MP Nik Nazmi brings back memories of the Anwar-led 2008 Pakatan Rakyat


February 16,2018

Nik Nazmi brings back memories of the Anwar-led 2008  Pakatan Rakyat

By Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad  the MP for Setiawangsa.

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/464186?fbclid=IwAR25cGcttcKWep_VuYlXm9uT0Vhj3nuWoO3kgVCarZFwiZ2X8e8PkOTaVB0

Image result for Anwar-led 2008 Pakatan Rakyat

MP SPEAKS | This week, seven former UMNO MPs joined Bersatu. Bersatu has also declared its entry into Sabah, contrary to its pledge before the 2018 election.

I have consistently said that I am against this—and many of my colleagues in Pakatan Harapan feel the same way.

Let us focus on the challenges facing us in the present and how to move forward into the future. One thing that we need to do is to be willing to listen to all arguments—including the ones we don’t necessarily agree with.

It has been argued that these defectors are needed to shore-up Malay support for Harapan.

It has also been argued that the move is necessary to counter the emerging UMNO-PAS alliance, which is allegedly increasingly popular on social media as well as to strengthen our coalition’s standing in rural areas — such as the East Coast and Northern Peninsula.

It is true that Harapan did not win the popular vote in the last election—garnering only 48.31% of it. Indeed, much of the 50.79% of the vote that Barisan Nasional and PAS won was from Malays in the East coast and Northern Peninsula Malaysia as well as from Muslim Bumiputeras in Sarawak.

And it does appear that Malay sentiment towards Harapan is not exactly glowing. Although much of this is driven by the shrill and manufactured voices of UMNO and PAS surrogates, there is genuine concern among many Malays that the community is under threat: both politically and socio-economically.

Defections will not guarantee Malay support

But is taking in defectors from UMNO the best way to assuage these concerns?

Why can’t the various components of Harapan evolve so that we can, finally, access, engage and win the support of all Malaysians, including the rural Malays?

Why do some of our leaders seem intent on taking short-cuts, rather than the path of hard (but ultimately rewarding) work? Have we totally abandoned the idea of bipartisanship?

Why do some Harapan leaders assume that the Malay community will necessarily be impressed by taking in these defectors? Is the rural Malay community that monolithic? Is quantity really that more important in governance and politics rather than quality?

But if taking in defectors is not the way, how should Harapan resolve its “Malay dilemma”?

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Negara ini bukan  Tun Dr.Mahathir punya. Ini adalah Malaysia–Negara kita semua. 2008 GE Tagline–UBAH SEBELUM PARAH

One way is to double-down on conservative Malay politics, including turning back on reform because it will allegedly weaken the community. This is the path that PAS has taken. That was their choice to make and theirs alone, but it also means they are no longer the party of Dr Burhanuddin al Helmy, Fadzil Noor and Nik Aziz Nik Mat.

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Dr.Syed Hussin Ali-The Intelletual behind PKR

The alternative is to stick to the progressive, inclusive promises we made via the Buku Harapan.

Our GE-14 campaign manifesto was a document that all Harapan parties agreed to. But it was also a platform that addressed the aspirations and problems of all segments of Malaysian society, including the Malays.

The Buku Harapan can be executed. We couldn’t deliver all of the 100 day promises—but it doesn’t mean that it cannot be realised. The same applies to the other pledges.

Some things may need to be sequenced, but they must be done if the country is to survive and thrive. We should not simply cast the Buku Harapan aside due to political exigencies.

Harapan won because it gave Malaysians hope

It is cynical and disingenuous to say that Harapan won only because of the 1MDB scandal and the anger towards Najib Razak. That’s simply not true.

Our critics—but also our own leaders, legislators and supporters—should give us more credit than that.

Malaysians voted for us not only out of anger over BN’s scandals and mismanagement, but because they believed that Harapan had a better vision for the future of the country. They voted for us because Harapan gave them hope. What I am saying is this: Harapan should learn to take “yes” for an answer.

Malaysians gave us an adequate majority on May 9

There is no need to worry about our parliamentary majority (which is adequate to govern). Unless some quarters have some political calculations to undermine the Harapan consensus.

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As I have said many times before, a two-thirds majority is sometimes more trouble than it is worth.

It is only moral and just that constitutional amendments—when they become necessary—be done via a bipartisan consensus, by talking and working with the Opposition and civil society.

Harapan should roll up our sleeves and get down to the business of governing the country. And “governing”, means reforming our economy and making it work for all Malaysians.

Malays will benefit from progressive politics

Part of this involves winning over the Malays to the idea that progressive politics and governance is in their interest. And it is.

Who makes up the majority of the urban poor? The Malays.

Who makes up the majority of low-wage earners? The Malays.

Who makes up the majority of the petty traders struggling to earn a living? The Malays.

Whose families are the majority of those struggling to service high household debts? The Malays.

Who are the majority of smallholders struggling from low commodity prices and delays in government payments? The Malays.

Delivering an economy that solves the plight of these segments of society, even in a non-racial manner, will do more to win over Malay voters than trying to outflank UMNO and PAS on the right – or luring opposition crossovers.

The voters in these constituencies did not vote for Harapan. They knowingly chose the vision that BN and PAS had for Malaysia. Their MPs moving over to Harapan will not likely make them feel any differently.

Instead, solving the bread-and-butter-issues of the voters will go a long way in addressing their racial and religious insecurities.

Harapan should trust our defend our Constitution

We must also learn to trust our Constitution and our system of governance, even as we repair both from decades of abuse.

Setting up the latest incarnation of the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) is the Prime Minister’s prerogative and so is its composition — although there were some interesting omissions.

The members who were selected are distinguished and respected in their several fields — one wishes them every success.

But the NEAC’s emergence has — fairly or unfairly — led to speculation over the performance of the Cabinet. There are perceptions — again, fairly or unfairly —that attempts are being made to circumvent the normal process of Cabinet-based governance in the management of Malaysia’s economy.

It is easy to dismiss these criticisms as grouses, but they have a real impact on how voters view this current Pakatan Harapan government.

If we lead, the people will follow

I hope this is something that the leaders of our government and alliance will take into account moving forward, especially when dealing with defectors and in how the administration’s agenda is to be executed.

The ends do not justify the means. Like it or not, processes sometimes matter as much as outcomes.

Malaysia needs solutions that work for the many, not the few. We need policies for these day and age. Too often we seem to be indicating of going back to the economic prescriptions of Old Malaysia.

Sticking to the spirit of Buku Harapan is the way forward.

This will go a long way towards winning over Malay fence sitters and not side-line our non-Malay and politically liberal supporters.

While UMNO and PAS embark on a journey rightwards, we should not dance to their tune.

But we must allow them the space to be a functioning Opposition that keeps us in check.

That is what leadership is. Pakatan doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Let’s be sure of who we are, what we want to do and where we want to go. If we are sincere, the people — including the Malays — will follow.


Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad is the MP for Setiawangsa.

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

Fake degrees and fake reforms


February 9,2019

Fake degrees and fake reforms

Opinion  |  S. Thayaparan

Ong said given the more serious nature of the revelation, Najib must ask the two ministers to quit to reflect his seriousness in upholding accountability.”

Malay Mail, June 26, 2013

DAP’s Dr. ONG  Kian Ming

A politician lies or spins, works the party system, makes alliances and enemies and generally does despicable deeds to court votes, and you do not need a professional qualification to do this.–S. Thayaparan

 Note. Dr. Ong Kian Ming (Chinese: 王建民; pinyin: Wángjiànmín; born 12 September 1975), is a Malaysian politician from the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a component of Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition. He is the incumbent Member of Parliament for Bangi since 2018 and also when the constituency was still named as Serdang earlier since 2013. Ong was picked as the Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry by the new PH government in 2018.[1]

Ong was formerly an academic and a prominent political analyst in the Malaysian political scene before he turned Election Strategist for the DAP.[2][3][4] His articles were widely published in popular news portals such as Malaysiakini, Malaysian Insider and The Edge.[5] Prior to that he was a lecturer in Faculty of Economics and Policy Science, UCSI University, also a regional consultant for the Blue Ocean Strategy regional center. His experience includes being a policy analyst for Socio- Economics Development and Research Institute (SEDAR) and Institute of Strategic Analysis and Policy Research (INSAP). In addition, he was also associate consultant for the Boston Consulting Group Kuala Lumpur.

COMMENT | I really did not want to get into this whole “fake degree” fiasco but then I read Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Ong Kian Ming’s piece about not needing a degree to be an effective politician and realised how much trouble we are in. Ong couldn’t even bring himself to name the minister in question, and chose instead to backtrack on earlier positions he held while maintaining he has been consistent.

Ong’s piece is politics at its most craven. Ong is half-right. You do not need professional qualifications to be an effective politician. However, professional qualifications most times add a veneer of legitimacy to mendacious politics because people are conditioned to think that professional degrees add an element of credibility to political rhetoric.

But it adds very little to actual governing and policy-making which entails a different set of skill sets, most importantly political will.

Ong says that a professional qualification is not needed to be an effective politician. This is true. A politician lies or spins, works the party system, makes alliances and enemies and generally does despicable deeds to court votes, and you do not need a professional qualification to do this.

Do all politicians do this? Maybe not, but mainstream political parties are filled with elected politicians who do this.

Furthermore, Ong now claims that when being part of the government or a ministry, “it is more important for you to know your scope of work and your policy responsibilities. Having done a degree may be helpful in training you to think more broadly and critically and hence, better equip you to govern. But it is not guaranteed.”

With regards to “degree mills”, Ong said: “My stand on this issue is clear and has not changed. It is not acceptable for politicians to buy degrees from degree mills and then try to pass these off as being genuine academic degrees.”

On this issue, Ong’s stand is not clear. I would argue his stand on this issue was clear but since coming to federal power his stand has been reversed. What Ong says now is radically different from what he said back in the day. The justification he is making now is a mockery of what this Pakatan Harapan reform government is supposed to be about. It does, however, demonstrate that Harapan operatives are excelling in back-pedalling.

In 2013, Ong had asked then Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to sack two ministers who Ong claimed had fake degrees. If anything, his stand then was clear.

Two points need to be understood when considering Ong’s change of position. And this is so funny because the headline for the report blares out “Sack ministers with dubious degrees, DAP MP tells PM”.

The first, Ong has a clear position on this issue and demanded the resignation of ministers with fake degrees.

“It is truly disappointing that on the first day for ministerial replies in the first parliamentary sitting since the 13th general election, Malaysians have to accept the reality that Prime Minister Najib Razak has appointed two ministers with two dodgy degrees each from institutions which are degree mills.”

The second, Ong shifts the goal posts. In his piece yesterday, he claimed that not having a degree does not necessarily impede a politician’s ability to carry out his policy responsibilities but the question here is, does having a fake degree impede the minster’s ability to carry out his responsibility? We should refer to what Ong said before Harapan came into federal power:

“Therefore, to entrust two ministers with fake degrees with the serious responsibilities of human capital development and the management of certifications and standards is not only a gross embarrassment but also most ironic for a prime minister who has made transformation his clarion call.”

Bending over backwards

Should the police investigate someone for having a degree from a degree mill or a fake degree? Probably not. But if having a fake degree is part of the systemic corruption that someone like Ong used to rail against, then why is Ong now making all these justifications for a member of his coalition?

Ong asked then Prime Minister Najib for the resignation of the two ministers in 2013 and asked for the ministers to resign to prove their commitment to reform. Why is Ong not asking the current Prime Mminister Dr Mahathir Mohamad for the resignation of Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya (photo)? Why is he not asking Marzuki to resign? Why is he not asking for the Harapan political elite to demonstrate they are committed to reforms?

In 2013, Ong made the case that fake degrees hamper the ability of ministers to effectively carry out their policy responsibilities. He called it an embarrassment for the reform agenda of the Najib regime. Now when a deputy minister who has to be a credible spokesperson for Malaysia has been caught with a fake degree, why isn’t Ong applying the same standards?

Does Ong really believe that his position has not changed? Does Ong really believe that his muted goal posts-shifting piece about fake degrees is really the way how to reform the system? I mean, does anyone else realise how funny this is?

Bersatu Deputy President Mukhriz Mahathir said that Marzuki was not appointed for his academic credentials and here we have Ong telling people that academic qualifications do not necessarily mean a minister would be good at his job, which directly contradicts what he said back in the day when he was going after the UMNO regime. Is there some sort of collaboration when it comes to shovelling the horse manure or do Harapan political operatives all think the same way?

Now people may say this is not a big issue. Truth be told, I am not really bothered by politicians who go around carrying fake degrees. As far as I am concerned, all the ministerial appointments have been a dodgy affair and it would not matter if the appointees had sterling academic qualifications. The reality is that most of them are not really interested in reform or do not have any ideas for reforming the system.

What is alarming is the way how politicians who used to claim to want to reform the system and hold the government accountable are now bending over backwards to defend issues which before they came into power they claimed were indefensible.

The question is not how Marzuki can be a credible Deputy Minister but how those who backtrack on their positions just to defend Marzuki be credible reformers?


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.

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

 

 

A Second Chance for Britain


December 12, 2018

A Second Chance for Britain

by

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/second-brexit-referendum-for-britain-by-ian-buruma-2018-12

anti-brexit second chance

In 1950, the British reacted with a mixture of horror and disdain to the proposed European Coal and Steel Community, suspecting a French plot to lure a pragmatic people into some utopian foreign project. The basic arguments against “Europe” have not changed at all since then, unlike the consequences of acting on them.

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May Mrs.Theresa May remain Prime Minister Of The United Kingdom

In 1950, the British reacted with a mixture of horror and disdain to the proposed European Coal and Steel Community, suspecting a French plot to lure a pragmatic people into some utopian foreign project. The basic arguments against “Europe” have not changed at all since then, unlike the consequences of acting on them.

NEW YORK – On May 9, 1950, when European countries were just beginning to emerge from the ruins of war, the French statesman Robert Schuman announced his plan to create the European Coal and Steel Community. By pooling these vital war materials under a common European authority, violent conflict between France and Germany would become unthinkable. The Germans were delighted. The Benelux countries and Italy would take part as well. A first step toward a European union had been taken. Shortly after Schuman’s announcement, the British were invited to join in the discussions.

They reacted with a mixture of horror and disdain, suspecting a French plot to lure a pragmatic people into some utopian foreign project. The Labour Party, then in power in Britain, couldn’t imagine sharing sovereignty over the United Kingdom’s vital industries. And Conservatives failed to see how a global power could possibly be part of such a narrow European club. It was all very well for the Continentals to band together. But Britannia would continue to rule the waves, together with the other English-speaking peoples in the Commonwealth and the United States.

It is easy, in hindsight, to mock the British for missing the European boat with such blithe arrogance. But it is at least understandable. After all, the British with their proud democracy had stood alone against Hitler’s Germany and helped to free the European countries that had surrendered to the Nazis. One cannot really blame them for feeling a trifle superior.

What is depressing, however, about the Brexit disaster that is making such a mess of British politics now is that the basic arguments against “Europe” have not changed at all since 1950. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party ideologues view the European Union as a capitalist plot to undermine the purity of their socialist ideals. And Brexiteers on the right still dream of Britain as a great power, whose global reach should not be hampered by membership of European institutions. Another strand of nationalism, which is more English than British, is the romantic attachment to a “special relationship” with the US.

Alas for the British, the world has changed a great deal since 1950. The British Empire is over, the Commonwealth is little more than a sentimental relic of the past, and the relationship with the US may be very special to the English, but it is much less so to the Americans.

But something else, perhaps even more important, has changed as well. When the British government turned down the chance in 1950 to help shape Europe’s future, some Conservatives criticized Labour for being a bit too hasty. As the opposition, the Tories had to say that. But their hearts were not really in it, for, as the New York Times reported at the time, the government’s position “reflects a good deal of British feeling toward Europe, regardless of party lines.”

Britain – if not every part of England – is now a much more European country. London in 1950 was still a completely British city, where “aliens” were a distinct minority. In the last decades of the twentieth century, it became the unofficial capital of Europe. More than three million Londoners are foreign born, with hundreds of thousands of young Europeans working in banking, law, fashion, catering, the arts, and many other industries. London has a larger French population than many French cities.

No wonder, then, that the majority of Londoners voted to remain in the EU. And so did most young people in Britain who bothered to vote in the referendum. The Britain of 1950 would be unrecognizable to them.

So who are the 51% who voted to leave the EU? And why? Protecting socialism has limited appeal, as do ideals of pure national sovereignty or fantasies of Britain striking out alone as a global power. Fear of immigration appears to be the main reason why people voted to leave. In some cases, this stemmed from genuine worries that Eastern European builders, say, were making it harder for British citizens to do the same jobs for a decent wage. But very often, the people who are most afraid of being “swamped” by foreigners live in areas where immigrants are very few.

At the same time, most British citizens take it for granted that they are nursed and treated in hospitals by immigrants, served in supermarkets by immigrants, and aided in banks, post offices, social service centers, airports, and public transport by immigrants. Without immigrants, the British economy and services would collapse.

Some pro-Brexit politicians have stoked immigration fears more brazenly than others. The most notorious image used in the Brexit campaign was a poster showing a stream of young men, looking vaguely Middle-Eastern, with the text: “We must break free of the EU and take back control.” In fact, the young men in the picture were nowhere near the UK’s borders. The photograph was taken in Croatia.

The more respectable Brexiteers talk more about sovereignty than immigration. Their anxiety about losing control may be genuine. Figures like Boris Johnson, with his Churchillian pretensions, or Jacob Rees-Mogg, who resembles a minor character in a P.G. Wodehouse novel, are anachronisms. In earlier times, they might have run an empire. Now they are mere politicians in a middle-ranking state.

Brexit for the likes of Johnson or Rees-Mogg is more like a deluded grab for power, undertaken in the name of the common people, supposedly in revolt against the elites of which these politicians are themselves conspicuous members. Their nostalgia for grander forms of rule has already done great damage to the country they claim to love. This is all the more reason, now that the potential catastrophe of Brexit is so plain to see, why those common people should have a second chance to vote for a way to avoid it.

 

 

Welcome to Malaysia’s Brave New World


November 5, 2018

Welcome to Malaysia’s Brave New World

by: John Berthelsen

https://www.asiasentinel.com/econ-business/malaysia-brave-new-world/

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“Euphoria is dying off and bodies like Bersih, he continued, have started criticizing the new government. Many from civil society are keeping silent. “I suppose the saving grace is that Najib and his cohorts are gone. But that can’t console people forever.”_- J. Berthelsen

Six months into the rule of Malaysia’s new reform government, the bloom has started to fade as the Pakatan Harapan coalition attracts growing criticism while it seeks to find its feet against the political and economic debris left by the outgoing Barisan Nasional, driven from power on May 9 after six-plus decades in office.

The problems the government faces were starkly outlined on Nov. 1 by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng in a marathon 14,000 word speech outlining the 2019 budget, in which he stated that the previous government, which he characterized as “kleptocratic,” had understated debt and liabilities by nearly 40 percent, rising to a stunning RM1.05 trillion (US$256.8 billion) in an effort to hide corruption, and that debts from the scandal-scarred 1Malaysia Development Bhd development fund could total as much as RM43.9 billion, not including RM7 billion in interest secretly paid on 1MDB debts using taxpayer money illegally.

To Malaysia’s credit, the frighteningly poisonous racial equation, in which ethnic Malays make up about half the population, the Chinese 23 percent and Indians 7 percent, with the rest split between expatriates and bumiputera tribes in East Malaysia, seems to have cooled markedly. The previous government’s attempt to use fundamentalists Islam to pound minorities has largely ceased although UMNO and the fundamentalist Parti Islam se-Malaysia continue to attempt to fan the flames. It remains to be seen what strains there are between the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party, Mahathir’s Parti Bersatu Pribumi, and Anwar Ibrahim’s moderate, urban Malay Parti Keadilan Rakyat – and what internal strains there are inside PKR.

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The country is faced with a long series of monumental tasks – rebuilding a judiciary that was thoroughly corrupted by the previous government’s 61 years in power. The education system is a shamble, built on Malay privilege instead of academic achievement.  Lim called attention to educational shortcomings with a long series of measures allocating funds to lower-income students, upgrading failing schools and educational infrastructure, training and vocational education programs. Other sources say the government is being hamstrung to a certain extent by a civil service loyal to the previous government.

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A series of murders including that in 2006 of Mongolian translator and party girl Altantuya Shaariibuu, AMBank founder Hussain Najadi and prosecutor Kevin Morais (pic above), all believed to be at the hands of high government officials, remain to be solved or even looked into.

The new government, caught by circumstances, has compounded its problems by campaigning against a deeply unpopular Goods and Services Tax (GST) implemented by the government of former Prime Minister Najib Razak, and then actually repealing it once in office, leaving a gigantic hole in government revenues.

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‘–at the same time it has agreed to go along with Mahahir’s ill-conceived hobby horse, another national car project.

…That is despite 30-odd years of his previous ill-conceived hobby horse, the Proton national car, which cost the treasury billions of ringgit and billions more to consumers in lost opportunity costs from paying through the nose for heavily tariffed competitors. “- J. Berthelsen

It is seeking to fill the hole with a variety of piecemeal taxes – at the same time it has agreed to go along with Mahahir’s ill-conceived hobby horse, another national car project. That is despite 30-odd years of his previous ill-conceived hobby horse, the Proton national car, which cost the treasury billions of ringgit and billions more to consumers in lost opportunity costs from paying through the nose for heavily tariffed competitors.

“There was a lot of euphoria when Pakatan won the elections, but expectations were also very high,” said a prominent business source in Kuala Lumpur. “They have a small window. If they don’t deliver, that window will start closing.  But unfortunately, politicians will be politicians. They are inexperienced, and the euphoria is wearing off. So far, we have had no exciting government programs. New Malaysia is like Old Malaysia, minus Najib Razak and his 40 thieves.”

Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor have both been arrested and are expected to go on trial next year. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been confiscated by Malaysian and US authorities although hundreds of millions more, perhaps billions, remain outside he government grasp.  Jewelry, handbags, watches, cash and other riches belonging to Rosmah that have been confiscated total at least US$273 million, putting her in a league even above Imelda Marcos, the wife of the late Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos, who held the public record for corruption. It remains to be seen if the Najibs surpass it.

The businessman’s assessment could be a bit pessimistic.  The government has abolished with capital punishment and the press appears to remain largely free despite reluctance on the part of the government to abolish a “fake news” bill pushed through at the last minute by the previous administration in an effort to muzzle pre-election critics.

But a sedition act used against the previous government’s foes remains on the books and has been used against critics. Civic organizations including Suaram have called attention to government inactions on a variety of rights issues. There is also concern on the part of the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, known as Bersih, and others that MPs from the thoroughly disgraced United Malays National Organization are migrating to Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, headed by once and current Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, diluting the reformist zeal of the Pakatan Harapan coalition.  Although as many as 40 UMNO MPs are said to be contemplating such a move, Mahathir said they would be vetted individually and known crooks would be kept out.

But, said Kim Quek, a spokesman for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat in an email, “I foresee mounting tension when UMNO MPs slip into Bersatu, one after another quietly, causing endless suspicion…and mounting public disapproval.”

The headwinds outlined by Finance Minister Lim paint a pessimistic picture for both business and government. With the Trump administration cracking down on trade in Washington, DC, and the global economy beginning to slow, the budget, at a record RM314.6 billion, is forecast to run 3.7 percent of GDP in the red with economic growth expected to slow to 4.8 percent from 5.9 percent in 2017.  The ringgit, Malaysia’s currency, has fallen by 10 percent against the US dollar, in line with troubles across the world as interest rates rise in the United States, causing a flight out of emerging markets.

Lim, in his speech, set out a series of measures designed to help business and vowed to get government out of commerce, saying “clearly, government owned companies have been competing directly with private companies in non-strategic sectors. The outcome was the apparent ‘crowding out’ of private sector investments where private companies are unable to grow and compete.”

The private sector, he said, must lead, and the finance ministry is expected to establish a task force designed to evaluate and reduce duplication of functions,  a ray of hope that the country’s notorious rent-seeking government-linked companies, which funneled millions from inflated contracts to UMNO, could be cut back and its even more notorious cronyism could be reduced.

“Going forward, the government will focus its expenditure and investments only in strategic sectors and areas where the markets are unable to meet the needs of the people,” he said..

Nonetheless, business investment remains lackluster while the sector tries to figure out which way the government is going to go.

“Malaysia will undoubtedly be affected by the US-China trade war given that both these countries are among our top three trading partners,” Lim said in his budget speech. Exports remain a significant driver of the economy, particularly including electronics, oil and gas and palm oil.

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Comeback kids: Like Dr M, other political figures have had second and even third acts during their careers, including (from left) Netanyahu, Abe, Berlusconi and Churchill    

Leadership remains somewhat unsettled, with Mahathir, at 93 the world’s oldest government leader, committed to staying for two years after the formation of the government. Anwar Ibrahim, now 71, has been waiting in the wing for decades, from the time when he was Mahathir’s chosen successor only to be fired and jailed after disagreements in 1998. Although he said he would study abroad and recover from his most recent imprisonment, he forced a by-election to return to parliament a few weeks ago, disconcerting some of his followers, who accused him of acting too quickly.

In the meantime, two of Anwar’s deputies – Mohamad Azmin Ali, the Minister of Economic Affairs, and Rafizi Ramli, the Parti Keadilan general secretary,  are staging their own internecine squabble to become deputy party leader with an eye to succeeding Anwar, raising concerns over party – and coalition – unity.  Pakatan Harapan remains a work in progress. Azmin is said to be aligned with Mahathir, Rafizi with Anwar.

That raises the spectre of Mahathir and Anwar continuing to try to do in each other despite public pledges of amity, including Mahathir campaigning for Anwar in the Port Dickson by-election that brought him back into the parliament.

“The Harapan guys thought that since they couldn’t get worse than Najib, people would continue to support them,” another source said. “They forget that there will always be alternatives; if not in the next five years, then in the next 10 maybe.  Inflation is creeping up; wages have not gone up; new taxes are being introduced and people still struggle to put food on the table. Business is slow; businessmen are not re-investing as they are unsure of this government’s policies.”

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Award winning Journalist John Berthelsen

Euphoria is dying off and bodies like Bersih, he continued, have started criticizing the new government. Many from civil society are keeping silent. “I suppose the saving grace is that Najib and his cohorts are gone. But that can’t console people forever.”

Malaysia: Pakatan’s First Budget will be a tough one


October 19, 2018

Malaysia: Pakatan’s First Budget will be a tough one

by P. Gunasegaram

http://www.malaysiakini.com

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Malaysia’s Finance Minister Guan Eng

QUESTION TIME | Pakatan Harapan’s first budget to be announced on November 2 is going to be a terribly tough one because there are not going to be many sources of extra revenue nor many avenues for cost-cutting.

There is a reason why the Harapan government does not have enough money – and it isn’t debt that they claim they didn’t know about until they came to power. The real answer is the scrapping of the goods and services tax.

The cash crunch that resulted from the abolition of the GST in favour of the inferior sales and service tax will result in a yearly tax revenue loss of a massive RM22 billion initially, rising as the economy expands. Add to this the cost of fuel subsidies of RM3 billion, and the yearly shortfall is RM25 billion at least.

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That is the kind of yearly gap in revenue that Putrajaya faces. Using projected 2018 figures, according to 2018 Economic Report, the RM25 billion loss of revenue represents 10.7 percent of the projected operating expenditure of RM234.3 billion for 2018.

No tax that the government imposes will come anywhere close to breaching the RM25 billion gap. If it were to impose substantial taxes to recover this money, it will result in hardship to the people along with rising prices – which Harapan said it intended to contain with the abolition of GST in the first place.

A wrong move

The truth is, the abolition  of the GST was a terribly wrong move, and has needlessly strait jacketed the Harapan government and led to a deterioration of its financial position.

As I have said before, it should not even have been a campaign promise as the consumption tax was no longer contributing to higher prices, having been implemented with considerable difficulty back in April 2015.

Also, the GST affected the poor very little because there was a very large list of exemptions which ensured that the prices of essentials would not rise as a result. It is a tax on consumption, and therefore those who consume more (the rich) will pay more, catching in the tax net those who evade income tax. Also, GST records can be used to investigate tax evasions.

If there was one manifesto promise that Harapan broke, it should have been the abolition of GST. That would have ensured that the government finances are in good shape as reforms are being implemented – which could even have included more targeted benefits for the low-income group.

The main reason for higher prices was currency depreciation, a problem that continues to plague us despite the removal of a kleptocratic government. In fact, abolishing the GST may have contributed to currency weakness because analysts and funds view the revenue shortfall as negative in terms of the financial condition of the country.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng actually said last month that the ringgit strengthened relative to most countries, despite the transfer of power and weak external demand, but the period he used was incorrect – beginning with end-2017. He should have used May 9, the date of the election.

The table below shows how the ringgit performed relative to the currencies of the Asean-5 from May 9 to yesterday.

The table clearly indicates that the Malaysian currency significantly under performed all the ASEAN-5 countries – barring Indonesia, which has considerable economic problems of its own.

Tightened belts?

Hopefully, the new government and Finance Minister can demonstrate through the budget that they have a proper grasp of the issues at hand and how to handle it to reverse the currency trend.

It won’t be easy. While Lim has argued that the national debt exceeds RM1 trillion – and this has become wrongly used as the debt figure now – it is not. The debt as revealed in the 2018 in Accountant General’s Report for 2017 is still RM687 billion, and increases to over RM1 trillion only if contingent liabilities and guarantees are included, as I have previously explained.

Even if some of the contingent liabilities and/or guarantees have materialised as debt and are not classified as such, the interest on them will still have to be paid. Therefore, there will be little material increase in the overall costs of interest, even if they are reclassified into debt. The problem remains the RM25 billion shortfall.

Some potential positives include increased oil prices and more dividends from government companies, but these are likely to be well under RM10 billion incrementally.

An examination of government costs shows that salaries, retirement benefits and debt service charges account for 57.6 percent of total operating costs of RM234.3 billion. These can’t be cut.

There is more room to cut ‘supplies and services’, and ‘subsidies and social assistance’ accounting for a total of RM60.2 billion, or 25.7 percent of total operating expenditure, but the cuts will have to be pretty sharp. Also, this will probably take away targeted aid to the poor if cash grants under the old BR1M are cancelled.

Harapan is finding out too late that they left themselves too little wriggle room when they abolished GST. Unless they reinstate it – and they aren’t likely to do that because it will be an admission of a major blunder – they have to find other ways to raise revenue or cut costs.

Since the best, broad-based, value-added tax which goes by the name of GST here and implemented in over 160 countries around the world seems no longer available to them, and revenue-raising measures are limited, tightening the belt and prudent cost-cutting may be the order of the day.

If they do a good job of it, and come with a plan of also stimulating the economy to put growth on an upward trajectory again, analysts, fund managers, and most of all Malaysians, will show more faith in them and start putting money into the country.

It would also help to put the ringgit back on an upward path and suppress rising prices, or even lower them over the longer term. That entails honesty, openness, consultation, competency and a willingness to put the country and people above all. Malaysians expect no less from the new government.


P GUNASEGARAM is disappointed that the new government has not always been honest and open. Email: t.p.guna@gmail.com.

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

Malay anxiety, exclusion, and national unity


September 21,2018

Malay anxiety, exclusion, and national unity

A fragmented Malay society is making ‘Malay unity’ more urgent for those defeated by GE-14.

Image result for Rais Yatim