Liberalisation and empowerment the path to Malaysian prosperity


March 25, 2010

Liberalisation and empowerment the path to Malaysian prosperity

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

https://www.eastasiaforum.org/2019/03/25/liberalisation-and-empowerment-the-path-to-malaysian-prosperity/

It’s nearly a year since the Malaysian people overwhelmingly cast aside the domineering, divisive and corruption-riddled government of Najib Razak for an alternative led by Mohamad Mahathir that promised renewed focus on the people’s interests. The new Pakatan Harapan government undertook to restore good governance, raise the bar for ministers and civil servants, recover embezzled funds and deliver them back to Malaysians as cost of living relief.

A view of a building site beneath the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 18 February 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Olivia Harris).

Translating rhetoric into action has thus far proven an uphill battle for an inexperienced government accustomed to life in opposition. It’s struggling to turn the vision into concrete reforms, as it tries to navigate a hostile upper house and entrenched vested interests. Progress has been confined to a handful of easy wins and the multiplication of committees to continue decades-old debates about well-understood policy failings. Malaysians are becoming restless for the government to deliver on the promise of a ‘New Malaysia’ that secures livings standards regardless of ethnicity.

Efforts to deconcentrate centralised power structures and break up state monopolies are central to reinvigorating the economy. This will enable more effective governance and help tackle endemic corruption. Malaysia’s Federal Government commands over 88 per cent of total government revenue and expenditure (the share is closer to 50 per cent in federations like Australia and the United States), leaving almost 170 states and local authorities with limited resources to address local needs. Imperious policymaking from the administrative capital of Putrajaya coupled with non-elected local governments bedevil the effective delivery of local services including law enforcement, education and healthcare.

This week’s lead article by Wing Thye Woo argues that ‘[g]rowth requires state governments that are empowered to plan and implement their own development strategies’. This would require a significant shift from the highly political allocation of development finance that penalised opposition-led states under the former government.

Government-linked corporations (GLCs) dominate the Malaysian economy and that needs to change. GLCs command a majority share of market capitalisation and key sectors of the economy including natural resources, utilities, construction and finance. Policies that reinforce GLC dominance stifle innovative and dynamic small and medium enterprises and competitiveness.

As Woo says, ‘GLCs may perform well in theory, but they don’t in practice — officials inevitably use them for political patronage and personal corruption. GLCs are political creatures, not economic instruments … Downsizing the state-related sector through privatisation is necessary for economic efficiency, political accountability and income equality’.

The government has acknowledged the problem but has been tentative in its approach to this critical reform. Its first substantive policy announcements and budget provided a major setback, reinforcing the role of GLCs in ethnic Malay development strategies and increasing government dependence on GLC dividends. It’s unclear whether the government now has the clout and political fortitude to pursue a privatisation and competition agenda.

Decentralisation is more than just government ownership and power-sharing; it encompasses a shift in the mentality of government from one underpinned by heavy-handed direction to one of empowerment. This requires the creation of institutional and regulatory environments that empower people to shape the policies that affect them, private business and entrepreneurship to fuel the engine room of economic growth, and all levels of government to deliver an enabling environment in which private actors flourish.

Empowerment means replacing ethnic discrimination with inclusive approaches to policy making, lifting up all low-income households. It means constructing a tax and transfer system that reduces rather than perpetuates inequality and cost of living pressures, positively reshaping the social contract between taxpayers and government. And it requires liberating the education system from the mechanistic, dictatorial, one-size-fits-all approach that has prioritised a one-eyed conception of nation-building over the development of inquisitive and adaptable minds.

Effective governance starts with a recognition that meaningful reforms may not please everyone but if done well can benefit all. It requires the strength of conviction to stay the course in the face of interest group pressures, avoiding discouraging U-turns like abandoning intentions to sign the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It entails more than a solitary sugar tax to raise funds for development and social welfare when the tax revenue share of GDP is a third of the OECD average. And it requires delivering substantive reforms to education in the light (or in spite) of next month’s special task force report.

The government’s recent by-election defeat in Semenyih provides a wake-up call that its support among middle-class Malaysians depends on improving its performance not on disparaging its predecessor. That means harnessing the electorate’s heightened expectations towards charting a more prosperous course for the economy, governance and for the Malaysian people.

The EAF Editorial Board is located in the Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.

 

Decentralisation the best bet for Malaysia’s growth

Author: by Dr. Wing Thye Woo, Sunway University

Malaysia’s burgeoning middle class has high expectations for future economic development. But the nation won’t escape the ‘middle-income trap’ and won’t have socially-inclusive growth under current government policies. A range of reforms that deliver decentralised decision-making is needed to build the knowledge-led economy to propel Malaysia to the next level of development.

A view of the Kuala Lumpur city skyline in Malaysia, 7 February 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin).

Malaysia’s current policy framework has its roots in the 1970 New Economic Policy (NEP) and its socio-political counterpart ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ (Supremacy of Malays). NEP has succeeded in building a large Malay middle class that is informed, skilled and confident about its identity. But it’s also well aware that these two policies rooted in the past are not capable of transforming Malaysia into a developed nation.

To meet these aspirations, reform is urgently needed in three key economic areas. Each area requires a common reform component: the careful entrenchment of decentralised decision-making.

First, the state’s administrative structure inhibits innovative policymaking and prevents effective oversight. The federal government is much larger and more cumbersome than state governments and has disproportionate power.

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Contrasting budgets and spending power reveal the imbalance between federal and state governments. The federal government has legal authority to impose income and sales taxes. But state governments must rely on land-related transactions and fees on small-ticket items like hawker licenses for independent revenue. The provision of most public services is done through branches of federal ministries operating at the state level.

State expenditure is determined by fiscal allocations from the federal government to state governments, and the amounts allocated depend on political considerations. Under the former Barisan Nasional (BN) government, opposition-controlled states received budgetary allocations that were proportionately much smaller than BN-controlled states. State governments are banned from borrowing to finance development projects, and that means they are unable to raise revenue to build the infrastructure needed to clear production bottlenecks in local industries.

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Growth requires state governments that are empowered to plan and implement their own development strategies. Effective decentralisation requires each state government to have its own civil service. States will also need much larger shares of tax revenue, based on factors like developmental stage and tax revenue contribution. They should also be allowed to borrow to finance local infrastructure projects — with the commitment that there will be no federal bailouts — and be invested with significant responsibilities that are currently held by federal ministries.

The second key task is reforming government-linked corporations (GLCs). GLCs are crowding out the private sector, reducing economic dynamism. They also enable corruption that increases income inequality.

GLCs may perform well in theory, but they don’t in practice — officials inevitably use them for political patronage and personal corruption. GLCs are political creatures, not economic instruments.

Competition between GLCs and private firms is intrinsically unfair and harmful for overall growth. No matter how inefficient GLCs are, they can always count on government bailouts. They undermine economic dynamism by buying up their more efficient private competitors. Worse still, they prevent the development of a dynamic Malay business community by pulling capable Malays entrepreneurs away from starting private businesses and into cosy, life-long GLC jobs.

Downsizing the state-related sector through privatisation is necessary for economic efficiency, political accountability and income equality. The only two considerations in choosing buyers should be the size of the bid and the promotion of industry competition. A well-prepared and transparent privatisation process is more important than a speedy one.

The third key economic reform task is diversifying and expanding the banking system. The financial sector’s monopoly structure damages economic performance and worsens income inequality by suppressing the operations of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The 1997 Asian financial crisis convinced the Malaysian government that the banking system would be less prone to crisis if regulators could more easily monitor them. The result was the forced consolidation of smaller banks into 10 big banks in 2000.

This action made state investment companies the controlling shareholders in most commercial banks, effectively creating a state-owned banking monopoly. These banks are slow in adopting better payment practices and providing new financial products, shoddy in their treatment of small retail customers, and biased in lending towards GLCs. The small number of banks and the extent of state control in the largest banks are to blame.

One serious defect of the bank consolidation was that Malaysian SMEs began experiencing difficulties in getting capital from the large banks, replicating the international experience that SME financing comes mostly from small and medium-sized banks. In response, the Malaysian government established the state-owned SME Bank in 2005. But the SME Bank is not meeting the sector’s capital needs. It also has the highest non-performing loan ratio in the banking industry. The slow growth of the SME sector means new Malay bus­­­inesses are not emerging and the distribution of income is worsening.

Reforming the banking sector will mean allowing private small and medium-sized banks to exist again, reducing the government’s bank share holdings, and removing restrictions on foreign banks and their activities.

The NEP is essentially ‘Ketuanan Centralisation’ (Supremacy of Centralisation) in the economic sphere, manifesting as ‘Ketuanan Federal Government’ in governance, ‘Ketuanan GLC’ in production, and ‘Ketuanan Monopoly Bank’ in finance.

NEP cannot mobilise the entire brain-power of Malaysia for knowledge-creation because it prevents entrenchment of excellence in socio-economic institutions, and induces brain drain and capital flight. For Malaysia to escape the middle-income trap, ‘Ketuanan Centralisation’ must be purged from the public policy framework to make way for knowledge-led growth.

Wing Thye Woo is President of the Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia and Director of the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development at Sunway University and Professor of Economics at the University of California at Davis; he holds adjunct academic positions at Fudan University and Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

 

 

Reflections on Achieving the Global Education Goals


February 15, 2019

Reflections on Achieving the Global Education Goals

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In today’s deeply interconnected world, the benefits of strong and inclusive education systems are far-reaching. A quality education gives people the knowledge they need to recognize the importance of safeguarding the planet’s finite resources, appreciate diversity and resist intolerance, and act as informed global citizens.

https://www.project-syndicate.oryO8cnaCfxvpRj6xZQWIVfABNo8v98hSxJ6_Tzc6M

 

NEW YORK – Throughout my life, I have seen the power of education. I have witnessed how quality education for all can support the creation of dynamic economies and help to sustain peace, prosperity, and stability. I have also observed how education instills in individuals, no matter their circumstances, a strong sense of self, as well as confidence in their place in the world and their future prospects.

We know that each additional year of schooling raises average annual GDP growth by 0.37%, while increasing an individual’s earnings by up to 10%. If every girl worldwide received 12 years of quality education, lifetime earnings for women could double, reaching $30 trillion. And if all girls and boys completed secondary education, an estimated 420 million people could be lifted out of poverty. According to a 2018 World Bank report, universal secondary education could even eliminate child marriage.

In today’s deeply interconnected world, the benefits of strong and inclusive education systems extend even further. Education gives people the knowledge they need to recognize the importance of safeguarding the planet’s finite resources, appreciate diversity and resist intolerance, and act as informed global citizens.

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals, created in 2000 to guide global development over the subsequent 15 years, gave new impetus to efforts to ensure education for all. From 2000 to 2015, primary-school enrolment in the developing world rose from 83% to 91%, reducing the number of out-of-school primary-school-age children from 100 million to 57 million. Moreover, from 1990 to 2015, the global literacy rate among people aged 15 to 24 increased from 83% to 91%, with the gap between men and women declining substantially.

But much remains to be done. Globally, at least 263 million children were out of school in 2016. This includes half of all children with disabilities in developing countries. Furthermore, half of all children of preschool-age – the most crucial years for their cognitive development – are not enrolled in early-childhood education.

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The situation deteriorates further in conflict zones, where girls are almost two and a half times as likely to be out of school as their peers in stable countries. And this does not cover the estimated 617 million children and adolescents of primary and lower-secondary-school age – 58% of that age group – who are not achieving minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics.

To help close these gaps, the successor to the MDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals, also emphasizes education. SDG4 commits the world to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all – essentially to harness the power of education to unlock every person’s potential. Despite the scale of the challenge and the diverse barriers that can restrict and disrupt learning, we know what an effective strategy would entail.

First, to be a true force for change, education itself must be transformed in response to the realities of accelerating globalization, climate change and labor market shifts. While advanced technologies – such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and blockchain – raise new challenges, they may be able to play a role in improving educational outcomes. Digital skills must be part of any curriculum, and new alliances with the tech sector – which can provide valuable insights into these topics – should be actively pursued.

Second, an inclusive and lifelong approach, focused on reaching the most marginalized and vulnerable populations, is essential. As UNICEF’s Innocenti Report Card 15 shows, this does not mean sacrificing high standards. In fact, as the report points out, children of all backgrounds tend to do better when they are in a more socially integrated school environment. Such an inclusive approach will require sharing best practices and investing in what is proven to work. Meanwhile, development partners must provide long-term support that emphasizes capacity-building and institutions, and balances humanitarian, economic, and security imperatives.

For education systems and services to be truly inclusive, however, they must also leave no one behind, such as refugees. UNESCO’s latest Global Monitoring Report estimates that refugees have missed 1.5 billion school days since 2016. While eight of the top ten hosting countries, including several low- and middle-income countries, have shouldered considerable costs despite the strain on education systems to ensure that refugees attend school alongside nationals, most countries either exclude refugees from national education systems or assign them to separate facilities. This entrenches disadvantage and hampers social integration. The two landmark global compacts on migration and refugees adopted by UN member states last December point the way toward addressing this challenge.

Achieving the needed educational transformation will require far more financing than is currently on offer. As it stands, the global annual funding gap for education amounts to nearly $40 billion. Closing this gap will require not just increased domestic financing, but also a renewed commitment from international donors.

Everyone has the right to an education. Upholding this right – and achieving SDG4 – will require well-designed strategies, coupled with a prolonged commitment to implementation and effective cooperation among all relevant stakeholders. The UN and its agencies will continue to support such actions, as we strive to ensure that no one is left behind.

 

 

The Long and Winding Uncertain Journey for Pakatan Harapan (Hope Coalition)


August 20, 2018

The Long and Winding Uncertain Journey for Pakatan Harapan (Hope Coalition)

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Image result for The New Pakatan Government

The new government’s 100 days is now up. What was put out as 10 key reforms by Pakatan in a manifesto aimed at enticing voters is dominating the headlines. However these are still very early days to assess the progress made with the promises of

● easing the burden of the public

● reforming the nation’s administrative institutions and politics

● reshaping the nation’s economy in a fair and just manner

● reinstating the rights and status in Sabah and Sarawak

● building an inclusive and moderate Malaysia in the international arena.

By way of contrast it is useful to recall that Barisan Nasional with its theme of “With BN for a Greater Malaysia” had a 220 page manifesto with 364 pledges covering almost every single community and group – Felda settlers, women, youth, orang asli, the people of Sabah and Sarawak, the bottom 40% households, Chinese community and other non-Muslims. Possibly the only group that was not covered was that of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) currently in the public limelight and under fire.

The Challenge That Pakatan Faces

In evaluating the performance of the present government, it needs to be remembered too that Pakatan’s victory was against the odds. Most analysts – as well as Pakatan’s leaders – saw little hope of ending the continuation of Barisan rule in GE-14.

Since the first election in 1955, the Alliance and its BN successor have gradually tightened their power through a combination of constitutional and extra-constitutional measures, the deployment of an enormous patronage machine and the cooptation of the nation’s civil service in suppressing whatever opposition exists in the country. The ruling coalition has also effectively exploited racial and religious faultlines to maintain its hold on the Malay majority voting population.

Image result for The New Pakatan Government

They are back as a tag team. Will they do it again with the politics of Race and Religion in the name of Ketuanan Melayu?

Lest we under-estimate the magnitude of the reform challenge, let it not be forgotten that most of the present crop of Pakatan’s current leadership have been among the active supporters of the indoctrination movement in its diverse manifestations. They have been responsible for the Malay psyche, which needs transformation if the new Malaysia is not to remain a mirage.–Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Not only was there little hope of an election upset but there was also a big question mark as to whether there could be a peaceful transition of government and power. Now that we have had both extraordinary outcomes – to paraphrase what Dr. Mahathir, the Prime Minister, recently described in Japan as the nation’s unique and lucky peaceful transition of power – we need to be realistic about the challenge that Pakatan faces.

This is because the missteps, wrong doings, abuses and transgressions engaged in by the BN government – some going back to the time of Dr. Mahathir’s first stint as Prime Minister – are so rampant and the ensuing damage to the country’s socio-economy and governance structures and race and religious relations so egregious that it will require more than a few years – perhaps a decade – of sweeping and far-reaching policy changes and reform to undo them.

High level corruption and economic excesses and crimes are currently a major preoccupation of the new government. However, it is perhaps among the easiest of the improprieties and legacy of the BN regime that the Pakatan government has to deal with and correct.

More resistant to remedying are the policies, programmes and mindsets which the country’s state apparatus and most institutions of government (educational, media, professional and socio-cultural organisations, religious bodies, etc.) have propagated to a largely captive audience.

As explained in a recent article by Fathol Zaman Bukhari, editor of Ipoh Echo

“The Malay psyche is not something difficult to fathom. It is the result of years of indoctrination (brainwashing) by a political party that is long on hopes but short on ideas. Fear mongering is UMNO’s forte because the party believes that Malays are under threat. That their religion and their sultans are being assailed and belittled by imaginary goblins and make-believe enemies …. Anyone other than a Malay and a Muslim is considered unworthy to assume any sensitive appointments, which are only reserved for Malays. But on hindsight it is the Malays who have let the nation and their own kind down. Najib Razak, Rosmah Mansor, Apandi Ali, Rahman Dahlan, Tajuddin Rahman, Khalid Abu Bakar, Jamal (Jamban) and all the obscenely-paid heads of government-linked companies are Malays. But this is of no consequence to a race that makes up over 60 percent of the nation’s population. They continue to feel threatened.”

It is this less easily definable, less financially quantifiable, but more ubiquitous, and ultimately more destructive and ruinous feature of nation-building directed and manipulated by the previous leadership for the last 60 years, that needs to be contended with and purged of its toxic ethno-religious content if the new Malaysia is to have any chance of succeeding.

Lest we under-estimate the magnitude of the reform challenge, let it not be forgotten that most of the present crop of Pakatan’s current leadership have been among the active supporters of the indoctrination movement in its diverse manifestations. They have been responsible for the Malay psyche, which needs transformation if the new Malaysia is not to remain a mirage.

 

Straight and crooked reporting in the new Malaysia


August 4, 2018

Straight and crooked reporting in the new Malaysia

by Cogito Ergo Sum
Image result for cogito ergo sum

COMMENT | At the start of each academic year in the Journalism 101 course, I ask my students if they want to be objective or fair in their reporting and writing. Inevitably, most, if not all, answer that they want to be objective.

But like everyone else, I point out, we are subjective. Our opinions are coloured by lenses stained by culture, religion, race and social prejudices, as we grow in an increasingly confusing world where the social order is being altered almost daily.

Some point out that being objective requires one to be ‘fair’ in our judgement calls. I ask them if they can ever be objective about their children, the faiths of others and the politics of the day. And there is a silence in the class.

Being fair needs work. To be fair requires an effort to treat people and stories appropriately and fairly. A lot of work has to go into attempting to be fair.

It means going out of the way to ensure that both sides are given an equal opportunity to give their version of the story. It also means that if you give 10 paragraphs to one side, you must give the same number of paragraphs of the story to the other side.

It also means diligent checking of facts given by both sides. You have to dig and search and countercheck. That is what old-timers in the profession used to do.

A senior editor once told me that in the old days, when there was a gap in the story, reporters were told to find out. Then came the era of the computer and the instructions were to let the computer find out. Now, the instructions are, leave it out.

As you read a story with vital facts left out, you get the distinct feeling that something is not right.

After a while, one becomes desensitised to that feeling. And the readers that have been fed these lopsided articles and stories are now ‘educated’ to think that that is the new ‘fair’ reporting.

Loyalty rewarded, not professionalism

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So often in the past, newspapers and television stations have only published and broadcasted one side of the story. The other side is left to sue for the truth, and the number of successful suits is testimony that fair reporting is no longer part of our journalistic culture.

For 60-odd years, save for a few just after independence, journalism in Malaysia has been about regurgitating and processing official pronouncements and making the speaker or writer look good.

Journalists were rewarded by the political masters of the day with titles, tenures, and wages that were simply outrageous.

As professionals, we seem to have forgotten that we have a code of ethics and rules of language that ensure the art of storytelling and reporting is fair, clear and leaves little confusion.

A doyen of the profession described the work of the reporter as shedding light on a subject without altering it. That description has been violated today by the fact that we can now shine multi-coloured lights on a subject and change its hues with language and latitude in our attitude to the facts.

I will cite an example of how the use of language can subtly alter the perception of readers from a pro-Israel media outlet.

“Defence forces fired on rioting crowds in Palestine today.”

The use of the word “rioting” immediately justifies action by the authorities. Because the crowds rioted, it was justified to fire at them.

But we do not know the reason for the riots as yet. A neutral way of telling the story is to remove the verb “rioting”. And now you have “Defence forces fired on crowds in Palestine today.’That leaves the story uncoloured.

We have become artists in colouring our stories in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

The stunning victory by Pakatan Harapan in the 14th general election has given the media and its practitioners a hard jolt.

The mainstream media is now confused as to how to play this new game. After almost six decades of subservience and obsequious behaviour towards the BN and its components, journalists in these organisations have forgotten what it means to be a professional.

To think critically in the old days meant that you had a very short tenure and lifespan in the mainstream media.

Giving Najib too much space?

Now, the media seem to be attempting to report stories with a sense of fairness, without colour or clarity. Mainstream media outelts are still owned by political entities of the old BN. And fear that what they did to others may be done unto them keeps them in check, to a certain extent.

Utusan Malaysia – which to many was simply a rabid rabble-rouser that would not think twice about using race, religion and culture to further its masters’ bigoted cause – has merely been told that no one is subscribing to their thinking.

Subscriptions to the paper by public schools and varsities are being phased out by the Harapan government. Some reports say that the new government is reconsidering subscriptions to other newspapers as well.

Equally confused are some of the alternative media. From being an avenue for the opposition to air their views, they believe that by giving the BN leadership, in particular, former Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, a disproportionate amount of space in their publications, they are being fair.

It is still true that a man is innocent until proven guilty. Imagine if Ferdinand Marcos, the former Philippine dictator who was overthrown by a popular uprising, was given the same space as Najib in their papers?

GE-14 was a turning point in Malaysian history. Malaysia was at the point of becoming an Orwellian state, but against all odds, the people overthrew the grand old coalition of BN.

Najib, as head of BN, represented all that was wrong with the old regime. The rakyat had had enough of his autocratic way of getting things done by crushing the will of the people with debts and taxes.

He became the butt of jokes and the parody of cartoonists who were persecuted because they were the voice of public dissent.

Being fair means giving the other fellow an equal chance to rebut an allegation. Najib now has that chance in a court of law after being charged for various crimes against the law and the people.

A dangerous thing

Najib seems to have been somewhat abandoned by the former mainstream media outlets, some out of fear of repercussions, others from sheer embarrassment. He is a master of the game. He has skilfully portrayed himself as a victim of politics. No one really believes that drivel, save for some diehard fans.

The danger in giving Najib space, however little, is that he is quite capable of whipping up support for his lost cause at the expense of the ground Harapan has won among the people.

Now, it seems that Harapan is responding and reacting to Najib’s inane accusations and statements rather than being proactive and restrained in their responses. Restrained, because now they are the government and there is a pending case for them to show the evidence in a court of justice.

Giving Najib too much space is a dangerous thing. To do so is not being fair to the people who threw him out.

He seems to have found an unlikely ally in his former nemesis, the alternative media. And he is cunning enough to exploit the space given to the hilt.

And to my students who may ask if this article is fair? No. Because like everyone, I am subjective.


COGITO ERGO SUM is a Malaysiakini subscriber.

GE-14: Penang is a Pakatan Harapan State


April 29, 2018

GE-14: Penang is a Pakatan Harapan State

by Dr. Bridget Welsh

http://www.malaysiakini.com

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COMMENT | Penang is safely in opposition hands, with Pakatan Harapan expected to win a majority of parliamentary and state seats. This does not mean, however, that there are not political undercurrents that are shaping the results. In fact, many seats are competitive, including Permatang Pauh, Anwar Ibrahim’s traditional constituency where his daughter Nurul Izzah is contesting.

To understand why, given that the state is an opposition stronghold, it is necessary to look at a nexus of local and national issues.

Disgruntlement over development

Many middle-class Penangites, especially those on the island, are unhappy with the pace and mode of development in the state. Congestion and (over)construction have evoked strong reactions from those concerned with their impact on the environment and quality of life.

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The Sultan Abdul Halim Bridge ( 2nd Penang Bridge)

Critics contend that caretaker Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s development vision is not that different from that of BN’s – focused on ‘hard’ physical infrastructure rather than ‘soft’ human capacity enhancement. There are lingering concerns, for example, with the undersea tunnel, both its conception and financing.

This is compounded by a sense of dismissal of these concerns, with inadequate outreach to many in civil society who expect more engagement in governance. Lim’s government has evoked the ire of not only the local press, but many who are openly vested in bringing about better development for the state.

Weak BN state leadership

The BN opposition led by Gerakan’s Teng Chang Yeow is trying to capitalise on these resentments, with this ‘51 Unfulfilled Promises’. His confrontational approach has not gone down well, in part because the attacks on the DAP in Penang have been seen to be excessive.

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The Iconic Penang Bridge

Few can distinguish the local concerns from the broad demonisation of the party on the part of the BN government that has occurred since 2013. The genuine issues are overshadowed by the onslaught of attacks, most evident with the charges laid against the chief minister. Among ordinary voters, the trial of Lim has backfired, and in fact strengthened Lim as the opposition heads into the election.

Coupled with this is a sense of hypocrisy. Many of the concerns leveled locally by the BN in Penang echo similar issues raised with their own tenure at the state level. It does not help the BN that the attacks are being led by someone who was in the previous government, as this undermines their credibility. Perhaps even more striking is the comparison made between the charges Lim is facing and those that caretaker Prime Minister Najib Razak is not.

The BN in Penang is seen as weak, as both Gerakan and MCA are considered to be subservient to UMNO. In fact, under the Najib government, these two Chinese component parties are perceived to be even weaker than in the past. Recall it was this subservience to UMNO that contributed to the ouster of the Koh Tsu Koon government in 2008. Many Penangites will not vote for parties that cannot stand up on their own.

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DAP-Pakatan Harapan’s Lim Guan Eng

Electorally, the BN has effectively been led by UMNO in the state, and given the changed demographics of the state – with Malays making up larger numbers than Chinese now – there are more demands for UMNO to lead in Penang. For many, it is understood that a vote against Pakatan in Penang is a vote to bring UMNO into power in the state. This time, however, should BN return to power, UMNO would lead from the front, rather than from behind.

Chinese power and DAP’s Malay deficit

Another important underlying reason for the support among some Pakatan supporters is that Penang is the only state led by a non-Malay. It is the last bastion of Chinese Malaysian political power, which has been displaced within BN. There is long-standing resentment of this displacement – not only within Penang but across Malaysia. Penang has symbolic power, nationally and locally.

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It is this symbolism that is equally resented in Malaysia’s racialised politics. Within the state and in Malaysia as a whole, Malay support for DAP has declined, especially since 2013. Despite the entrants of dynamic young Malay leaders such as Syerleena Abdul Rashid contesting in Seri Delima, the strategy to bring Malays into DAP ranks has not succeeded in translating into meaningful support among Malay voters. DAP is now more reliant than ever on its coalition partners for Malay support. At the same time, its partners have to face a backlash from some Malays for working with it.

This is playing out in many of the mainland Penang seats, where Malays are more concentrated. Nibong Tebal and Tasek Gelugor, for example, are competitive seats, as are a few of the state seats including Bukit Tengah, Seberang Jaya and Sungai Bakap. This sentiment also contributes to why Umno holds onto power in Balik Pulau, where there is a strong Umno incumbent. PKR is on the frontline of Malay anger against the DAP. Meanwhile, the strength of the alliance with Bersatu is being tested in Tasek Gelugor, with candidate Marzuki Yahya.

The erosion of Malay support is exacerbated by PAS seeking revenge in Penang – against the DAP for displacing and disrespecting the party in the state, and against PKR for working with DAP and choosing them as coalition partners at the national level.

PAS is comparatively weak in Penang, but it can shape the balance in Permatang Pauh in the state seat of Permatang Pasir, for example. It is also shaping the vulnerable contest of the Bukit Tengah state seat, where its demonisation of former Alor Setar MP Gooi Hsiao-Leung for questioning RUU355 is a continued PAS vendetta. PKR is further weakened by infighting, enhanced by the poorly-timed party purges, making the party more vulnerable than in the past.

Penang then and now

Penangites have a deep-seated belief in their role in shaping the future of their state and the nation. They take pride in being the pioneers of national development in the 1980s, and today they are pleased with the international recognition of the state has as a tourist attraction and vibrant manufacturing centre. Penangites have a global vision. They are sophisticated and hard working.

Many are post-modern in outlook, focused on the environment and ethical concerns. It is not a coincidence that Penang was the birthplace of the consumer movement and continues to have active watchdog organisations like Aliran. The political role the state plays in leadership is thus important. This is why, for most Penangites, they will vote opposition, holding the view that this is the more responsible vote for the future.

There will, however, be more strategic voting – split-voting at the parliamentary and national level – and potentially reduced majorities in some areas, tied to the weaknesses of the ruling coalition noted above, three-cornered fights and a desire to send the state government a signal to be more responsive to legitimate criticism.

Penang will send a message about how power should be practised and the place Malaysia wants to be moving forward.


BRIDGET WELSH is an Associate Professor of Political Science at John Cabot University in Rome. She also continues to be a Senior Associate Research Fellow at National Taiwan University’s Center for East Asia Democratic Studies and The Habibie Center, as well as a University Fellow of Charles Darwin University. Her latest book (with Greg Lopez) is entitled ‘Regime Resilience in Malaysia and Singapore’. She is following the 2018 campaign on the ground and providing her analyses exclusively to Malaysiakini readers. She can be reached at bridgetwelsh1@gmail.com.

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

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Get the Big Picture – Making of a failed state and the LG Elections: Lessons for Najib’s Malaysia?


January 25, 2018

Get the Big Picture – Making of a failed state and the LG Elections: Lessons for Najib’s Malaysia?

by Sarath Bulathsinghala

http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2018/01/24/get-the-big-picture-making-of-a-failed-state-and-the-lg-elections/

 Sri Lanka was drifting towards China. This was obvious in the aftermath of Sri Lanka successfully concluding a terrorist war that was aided and abetted by the Christian West and India. What would the Christian West and India do?

Image result for Sri Lanka and China

China is slowly and steadily progressing to become the dominant trading power of the world. Their modus operandi are different from those of others or of days gone by. Their policy towards the Third World is not Gunboat Diplomacy or its modern variants but one of accommodation and mutual benefit with little or no conditions attached. It was more co-existence than sheer dominance and all that entails. In this enterprise China is promoting new trade routes, called the new Silk Road. This is happening through land routes as well as through sea lanes.

Even before the end of the Tamil Racist War called Eelam War, the Rajapakse Adminstration embarked on major infrastructure improvement projects. These involved building of major road networks followed by the development of sea ports and airports. Would foreign countries come to build infrastructure projects in other countries out of generosity? It is the duty of individual countries to invest on such projects. Then only it becomes feasible for investors – foreign and local to pitch-in and engage in commerce, trade and industry.

Image result for Hambantota Sea Port.Project

Hambantota Sea Port is leased to China for non-military purposes by Sri Lanka

One of the main items in the Chain of Pearls Project of China is the Hambantota Sea Port and the Mattala Airport. Although most of these projects were in the drawing boards for decades, funds were in short supply as well as the political will and courage to embark on such large ventures. Finally, funds came flowing from China and these projects became a reality. Sri Lanka was ready to ‘take off’ reaching Middle Income Earning Country status.

It is obvious that these achievements were and are being viewed with jaundiced eyes by India as well as by US and their US led allies in the Christian West. Situation in Sri Lanka didn’t fit in with their vision of the Third World in the new Millennium where the new normal is CHAOS – a la Tunesia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq Afghanistan and a myriad other big and small!

Image result for Hambantota Sea Port.Project

This airport contract may be given to India as part of Sri Lanka’s Balancing Strategy between China and India.

India has Great Power ambitions in South Asia and in the Indian Ocean Region and then in the world. One of their unrealized dreams was to have Sri Lanka as one of their provinces.  Failing their ambition is to have a weak government in Sri Lanka which can be easily cajoled to fall in line. One of India’s ambitions is to have the deep water harbor of Trincomalee as their southern most naval post. It is in this connection that they were contemplating projects such as Sethu Samudra Sea Lanes, Power Project in Sampur and the Road from Mannar to Trinco as well as bridge or tunnel to connect Sri Lanka to mainland India. It is with this picture in the background that one must visualize the Indian manipulations in Sri Lanka at present. Eelam Project which is still alive and the sizeable Indian Community in the hill country constitute political as well as manipulative assets that can be commandeered to do their bidding.

As for the Eelam Project which was earlier financed and executed partly from India, there is not much appetite in India to give power to the Tamils per se. They know very well if Eelam comes into being that it will be US and her allies who will have sway and influence over them. This can one day lead to the balkanization of India through a series of ‘color revolutions across India. Unlike China which is a more a monolith than other and power well consolidated through the Communist Party of China, India is for all purposes and intents still remain a political construct of the British Empire – largely made up of extremely diverse and at times adverse groups of nationalities.  Their geography being what is bestowed to them by the British is not an easy task to manage the centripetal forces that tend to explode India from within. Only way India can bring about a reverse force that can keep India intact is to conjure up external threats from her neighbors.  Pakistan, Bangladesh and China and Nepal and Sri Lanka provide this excuse to India. It is only the external threats that bring up Indian-ness in Indians. At all other times Tamilians,  Maratis, Bengalis, North Indians and Punjabis on the one hand and Hindus and Muslims not to mention the tiny but influential Christian minority are constantly trying to undermine each other in a social fabric that is still enmeshed in caste based discrimination and dominance.  This is why Tamil Nadu adding up Eelam to make up greater Tamil Nadu is a big No No for India. India’s only ambition at present is to have Sri Lanka as a weak vassal state kept forever destabilized doing their bidding when required, same as Nepal and Bhutan!

 Western Christian Powers led by the US too invested on the Eelam project with an eye on Trincomalee as their next Sea Base after Diego Garcia. They are more interested in sea lanes and maintenance of global dominance. Though the powers of the Western Christian nations are in the wane they are not yet ready to give in without a fight. Therefore, their power and influence though residual and intimidatory, cannot be wished away. They still exercise power over and above their ability as movers and shakers of the world! Soon they will realize that theirs is not the only game in town!

It is with this picture in the background India, US and her allies invested on a project to depose the powerful Rajapakse Administration. Given the background of Sri Lankan politics and the mentality of the Sri Lankans it was an easier project than the other Colour Revolutions” elsewhere in the world. All what was required was massive disinformation campaign on the ground through the mobile phones, internet, so called ‘civil society’ well financed with dollars and willing knaves who could betray party, friends and the nation.

Image result for Mahinda Rajapaksa

Rajapakses were depicted as utterly corrupt and incorrigible. They made use of some of the already disgruntled and left aside politicians of the SLFP to switch sides at appropriate times to bring about regime change. First to persuade was Maithreepala Sirisena, the most disgruntled of the lack luster politicians of the lot.  It is no secret Mahinda Rajapakse by passed most of these inefficient and party hangers-on to get through most of the important jobs mainly the infrastructure projects. He placed implicit trust on those who could be trusted and his very capable brothers came in very handy. He even ‘imported’ some ‘go getter’ politicians from the UNP for these purposes.

Let us look at the voting pattern, those who voted for Sarath Fonseka in 2010  and those who voted for Maithreepala Sirisena in 2015. Did people personally vote for Sirisena – No.

It was a repetition of 2010 when sizeable number of the population voted for Sarath Fonseka seeking CHANGE not to Fonseka per se. However, in 2015 the disinformation exercise was in high gear favored by excesses of some of the high-handed work of the Rajapakse Second Term. That too was buttressed by the fiat votes of the Tamils and Muslims who vote en-block on the dictates of their leaders. These leaders frequently change allegiances to bring about regime change in line with their race base or faith base politics. While Racist Tamils are working towards dismemberment of Sri Lanka and carving out a separate state for themselves, the Muslims are working towards total domination through population increase, land acquisition and economic dominance!

Sarath Fonseka who polled nearly 4.5 million in the 2010 Presidential Elections polled less than 10,000 island wide when he contested elections in 2015 on his own steam. In the case of Sirisena he was not a Presidential aspirant 3 months prior to the election and it was not even in his wildest dreams he could be President of Sri Lanka. His only wish was to become Prime Minister succeeding D M Jayaratne before retiring from politics. What happened was a political coup masterminded by the Christian West aided and abetted by the Indians. They failed in 2010 but succeeded in 2015. The script of the coup is very clear and obvious; it is Made in USA!

When one looks at the Big Picture it is easy to surmise that the plot was hatched by the same think tanks in the US that plotted the overthrow of former Yugoslavia, Tunesia, Libya, Egypt and now trying hard on Syria. They were assisted by RAW operations from India. On their own admission US had spent over US$500 Million to destabilize Sri Lanka and Burma and India’s RAW may have used unknown Millions for the same purpose each to their own ends!

With 8th January 2015 Presidential Election the so called Yahapalana Administration came into being. The foreign agenda for Sri Lanka ran as follows:

  • Topple Rajapakse Administration – done
  • Appoint Ranil Wickramasinghe as PM – brings the Central Bank under his command – done
  • Change of Constitution – Out goes 18th and incomes the 19th reducing Presidential powers and increasing Prime Ministerial powers – done
  • Rob the Central Bank to find finances for fund depleted UNP reserves, finance next parliamentary elections, wreck Sri Lanka’s economy – done
  • Stop Rice Farming and destroy food security – done
  • Stop Fertilizer subsidies to Rice Farmers – done
  • Deny promised prices for Tea, Rubber, Coconut and Pepper Farmers – done
  • Increase taxes – done
  • Depreciate the Sri Lanka Rupee – done
  • Sell state assets – in progress
  • Destroy Sri Lanka’s Buddhist Establishment – in progress
  • Move armed forces from the North and East paving way to re-emergence of terrorism – in progress 75% complete
  • Bring Geneva threats against Sri Lanka and denounce War Heroes as war criminals to satisfy the Diaspora Racist Tamils – done
  • Revamp the entire Constitution of Sri Lanka to suit meddling by the Christian West as a means to balkanize Sri Lanka. This they are depicting as a measure to bring reconciliation among the communities in Sri Lanka and other groups in the shadows such as the LGBTQ. Whether separation of communities and coming out of the closet for the LGBTQ will bring about reconciliation is entirely a different subject! – in progress

After 3 years of Yahapalana Administration, most of the above have come to pass or are earmarked for implementation and Sri Lanka is on the way to be another Failed State. This is where the importance of the coming Local Government Elections become obvious.

All political parties aligned with the ruling cabal – the UNP, SLFP (Sirisena Clique), the JVP, Muslim and Tamil political parties, who were not interested in having Local Government Elections in a hurry could not keep the façade of a democratic regime any longer. After nearly 3 years of constantly postponing Local Government Elections finally there will be elections on 10 Feb 2018. The rulers have suddenly realized that they need  Local Government bodies to bring about development, despite !

They have seen the popular adulation for the ‘defeated’ Mahinda Rajapakse  with the Nugegoda Rally – not long after the ‘change’ of 8 Jan 2105 – Mahinda Handa and now later Pohottuwa, the ruling cabal is very afraid!

People have seen what the Change in 8 January 2015 has brought about. Though the older generations have been fooled before by the likes of Rice from the Moon and Dharmista Samajayak , but now even the younger generations whose dreams are more cyber than real have had a chance to see the reality of chasing after mirages. The promises of Saadharana Samajaya, Wasa wisa thora ratak, Dooshanayen thora Ratak have evaporated like the morning dew. Their proponents – one dead and the other no where to be seen!

They have a chance to show their pleasure or displeasure on the way the Yahapalana has succeeded in bringing about CHANGE”! Ranil- Sirisena joint enterprise is for all purposes and intents gone for good. Only reason it keeps going is self preservation for the incumbent keeping  all the strappings of political  power intact. They say that the country is now stabilized economically and diplomatically abroad and they are now ready to take on developing the villages, towns and cities. They are  promising, they will do the same thing they have done to the Country on a Macro Scale to the villages on a micro scale. It would be good to see if the population be they – Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim or other will have a taste and an appetite for more of the same of Yahapalanaya after a dismall 3 years in power. The nation must see that what remains is only complete subjugation to external forces as a Failed State.

There is no political establishment that is totally squeaky clean. We have seen what has become of Mr Clean. We simply have to choose the party that is less corrupt – just because we are human! Just because we need leaders to rule a country and we need who are capable, experienced and confident. Would South Korea be what they are today if they had Yahapalanaya? Would Samsung, Hyundai, Daiwoo, LG and others would be where they are today if there was no political patronage? Only thing a country can do is to keep it all that is bad to a minimum and within acceptable and economically manageable limits.

It is now up to the people of Sri Lanka to take into consideration all what has happened during the last 3 years and give their verdict on 10 Feb 2018. This is not about getting things done at village, town and city and municipality level. This should be vote on how Yahapalanaya have performed during the last 3 years, how they have kept their promises to the people and on a bigger scale of what is to become of Sri Lanka under the proposed change of Constitution and secret and not so secret dealings with foreign countries.

Go out early on 10 February and vote. See that your vote count. Don’t stay at home unconcerned. We are talking about the future of our sons and daughters. See that you stand to be counted among those who love our Motherland – Sri Lanka! Not a FAILED STATE and a dismembered land continuously at war!

READ THIS : Chinese Investments in Malaysia

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/09/10/china-investments-transforming-msia-although-the-influx-of-chinese-investments-is-only-a-recent-phen/

B787The Exchange 106, which was formerly known as TRX Signature Tower, at Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) is on its way to becoming Malaysia’s tallest new building upon its completion in 2018

 

http://says.com/my/news/the-exchange-106-will-become-malaysia-s-tallest-building-after-its-completion-in-2018