLCs that had been created to redress spatial inequalities and reduce poverty. The practice of patronage through GLCs to draw electoral support was rampant under this ministry as its enterprises have an enormous presence in states with a Bumiputera-majority population. So important is this ministry, in terms of mobilising electoral support, that it was always placed under the control of a senior UMNO leader. Hence, the minister’s directorial appointments suggested a worrying trend of continuity of irresponsible practices of the old regime.
    In December 2018, Bersatu leaders openly declared their intent to persist with the practice of selectively-targeted patronage. At its first convention after securing power, when its president, Muhyiddin Yassin, declared that “Bersatu should not be apologetic to champion the Bumiputera Agenda”, his statement was enthusiastically supported by members, suggesting an element of opportunism, even self-interested rent-seeking, in the party. UMNO leaders had made similar arguments in the past to justify state intervention, including through GLCs, a process that they abused to transfer government-generated rents to party members, to the detriment of poor Bumiputera. These trends suggested that Bersatu’s primary concern was its immediate need to consolidate power, not instituting appropriate long-term socioeconomic reforms, which might do less to muster support.

    The problem of instituting real change
    All told, then, these specific, sometimes discreet, steps since GE14 have called into question the extent of political economic reforms expected of Pakatan, based on its own manifesto. Moreover, under Pakatan, by its own admission, the volume of state intervention in the economy will still be substantial. Industrial development will be fostered through GLCs, as will attempts to nurture dynamic domestic Bumiputera-owned enterprises. Worryingly, what is absent is a coherently-structured industrial plan to cultivate entrepreneurial private firms. There is similarly no roadmap to reform these GLCs, or even to get them to target specific core industries requiring heavy capital investments and extensive research and development funding to rapidly industrialise the economy. Since politicians will control most of these GLCs as directors, they will determine the recipients of rents distributed to nurture domestic enterprises.
    The current state of play raises an important question about an interesting phenomenon: what happens, in terms of dismantling rent-seeking and patronage and instituting reforms to curb corruption, when a new regime comprises politicians who see this framework as a mechanism to consolidate power? A link between two core issues remains in place after regime change: elite domination and the continued practice of selective patronage, legitimised by advocating race-based policies that are to be implemented through GLCs. Under UMNO, elite domination was obvious, with Barisan component members subservient to then-Prime Minister Najib. In Pakatan, a multi-party coalition, Prime Minister Mahathir and Daim appear to have disproportionate influence when it comes to decision-making on core issues, though the parameters of their power remain unclear.
    Meanwhile, elite domination of the economy at the state level varies as several different parties are in power. State governments are controlled by UMNO, Bersatu, PKR, DAP, Parti Warisan Sabah, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) and Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB). The latter two parties have long governed Kelantan and Sarawak respectively, while Bersatu and Warisan are new parties run by UMNO factions, though ostensibly with a reformist agenda. The governance dynamics of these parties in these state governments will differ, specifically in terms of how they employ GLCs, further indicating the ubiquity of these enterprises in the economy. These GLCs have persistently been used to distribute different types of rents such as financial aid, contracts, permits, licences, etc., to party members as well as others in the electorate in key constituencies. Even with regime change, the presence of covert networks of power created through GLCs in these states is unlikely to be reformed, thus contributing to continued serious wastage of scarce resources.
    There is plainly no clear method to the madness of how the new federal or state governments employ GLCs. Different sets of political and business elites operate at the national and state levels. In fact, before GE14, business elites were known to be creating ties with politicians in both UMNO and Pakatan parties, specifically PKR and DAP. Meanwhile, in Sarawak, wealthy businessmen had long since begun entering politics, even getting elected as parliamentarians, thus giving them access to federal government leaders. This diversity in political–business ties, where government institutions figure, is an indication of how complex the GLC problem has become. However, GLCs remain an opaque form of state intervention in the economy. And, since there is little public knowledge of GLCs, the opacity of these enterprises has allowed for their abuse by politicians.

    Fragile state and political economic outcomes
    Since Pakatan is a coalition of parties led by politicians who coalesced only because they had a common agenda—the removal of Najib from power—what prevails in the post-GE14 period can be described as a “fragile state”. This fragility is also because of the uneasy relationship between Mahathir, who leads the second-smallest party in Pakatan, and his long-time-nemesis-now-political-ally Anwar, who leads the party with the highest number of parliamentary seats. PKR, however, is ridden with serious factionalism, including an uneasy truce between Anwar and Azmin, who apparently is closely associated with Mahathir.
    What is emerging is new forms of power relations through the unhealthy circulation of political elites from the old regime into Pakatan, as well as alliances between leaders from different parties in this coalition. UMNO parliamentarians are lining up to join Bersatu, a quick route back to power for them after their unexpected ouster. By co-opting them, Mahathir’s new party can swiftly fortify its extremely weak base in Bumiputera-dominant states. Bersatu’s co-optation of discredited UMNO members is, however, seriously undermining support for Pakatan among the urban middle class, as well as Mahathir’s credibility. In fact, there has been recent talk in the public domain that a no-confidence motion against Mahathir as Prime Minister may be tabled in the March sitting of parliament, led apparently by leaders within Pakatan. Because of this complex situation of political in-fighting, there is much fear that politicians in power may move to create, through the divestment of GLCs, powerful business elites or even oligarchs to check other political elites.
    Since a structural framework that allowed politicians to exploit institutions in various ways to serve vested political and economic interests remains in place, a key question has emerged. What are the possible political outcomes to this situation, in which contending elites in the new regime struggle to consolidate their respective power bases? Political outcomes can involve protecting the property rights—through ongoing and much-needed institutional reforms—of business elites who acquire privatised GLCs, thereby preventing expropriation of these companies by the government in the event of a change of premiership. Political outcomes can also entail endorsing entitlements that give one large segment of society privileged access to government-generated rents, as is already actively occurring. Inevitably, a related issue is the necessity of targeted race-based policies. These policies serve as a mechanism to retain patronage-based networks and consolidate power bases. This approach can, however, stymie domestic investments by non-Bumiputera, a serious and persistent problem during Barisan’s rule.

    Ironically, it was these forms of unproductive government–business networks that Pakatan had promised to dismantle when in opposition, in order to forge a “New Malaysia”. This New Malaysia was supposed to be devoid of race-based political discourses and policies, with the GLCs deployed to promote equitable development and redress social inequities. The GLCs were not to be led by politicians who have no clue how to utilise them productively in the economy. These pledges have been broken. Evidently, consolidating power is more important for Malaysia’s new political elites than restructuring an economy in dire need of reform.

       

Anwar: I won’t interrupt Dr M, don’t disrupt me when it’s my turn


February 24, 2019

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/465368

Anwar: I won’t interrupt Dr M, don’t disrupt me when it’s my turn

by Wong Kai Hui

Image result for daim on anwar

SDR Anwar’s self confidence is admirable, but…

SEMENYIH POLLS | PKR President Anwar Ibrahim reiterated that he supports Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s leadership and he will not disrupt his work.

Speaking at a ceramah in Taman Sri Jenaris last night, Anwar stressed that he will not interrupt Mahathir’s affairs and he hoped that he will not be interrupted when he becomes the next prime minister.

“We give our full support (to Tun M), let him do his work. I won’t interrupt because I don’t want to disrupt his work.”

“When it is my turn, let me do my work and don’t disrupt me too. This is our mutual understanding,” added Anwar.

He also rubbished PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang’s claims about the motion of no-confidence against Mahathir in Parliament.

“If I want to fight against someone, I will shout loudly.”

Then, he shouted the slogans of “Lawan tetap lawan” and said that doing things secretly at the back is not his style. A large crowd of about 600 people clapped their hands to show their support.

On Feb 17, PAS Secretary-General Takiyuddin Hassan said the Islamist party has pledged to support Mahathir in the event of a “betrayal” within Harapan.

He said the “draft letter,” signed during a recent meeting between the premier and PAS top leadership in Kuala Lumpur, was a declaration of the party’s support for Mahathir.

Apart from Takiyuddin, other PAS leaders present at the meeting with Mahathir were Hadi and Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar.

Harapan leaders from Bersatu, PKR, DAP and Amanah, however, have dismissed the no-confidence motion.

When asked, Mahathir said that he will wait and see whether PAS will honour its pledge to support him in the event of a no-confidence vote to oust him.

SEMENYIH POLLS | PKR president Anwar Ibrahim reiterated that he supports Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s leadership and he will not disrupt his work.

Speaking at a ceramah in Taman Sri Jenaris last night, Anwar stressed that he will not interrupt Mahathir’s affairs and he hoped that he will not be interrupted when he becomes the next prime minister.

“We give our full support (to Tun M), let him do his work. I won’t interrupt because I don’t want to disrupt his work.”

“When it is my turn, let me do my work and don’t disrupt me too. This is our mutual understanding,” added Anwar.

He also rubbished PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang’s claims about the motion of no-confidence against Mahathir in Parliament.

“If I want to fight against someone, I will shout loudly.”

Then, he shouted the slogans of “Lawan tetap lawan” and said that doing things secretly at the back is not his style. A large crowd of about 600 people clapped their hands to show their support.

On Feb 17, PAS Secretary-General Takiyuddin Hassan said the Islamist party has pledged to support Mahathir in the event of a “betrayal” within Harapan.

He said the “draft letter,” signed during a recent meeting between the premier and PAS top leadership in Kuala Lumpur, was a declaration of the party’s support for Mahathir.

Apart from Takiyuddin, other PAS leaders present at the meeting with Mahathir were Hadi and Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar.

Harapan leaders from Bersatu, PKR, DAP and Amaneh, however, have dismissed the no-confidence motion.

When asked, Mahathir said that he will wait and see whether PAS will honour its pledge to support him in the event of a no-confidence vote to oust him.

SEMENYIH POLLS | PKR President Anwar Ibrahim reiterated that he supports Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s leadership and he will not disrupt his work.

Speaking at a ceramah in Taman Sri Jenaris last night, Anwar stressed that he will not interrupt Mahathir’s affairs and he hoped that he will not be interrupted when he becomes the next prime minister.

“We give our full support (to Tun M), let him do his work. I won’t interrupt because I don’t want to disrupt his work.”

“When it is my turn, let me do my work and don’t disrupt me too. This is our mutual understanding,” added Anwar.

He also rubbished PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s claims about the motion of no-confidence against Mahathir in Parliament.

“If I want to fight against someone, I will shout loudly.”

Then, he shouted the slogans of “Lawan tetap lawan” and said that doing things secretly at the back is not his style. A large crowd of about 600 people clapped their hands to show their support.

On Feb 17, PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan said the Islamist party has pledged to support Mahathir in the event of a “betrayal” within Harapan.

He said the “draft letter,” signed during a recent meeting between the premier and PAS top leadership in Kuala Lumpur, was a declaration of the party’s support for Mahathir.

Apart from Takiyuddin, other PAS leaders present at the meeting with Mahathir were Hadi and Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar.

Harapan leaders from Bersatu, PKR, DAP and Amaneh, however, have dismissed the no-confidence motion.

When asked, Mahathir said that he will wait and see whether PAS will honour its pledge to support him in the event of a no-confidence vote to oust him.

How effective is the Economic Affairs Ministry?


Fsbruary1, 2019

How effective is the Economic Affairs Ministry?

Opinion

 by Nathaniel Tan

 

COMMENT | Universiti Malaya Professor Terence Gomez recently wrote an article entitled ‘Patronage is king in new Malaysia?’

This article elicited a rather rare response from the usually reclusive and enigmatic former finance minister, Daim Zainuddin, who registered his umbrage about having his photo printed (“reporting by innuendo”, allegedly) alongside Gomez’s article in The Star.

One of Gomez’s key questions involved the moving of key federal agencies from one ministry to another under Pakatan Harapan.

Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad created the new Economic Affairs Ministry under PKR deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali just a few weeks after forming the government last year.

Gomez did not appear to directly question the formation of this ministry and the rationale for doing so, but Daim seemed quick to jump to its defence, writing:

“The cabinet is appointed by the Prime Minister; who he appoints and what portfolio they hold is entirely his prerogative. He can even have a minister in charge of durians if he so wishes, if he considers that a portfolio of durians is good for his administration and the country.”

Trying to play amateur psychologist should perhaps be frowned upon, but the defensiveness and sarcasm of these words might perhaps be interpreted as Gomez having hit a little close to home.

In his short piece, Daim was also quick to defend the ‘bumiputera agenda’: “The bumiputra agenda is mutually inclusive with a national agenda. For as long as we do not solve the bumiputra issue, we can never go forward as a nation.”

We must, of course, be fair. Nothing that Daim is saying in the above quotes is technically wrong, or even particularly bad.

The Prime Minister does indeed have every power to create or dissolve ministries as he sees fit, and bumiputera prosperity is not mutually exclusive with Malaysian prosperity.

All that said, it may be worthwhile for us to read a little between the lines to understand what undercurrents are at play here.

Why an Economic Affairs Ministry?

To my shame, I must admit that I was for a long time a little bit confused about the rationale of creating the Economic Affairs Ministry in the first place.

As time went by, I realised that said rationale should have been obvious to anyone deigning to consider themselves a seasoned political observer.

The answer becomes clear when we look at a sampling of which federal agencies were transferred from Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng’s ministry to Azmin’s portfolio: Felda, Felcra, Unit Peneraju Agenda Bumiputera, Yayasan Amanah Hartanah Bumiputera, and Yayasan Peneraju Pendidikan Bumiputera, just to name a few.

Azmin’s ministry also convened the Congress on the Future of Bumiputeras and the Nation in September last year.

The facts suggest that there were elements who felt uncomfortable with placing the agencies mentioned and all the power that came with them above under the aegis of someone with a surname like “Lim.”

Political ambitions as a distraction

Related image

There is one more element here at play. It may not have been a coincidence that Azmin was handpicked to lead this carved-out ministry.

The enduring focus of political speculation and gossip in Malaysia is whether or not PKR President Anwar Ibrahim will succeed Mahathir as Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, some might say that the enduring focus of Daim’s vision for a future Malaysia is one in which Anwar is not prime Minister.

The mutual dislike between these men is not much of a secret. In the early days after GE14, both made thinly veiled attacks against one another.

Image result for Daim on ANWAR

Anyone looking to prevent Anwar from becoming Prime Minister would naturally look to alternatives. Azmin of course is an obvious option, given the increasing animosity playing out between Azmin and Anwar.

The available facts and public positions taken by each respective party does make it look like there is some Azmin-Daim partnership manoeuvering to try and put forward Azmin as a successor to Mahathir instead of Anwar.

The disproportionate amount of Mahathir-friendly content on Azmin’s Twitter timeline and Daim’s reputation as someone inclined to project considerable influence (‘meddle’ is the less kind word some might use) in various spheres of governance all add to this perception.

The stakes in this game are high of course – literally the highest, where Malaysian politics is concerned. So it should come as no surprise that a lot of energy and resources go into the political manouvering at play.

Getting back on track

A few days ago, a piece of tragic, shocking news emerged, where two elderly ladies in Pudu died in a mini-stampede at the wet market over a rush to get coupons for free food.

Amidst all our politicking, this was a sobering reminder of the (literal) life and death realities Malaysians are facing on the ground.

Whatever his political ambitions, and whether or not his entire ministry was created amidst racial concerns, people like Azmin and others are all capable of playing a big role in facilitating much-needed growth in our economy.

Doing so, however, will require him and the rest of those in power to hunker down and really focus on finding solutions.

If we fail to do so, we put the welfare of those like the two ladies in Pudu, and millions of other Malaysians with them, at severe risk.


NATHANIEL TAN is Director of Media and Communications at EMIR Research, a think tank focused on data-driven policy research, centered around principles of Engagement, Moderation, Innovation and Rigour.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

FOCUS On POVERTY alleviation, not income creation for billionaires–Mahathir’s outdated policy prescriptions


January 16, 2019

FOCUS On POVERTY alleviation, not billionaires —Mahathir’s outdated policy prescriptions

by P. Gunasegaram

Image result for the malaysian maverick by barry wain

QUESTION TIME | When Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad sank low to say that wealth should be distributed equally among races, he indicated plainly that he has no solid plan to increase incomes and alleviate poverty for all Malays and Malaysians. His priorities are elsewhere.

Note that he talks about the distribution of wealth, not increasing incomes, which is more important because this is what will eventually result in a proper redistribution of wealth by valuing fairly everyone’s contribution  to wealth creation.

During his time as Prime Minister previously for a very long 22 years from 1981 to 2003 out of 46 years of independence at that time – nearly half the period of independence – he had plenty of opportunities, but squandered them.

He did not care for the common Malay, but was instead more focused on creating Malay billionaires overnight through the awarding of lucrative operations handled by the government or government companies previously, such as roads, power producers, telecommunications and others.

He depressed labour wages by bringing in millions of workers from Indonesia, and subsequently Bangladesh and the Philippines, to alter the religious balance in Sabah. A significant number of them became Malaysian citizens over the years, altering the overall racial and religious balance in the country.

By doing that he let his own race down, many of whom were workers and small entrepreneurs whose incomes were constrained by imported labour. Even now, Mahathir has not shown a great willingness to increase minimum wages, which will help many poor Malays and bumiputeras increase their incomes.

As Mahathir himself well knows, distribution is not an easy thing. Stakes held by others cannot be simply distributed, but they have to be sold, even if it is at depressed prices as it was under the New Economic Policy or NEP, when companies wanted to get listed.

Instant millionaires

There are not enough Malays rich enough to buy these stakes, but many of them in the Mahathir era and earlier, especially the connected elite, became rich by purchasing the 30 percent stakes for bumiputeras that had to be divested upon listing by taking bank loans.

By simply flipping the stakes on the market at a higher price after they were listed, they pocketed the difference and became instant millionaires.

Image result for the permodalan nasional

It was Mahathir’s brother-in-law – the straight, honest and capable Ismail Ali – who was the architect behind the setting up of Permodalan Nasional Bhd or PNB to hold in trust for bumiputera stakes in major companies. PNB now has funds of some RM280 billion and has been enormously successful in this respect.

But Mahathir, with advice from Daim Zainuddin who became his Finance Minister, still cultivated selected bumiputera leaders, many of them Daim’s cronies, and gave them plum deals. A slew of them who were terribly over-leveraged got into trouble during the 1997-1998 financial crisis.

The government, often through Khazanah Nasional Bhd, had to rescue some of the biggest ones, resulting in Khazanah holding key stakes in many companies such as Axiata, CIMB, PLUS and so on. Recently, the government has been talking about, not surprisingly, selling these stakes to investors, accusing Khazanah of not developing bumiputera entrepreneurship, which was not anywhere in its original aims.

It becomes more obvious what Mahathir is talking about. Redistribution of wealth now will come out of the selling of government (Khazanah) and PNB stakes to individual Malay entrepreneurs to equalise wealth distribution among the races. To make it more palatable, some willing Indian entrepreneurs, too, may be found.

The modus operandi will be to sell the stakes when prices are depressed and perhaps even to offer a bulk discount to these so-called entrepreneurs who, of course, will not only be among the elite, but who are cronies. That will ensure a steady flow of funds into Bersatu in future from donations to help make it the premier party in the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

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Mahathir knows full well that equal wealth distribution is impossible – it’s never been done anywhere before and makes wealth acquisition disproportionate to intelligent effort and hard work, a sure recipe for inefficiency, corruption and patronage. As eloquently argued by prominent political economy professor Terence Gomez, patronage is king in new Malaysia – if it was cash during Najib’s time.

Mahathir does not have the wherewithal to lead anymore, if he ever had it in the first place. Eight months after GE14, he is still bereft of a plan to increase incomes and improve livelihoods. He needs to recognise he does not have one and that he stays in power because of the strength of the other parties in the coalition.

Wrong direction

The only way to close the wealth gap is to increase future incomes across all races. Anything else is the expropriation of other people’s wealth. In the meantime, the holding of wealth in trust by state agencies is perfectly acceptable because the income comes back to the government.

This can be wisely used to improve the quality of education, get better quality investments, raise productivity and hence labour wages, and provide equal opportunities for growth and innovation among all communities. As so many people have said before me, you can equalise opportunities, but not outcomes.

So far, 61 years of UMNO-BN have not managed to equalise opportunities for all as the government education system is in shambles, among others. And eight months of Harapan is heading in the wrong direction under Mahathir.

Despite Bersatu being a party expressly formed to fight for Malay rights, Mahathir’s party had the lowest support from Malays of parties looking after Malay rights, including Umno, PAS, PKR and Amanah.

He is still stuck in a mode to widen his rather narrow and vulnerable power base (his Bersatu won only 13 seats of 52 contested, the worst win rate of any party in the coalition) unethically by attracting tarnished MPs from Umno into the Bersatu fold, in the process willing to break agreements with other coalition partners and doing/advocating things which are against the principles of a properly functioning democracy.

He has also said he will not honour some manifesto promises, saying that these were made when Harapan did not expect to win the elections – a rather lame excuse. He has not even made solid moves to undo repressive laws introduced by his predecessor Najib Abdul Razak.

Mahathir, obviously, has no intention plan to improve the livelihood of the common Malay and all Malaysians;  he is stuck in old-school forced distribution which is injurious to the economy, maybe even fatal in the long term.

 Malaysians don’t want the creation of Malay (or any other ) billionaires from government wealth.


Old wine in a new bottle is still sour. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.