Dr. Ramesh Chander Praises Malaysian Finance Minister for early statement on National Debt


July 2, 2018

Dr. Ramesh Chander Praises Malaysian Finance Minister for early statement on National Debt

https://blog.limkitsiang.com/2018/07/02/r-chander-first-malaysian-chief-statistician-1963-1977-praises-guan-eng-for-early-statement-on-national-debt-and-stresses-urgency-of-coherent-plan-to-manage-malaysias-public-sector-debt/

R. Chander, Malaysian Chief Statistician (1963-1977) praises Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng for early statement on national debt and stresses urgency of coherent plan to manage Malaysia’s public sector debt.

Image result for minister of finance malaysia lim guan eng

I  received an expert opinion on Malaysia’s public sector debt by Dr. R. Chander, the first  Chief Statistician of (1963-1977), who went on to serve as the Senior Adviser to the World Bank’s Chief Economist-Vice President from 1977 to 1996. Upon retirement from the Bank, he served as international adviser to multiple international agencies and governments.

Dr. Chander said he was encouraged by the speed with which the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government had come to grips with the most pressing issues and praised the Finance Minister, Lim Guan Eng for making an early statement on Malaysia’s debt situation.

Image result for Najib Razak robs Malaysia

Najib Razak caught right handed by the FBI for stealing Malaysian people’s money. But he says it is a donation from the Saudi Royal Family

He said: “This was most timely indeed and most astute: it sent a strong signal to markets and had a calming effect; it told the electorate the mess that PH had inherited.

“At the same time it sent a strong message that the debt situation would impede the implementation of several of the electoral promises.

“Concurrently it provided a rationale for the cancellation/suspension of several mega projects that were to be financed by loans – terms of which were rather unfavorable to Malaysia.

“A good side effect was the call to patriotism that was brought out by the launch of the Harapan Fund!” The question now is: Where do we go from here?

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In his opinion piece, which I attached below, he stressed the urgency of coming up with a coherent and sound plan to manage Malaysia’s public sector debt.

[Media Statement by DAP MP for Iskandar Puteri Lim Kit Siang in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, 2nd July 2018]

The Confessions of Liar


June 26, 2018

The Confessions of Liar

by Thor Kah Hoong

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for najib razak i am not a crook

 

COMMENT | Not so long ago, Najib Abdul Razak was insisting that everything was fine with 1MDB.

Now the narrative is, as my Malay security guard friend put it this morning, “Sekarang buat tak tau” (Now he plays ignorant). His assertion of innocence has aroused a chorus of “liar.”

Leaving aside Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s riposte that his signature on multiple documents give the lie to his claim that he was kept in the dark about the movement of 1MDB money, the best thing I can say for his interview with Reuters is that he confessed to being a dumbass.

The management and board of 1MDB didn’t tell him.When asked if he was accusing them, throwing them under the bus, he trotted out the meaningless phrase – “as a general principle” – they should have told him.

What general principle? Did they or didn’t they tell you? What did the chairman of the financial advisory board of 1MDB do? Wait to be advised instead of advising?

To extend the analogy of the bus, I hope those shoved under it will be spilling their guts.That prospect has prompted Najib to trot out quickly an “I-said-no-such-thing” disclaimer.

So what did he say? A fuller explanation will be forthcoming… I suppose after his media team has figured out how to salvage the situation with another verbal pretzel.

 Image result for najib razak i am not a crook

Compounding his confession of ignorance, Najib revealed an equally cavalier, blithe unconcern about the source of the millions, billions flowing into his account.

The power of attorney was in somebody’s hands. How gullibleI would advise him not to ride to the rescue of widows of ex-presidents of Nigeria who have died of cancer, or young women promising to disrobe for the camera after he did so.

Adding to his bad luck, Nik Faizal Ariff Kamil, the man in question, is on the run. Poor Najib. No witness to testify to his ignorance.

He assumed the RM2.6 billion came from the Saudi king. Didn’t think it would be from 1MDB.

What, no thank you phone call to the king? “Yo bro, thanks for the donation. Didn’t expect such a generous donation to influence the course of elections in this country. When can you come for a round of golf?”

Great, the country’s former Finance Minister confesses that he had no head for figures, that he was a clueless, gullible dumbass.And he wants absolution?

Obviously, he still has a hearing problem and can’t hear the people.The jury, much of the people, has decided on his guilt. He is lucky. It is unlikely the government will allow kangaroo courts. A bit of a shame. Would speed things up.

Now the people will just have to be patient while the wheels of justice slowly grind to a verdict, with the inevitable consequent appeals.

‘Pump and dump’

In the interview, Najib expressed pride in the film producing career of his stepson Riza Aziz.

Image result for riza aziz

The Wolf of Wall Street is one Scorsese movie I didn’t take to. The arc of its narrative was predictable – conmen believing they were immune as money kept pouring in; a piling on of excess; the house of cards collapsing when the authorities come calling.

I got nothing from the predictable story, but Najib could have taken it as a warning.

The film was based on the memoir of Jordan Belfort. Losing his job as stockbroker in a Wall Street crash, he winds up in an outfit flogging cheap junk shares.

There, Belfort developed his successful scam – “pump-and-dump” – convince the gullible that the rock-bottom shares are about to take off. This pumps up the price of the share. Dump it when suckers rush in.

Instead of drawing public opprobrium, a media expose of his methods, attracted a flood of applications for jobs.

It’s party-time, in the office, on a luxury yacht – drugs, prostitutes, buy, spend, be lavish, no need to worry about money, more coming in.

Predictably, excess attracted attention, and the delusion that the law could not touch them led to insider trading which led to the SEC and FBI opening files on the company.

Belfort smuggled cash into Switzerland using his wife and the in-laws of a friend. He lost access to the money. His friends turned on him to get reduced charges and sentences for themselves, and Belfort spent three years in prison.

Fiction mirroring life.

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The Joke is on you, Mr. Najib Razak–Sungei  Buloh or Kajang is waiting for you

A divergence would be at the end of the film shows Belfort having a successful career conducting courses on selling. Najib should ask his media team to see if Belfort’s course material is available online. Might help.

There was a scene in the movie (actually two of them if my memory is correct) where Leonardo DiCaprio (Belfort) upends a prostitute, lays a line of coke, and snorts both lines.(I hope you know what I mean. I struggled to find words suitable for this family portal, and I was not sure ‘camel’s toe’ would spare me from being savaged by irate feminists, even if I made reference to National Geographic and Animal Planet.)

Wow, 1MDB money, the PM’s stepson made this movie.

If my friends in Pakatan Harapan weren’t such moral folks and would have been aghast at the idea of gutter politics, I would have suggested they contact a pirate DVD organisation (cheaper and the legal one will have the juicy scenes bit/byte out), and distribute it.

Sex, drugs and rock-and-roll – would have won Harapan a few more Malay votes.


THOR KAH HOONG is a veteran journalist.

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

Taming Malaysia’s GLC ‘monsters’


June 24, 2018

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1MDB Top Honcho–Arul Kanda Kandasamy

“…recent revelations show Malaysia’s debt position may be more precarious than first thought. The new government has correctly highlighted the need to include certain off-balance-sheet items and contingent liabilities such as government guarantees and public–private partnership lease payments in any complete assessment of debt outstanding, as the use of offshoot companies and special purpose vehicles in the deliberate reconfiguration of certain obligations mean that traditional debt calculations underestimate Malaysia’s actual debt.”–Jayant Menon

About a month before Malaysia’s parliamentary election in May, then-opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad raised concerns over the role that government-linked companies (GLCs) were playing in the economy, being ‘huge and rich’ enough to be considered ‘monsters’.Data support his description — GLCs account for about half of the benchmark Kuala Lumpur Composite Index, and they constitute seven out of the top-10 listed firms in 2018. They are present in almost every sector, sometimes in a towering way. Globally, Malaysia ranks fifth-highest in terms of GLC influence on the economy.

Calls to do something about GLCs have increased since the election following the release of more damning information, although most of it relates to the GLCs’ investment arm: government-linked investment companies (GLICs). Recent reports confirm that the former government had been using Malaysia’s central bank and Khazanah (a sovereign wealth fund) to service the debt obligations of the scandal-laden 1 Malaysia Development Berhad government fund. The central bank governor has since resigned.

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The GLCs have not been immune from scandals either. The most recent relates to a massive land scandal involving Felda Global Ventures, which is the world’s largest plantation operator. There have also been a series of massive bailouts of GLCs over the years, the cumulative value of which is disputed but could be as high as RM85 billion (US$21 billion). All of this led one prominent critic to proclaim that ‘GLCs are a nest for plunderers’ and that the government should ‘sell them all’. Although this may be extreme, it does raise a critical question — what, if anything, should the government do?

Some experts have proposed the formation of an independent body with operational oversight for GLICs after institutional autonomy is established and internal managerial reforms are introduced. Unlike most GLCs, GLICs are not publicly listed and face little scrutiny. The same applies to the various funds at the constituent state level.

Image result for Terence Edmund Gomez on Malaysian GLCs

 

For GLCs, the answer is less straightforward. Mahathir claims that GLCs have lost track of their original function. Before the Malaysian government decides on what to do, it needs to examine the role GLCs should play — as opposed to the role they currently play — and to examine their impact on the economy.

In Malaysia, GLCs were uniquely tasked to assist in the government’s affirmative action program to improve the absolute and relative position of ethnic Malays and other indigenous people (Bumiputera). The intention was to help create a new class of Bumiputera entrepreneurs — first through the GLCs themselves and then through a process of divestment.

Given the amounts of money involved and the cost of the distortions introduced, the benefits to Bumiputera were unjustifiably small and unequally distributed. The approach of using GLCs as instruments of affirmative action failed because it led to a rise in crony capitalism, state dependence, regulatory capture and grand corruption. There is also empirical evidence that GLCs have been crowding out private investment, a concern raised in the New Economic Model as early as 2011.

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Malaysia’s National Debt is said to be around 65 percent of current GDP

Additionally, recent revelations show Malaysia’s debt position may be more precarious than first thought. The new government has correctly highlighted the need to include certain off-balance-sheet items and contingent liabilities such as government guarantees and public–private partnership lease payments in any complete assessment of debt outstanding, as the use of offshoot companies and special purpose vehicles in the deliberate reconfiguration of certain obligations mean that traditional debt calculations underestimate Malaysia’s actual debt.

All these factors combine to place new impetus on reconsidering the extent of government involvement in business. Divestment will not solve Malaysia’s debt problem, but it can help if there are good reasons to pursue it. So how should the government proceed?

It is important to recognise at the outset that there is a legitimate role for government in business — providing public goods, addressing market failures or promoting social advancement. And like in most other countries, there are good and bad GLCs in Malaysia. If a GLC is not crowding out private enterprise, operates efficiently and performs a social function effectively, then there is no reason to consider divestment. But a GLC that crowds out private enterprise in a sector with no public or social function or one that is inefficiently run should be a candidate for divestment.

In assessing performance, one needs to separate results that arise from true efficiency versus preferential treatment that generates artificial rents for the GLC. The latter is a drain on public resources and a tax on consumers. Divestment in this case will likely provide more than a one-off financial injection to government coffers — it will provide ongoing benefits through fiscal savings or better allocation of public resources.

The divestment process should be carefully managed to ensure that public assets are disposed at fair market value and that the divestment process does not concentrate market power or wealth in the hands of a few. This has apparently happened before.

The new government has committed itself to addressing corruption and improving the management of public resources. As part of this process, one must re-examine just how much government is involved in business. This is one of the many tasks that the Council of Eminent Persons is undertaking in the first 100 days of the new government. If done correctly, this should rejuvenate the private sector while enabling good GLCs to thrive, and it should fortify Malaysia’s fiscal position in the process. This is what Malaysians should expect — and indeed demand — of the ‘new Malaysia’.

Jayant Menon is Lead Economist in the Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department at the Asian Development Bank and Adjunct Fellow of the Arndt–Corden Department of Economics, The Australian National University.

The Hunter and the Hunted


June 23, 2018

The Hunter and the Hunted

by R.Nadeswaran@www.malaysiakini.com

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R.Nadeswaran–The Malaysian Investigative Journalist

COMMENT | The terms – felon, conman, outlaw and crook – are only applicable upon conviction in a court of law. Until then, if he had attempted to cover his misdemeanours and delinquencies, he remains a dissembler or fibber. If through a series of explanations which cross the thick line between offering an excuse and telling an untruth, he remains a prevaricator, fabricator or in much simpler language – a liar.

But those in the relentless hunt for the truth are not likely to give up until they reach their goal. The hunted will also not ease his unyielding attempts to avoid the goal. (To the uninitiated, “goal” is a form of an enclosure which was also an archaic  term for “jail”.)

While the hunted tries to wriggle out of his self-inflicted woes, those who had previously sought and received a share of the spoils – from chunks to crumbs – seem to have jumped the sinking ship. Others have decided to fight it out like lions and tigers for control of their remaining territory.

The man who brought in the druids, shamans and oracles to offer “protection” has abandoned the hunted too. The prayers and chanting for all the wrongs and sins of the hunted, his wife and the family, have ceased.

This man himself is of soiled character. He was the chauffeur until he “stole” the boss’ wife and moved up to hob-nob with the Joneses. He brought the soothsayers from all parts of the world in looking forward to monetary rewards.

He was not disappointed. Several government contracts came his way. Unfortunately, through bad business practices and in some cases arrogance because of his links with the hunted, his empire collapsed. Now, the man is on the run with six bodyguards in tow leaving a trail of creditors – from small-time contractors to financial institutions. In the past, when creditors tuned up at his door, his riposte was threatening: “I will let loose my bulldogs on you.”

If until May 9 he was untouchable, the banks have now moved in demanding repayment of millions in loans. How he is going to get out of the mess is anyone’s guess. But then, would you be disappointed or surprised if he joins the hunter and share the dark secrets of the hunted in return for freedom?

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Then there’s another man who could walk in and out of the any of the several mansions belonging to the hunted. Having been short-changed in some deals, he decided to squeal – identifying the many shady characters that participated, partook or offered advice on the injudiciousness and indiscretion.

The shady lawyers who were instrumental in the midnight meeting where the decimation of senior government officials was discussed are considering various options. When the future of the then MACC Chief and the then Attorney-General was debated, the passive one suggested that they be asked to resign honourably. But the more aggressive one banged the table and insisted on an immediate purge.

“Show them no mercy. Send them to the slaughter house,” the hunted and his siblings, who co-acted as advisors, were told. In a reversal of roles, they just followed thy servant’s command. The days of these men of the law making headlines are over. They have retreated into their cocoons and even the slightest grunt or groan, if heard by the hunter or by the hunted, will mean trouble.

Writing on the wall

Many read the writing on the wall and have exited via the back door while others are waiting to be shown the door. In both instances, they have been and will walk down a creaky and inflexible staircase.

Others who handled finances and were part of the thievery have conveniently “migrated” to neighbouring countries. But their freedom is not likely to last long. The long arm of the law will get them.

The supply of ‘dedak’ or animal feed to many has been cut. With the hunted’s coffers drying up and with the cash in the condominium taken away for safekeeping, there’s no more automated teller machine (ATM) dishing out money like Smarties or M&Ms from a vending machine.

Already, some have begun to sing like canaries awaiting some form of amnesty, reprieve or forgiveness. But no one is in the mood to forgive and forget and move on. This has become an overused cliché – most recently repeated by the hunted but rejected by the hunter.

The time has come for the hunted to pay his dues. His guilt will be proven and he will join a long line of hunters who became the hunted. No one is going to show mercy or have any sympathy because the level of imprudence and thievery are inexcusable.

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When citizen’s funds have been misused and their personal freedom and rights have been impeded or trampled upon, there’s no room for any option or discretion. Once indicted, the iron gates are going to be clanged shut, padlocked and the keys kept in the hunter’s custody for a long, long time. It will be a deterrent for those who cannot control his greed and or his wife.

She may live happily ever after knowing that some of the ill-gotten gains will remain untouched by the hunter – for her to enjoy. After all, finding another soul mate (she’s experienced in this) will never be a problem with all the dosh that she is flushed with.


R NADESWARAN is a veteran journalist but has decided to turn storyteller for a change. It may not have been a parable but this story of the hunter and the hunted will certainly put the fear into the few who have been putting their hands in the till. Comments: citizen.nades22@gmail.com.

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

1MDB case must be watertight, says Malaysia’s Mahathir


June 21, 2018

1MDB case must be watertight, says Malaysia’s Mahathir 

 

As prime suspect – and defeated Prime Minister – Najib Razak holidays in Langkawi, Malaysia’s new leader says it is better to build an indisputable case than be swayed by populist sentiment into hasty action.

By Zuraidah Ibrahim/ Bhavan Jaipragas

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/2151474/1mdb-probe-needs-time-be-watertight-malaysias-mahathir-calls-cool

The Malaysian government is taking time to build a watertight case in the 1MDB financial scandal and not be swayed by populist sentiment, according to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Najib Razak: prime suspect in the 1MDB financial scandal. Photo: Xinhua

His predecessor Najib Razak is the prime suspect under investigation and has been banned from leaving the country. This week, Najib’s decision to go on holiday to the resort island of Langkawi – which coincidentally is the parliamentary seat of Mahathir – sparked fears he was trying to slip out of Malaysia.

Malaysia’s billion-dollar question: where did 1MDB money go?

The government and the people know that billions have been stolen, Mahathir said. But, calling for cool heads, Mahathir said in an interview with the South China Morning Post that the government wanted indisputable evidence. “So the prosecutors now are gathering that evidence so that when they go to the court of law, the judges don’t base their judgment on sentiment, but … on facts and evidence shown in the court of law. So that is why we are taking a little bit more time than we expected.”

 

He declined to give a timeline on the next stage of the investigations, even as speculation swirled in Malaysia that the charges could be filed against Najib as soon as the next two weeks.

But on Tuesday afternoon, he was quoted as saying that charges would be filed on key suspects – Najib, businessman Jho Low and “a few others” – within months, while a trial would begin later this year.

Charges against Najib would include “embezzlement, stealing government money, and a number of other charges,” he said in the interview with Reuters.

The 1MDB probe extends across six jurisdictions, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore. It has also targeted Najib’s wife, Rosmah, known for her flagrantly ostentatious taste in luxury goods. Set up in 2009 as an infrastructure fund drawn from oil revenues, it has lost US$4.5 billion and is now insolvent. Around US$731 million allegedly ended up in Najib’s personal account. The beleaguered former premier has denied any wrongdoing, insisting that the money was a donation from an Arab benefactor.

 

Rosmah Mansor, wife of Najib Razak, arrives at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission headquarters in Putrajaya, Malaysia. Photo: EPA

Pakatan Harapan: Vulnerable?

In the interview with the Post, Mahathir, who won a stunning election on May 9, was asked about his views of a rising China and the region. In addition to taking questions about the 1MDB scandal, he was also asked to comment on the possible vulnerabilities of his Pakatan Harapan coalition.

While Pakatan now claims 125 seats in the 222-seat Parliament, a recent survey by the reputable think-tank Merdeka Centre has found that the coalition did not win over the majority of Malays, who make up 65 per cent of the population.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is interviewed by the South China Morning Post in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: SCMP Pictures

According to the Merdeka Centre survey, UMNO retained 35-40 per cent of the Malay vote, while the rest was almost evenly split between Pakatan and the Islamic-based party, PAS. In comparison, 95 per cent of Chinese voters chose Pakatan.

Malays have special rights granted by Malaysia’s Constitution. Almost all Malays follow Islam, the official religion of the country. Under the previous Barisan Nasional coalition, the Malay-based United Malays National Organisation was the dominant component party led by Najib. Umno had increasingly played the ethnic and religious cards in elections over the decades.

Supporters of Mahathir Mohamad celebrate his victory in the May 9 election. Photo: Reuters

Commentators credited Mahathir for attracting enough Malays into the Pakatan camp to tilt the balance decisively in its favour. Mahathir has immense stature among Malays as a respected former Prime Minister who held office from 1981 to 2003. The argument, if correct, begs the question of whether Pakatan will be able to retain Malay support after Mahathir steps down, which he has promised to do after two years.

In the interview, Mahathir said there was a clear swing of Malay votes from the Barisan coalition to the opposition in the recent election compared with the previous one in 2015 that contributed to their victory.

Ignoring 1MDB scandal caused Umno’s downfall in Malaysia: Najib

But the Malay vote itself was split between the rural, suburban and urban areas. It was in the latter two areas that Malays had turned against the previous government because they were disenchanted with the “bad things” happening within Umno, especially the corruption scandal.

For rural voters, he said, such issues were harder to grasp but they could understand cost of living woes.

He shrugged off his own personal appeal in winning the Malay vote for the future, saying: “Well, I can’t always be popular, one day I will become unpopular because when you are in the government, you have to do unpopular things. That is not something permanent.” But for now, people were upbeat and they felt that life during his first tenure as Prime Minister was better than during Najib’s time, he said.

Let’s Get Physical

Mahathir, who turns 93 on July 10, was also asked about his physical energy. He laughed, saying it was the number one question he was asked. Although Mahathir, a trained medical doctor, has had two heart bypass operations, he feels fortunate not to have suffered debilitating diseases such as cancer.

His secret to good health? “I think simple things like not putting on weight, not eating too much, proper sleep, a little bit of exercise,” he said, adding that he gets “enough” sleep – about six hours. When he is not able to do that, he has short power naps.

In May, a picture of him at the dining table with just a few spoonfuls of rice on his plate caught the attention of internet users. But then a close-up showed that next to his plate was a small green canister of multivitamin supplements, Berocca. Sales of the supplement received a sudden boost.

Anwar Ibrahim with Mahathir Mohamad in 1997, during the latter’s first stint as prime minister. File photo

Moving On

Under a pact made with his former nemesis turned coalition partner, former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, he is supposed to hand over the prime minister’s position after two years. However, there have been hints recently that Mahathir intends to stay beyond two years.

Asked about this, he admitted there was a lot to be done. Would he stay beyond two years? “Well, I don’t know whether people will permit me to stay longer. If there is some work I can still do, if I am still healthy, I can think and talk.”

But would he do so as Prime Minister? He demurred smilingly and said softly: “Ya”.

Throughout the interview, he answered questions evenly in his trademark unflappable tone, as an aide kept a strict watch on his time. Asked by a photographer for an autograph, he obliged willingly, noting aloud the date to write to accompany his signature. When the Post invited him to visit Hong Kong, the headquarters of the publication, Mahathir politely remarked about the times he spent there.

“My first ever visit to Hong Kong was in 1960. Where were you?” he quipped to his much younger interviewers.

Stealing Money from the National Treasury is an Act of Treason


June 17, 2018

Stealing Money from the National Treasury is an Act of Treason–so, Najib Razak is a Traitor

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.asiasentinel.com

Image result for Najib is a CrookIt takes time, but Justice will come eventually to Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor

 

 

93-year-old Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who heads Malaysia’s reform coalition Pakatan Harapan, has lost no time in knuckling down to work. A week after he assumed office in the wake of the political earthquake of the country’s May 9 general election, he terminated the contracts of 17,000 political appointees as a drain on public expenditure.

The move was hailed by a public taken aback  by the numbers of people involved, although some are concerned that the shock and awe of Mahathir’s move would generate the same kind of guerilla underground that cropped up when Paul Bremer, the American proconsul in Iraq, disbanded the army and civil service in 2003. That played a major role in the eventual creation of the Islamic State which has terrorized Syria and Iraq for the past several years.

Nonetheless, the sackings are looked upon by Malaysia’s 31 million people as just the start of the cleanup of decades of appalling corruption. Police seized 72 bags alone of loot from deposed Prime Minister Najib Razak’s residence in the days after the May 9 election, of which 35 contained RM114 million (US$28.6 million) in cash in 26 different currencies. Another 35 bags contained jewelry and watches, and 284 boxes were filled with designer handbags including Ellen Birkin bags by Hermes that can cost upwards of US$200,000. The former Premier is not likely to go hungry. He is believed to have hundreds of millions more stashed overseas. Famously, in 2013 US$681 million appeared in his personal account at Ambank in Kuala Lumpur and almost immediately was moved overseas.

The biggest mess, of course, is the state-backed development fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd., from which US$4.5 billion is said by the US Justice Department to have disappeared in corruption and mismanagement. Mahathir has said the scale of corruption is even greater and has demanded a full explanation. The Finance Ministry, now under Lim Guan Eng of the Democratic Action Party, says Malaysia’s total government debt and liabilities exceed RM1 trillion (US$250.7 billion).

The number of no-bid contracts awarded to crony companies and government-linked companies – now termed by many to be government-linked crookedry – is overwhelming.

Mahathir for instance cancelled a high-speed rail contract from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore that cost RM70 billion which, with other government commitments including operating expenses over 20 years ran the total to RM110  billion. “Estimates are that in a proper open tender, the project could have been done for a maximum of RM25 billion,” said a well-placed business source in Kuala Lumpur.

Equally questionable is a contract for Malaysia’s Eastern Corridor Rail Line, awarded to a Chinese company at RM67 billion. The payment was time-based, not on a completion basis. As such, 40 percent of the total payment has been made while only 7 percent of the work has been completed. The project cost is widely believed to have been a subterfuge for Chinese help in paying off 1MDB’s massive debt.

Next is the Sarawak and Sabah gas pipeline, again awarded on time-based payments with 87 percent of RM9 billion paid and only 13 percent of the work completed.

Contracts such as these are aplenty. The gadfly website Sarawak Report reported on June 10 that a car rental company headed by an official with a Barisan-aligned party in Sarawak received a RM1.25 billion no-bid contract to install solar energy facilities for 369 Sarawak schools. The three-year contract, allegedly steered by Najib himself, has been underway for 18 months. Not a single solar power unit has ever been installed.

But beyond that, dozens of government-linked companies have been found to be paying exorbitant salaries to their executives. Malaysia has the fifth highest number of GLCs in the world, for which Mahathir himself must share the blame, since many came into existence during the 22 years he headed the government from 1981 to 2003.

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Many are household names – the national car project Proton, now peddled to China’s car company Geely; the national energy company Petronas, the electrical utility Tenaga Nasional, the electric utility Telekom Malaysia, the Tabung Haji Pilgrimage Fund, the Federal Land Development Authority, Malaysian Airlines, The Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Malay People’s Trust Council), the Sime Darby plantation and property conglomerate.

Publicly traded GLCs currently comprise 36 percent the market capitalization of Bursa Malaysia and 54 percent of the benchmark Kuala Lumpur Composite Index according to a study by the think tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs. They employ 5 percent of the national workforce.  According to the study, government bailouts of GLCs have “resulted in a huge drain on the public purse.” They include RM1.5 billion for Proton in 2016 and RM 6 billion for Malaysia Airlines in 2014.

”One estimate suggests that around RM85.51 billion has been used to bail out GLCs over the past 36 years,” according to the report putting pressure on commercial interest rates as a result of recurring budget deficits that “may have been a separate factor operating to crowd out private investment, at the margin.”

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As an example of exorbitant salaries, the Transport Minister, Anthony Loke, told reporters that the executive chairman of the Aviation Commission (MAVCOM), retired Gen. Abdullah Ahmad, drew a monthly salary of RM85,000 (US$21,325). The figure is over four times the basic recorded salary of the Malaysian Prime Minister and is similar to the salary of millionaire CEOs of successful private enterprises.

Veteran journalist, R Nadeswaran, formerly of The Sun Daily, reported that his investigations into MAVCOM, an independent body established in 2015 to regulate economic and commercial matters relating to civil aviation, revealed that RM570,000 had been paid in directors’ fees, and a further RM770,000 on directors’ travel and accommodation.

More revelations have followed. One “former minister turned adviser” in Najib’s Prime Minister’s Office received a monthly wage of RM200,000 (US$50,177), which is about 10 times Najib’s official salary. Other “advisers” were paid from RM70,000 upwards per month in a country where per capita income on a PPP basis is RM26,900 annually.

Other ministries, together with the newly-revitalized Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), have been directed to investigate the various GLCs and political appointees  Apart from the allegations of huge bonuses and exorbitant salaries, it has also been alleged that officials of various GLCs collaborated with contractors to submit false claims for maintenance work. The MACC is investigating.

The almost daily revelations of cronyism and large-scale corruption have been described by one Malaysian as akin to “Chinese water torture,” when water is slowly dripped onto a person’s forehead and drives the restrained victim insane.

Loke’s disclosure also prompted the veteran MP, Lim Kit Siang, Mahathir’s onetime adversary turned ally, to demand transparency and public accountability in the wages of the heads of the GLCs. He proposed the implementation of a public website showing the perks, salaries and remuneration of all GLC heads and members.

Lim wanted to know how many of the heads of the GLCs are political appointees and how many of the UMNO/Barisan Nasional appointees have resigned since Najib lost power.

Malaysians responded swiftly to Loke’s report. One person multiplied Loke’s figure by the number of existing GLCs and was astounded by the money which taxpayers had to fork out for GLC directors’ fees. Who approved the salaries of the board members in this public regulatory body?

Image result for Anwar Ibrahim

 

A Foreign Friend In Cambodia asked me, “Din, is your recently pardoned felon running a parallel government?”  And I answered, “For Malaysia’s sake, I hope not.–Din Merican

Surprisingly, the revelations over the GLCs are in contrast to those by newly released and pardoned former Opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, the PM-in-waiting, who told a crowd in Perak that chief ministers should not rush to take action against GLCs, and to refrain from being vengeful.

“I have no problem with GLCs, if their performance is good and the Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) thinks it’s appropriate to continue, we accept (the continuance),” unless, he added, “that it was proven at the federal level,  there was wasteful overlapping and excessive payment of allowances to political figures.”

Malaysians demanding intense scrutiny of GLCs wonder what to make of the PM-designate’s remarks and actions.

Mariam Mokhtar is a Malaysia-based reporter and regular contributor to Asia Sentinel.