America’s Collision Course With China


May 17, 2018

America’s Collision Course With China

by Kishore Mahbubani, Dean, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

In the future, historians will lament that America’s long-term policy toward China was not a result of calm calculation. Instead, they are likely to focus on how America’s political polarization and simplistic ideology – shared by many who should know better – drove it into a highly damaging and utterly pointless conflict.

SINGAPORE – The world’s most important bilateral relationship – between the United States and China – is also one of its most inscrutable. Bedeviled by paradoxes, misperceptions, and mistrust, it is a relationship that has become a source of considerable uncertainty and, potentially, severe instability. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the brewing bilateral trade war.

The key assertion driving the current dispute, initiated by US President Donald Trump’s administration, is that America’s trade deficit is too big – and it’s all China’s fault. US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has gone so far as to demand that China unilaterally cut its trade surplus vis-à-vis the US by $200 billion by 2020.

But most sensible economists agree that America’s trade deficits are the result of domestic structural economic factors, especially low household savings, persistent government deficits, and the US dollar’s role as the world’s main reserve currency. According to Joseph Gagnon, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, if the US wants to reduce its trade deficit, it should start by reducing its massive fiscal deficit.

Yet it is not even clear that America’s trade deficit urgently needs to be cut. While the external deficit is certainly large, the US can live beyond its means in a way other economies cannot. Thanks to the dollar’s reserve-currency status, the US can absorb most of the rest of the world’s savings, which finance its saving shortfall. Moreover, as Trump’s own Council of Economic Advisers noted in February, the US enjoys a services surplus with the world, including with China.

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But it is not just the Trump administration that shuns rational economic argument. Trump’s approach to trade with China enjoys more mainstream support in the US than most of his policies, because most Americans – including many who otherwise oppose Trump – are convinced that China is not playing fair. The political commentator Fareed Zakaria, for example, has stated that “on one big, fundamental point” Trump is right: “China is a trade cheat.”

What all this China-bashing leaves out is that cheap Chinese imports have drastically improved the quality of life of American workers, whose median income has stagnated for 40 years. According to the consultancy Oxford Economics, buying Chinese imports saves American families around $850 annually. Given that 63% of American households do not have even $500 saved for emergencies, this is not an insignificant amount.

Of course, open trade with the US and the rest of the world has enabled China to achieve the fastest poverty reduction in human history. But that does not mean that China is reaping most of the economic benefits. For example, the Chinese manufacturer Foxconn earns just $7.40 for every $800 iPhone that is sold; most of the value goes to Americans.

Chinese policymakers now put their faith in what was arguably the West’s most important export: modern economic theory. Yet they remain subject to damaging decisions made by a US plagued by misperception. The question is whether China will bow to US pressure.

China’s leadership is, ultimately, pragmatic. If a few symbolic concessions (like the voluntary export restraints to which Japan agreed in the 1980s) could prevent a collision, China may make them. But, when it comes to bigger – and economically unjustified – demands, China is likely to hold the line.

Here, the most obvious example is Mnuchin’s demand that China abandon its “Made in China 2025” plan. China has already been subjected to American export controls on high-tech equipment (including the recently imposed seven-year ban on the sale of software or components by US companies to ZTE Corporation). It is not about to give up its quest for high-tech development, a critical element of a clear long-term strategy for moving its economy up the global value chain.

In short, however rational China tries to be, a trade war remains a real possibility – one that will hurt both Americans and Chinese. And this outcome is made all the more likely by a deepening disquiet in the bilateral relationship.

A three-month sabbatical at two leading US universities has underscored for me the extent to which attitudes toward China have soured in recent years. If Chinese policymakers were aware of the intensity of this shift – and I have informed a senior figure among them – they would realize that their calm and rational policies toward the US during the past 20 years may well not work in the next 20.

It would take an entire book to explain why America’s opinion of China has turned so negative. But some reasons are obvious. Within the next decade, China will overtake the US economically, despite not being a democracy. Several thoughtful Americans have told me that they could live with a larger China, if it was democratic.

Here, again, there is some irrationality at play: a democratic China would be far more susceptible to populist and nationalist pressures, and thus would probably be a pricklier partner for the US. Yet the US remains blinded by ideology, and thus is unable to see the benefits of a China guided by economic rationality.

In the future, historians will lament that America’s long-term policy toward China was not similarly a result of calm calculation. Instead, they are likely to focus on how America’s political polarization and simplistic ideology – shared by many who should know better – drove it into a highly damaging and utterly pointless conflict.

America’s “Chaos President” makes Iran’s Hardliners Right, says Dr. Fareed Zakaria


May 14, 2018

America’s “Chaos President” makes Iran’s Hardliners Right, says Dr. Fareed Zakaria

https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2018/5/10/trump-has-proved-irans-hardliners-right

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Jeb Bush said Donald Trump would be a “chaos president.” And this week, President Trump lived up to the billing, choosing to defy virtually the entire world, including America’s closest European allies, and raising tensions in the most unstable part of the globe, the Middle East.

It is hard to understand the rationale behind Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. If Iran is as dangerous and malign an actor as he says, surely it is best to have its nuclear program frozen at a pre-military level and monitored 24/7. The chances of getting Tehran to agree to more stringent terms are close to zero. If the terms of the Iran deal were applied to North Korea, it would require Pyongyang to destroy its nuclear weapons — the fruits of a decades-long effort — and agree to invasive inspections and foreign surveillance in a country so closed it is known as the Hermit Kingdom.

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If there is a strategy behind Trump’s move, it is probably regime change. His closest advisers have long championed regime change and have argued that the best approach toward Iran is a combination of sanctions, support for opposition groups and military intervention. As a congressman, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the Obama administration for negotiating with Tehran and instead suggested that the United States launch close to 2,000 bombing sorties against Iran. National security adviser John Bolton has been even more forceful in pushing for regime change, advocating much greater support for the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), a militant opposition group with a checkered past and little support within Iran. Both Bolton and Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani have given paid speeches for the MEK, and in Paris last July, Bolton declared that the United States should pursue regime change in Iran so that the Islamic republic would not celebrate its 40th birthday (which would be in 2019). Thus, three of Trump’s closest advisers have views on Iran that are so extreme that it is hard to think of anyone outside of Saudi Arabia or Israel who shares them.

 

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John, Mike and Gina

Iran is a repressive and anti-American regime that has spread its influence in the Middle East, often to America’s detriment. But it is also an ancient civilization, with centuries of power and influence in the region. The notion that the United States could solve all of its problems with Tehran by toppling the regime is fanciful. It has withstood U.S. pressure and sanctions for nearly four decades. And even if it were somehow possible to topple it, look around. The lesson of the past two decades in the Middle East is surely that regime change leads to chaos, war, refugee flows, sectarian strife and more. It opens a Pandora’s box in a land already rife with woes.

Look beyond the Middle East at the record of regime change. Whether it was an unfriendly ruler such as Guatemala’s Jacobo Arbenz or a friendly one such as South Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem, regime change was followed by greater instability. Look at Iran itself, where a British-American-sponsored coup dislodged the elected government, which was one of the factors that led to and still legitimizes the Islamic republic. Consider also America’s heavy-handed intervention in the Cuban liberation movement at the turn of the 20th century, which left a legacy of anti-Americanism that the Cuban Communists exploit to this day. Misjudging and mishandling nationalism may be the central error in American foreign policy.

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By contrast, when the United States has helped open countries to capitalism, commerce and contact, these acids of modernity have almost always eaten away at the nastiest elements of dictatorships. For all its problems, China today is a much better and more responsible country than it was under Mao Zedong. People often point to President Ronald Reagan’s campaign against the Soviet Union as one in which pressure against an evil empire helped produce regime change. But they remember only half the story. Reagan did pressure the Soviets. But as soon as he found a reformer, in Mikhail Gorbachev, he embraced him, supported him and made concessions to him. So much so that he drew furious opposition from conservatives in the United States who called him “a useful idiot” who was helping the Soviet Union win the Cold War.

Iran is a complicated country with a complicated regime. But it does have moderate elements within it that were clearly hoping the nuclear deal would be a path to integration and normalization with the world. Those forces do not have the dominant hand, but they do have power, not least because President Hassan Rouhani has popular backing. But Iran has always had a strong hard-line element that believed that America could never be trusted, that the Saudis were mortal foes, and that self-reliance, autarky and the spread of Shiite ideology was their only strategy for self-preservation. Trump has just proved them right.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

 

President Donald Trump’s strategy for the upcoming midterm elections– Creating an immigration crisis


May 6, 2018

President Donald Trump’s strategy for the upcoming midterm elections– Creating an immigration crisis

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria@https://fareedzakaria.com

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President Trump has said that the group of migrants that recently made its way from Central America to the United States symbolizes out-of-control immigration, lawlessness and violence besetting the country. “Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming,” he tweeted last month. This week, he added : “The migrant ‘caravan’ that is openly defying our border shows how weak & ineffective U.S. immigration laws are.”

The facts suggest the opposite. Last year, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection report, illegal cross-border migration was at its lowest level on record.

Trump, of course, claims that this drop is the result of his policies. Consider this boast from a State of the Union address, that the administration had put “more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history” and had cut “illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.” The problem with crediting Trump, however, is that this was the State of the Union delivered in February 2013 — and that the president making the speech was Barack Obama.

The decline in illegal immigration has been a two-decade trend. Over that time, the number of Border Patrol apprehensions along the southern border has dropped by about 80 percent, from 1.6 million in 2000 to 300,000 in 2017.

As for Mexican migration, even before Trump’s rise, more Mexicans were leaving the United States than entering. According to a Pew Research Center study, from 2009 to 2014, 1 million Mexicans and their families (including children born in the United States) went back to their home country, while 870,000 arrived here.

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As for that caravan, the more than 1,100 migrants largely from Central America fleeing poverty, gang violence and repression banded together for safety. They are a peaceful group of mostly women and children. Many will probably end up living in Mexico. A small number, about 200, are expected to apply for asylum in the United States, and past admission rates suggest that only a quarter will be accepted. That is the reality of the supposedly menacing caravan that Trump conjures up.

And yet, Trump is unrelenting in his attacks on these destitute, defenseless people. He demonizes them, describing them as threats to the United States, symbols of the lawlessness and violence that supposedly pervade the country. (In fact, violent crime has dropped by 66 percent since the early 1990s.)

Why is he doing this? The most likely answer is that he is searching for a strategy for the upcoming midterm elections, which are looking grim for Republicans, who have little to talk about. There is no trillion-dollar infrastructure program. The new tax law is unpopular, seen as largely a giveaway to corporations and the rich. It has not boosted economic growth as promised. Health care is now even more complex, given the partial repeal of Obamacare.

And then there are Trump’s own approval ratings, lower than any President’s in modern history at this point in his term except Jimmy Carter’s. Oh, and add to that the cloud of the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III. What is the way out for Republicans?

Focus on the cultural anxieties of the American public. Nothing embodies these fears as much as immigration. It has become a catch-all, particularly among non-college-educated whites, Trump’s core supporters. The President has often noted how crucial the border wall is to his base, declaring that “the thing they want more than anything is the wall.” Indeed, a recent poll indicated that 81 percent of Republicans want the wall to be built.

In a midterm, in which it is crucial to bring out your most ardent supporters, nothing will work as well as immigration. (Though do not be surprised if Trump also picks a few fights with black athletes or victims of police violence in the coming months.)

A study published last week by the National Academy of Sciences finds that Trump voters in the 2016 election were motivated less by economic anxiety and more by status anxiety — fears of waning power and status in a changing country. And an earlier analysis by the Public Religion Research Institute had come to a similar conclusion, highlighting “fears about cultural displacement” as the key to understanding the motivations of white, working-class Trump voters.

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Trump may not read academic studies, but he clearly understands in his gut what stirs his base. And he is determined to inflame these fears regardless of the facts or the effect it will have on the country.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

The Sage of Yayasan Pok Rafaeh’s Interview With Nanyang Siang Pau


May 6, 2018

GE-14: 72 hours to Polling Day, May 9, 2018. Voters who  have access to my blog in Malaysia should read this insightful analysis of Malaysian politics by Tun Daim Zainuddin, whose views I respect, before they go to the Polls. Rationally speaking, you will have no choice but to vote for Pakatan Harapan and make Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad as our next Prime Minister. Like most of us including me deserve a second chance to correct our mistakes.

More importantly, we cannot allow a pathological liar and crook, Najib Razak and his band of UMNO and Barisan Nasional thieves to ruin our country, unless we are a nation of masochists.–Din Merican

The Sage of Yayasan Pok Rafaeh’s Interview With Nanyang Siang Pau

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Tun Daim Zainuddin with Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahjm–Together Again for  Malaysia’s sake

TOPIC 1 : General Election

Q1 :      With the establishment of Pakatan Harapan lineup, many people believe this was the strongest and tougher opponent ever to BN, especially with Tun Dr Mahathir take the leading role, what is Tun comment?

Answer :

1.    Many believe so. This is the strongest and toughest opposition as now they have Tun Mahathir, Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang, Mat Sabu plus their lieutenants, supporters and volunteers. They also have YB Muhyiddin, YAB Lim Guan Eng, YAB Azmin Ali and YB Mukhriz. On paper, this is very formidable. I don’t think their supporters want them to be paper tigers.

2.    Previously voters had party loyalties but now, voters vote based on policies. Policies must be in line with what the voters think can be implemented; otherwise they are just empty promises. It has to be realistic and convincing.

3.    Tun Mahathir was an UMNO President and held office as the PM for 22 years. They have Deputy Prime Ministers, Menteri Besar and ministers in their parties. Lim Kit Siang was leader of the Opposition for a long time. Of course this is a big credit to the current Opposition.

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Based on the actions and statements from BN and UMNO leaders, it clearly shows that they are worried and very scared. I am not happy that some statements have been too personal. This goes against our culture and beyond politicking. This is not healthy. Leaders must always set a good example to the people.

Q2 :    Tun Dr Mahathir as an asset or liability to Pakatan Harapan? Did this latest opposition front lineup works?

Answer :

4.    Of course to PH, he is an asset but in the eyes of BN, they have to say he is a liability. A few members of the PH component parties initially protested. In politics, you can’t expect everyone to agree to everything. lf we believe in democracy, we must respect the decision of the majority. But those who disagree, they can object.

5.    From what l have read, these are equal partners. It means no party dominates. Before this, there were those who called Tun Mahathir a dictator and they said dictators don’t change. Dictators don’t listen to others. We have heard that Tun Mahathir said he does not agree that tolls should be abolished but he was overruled. Isn’t this a sign of change?

6.    Do dictators give up office voluntarily? Under Tun Mahathir, his old party was declared unlawful. It was de-registered. He didn’t interfere with the ROS(Registrar of Societies) or the Courts. He was called MahaFiraun but he allowed Semangat 46 and PKR to contest in the elections. Those who used to be under him are now saying he was a dictator. Why didn’t they resign like Musa Hitam and Tengku Razaleigh? Is it because they prefer to retain their positions and have no principles?

7.    Clearly PH is not BN. lt is inconceivable that Lim Kit Siang, Mat Sabu, Anwar Ibrahim  and his family will allow Tun Mahathir to bulldoze everything. Tun Mahathir is a highly intelligent man and he knows that the present generation is very different from those of the 80s and 90s era.

8.    Tun is very pragmatic and reads the ground well. Although he is 93 years of age, he understands the needs, expectations and aspirations of the young.

9.    The reading is that UMNO and BN have not changed. Rakyat think PH and the component parties have read the situation correctly.

Q3 :        Is there really a “dream team” for Pakatan Harapan? Can Tun Dr Mahathir and Dato  Seri Anwar Ibrahim sincerely forgive each other for the sake of common political ground?

Answer :

10.    Dream team only exists in dreams. PH has many intelligent young leaders who subscribe to the ideals of democracy. The experienced leaders were idealistic and have made huge sacrifices to their freedom. Some were detained for their beliefs.  Now all of these leaders are together fighting against corruption, kleptocracy and wastage. They promise to respect and honour the supreme law of the country that is our constitution.

11.    lf we read and understand the constitution, we cannot ask for more. All of us must respect and follow the law. Nobody is above the constitution.

12.    The opposition pledge their promises in their recent manifesto. If they don’t keep their promises, voters will reject them in the next elections. Democracy gives voters the chance to choose the government.

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13.    I know both Tun Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim quite well. Since their reconciliation, l have spoken to both. Tun Mahathir and Anwar had worked together before, until they went their separate ways. We read their statements. YB Dr Wan Azizah and YB Nurul Izzah have accepted this reconciliation and if the family members accept, who are we to question? Yes, they have come together for a common cause that is to save this country. What bigger sacrifice do we want from these leaders?

Q4:    Did Tun believe that, the claim by DAP leader, they wish through Tun Dr Mahathir influence, will stir the necessary Malay Tsunami to make an inroad to Putrajaya?

Answer:

14.    Tun Mahathir still has influence among different age groups. He was PM for 22 years. He retired voluntarily. He developed this country and gave pride to Malaysia and Malaysians. In 22 years, you can’t expect perfection. Mistakes were made but overall, he did an excellent job. This was recognized by Time Magazine which described him as “The Master Planner”. He is the builder of modern Malaysia and nobody can deny this.

Image result for Tun Mahathir the Builder by TIME Magazine

Those who were part of the team should be proud of what was achieved. I am very proud. During his tenure, he overcame two recessions and the country did better after he introduced some new policies to take this country forward.

15.    During the two recessions that the country faced, he made sure the government took care of the rakyat. He had strong confidence in his policies and he was so brave to call for elections during these difficult and critical times. The rakyat rewarded him with a 2/3 majority in Parliament on both occasions.

16.    So those in their 50s and 60s know his services to Malaysia and his achievements. They believe in him and l think they will give their full support to him. The younger generations are exposed to the world and with the state of the art technology, they can get instant news. In the past, the young generation were normally anti-establishment and voted for the Opposition.

17.    PH does not really need a Malay tsunami to win the election. A swing of around 10% is sufficient. The urban areas traditionally vote for the Opposition. Now with smart phones and advance technology, even semi urban areas get instant news. This will become a danger to BN.

18.    What is left are rural areas. News about Felda, Tabung Haji and other agencies are widely spread. If the rural people who traditionally support UMNO receive these news, support for UMNO will be affected and eroded. l am told second generation settlers are very angry with the government. l remember l cautioned the government about the impact on the listing of Felda, but when you are no longer in government, who will listen to you? TH depositors are not happy too.

19.    I believe DAP is predicting a Malay Tsunami based on these factors, but do you need a Malay Tsunami to get to Putrajaya? l don’t think so.

Q5/6 & 7:    What are Tun prediction of the 14th GE possible outcome? Did BN will eventually fall finally? Or other way round, BN make a strong come back, even recapture the two third majority in parliament?  If yes, what are the major factor? If BN facing another major setback, what are the major reason?

Answer:

20.  Let me make it very clear l am not in the business of predicting election results. I have retired from business too. l don’t do any research. But l meet a lot of people. l read analysis from the think tanks, hear from politicians representing all the parties in Malaysia, from journalists, taxi drivers’ talks in coffee shops and suraus. I receive news from Whatsapp and I watch YouTube. I have old and new friends who give me feedback. Then l make my own conclusions.

21. The Opposition according to many is the strongest ever. They managed to put their differences aside and put up a united front which is very rare in Malaysian politics. Imagine a common logo and DAP sacrificing its rocket. This is the best evidence of sacrifice for common cause. This is the biggest news for the rakyat. They have one main agenda that is to topple BN hence attack is mainly concentrated on Najib given that he is seemingly their Achilles heel.

 

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Malaysians reject UMNO-BN and Najib Razak’ s Toxic Leadership

22.    BN’s biggest problem is to explain 1MDB to urban voters. I think the government’s biggest blunder was not to address this scandal when it first surfaced. The government should have just admitted that 1MDB is a big mistake. Rakyat will eventually forgive but what they can’t forgive is when the government is abusing the law and hide their wrongdoings.

23.  Sacking the DPM and a senior minister did not solve the problem, rather it may have done the opposite. It is now an international scandal involving so many countries. We have no control over other countries nor their media. These days we get instant news. The government and ministers can deny but these denials make the educated and urbanites very angry and they distrust the government. Whatever good the government does is being negated by the 1MDB scandal. How can one deny DOJ’s report when there is mention of MO1.  And a minister in the PM’s department confirmed to BBC that only idiots do not know MO1 is Najib. This is major scandal which the Government needs to address in order to regain trust from the rakyat but yet, in parliament this subject cannot be raised.

24.    We have 3 former cabinet ministers made known their views on certain issues. Two were immediately condemned. Instead of replying point by point on matters raised, they were accused of having ulterior motives or revenge. People think this country has reached a stage that supporters of government have become irrational, intolerable and have no ability to rebut logically.

25.   In the rural areas they are blaming the government for high cost of living. The Opposition put the blame on GST and tell the people that the government is forced to introduce GST because they have to repay the loan from 1MDB. The government so far fails to explain why the cost of living has gone up. Mere denials by saying that things here are cheaper than in Singapore are just silly and lame. They are being ridiculed by the Opposition. The Opposition, on the other hand, has promised to abolish GST. 1MDB and GST are the two factors that are very difficult for the government to answer.

26.  Will BN win? BN and its predecessor, the Alliance Party has been running this country since independence. In any country, this is indeed too long.

27.  But BN is the incumbent and has many advantages. Recent delineation of constituencies and Anti-Fake laws are signs of fear but of great advantages to the incumbent. Rahman Dahlan is a big fan of the Anti-fake laws.

28.   BN is trying to take advantage of these two recent laws to win the elections. lf these work then together with the uncertainty of the postal votes by civil servants, BN will win and maybe win big. The foreign media have been highlighting this as stealing. lf voters are angry and believe the government is stealing the elections, they will vote against BN, and this will ultimately be their downfall. This will create history. For those who believe and support a genuine practice of democracy, this is cause for celebration.

29.  We can read the moods, the various actions, the talks in the coffee shops, the chatters among taxi drivers or Grab drivers. The anger over GST, the high cost of living in the country, IMDB, the scandals in MARA, FELDA, Tabung Haji and FGV, the depreciation of ringgit, and the issues on unemployment when graduates have to become Grab drivers and sell nasilemak. We are seeing more graduates are currently unemployed. The government is not creating skilled jobs as their focus is more on services sector. This is one of the main cause of the high unemployment rate especially for fresh graduates. These are of great concern to all.

30.   The Director General of Immigration has indicated that the country needs to give priority to local workers, and they are trying to reduce the number of foreign workers in the country. This issue has been long standing. People are asking where are the enforcement agencies? If this is not handled aggressively, the DG said that Malaysians might be “Kuli di negara sendiri”. [1] And according to one research group(Ipsos), unemployment is Malaysian’s biggest worry and this is partly related to foreign workers [taking up the jobs], as well as a concern that they are not getting the jobs that fit their aspirations, needs and lifestyle [2]. Their concerns are not unwarranted, last month BNM says that only 1 out of 5 jobs that were created last year was filled by locals, the rest were filled by the foreigners. This never happen before. No wonder the number of unemployed graduate continue to increase.

31.    In its manifesto, BN has promised to create 3 million new jobs. So if the ratio is 1:5, it means that locals will get 600,000 jobs and foreigners will get 2.4 million jobs.

32.    People talk of corruption, government’s spending wastages and huge national debt. These are legitimate issues. When even those employed can’t buy houses then the government faces real problems. In Klang Valley, apartments are unsold and there is a glut of office space, yet more buildings are under construction. [3][4][5]

33.    The government is not sitting still. ln response to high food prices, it offers BRIM. This helps the poor. BRIM was recommended by Bank Negara as a one-off help but it has now become a government policy. l personally think BRIM cannot go on forever. This is a temporary fix, not the permanent answer to help those who need help. In its Manifesto, BN promises to increase BRIM. I said BN can’t rely on BRIM forever in order to gain popularity. People need jobs so that they can get good income to sustain their lives.

34.    According to the government, for every US$1 (RM4.17) increase in crude oil price, the government’s revenue increases by RM300 million. And the government is projecting by end of 2018, the average price hits US$62, which is a total of US$10 increase, multiplied by RM300 million, it would equal to RM3 billion additional income.[6]  If l were in the government, instead of giving more BRIM, l would reduce the GST by 1% and this will significantly help to reduce the burden and sufferings by the rakyat.  [latest oil price according to Johari is USD70 per barrel]

35.    The government has announced an increase in amount for BRIM and will cost about RM4 to RM6 billion, plus another RM1.4 billion token for civil servants. Are these part of the budget? Where is the money coming from?[7]

36.    The 1Malaysia shop failed and Mydin explained the reasons very well in an interview he gave.

37.    Many are not happy with the government, and its actions also show it is scared. A government must always be confident. However, to introduce redelineation of constituencies without adding seats makes people accuse the government of wanting to steal the elections. So we have foreign media again, writing disparaging things about the government. Then comes in the Anti-Faked news’ law which can sentence a person to a six year imprisonment. There are already many laws to handle fake news like the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, the Evidence Act 1950 and the Printing Press and Publications Act 1984. [8]

38.    Many read this as the moves to scare and silence the Opposition. The foreign media think so. And both the US State Department and the UN have also expressed their concerns [9]. Many believe that the government is stopping the Opposition from talking about 1MDB during the election campaign. We can’t blame people if they think the government is scared to face the Opposition and this law is an attempt to curb freedom of speech and expression. The government does not realize that they can only alter the reality so much. The people will get their news somehow. [10]

39. As I mentioned earlier, the foreign media have said that the government plans to steal the election. The Indian government introduced something similar as Anti-Fake news but later withdrew this law as there were fierce objections and the government fear that it will lose the support of the people [11]. The Guardian has reported that “fake news” is indeed a powerful strategy to undermine trust in media and has quoted that Trump has been adept at saying all news against him as fake news and using “fake” to his advantage. [12]

40.    Rahman Dahlan said that the Opposition is investing in falsehood [13]. Zunar the cartoonist is very angry that BN has altered his cartoon to portray that he supports BN. He is facing so many charges in court [14]. The Economist wrote that the Malaysian government is guilty of falsehoods, and asked will the government prosecute itself [11].

41.  We take one an example on MRT. The government said they have completed the project ahead of time and below budget by RM2 billion. [15] Some people claimed that this is only half truth. According to Budget 2011, the overall cost of MRT is RM40 billion but the first phase of MRT, the government has spent more than RM32 billion. This is excluding Phase 2 and Phase 3. The Minister’s statement cannot be true.

42.   In recent BN’s Manifesto, Najib has announced on TN50 of which he pledged BN’s promises to the young. And one thing stood out from the rest. In the poster that was released, the iconic Petronas Twin Towers have disappeared [16]. People say this is very childish. Some are asking why BN is lying. I used to know that only David Copperfield, the magician can make buildings disappear. Some say that if BN can make the twin towers disappear, a manifesto can just be a blatant lie and your votes can go missing too.

43.    The joke going around KL; if you test positive first time then go for second test and if you are from Umno or BN, the result will surely be negative.

44.    The PM said DAP is the brains behind the opposition pact and is using Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to split the Malay votes. The Malays especially in PH feel insulted. PH’s reply is simple. If DAP is the brains, how come they could not defeat Tun Mahathir over 22 years? PH said Tun Mahathir is a strong leader, a man of sturdy conviction, remarkably intelligent and a true patriot. So maybe Najib dare not accept Lim Kit Siang’s many challenges as he believes Kit Siang is the “brains”and to Najib, Malays have no brains.

45.    This is the stage for the election. Some think and hope for a hung parliament. l don’t see that although PAS plans to be the king maker. My view is whoever wins more rural seats especially in Felda and gain supports from the youth will form the next government. You don’t need a tsunami for that.

46.    I don’t think anyone knows for sure the answer on who is going to win. I can only say this is the most important election since Independence. It is about the future direction of the country. One promotes familiarity and more of the same and the other champions change and reform. As a voter, which one is more attractive?

47.    PH says BN cannot change as they want status quo and almost all institutions are directly under the PM. The present government survives because of the present structure. PH offers change and reform and rule of law based on participating democracy. PH is giving options to the people to choose which system they prefer. Many said our institutions exist but they are hollow.

48.    I think the young should play their role. I quote Pope Francis calling the young to take action – “Dear young people, you have it in you to shout. It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out? Please, make that choice, before the stones themselves cry out”. In United States, students demonstrated and one slogan was ‘opposite of progress is congress.’ In Malaysia we hear people say opposite of debate is parliament.

49.    The youth might not realize but the EC statistics show the 21 to 29 age bracket account for 17% of the electorate while those in the 30 to 39 age group comprise 23.9%. These two age groups encompass nearly 41% of eligible voters and seemingly tend to be anti-establishment [17][18]

50.    I believe that the youth has a major role to determine the outcome of this election. They can’t be fence sitters or observers. They must exercise their duty and responsibilities as concerned citizens. They are the ones who must decide the country’s future, their future and their children’s future. The youth must not abdicate their role to decide the future of our beloved Malaysia. I have faith and confidence in our youth. They are smart enough to make the right choice for the best of this country.

51.    Democracy will die if citizens and especially the youth think they are powerless. This thinking is wrong. Voters have the power. In fact, voters are the power. Exercise it. Real democracy gives voters the choice. Plato said “the price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men” and he is right. We hear some believe that cash is king. Truth is; your vote is king.

52.    Those in power define democracy according to their fancy. Sukarno had guided democracy and he defined it. Today in Hungary the PM called it “illiberal democracy”. Portugal and Turkey too practice this system. lt is supposed to be for the 21st century. They oppress minorities or attack independent judges or journalists and according to them, to protect the people and the nation.

Image result for Fareed Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria commented on the difference between a liberal democracy and a mere democracy. The former practices rule of law and the latter is exclusively ruled by the majority. In the last elections, BN did not even get the majority of the votes.

Q8:  What are Tun prediction of BN component parties like MCA, GERAKAN and SUPP fate?

Answer:

53.    MCA and Gerakan have been losing support and as one minister said; DAP represents the Chinese (as shown in the last elections). MCA needs Malay votes to win elections. I think Umno thinks it does not need Chinese’ support anymore as shown by the recent redelineation exercise. Even the Chairman of EC confirmed that the delineation was to make constituencies race based. It is unbecoming for the EC Chairman to confirm this publicly. And UMNO seems to prefer PAS. At least we see their Presidents together and very cordial towards each other. The PM and Mustapha Mohammad were photographed together with PAS leaders.

54.    The second Finance Minister said he does not need Chinese and Indian votes to win his seat. Isn’t this clear UMNO does not need MCA, Gerakan, MIC, etc? Are the opposition and the rakyat wrong to believe that UMNO’s plan is just relying on Malay votes hence the redeleniation exercise and the close rapport with PAS.

55.    MCA and the rest of component parties have lost credibility with the voters because they were silent on 1MDB. Their silence on 1MDB reflects their subservient approach towards UMNO. Not a word about Jho Low and they never asked why is he hiding. Why hide unless he has committed some crime? Surely, they must have read all the foreign reports and watch TV news and videos. To non-Malays and urban people they can only come to one conclusion; these parties support corruption and kleptocracy. What kind of example are they giving to the young? Where is their principle in politics and life?

56.    By their silence, it seems that they endorse Kleptocracy which no one in his right mind can accept. The government admitted it adopted the wrong business model on 1MDB. You can’t succeed in a business with RM1 million paid up capital and borrowings of USD11 billion. Ask those in business whether this is what they call business. The PM himself said mistakes were made. But sadly, MCA, Gerakan and MIC have not uttered a word. I was asked on 1MDB years ago and my replies are on record. Why create 1MDB as a sovereign fund when we already have Khazanah?

57.    MCA in the last elections promised not to join the cabinet if Chinese voters rejected them.  They were rejected and later broke their pledge. How can the Chinese trust them? They have no credibility. UMNO seems to reject them as shown by the delineation exercise. And UMNO has also made a cruel attack on Malaysian’s most successful businessman : Robert Kuok. And don’t forget that Robert is from Johor and has helped the Johoreans and Malaysians. What has happened to government’s policy to produce “glocal” businessmen? What other conclusions can you come to when you study the delineation exercise? These parties committed suicide by voting in Parliament.

58.    MCA has insulted Tun Mahathir who was our PM for 22 years by calling him an “old horse”. People get very angry and replied it’s better to have an old horse with brain rather than the young horse with no principles. The latest slogan is “Undi Biru Tua jangan PM tua” but many said that they prefer an old man who fights for the people than a party who is silent on 1MDB and corruption.

59.    Tun Mahathir has proven to be agile and sharp. It is a sign of a nation’s progress that a 93-year-old person is able to sustain a punishing political campaign, offering quality arguments and content. He even challenged Najib to debate with him.

60.    MCA can continue to insult Tun Mahathir but in a recent study conducted by a UK research center, the finding was Tun Mahathir is the most admired man in Malaysia and Najib is no. 14.  [19][20]

Q9:    Is that possibility BN may lose more state? Selangor and Penang outcome?

Answer:

61.    The mood as of now is for change. But whether there will be change will depend on the voters. The conditions, according to many reports are ripe for change. Voters will study the manifestos and listen to speeches. But most importantly, for the parties to win, they have to put the right and clean candidates with integrity. The locals must like the candidates and trust them to be their future wakil rakyat.

62.    Before this, the Opposition used to say BN means “BarangNaik”. BarangNaik has become a reality. Now the Opposition says BN means “Bini Najib”. A vote for BN means a vote for “Bini Najib” as many believe that she is running the government. The opposition says that UMNO believes in RAHMAN (Tunku Abdul Rahman, Abdul Razak, Hussein Onn, Mahathir Mohammad, Abdullah Badawi and Najib Razak, and noticed that Najib’s name is the last) and Najib has selected May 9 as polling day, which falls on Wednesday or “Rabu”. They are now saying “rakyat akan buang UMNO’ on this day. On the May 9, 2016, Philippines has elected new President. On  May 9, 2017, South Korea has elected new President and on 9th May 2018, God willing, Malaysia will elect a new Prime Minister. The rakyat are now giving the PM a big “thank you” for R.A.B.U.

63.    From many feedbacks received, if Mukhriz spends time in Kedah and with Tun Mahathir’s influence, BN will lose Kedah. For Penang and Selangor, PH will retain the states. Both states have sorted out their candidates.

64.    I think BN will retain Perlis. For Perak, if PH has a good candidate for Menteri Besar, they will take back the state. Voters are still very angry with the way BN has “stolen” the state.  YAB Zambry is a popular MB but is quite a loner.

65.    Negeri Sembilan has a long history of infighting. This time it will depend on how UMNO treats local leaders. If this is not handled well, and if PH has good candidate for Menteri Besar, then PH has a slim chance of winning. In Melaka, UMNO is not happy with the leadership but PH must get good candidates to mount a challenge. Did you notice the empty chairs at UMNO’s functions and the open protests in Perlis, Kuala Pilah, Melaka, Tanjong Malim, Batu and Gua Musang? Are these the signs that people are no longer scared?[21][videos]

66.    On Johor, it is a known fact that it is UMNO’s stronghold but PH has a chance if Muhyiddin spends more time there. Shortly after PH launched its logo in Pasir Gudang, TMJ(Tengku Mahkota Johor) has issued a statement but claimed that it is not a political statement.

Image result for Tengku Mahkota Johor

Many read this message as UMNO is losing ground and the Palace has read the situation well. People will make their own judgements. The State Government has commissioned a study on its support. People say that the MB may lose his seat but rakyat is very sympathetic of him. Those who used to work with the MB believe that BN will lose the state. But as I said earlier, the voters want candidates with integrity and with principles. They know what is good for them. Big crowds come out to listen to ceramah from PH but big crowds is meaningless unless they are translated into votes.

67.    The Palace of Selangor and Perlis have issued statements that they are above politics.

68.    It’s a 50/50 chance in Sabah. However, we know that Sabahans are fiercely independent and have changed state government many times. YB Shafie Afdal has spent a lot of time in order to win.

69.    For Sarawak, BN will win.

Q10:    Are Chinese Majority constituencies the hardest part for BN in the coming election?

Answer:

70.    l have answered earlier.

Q11:    What are Tun advice for BN to convince the Chinese support in the GE?

Answer:

71.    BN can’t convince them with the government’s latest delineation exercise as MCA, Gerakan and MIC did not object. You observe that PAS on the other hand objected. MCA, Gerakan and MIC show that they just follow UMNO blindly. At least in 1959, Tun Lim Chong EU was brave to challenge the UMNO leadership. He fought for MCA and did it for the interest of his party and his race. TS Tan Koon Swan too was brave and fought for his community.

72.    We forgot PPP. This party was not happy as the Cameron Highland’s seat was not given to the party. With Umno working with PAS, many guess PPP is no longer relevant and reports say PPP has sacked it’s own president.

Q12/13/14: Any possibility of fallen of additional BN state to opposition? The outcome of front runner state like Johor? Negeri Sembilan? Perak? Kedah?  Did BN have a chance in Selangor ?  Did the issue of 1MDB, RM2.6 billion donation, have any impact on the GE? Especially the rural area and Malay Kampong?

Answer :

73.   l have answered earlier. The donation of RM2.6 billion has not been convincingly rebutted and most of us have read the DOJ report.

74.    Some of the attacks have become counterproductive. Have you heard or come across any political party running down and condemning its own excellent record and then ask voters to vote for the same party? The official and main stream media praised Tun Mahathir on his 22 years premiership but only to condemn him now.

Image result for Rais Yatim and Rafidah Aziz

75.    Some attacks are very crude, un-Malay and un-Malaysian. The attacks confirmed these ex-leaders have a lot of influence. The attacks on Rafidah and Rais Yatim show desperation and these attacks are very personal. UMNO should answer them intelligently and with facts. Both Rafidah and Rais had been in politics for a long period of time. Both of them have served as ministers. They are very intelligent and talk facts. I don’t think it’s a good idea for anyone to challenge them. The ground says that if you touch a hornet’s nest, you will get Rafidah.

76.   The rakyat find personal attacks distasteful. They believe we are very cultured and prepared to hear debates or listen to arguments on policies during both Tun’s time and Najib’s. For example, under Tun Mahathir, issues such as economic growth, FDIs, north/south highway, KLIA, Petronas twin towers, KL tower, Felda, Tabung Haji, Mara, EPF, international relations, operation lalang and sacking of CJ and Forex loss were all raised. Under Najib, economic growth, GST, depreciation of ringgit, high cost of living, BRIM, NFC, PFI, KWAP, GLCs, MRT, ECRL, abolishment of lSA, introduction of POTA, SOSMA, Anti-fake news, AG’s early retirement, 1MDB, judges appointed above the age of retirement, national debts, Parliament, MACC, police, Chinese investments and many more are topics for debate.

77.  Najib can debate with Tun Mahathir, but on economy and finance each side can nominate their representative to debate. These debates would educate voters and will be very informative. I think rakyat want to hear from both under one stage or platform.

TOPIC 2: UMNO

Question 1/2/3  :    How do you see those ex leaders’ effect on states like Kedah, Sabah and Johor?  Cooperation with PAS has always been an issue and it has pros and cons to BN itself, will there be any chance of cooperation between the two parties in certain issues in coming PRU?

Answer:

1. UMNO’s ex leaders still have great influence. Look at the time UMNO spends on attacking ex-leaders especially Tun Mahathir.

2 Both parties need to discuss the role of the caretaker government after parliament is dissolved.   Maybe Dr Rais Yatim can write an opinion so both parties can agree on the ground rules. Can caretaker government give financial help when Parliament is dissolve?

3.  Let’s educate the rakyat with facts and figures so they have the knowledge to make a valued judgment about their own future. This is far better than abusive and crude language and behavior. Politicians must show a good example. We adopt free market practices in economy to grow. Likewise, in politics we must welcome a market of free ideas and live in harmony. Victor Hugo said “markets open to trade and minds open to ideas, will become the sole battlefield”.

4.  On Cooperation with PAS, the leaderships are very close but this is not reflected at the grass roots level. They have been at each other all these years. PAS used to call UMNO members infidels. They prayed separately. In UMNO’s history, when it was weak it would court PAS and invariably PAS would throw its support for UMNO. Once UMNO regained its strength it will find excuses to kick PAS out.

5.  PAS is against GST but in the Parliament, they always supported the government on budgets. This is strange logic. Surely PAS is not confused. As I said, PAS wants to be a kingmaker but they have make it very clear that they will not work with DAP which is a component party under PH. The public conclude that PAS just wants to help BN and in particular UMNO. Yet BN has MCA, Gerakan, MIC and parties in Sarawak and Sabah that oppose the RUU355. BN and in particular UMNO, has delayed this bill for a long time, just to pretend that it supports the bill. UMNO knows that if this bill is allowed to be debated, the non-Muslims will not support and this may cause a split within BN. Sadly, PAS’ leadership keeps giving hope to its members. But most of them know that UMNO is just playing politics.

6.  I have been following speeches made by PAS’ leaders during this campaign. They are putting up 160 candidates which means a party with most candidates. Yet in most speeches they condemn Tun Mahathir and seems to praise Najib, l suppose this is what they mean by “kingmaker”. When they dropped an incumbent, they said “we are resting him, not dropping him”. PAS leaders confuse us with many contradicting statements. They say there is no need to get rid of a person like Najib but just advise him. They want to correct the system from within. If we follow their logic Mugabe should not be toppled. South Africa should have kept Zuma. Indonesia and Philippines made mistakes getting rid of Suharto and Marcos. Brazil and Peru should get advice from PAS. UMNO has made a mistake about Tunku Abdul Rahman and should not have forced him to retire.

7.  It seems like PAS does not understand UMNO’s culture. UMNO’s President always tells members to be loyal to him. Loyalty to the President is their culture, and even when the president makes big blunders everybody should remain loyal. How do you change from within? And who is PAS to advise and change UMNO from within? The rakyat is right to be very suspicious of PAS’ real intention in this election.

8.  The rakyat are not sure if PAS is truly an Islamic party as it seems unwilling to fight corruption. They use the same tone and language as UMNO’s. UMNO uses the word ‘derma’, now PAS also uses the word ‘derma’. When people hear the voice recording involving Nik Abduh, some conclude that PAS and UMNO are working together in this elections. From this picture, people are wondering what Najib is discussing with PAS leaders. Was it the economy or 1MDB? [picture] Some of PAS’ grassroot members are frustrated as they still hold onto the late mandate from Nik Aziz. Nik Aziz who said that “when one befriends UMNO, there will be no other who will befriend him as Allah will only help those who are honest to fight for Islam”

9.  You listen to Hadi and his speeches which, to an ordinary man sounds quiet strange where mostly in support the government.

10.  PAS wants to have Islamic tax on savings, maybe to replace the GST.  I hope PAS has the experts in taxation law so that they can advise how to implement this. lf the government tax the people on savings, it means that there will be double tax because only those who have money save. And these people has already been taxed. If this tax is implemented, will people save their money in our banks and financial institutions or keep it overseas?

11.  Hadi’s statements do not help PAS. Based on his statements, PAS may even lose Kelantan, and Tengku Razaleigh is determined to win Kelantan for BN. However, my journalist friends told me that PAS may retain Kelantan as the Kelantanese hate UMNO. But recently, Rafizi Ramli said that things have changed and PH is gaining ground. People from Kelantan came to see me and told me that PH may have a chance. We can see the split in PAS with Nik Omar joining PH.  In fact all three of their past presidents’ sons have left PAS to join PH.

12.  The close relationship between the two party leaders confuse members. Both agree DAP is a threat to the Malays. This stand is illogical. Agong is Malay, Rulers are Malays. The PM and Menteri Besar are Malays. Majority of rakyat are Malays. By 2030, the numbers of Malays and Bumiputera are expected to increase further but the non-Bumiputera will see reduction. We know that this is just to frighten the rural people and their statements don’t make any sense.

Image result for Forest City Johor

13.  There will only be changes in population if more developments such as Forest City in Johor are built. Forest City has garnered a lot of media attention and was heavily criticized by the Opposition due to its seemingly heavy reliance on mainland Chinese buyers to acquire its myriad apartments. [24] Forest City will only succeed if it brings value to the local population, or else it will quickly become a ghost city [25]. An assistant professor of geography at Montreal’s McGill University told The New York Times that where else in the world has a foreign company created new land in another country, populated it with people from its home country and asserted sovereignty over it? This is a brand-new level of colonial expansion. [26]

14.   Lim Kit Siang told the Malays not to be misled by Umno’s lies as majority of the voters are still Malays and the overwhelming majority of parliamentary and state assembly constituencies are Malay voter-majority constituencies [27]. Statistics show in 1957, the Malay population stood at 49.8 percent, with the Chinese population making up 37.2 percent, and that the numbers have shifted since.  In 2010, the percentage of Malays in the Malaysian population increased to 55.07 percent, Chinese reduced to 24.34 percent, Indians dropped to 7.35 percent, non-Malay bumiputera maintained at 11.94 percent and 1.3 percent others. He also highlighted the Statistics Department’s prediction that the Chinese population will continue to shrink to 19.6 percent in 2023, and 18.9 percent in 2035 and went on to say that Malays won’t lose power.

15.  When Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn opposed Tun Mahathir, he never attack them. He was very civil and he respected their freedom to attack him.  ln fact they supported DAP but Tun Mahathir never told the Malays if Semangat 46 were to win, DAP would run the country. Simply because Tun Mahathir knew that this is nonsense.

16.  Some has looked at the racial ratio of candidates that will compete in the upcoming election. Based on parliamentary seats’ distribution from PH, Malay Muslim candidates are 175, Chinese 37 and Indian 10 people. The propaganda by BN to scare the Malays that the PM will be a Chinese is just baseless and it’s nonsense. Some people from BN and PAS  seems to have these wild imaginations.

17.     Perak Gerakan adviser told the Chinese that they should vote for Umno and BN or else they will have to embrace PAS. Some laughed at this statement and some said that this is a threatening statement made by Gerakan. [28]

18.  Nazri Aziz is pleading with the Chinese voters not to vote DAP and PH. He told the Chinese that BN and the Chinese are together. The Chinese asked MCA and Gerakan is this the same Nazri Aziz who called Robert Kuok a “pondan” and insulted the Chinese? And his cabinet colleague proudly said he does not need Chinese or lndians’ votes to win his seat. They want MCA and Gerakan to explain to them why they must support those who have insulted them. [29]

19.  A former Menteri Besar said it is not impossible for BN to work together with PAS in this election. [30] And there were also claims that PAS is receiving money from UMNO and BN.[23] The rakyat said, no wonder UMNO and PAS is singing the same silly songs.

20.   PH is not BN. Malaysians believe in the leaders of PH; Anwar Ibrahim Mat Sabu and DAP and all have accepted Tun’s leadership. The people know that these leaders are fighting for a common cause; to save the country.

21.   We hope that this election will be the cleanest election possible. We have seen in 2013, laws were breached. Complaints were made but no action taken. An NGO did their own research and their findings were that the election commissions were not carrying out their duties as stipulated in the constitution. The judges were too lenient with the offenders. ln current elections, we read news that the caretaker government is disbursing money to various parties yet the election commissioner seems to be blind on these blatant breaches of election laws.

22.   It has been reported that the UK government has discussed the importance of free and fair elections in the country, according to a series of parliamentary replies given in the UK House of Commons. The UK seems to follow Malaysia’s political situation closely and also encouraged the government to invite external election observes in advance of the 9th May election. [31]

23.   In India, they are very strict and look at what happened to lndra Gandhi. Justice Sinha has convicted then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of electoral malpractices. This judgement was hailed all over the democratic world as a great triumph of an independent judiciary.

24.   The Election Commission of Malaysia has to be independent and must play their role well. I heard some people are calling the EC or SPR (in Malay) as Suruhanjaya Penipu  Rakyat. This is demeaning and tragically sad.

Topic 3: Economy

Questions 1/2/3/4/5      Latest government decision to frozen the luxury property development at the midst of tackle of oversupply of the luxury and commercial property, can Tun enlighten us on these matter. One of the most concern of Malaysia was the skyrocket price of housing, beyond majority Malaysian mean , worsen one, even the “affordable” home, also cannot afford, what’s is Tun comment? What’s are Tun suggestion to overcome these pressing problem?

From the majority benchmark and statistic, Malaysia are on the good position and well manage of country economy, the concern of the peoples, just not have these good feeling or doesn’t experience the positive one, Tun opinion?

The GST and the impacts, some even request restore the SST, what are Tun comment.

Answer:

Image result for Forest City Johor

25.   I am maybe better with property than other subjects. Those who have been watching and following this sector have been worried about the number of luxurious condos being constructed especially in Kuala Lumpur. The same applies to commercial buildings and shopping malls. The government gives the impression that it wants to have as many highrises to show that there is big surge in the growth of the construction sector to fuel the economy. But the reports are out there for people to read. There is a huge glut in both these markets.

26.   The value of the unsold homes – which do not include service apartments and SOHO (small office/home office) units – is 82.8% higher than a year ago, risking the sector to systematic impact in the event of financial shocks.

27.    We read reports about the huge overhang. We are told developers can now get high plot ratios and because of that, the price of land has also jumped. Delay in getting approvals has caused the increase in the holding costs. There is also talk of corruption. These factors have pushed up prices of the end product. Most cannot afford to buy. So, we have empty buildings. Developers even sell with zero down payment and speculators bought many apartments with a view to make a quick profit. Then the price of oil dropped. Most Oil and Gas companies had to cut costs. Petronas was reported to retrench 6000 employees. Major oil companies followed. Speculators decided to cut losses and developers have had to hold the properties.

28.     History tells us if the property sector faces problem, it drags the economy down with it. l don’t know if we have learnt our lesson. The Government recently bought 51% of a building from Mulia group and we are told that the project is good.  If so, why should Mulia sell? It is silly for developers to sell good project, and PNB is also building its new HQ.  Maybe it has a lot of money but that money belongs to the ASN and other unit trust holders.  Is this the right time to build?

29.   The Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH) in its property market report 2017 said there is a rising concern on the overhang for residential units. Bank Negara has sounded its alarm bells over the property gluts. In its 2017 annual report, the central bank said there were 129,052 unsold housing units at the end of third quarter of 2017. More than 80% of the unsold units were priced at RM250,000 above.

30.   The alarm bells from Bank Negara came in a bit late. They should have advise the banks on the risks that they are taking sooner. How come the Treasury too ignores the obvious? They have the experience in monitoring all sectors so that no sector is overheated as this will cause a disruption to the economy and the banking sector.

31.    During my time, l called the stakeholders and got their views and advice and told them the government wanted them to correct the unhealthy situation immediately or I would be forced to take drastic actions to save the economy and the country. The government must not allow the free market to run wild.

32.    I think government has made right move even though l think should have been done much earlier. But what happened to KL city plan 2020? lt was unveiled in 2008 but until now, it has not been gazetted. Now “Selamatkan KL”, a collation of residents association have pressured DBKL to gazette it, but DBKL seems to be in no hurry. Now we understand why developments in KL is very messy. The opposition is saying that if BN can’t manage KL city, how is it going to manage the country?

33.   Malaysians cannot afford to buy houses because salaries are low and there is a mismatch between increase in salaries and expenditures. We are not creating high income jobs. Jobs created are for unskilled group and are taken up by foreigners.

34.     The government wants to help those without houses and have created many agencies but sometimes they overlap. State governments have SEDC which originally just focused on building houses. In the 60s Selangor was very successful. l don’t know what SEDCs do now. Then they also have MBI or Menteri Besar Incorporation. Competition is good provided all these are run professionally and there is no political interference. For example if we are serious we cannot have a politician as chairman. Get a successful developer for that position. We have Prima after Syarikat Perumahan Rakyat Malaysia and earlier Uda. With all these agencies, we still fail to produce houses that the rakyat needs. [32]

35.     The government has made announcements that banks will lend up to RM300,000 for buyers to buy Prima houses. But how many can afford to borrow as their salaries are too low and the cost of living is very high? We have also read reports that there are those who are not eligible getting Prima houses and they are renting them out. Rakyat ask what is new?The opposition makes fun of BN’s manifesto on urban development.

36.      In BN’s Manifesto, it has announced that they will help the people to secure the loans from the banks to purchase “affordable house”. Plainly BN has not learn any lesson and has no clue on how to address and solve the problem. Read what Bank Negara has reported. The income is low and prices are high. The rakyat are not prescribed with the right help. In 2013, the PM said that the government would build 1 million units of affordable houses, with PR1MA to build half of them, but until end of 2017, PR1MA have sold not more than 12,000 units.[30] It clearly shows that the rakyat do not have the purchasing power to buy even the house that is called “affordable” to them.

37.     If Singapore can succeed and we have many successful property companies, it is illogical to see our people cannot afford to own houses. We should ask ourselves what has gone wrong. Wrong policies or wrong people entrusted to deliver?

38.     In Treasury, they have the housing loan division to cater for civil servants. We have MBSB. Then banks have special unit dealing with housing loans and EPF allows some withdrawals for housing yet the rakyat complain they can’t afford to buy houses. l suggest whoever wins the upcoming election must seriously study this problem. They must get input from stakeholders and publish the proposal so the rakyat knows what the government intends to do. They can find out if they are able to afford the houses built for them.

39.      I’d like to give a simple example. My family foundation built 100 houses to be distributed to the poor. They will rent at a nominal rate, just suffice to keep the place clean and to pay for security. After 10 years, these people will get the houses for free. The houses were completed a long time ago. Liability period is over and but until now the state government cannot identify the poor in the district. To date, they managed only to approve 40 people. We asked the mosques to assist and names were given. But sadly until now, the houses are empty. This is my experience.

40.    The economy according to figures released is doing well with respectable growth. The inflation rate is expected to ease to 2.6% this year due to the soothing effect of fuel related items [30]. The PM in early April claimed that the country in 2017 has registered growth of 5.9%, which was among the top gainers in the world. But some economists argued that this growth was below than the average for the emerging and developing Asian countries, which was around 6.5%. In fact, we were behind Vietnam (6.8%) and Philippines (6.7%).

41.    The Government is happy but the rakyat is not happy. The Government says the Opposition is politicking when it tells the rakyat that the country is about to be bankrupt. As l said earlier, in order to settle this, we must hold a debate and let the rakyat listen and make their own conclusions. Rakyat is not happy about the high cost of living. Even if there is growth, they don’t feel it. Any policy must benefit the rakyat. Rakyat must feel they benefit from it.

42.        The government does not care about this. Instead, they claimed that they have successfully curb inflation below 3% for the last 8 years. The press should ask the housewives if they agree inflation is 3%. But in reality, the rakyat is suffering from the price increase of necessary items. As compared to 2010, data for 2018 has shown that the price of chicken has increase by 38.6%, meat by 80.9%, cooking oil by 61.2%, sugar by 78.8% and flour by 24.4%. The price of toll has increase by the range of 30 to 80% and fuel by 22%. [

43.        We can’t blame the rakyat for complaining. The statistic and the reality doesn’t match. Household income between year 2009 and 2016 has increased at a slower rate of 73% as compared to the household expenditure of about 84%. The salary of the middle income earner has only increased by only RM17 in 2016. More than half of working Malaysians earn less than RM1700 per month. This is national data and statistic. Clearly rakyat not feeling the benefit of the economic development. A Grab driver told me recently, if the economy is as good as proclaimed by the government, why now the rakyat has to work two jobs?

44.      Hadi said the problem with the economy today started in the 1980s. In other words, Hadi is now admitting that the economy is not doing well. I was the minister in the 2nd half of the 1980s. Hadi should give details to this claim and check the records before making any statements. Hadi continues to say that these problems started from those who are now leading PH. He must be referring to Tun Mahathir. But Tun Mahathir has retired in 2003. If Umno and BN cannot handle the economy for the past 15 years and still blaming Tun Mahathir for their inefficiency, then BN doesn’t deserve to continue running the country.

45.        Let the economists explain. lf growth is based on borrowing, it can never sustain. From the year 2009 to 2017, the national debt has increase to an average of 11% per year. That is almost double from the average rate of the country’s economic growth of 4.7%. This does not take into account the debts on MRT, ECRL and few others.

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46.     On ECRL, the Kelantanese say that they have have never ask for ECRL and are very surprised that BN is so eager to have this project. They checked and found that cost to Chinese contractor was RM 55 billion and may increase. Some said that the local contractors can do around RM 32 billion and many wonder why BN is willing to pay more.

47.     The Treasury Secretary General said that the GST waiver would ensure that the cost would not go beyond RM55 billion. This explanation is not acceptable. The local contractors who build roads, hospitals and other infrastructure complains that they have to pay GST. Some said “kita belisimen, paku pun kena GST”.[36] Why is the double standard? So with GST the actual cost for ECRL is higher and that is the reason why the government is not imposing GST for this project? What is puzzling is why the civil servants are replying? How do I distort the facts as I am repeating them?

48.    Kelantanese are not happy with the cost of ECRL. They said the high cost will result in higher ticket price and its better to fly with Air Asia. Some argued that if BN is really sincere, why not use that RM55 billion to develop Kelantan. This is their line of campaign against the government.

49.       Lots of money is promised, a bit is now given, but the balance will be given only if BN gets supports and wins the election. Is this right? Where does the government gets the money? Is this part of the budget? As it stands, the additional increase in operational expenditures from the supplementary budget, higher BR1M payout and higher pay for the civil servants will be more than projected revenue. This is fiscally irresponsible. How are we going to pay? We can’t borrow for operational expenses, borrowing is only allowed for development purposes.

50.      YB Nurul Izzah has challenged the PM to reveal the details of all the country’s investments by China. The rakyat has the rights to know of such deals, because they are the “main stakeholder,” especially when it involves billions of ringgit worth of taxpayers’ money. The rakyat cannot understand why the government is reluctant to reveal these information.

51.      Najib says that the country would go bankrupt if the opposition wins, and the stock market or the currency will drop. He says removal of GST will cripple the country. Well, the stock market barely moved between 2013 and 2017, and the ringgit has lost almost one-third of its value in the last six years against the US Dollar. Our foreign reserves in USD is lower now than in 2008. This happens during BN administration, not PH. We continue to be in deficit. Even with GST, we are still in deficit. Debt continues to increase. Don’t forget that when the government borrows, the rakyat has to pay. BN’s mantra that ‘wang GST dikembalikankepada rakyat’ is foolish. Rakyat is asking, there was no GST before and yet we can build this country. GST was introduced 3 years ago and for the last 57 years, we were doing fine. Why now with GST our lives are getting harder? The government so far, is unable to provide convincing answers.

52.      BN asked, where would PH finds the money if we remove GST. But if we end corruption and cut wastages, it would be more than enough to cover the shortfall from the removal of GST. We must acknowledge that the problem is debt and spending, and yes it is a huge challenge. But the challenge can be overcome and these exercises requires a competent team at the ministry of finance, which in the opinion of most is currently not there. However, PH is confident that theywill put in their best people, all the experts and economic team with experience and expertise to help the Treasury. Tun Mahathir and Anwar were both the Ministers of Finance.

53.      The Mufti of Pahang said that PH specifically DAP has to apologize to the people for breaking their promises in the last election. The Mufti went on to say that it’s against Islamic teaching for one to break his promises but we wonder why this is applicable to PH only? BN has been breaking its promises since it won the election. Ahmad Maslan promised that with GST, the price will go down. This is not happening. Now we ask the Mufti, doesn’t BN too need to apologize to the people? [37]

54.      The Mufti of Negeri Sembilan said he is worried that Tun Mahathir will become a “munafik” or “hypocrite and he gave an example of Abdullah Ubay; who went against the instruction of Prophet Muhammed in one of Islamic wars. The opposition has replied to the Mufti and also asked why are the Muftis taking sides in politics?[38]

55.     The other day, I saw on Sinar TV a debate was held between BN’s rep and the rep from the opposition. To me, it was good. Let the leaders debate too. If the youth dare and are willing to debate live in media, why BN leaders refuse to accept the challenge?

56.     Both sides must not be overly confident. They must listen to the voices of the rakyat. In politics, there are full of dramas. But just remember the words of Plato where he said “the price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men”. So go out and vote.

 

 

 

Trump’s immigration game plan


May 5, 2018

Trump’s  immigration game plan

by Dr. Fareed  Zakaria

https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2018/5/3/why-trump-is-manufacturing-an-immigration-crisis

Trump may not read academic studies, but he clearly understands in his gut what stirs his base. And he is determined to inflame these fears regardless of the facts or the effect it will have on the country.”–Dr. Fareed Zakaria

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President Trump has said that the group of migrants that recently made its way from Central America to the United States symbolizes out-of-control immigration, lawlessness and violence besetting the country. “Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming,” he tweeted last month. This week, he added : “The migrant ‘caravan’ that is openly defying our border shows how weak & ineffective U.S. immigration laws are.”

The facts suggest the opposite. Last year, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection report, illegal cross-border migration was at its lowest level on record.

Trump, of course, claims that this drop is the result of his policies. Consider this boast from a State of the Union address, that the administration had put “more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history” and had cut “illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.” The problem with crediting Trump, however, is that this was the State of the Union delivered in February 2013 — and that the president making the speech was Barack Obama.

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“Mexico will pay for the Wall”, says POTUS -45

The decline in illegal immigration has been a two-decade trend. Over that time, the number of Border Patrol apprehensions along the southern border has dropped by about 80 percent, from 1.6 million in 2000 to 300,000 in 2017.

As for Mexican migration, even before Trump’s rise, more Mexicans were leaving the United States than entering. According to a Pew Research Center study, from 2009 to 2014, 1 million Mexicans and their families (including children born in the United States) went back to their home country, while 870,000 arrived here.

As for that caravan, the more than 1,100 migrants largely from Central America fleeing poverty, gang violence and repression banded together for safety. They are a peaceful group of mostly women and children. Many will probably end up living in Mexico. A small number, about 200, are expected to apply for asylum in the United States, and past admission rates suggest that only a quarter will be accepted. That is the reality of the supposedly menacing caravan that Trump conjures up.

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And yet, Trump is unrelenting in his attacks on these destitute, defenseless people. He demonizes them, describing them as threats to the United States, symbols of the lawlessness and violence that supposedly pervade the country. (In fact, violent crime has dropped by 66 percent since the early 1990s.)

Why is he doing this? The most likely answer is that he is searching for a strategy for the upcoming midterm elections, which are looking grim for Republicans, who have little to talk about. There is no trillion-dollar infrastructure program. The new tax law is unpopular, seen as largely a giveaway to corporations and the rich. It has not boosted economic growth as promised. Health care is now even more complex, given the partial repeal of Obamacare.

And then there are Trump’s own approval ratings, lower than any president’s in modern history at this point in his term except Jimmy Carter’s. Oh, and add to that the cloud of the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III. What is the way out for Republicans?

Focus on the cultural anxieties of the American public. Nothing embodies these fears as much as immigration. It has become a catch-all, particularly among non-college-educated whites, Trump’s core supporters. The President has often noted how crucial the border wall is to his base, declaring that “the thing they want more than anything is the wall.” Indeed, a recent poll indicated that 81 percent of Republicans want the wall to be built.

In a midterm, in which it is crucial to bring out your most ardent supporters, nothing will work as well as immigration. (Though do not be surprised if Trump also picks a few fights with black athletes or victims of police violence in the coming months.)

A study published last week by the National Academy of Sciences finds that Trump voters in the 2016 election were motivated less by economic anxiety and more by status anxiety — fears of waning power and status in a changing country. And an earlier analysis by the Public Religion Research Institute had come to a similar conclusion, highlighting “fears about cultural displacement” as the key to understanding the motivations of white, working-class Trump voters.

Trump may not read academic studies, but he clearly understands in his gut what stirs his base. And he is determined to inflame these fears regardless of the facts or the effect it will have on the country.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group