Deal Between Anwar and Najib Razak? :The Worst Possible News for Malaysia


November 21, 2017

Deal Between Anwar and Najib Razak?: The Worst Possible News for Malaysia

by P. Gunasegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Anwar and Najib

Is there something brewing here which is suggestive of some kind of a deal materializing between these two once staunch allies? Like they say, there are no permanent enemies in politics and politics is the game of the possible, or is it the impossible? Never mind, you get the drift.–P. Gunasegaram

QUESTION TIME | In Malaysia where conspiracy theories arise at the drop of a 10-sen coin, the visit by Prime Minister Najib Razak to jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is in hospital following a shoulder operation, has started tongues a-wagging. And how they are wagging!

Is there something brewing here which is suggestive of some kind of a deal materialising between these two once staunch allies? Like they say, there are no permanent enemies in politics and politics is the game of the possible, or is it the impossible? Never mind, you get the drift.

After all, who would have thought that former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, widely held responsible for Sodomy 1 which put Anwar in jail for six years until 2004, would now be working with him to topple BN and Najib? If that can happen, why not a reconciliation, or even a deal, between Najib and Anwar for mutual benefit?

 

Even the burying of past differences between Mahathir and Anwar is difficult to understand. How does a person who spent years in prison, was beaten after he was arrested, had his life ruined and political future now in tatters, forgive the person who was held to be most responsible for this?

And was it not what Mahathir did in terms of consolidating his power within UMNO – technically UMNO Baru as the old UMNO was dissolved as part of plans implemented by Mahathir – that now makes it near impossible to remove a sitting UMNO President and Prime Minister because of all that such a person has at his disposal in terms of power?

Now this, Najib visits Anwar in the hospital with his wife Rosmah Mansor and with Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail present and the gossip bandwagon goes berserk, although it is more likely to topple than to sustain over the next few days.

Here was the man who pushed Sodomy 2 against Anwar with Anwar’s accuser having seen him – Najib – before making his police report. And Anwar is in jail again for a further five years from 2015, more or less putting paid to his political career unless Pakatan Harapan wins the next election. The chances of that are pretty low right now.

How could Anwar countenance a visit from this man who was responsible for his prison sentence in the first place with a lot of people believing that Anwar’s sentence was terribly unfair with admission of evidence that could have been tampered with? If Anwar’s trial was fixed, as he himself claimed, then only one person could have been responsible.

How could he even consent to see this person? As difficult as this is to understand for people like me, those who understand Malay culture say that nothing should be read into the meeting. The PM went to see a former friend and ally who was ailing – nothing more, nothing less.

But talk is not so easily stopped because Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, at one time one of Anwar’s closest friends and allies, visited him as well. Perhaps there is nothing but those visits perhaps indicate to Mahathir that two can play the game – if Mahathir can reconcile with Anwar, Najib can reconcile with him too, with all that it implies for Mahathir.

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What about the stolen money?–1MDB 

But is it as simple as all that really? No. Because if somehow Najib and Anwar ally, who becomes the enemy then? Surely not Mahathir now. And what about 1MDB? What does it mean for all that the opposition has been saying about billions stolen and still unaccounted for?

And what about the allegations, with some evidence, that UMNO and BN are tainted with 1MDB money and that they support Najib only because of that? Will all this be conveniently swept under the carpet forever more and everybody lives together happily ever after?

There can be only one deal that will allow this – in that permutation or combination of both, Anwar has to become Prime Minister, no less. That will entail Najib continuing for a while and then making way for Anwar – which means that Anwar has to be within BN or some larger conglomerate.

Anwar Ibrahim– A political chameleon or a publicity seeking politician?

How that may form boggles the mind but remember that after the May 13, 1969, riots and emergency rule, Najib’s father Abdul Razak Hussein persuaded (coerced?) the substantial opposition then into a coalition in 1973 forming Barisan Nasional, with the only significant party out in the bitter cold – that being DAP. If Anwar and Najib make a deal whereby Anwar is rehabilitated and Najib carries on, for a while at least, that is the worst possible news for Malaysia because all sections of the political divide – both ruling and opposition parties – will implicitly sanction the greatest theft this country has ever known and multiple events of gross mismanagement and lack of governance.

I don’t believe this will happen but I would have been far more comfortable if Anwar had not consented to meet Najib – and yes, if he had not done a deal with Mahathir too. But then who am I but just another insignificant citizen of Malaysia?

 

Corruption: Now the Joke is on Malaysians


November 20, 2017

Corruption: Now the Joke is on Malaysians

by R.Nadeswaran@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Najib Razak-- I am not a Liar

These UMNO Rogues are laughing at us because we are gullible and naive

There was a time when the jokes were on African states, their leaders and how they ran their governments. We despised the apartheid regime in South Africa and laughed at Idi Amin in Uganda and other kleptocrats who stole money and precious metals from their own people. Now, the joke seems to be on us.

Former Kenyan premier Raila Amolo Odinga’s not-so-flattering remarks on corruption in Malaysia made during a 2013 conference at the Wilson Centre in Washington DC, was uploaded to YouTube on 10 days ago.

He spoke as if he was an authority and had full knowledge of Malaysian affairs. Not surprising as a year earlier, he had been conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Leadership in Societal Development by the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology.

How long can Malaysians go on hearing all kinds of hurtful things being said of the country and its leaders? Why aren’t we responding to such insults, instead of pretending that they were never made? The more we play deaf and dumb, the more we become disrespected and slighted.

In 2015, the Wall Street Journal alleged RM2.6 billion had been deposited into the AmBank account of Prime Minister Najib Razak and linked it to 1MDB. Almost immediately, he threatened to sue the newspaper. A year later, nothing materialised but his lawyer, Mohd Hafarizam Harun was quoted as saying that it would be a futile move.

Image result for Najib Razak-- I am not a Liar

The more important issue, the lawyer argued, is the Malaysians’ own thoughts regarding 1MDB, noting that reports and statements from local authorities such as the Attorney-General and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) have cleared the prime minister.

“What matters are the Malaysians, whether you believe with all the public accounts committee report, the attorney-general and the MACC, that the PM is not involved. If you say you do not believe because the international media are saying otherwise, nothing much I can do,” he told reporters, adding that it would show a mindset of continued colonisation with the belief that “the Americans, the British, the whites are far superior” than Malaysians.

Well, that was before the US Department of Justice came out with its deposition on the funds it alleges had been stolen from 1MDB. Since then, there have been other disclosures from other monetary authorities.

Image result for Najib Razak-- I am not a Liar

MIC thinks Najib Razak is the Father of Indian Development and our Indian brothers think so too

Singapore closed a couple of financial institutions; banned a few bankers and even sent three of them to jail. The line that the money was a donation “from an Arab prince” has been demolished on more than to report the big money transfers to Bank Negara.

‘Tidak apa’

ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott told an Australian parliamentary inquiry in October last year that no ANZ employee was involved in what has happened in the AmBank. (The AmBank Group was slapped with a RM53.7mil fine by Bank Negara in November 2015, but the exact reasons for the fine were not specified.)

If the bank has been penalised, what about the account holder? The Police have continuously prosecuted individuals for having monies which they could not account for. And our leaders have often thumped their chest and screamed: “No one is above the law!”

There has been hardly any reaction to the Australian report. To scream “fake news” and consign 1MDB, its humongous borrowings and losses, its links to the Prime Minister and the government to the dustbin are not going to be easy.

The annals of history will record the massive misinformation campaign and its perpetrators of 1MDB and those attempting the cover-up exercise. With the rakyat are being continually starved of accurate data, the government has created a new strain of disease called the truth deficiency syndrome.

Instead of addressing this issue, the government seems laid back and has adopted a “tidak apa” attitude. Lawmakers who raise the issues are not given proper answers in Parliament.

There seems to be no will and determination in wanting to tell the truth and find closure to an issue that has dragged down the country through slime and mud. Does it not matter to our MPs and ministers? What do they tell their foreign counterparts when attending conferences and meetings? Packs of lies?

It has been said that those who are riding the 1MDB tiger refuse to or cannot dismount for fear of being eaten up. If that is so, let it happen.

What about the roles of our elected representatives? Instead of addressing more important issues, they seem to be more apt or fixated with sex. Why else would they be debating the aphrodisiac qualities of durians instead of 1MDB?

Read more at https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/402499#fc7WYSjfAyZWKyc3.99

 

Political ignorance a dangerous Folly or a Bliss


November 12, 2017

Political ignorance a dangerous Folly or a Bliss

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

As the citizens of virtually countless formerly democratic countries ranging from UMNO-BN’s Malaysia to Zanu-PF’s Zimbabwe have learned to their terrible and apparently eternal cost, popular ignorance of political chicanery and corruption can start as mere foolishness and end up as totally futile.-Dean Johns

Out of town for three days last week with my wife and daughter to attend the wedding of some old friends, I found myself not only incapable of writing a column, but also of getting my customary fixes of newspaper, radio, television and internet news.

And, in the process, I discovered that, far from feeling anxious about what kinds of antics and atrocities were happening around the world while my attentions were focused on the nuptials and other enjoyments, I found the ignorance as blissful as the old saying claims.

But not for long, unfortunately. For example, even in the course of ignorantly strolling around the South-Coast NSW town where we were staying, I happened to stumble on a bookstore run by the Lions Club ladies and there I found a book which until that moment I’d been utterly ignorant that one of my favourite non-fiction authors, David Halberstam, had written, called “The Fifties”.

Image result for halberstam the fifties

This appeared and has since proven to be a masterly account of a decade that I had actually lived through and yet, at least compared with the scholarly Halberstam, had previously been breathtakingly ignorant about.

And I was especially ignorant about the politics of the Korean War, of which I recall reading daily newspaper reports as I travelled in the train on my way home from school all those decades ago, and which is now, more than 60 years later, still being fought or at least faked by China’s poxy proxy Kim regime, to the fury of Donald J. Trump (photo).

 

In fact, “The Fifties”, like so many of the books I read to try to dispel my woeful ignorance about pretty well anything I can think of, has only served to remind me that I’m more ignorant than I already realised I was.

Even about so many things I’ve been blissfully presuming that I knew. Like, to cite the most embarrassing example that comes to mind at this moment, the actual wording and origin of the ‘ignorance is bliss’ saying that I referred to earlier.

For some reason, I was convinced it was from Shakespeare, but on checking just a few minutes ago, I learned that the original source of the sentiment was a poem written in 1742, or well over a century after Shakespeare’s time, by Thomas Grey.

Titled “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College”, it expresses the thought about the boys at the school that ‘regardless of their doom, the little victims play/no sense have they of ills to come, nor care beyond today’, and ends with the suggestion that these youngsters should be indulged in their innocence as long as possible, with the words ‘where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise’.

Political ignorance a dangerous folly

This is a sentiment that seems to resonate very strongly indeed with my now 22-year-old daughter, a good many of her friends and indeed lots of much older people I know who, despite being far from ignorant of many subjects and skills they need to earn their livings and generally live their lives as enjoyable as possible, determinedly avoid the news, especially political news.

And in a sense, especially in light of my relatively blissful three-day experience of no news last week, I have to say I can’t entirely blame them, as it tends to be relentlessly depressing.

Unhappily, however, it is an even more serious folly not to be wise about what’s happening in politics, as ignorance about politicians and their endless politricks makes it all too blissfully easy for the most crooked and corrupt of them to not just rise to power, but to stay there.

As the citizens of virtually countless formerly democratic countries ranging from UMNO-BN’s Malaysia to Zanu-PF’s Zimbabwe have learned to their terrible and apparently eternal cost, popular ignorance of political chicanery and corruption can start as mere foolishness and end up as totally futile.

In other words, by the time the people awake from the state of blissful ignorance into which they’ve been lulled by a deadly combination of their own apathy and their political masters’ racial and religious propaganda, they find that they’re left with no powers or institutions with which to save themselves.

Counting on Dr.Mahathir Mohamad for a better Malaysia

And after ten years of railing against this situation in this column in Malaysiakini, I have to confess that I feel more ignorant than ever of any possible way for Malaysians to escape it, in light of the fact that its principal cause, Dr, Mahathir Mohamad, is now posing as its possible cure.

I feel totally ignorant, too, about what enlightened US citizens can do to realise the great potential of their republic to recover from the folly of a fiasco like the Trump presidency.

As for Australia’s chances of replacing the Turnbull-led Liberal-National Party coalition, willfully ignorant as it persists in pretending to be of the nation’s crying need for everything from a more equitable tax system and fairer social policies and services to clean energy, genuine concern for the environment and merciful immigration policies, let’s see.

I fondly hope my daughter and her peers, on more mature thought, will come to see that there can be far more bliss in battling to beat ignorance than in blindly or even selectively embracing it.

Because, as I was reminded just yesterday when I spent some time with Paxton, the toddler son of one of my wife’s PhD supervisors, and as the poet originally wrote, only in innocent infancy and childhood is ignorance so truly blissful that it is folly to be wise.

 

Guna’s Take on Fake News


November 8, 2017

Guna’s Take on Fake News

One would think that fake news happens only in cyberspace and that mainstream/traditional news organisations are somehow not subject to reporting fake news. But that’s not necessarily true because when the media space is controlled like it is here, it produces an atmosphere which spews out fake news in billows.–P. Gunasegaram

by P. Gunaegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

QUESTION TIME | One would think that fake news happens only in cyberspace and that mainstream/traditional news organisations are somehow not subject to reporting fake news. But that’s not necessarily true because when the media space is controlled like it is here, it produces an atmosphere which spews out fake news in billows.

In its simplest form, fake news is just manufactured news but there are degrees. Some are outright lies while others combine untruths with elements of true news to project an image which is not wholly correct while appearing to give the impression that it comes from accurate news sources.

It is most easy to do this online by setting up websites and/or blogs to propagate the news and manufacture news to the benefit of the sponsoring authority. Thus, political parties and candidates up for election pay so-called cyber troopers large amounts of money to boost their image in the eyes of the public.

Simultaneously they engage in activities to drag down the image of the opponents through smear campaigns, sometimes unearthing true stories and twisting the context and at other times broadcasting outright lies.

In Malaysia, as elections loom large and have to be held by August next year, this whole idea of fake news, especially on social media, has grabbed the attention of politician and layman alike, especially when US President Donald Trump, who has propagated fake news against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, accuses US mainstream media of fake news in repeated tweets.

 

But in Malaysia, the situation is very different. We have had fake news with us for decades now, especially during general elections, when more or less the entire regulated media industry gets commandeered by the ruling government – BN and its predecessors.

Look at for instance, how newspapers either directly owned by political parties or those close to them behave at election time – UMNO’s Utusan group, MCA’s The Star, as well as New Straits Times, RTM1, RTM2, TV3, and even ntv7, the other broadcast media.

It is as if the government can do no wrong, it is as if the opposition is a major threat to the unity of the country. The only viable party that can rule the country is, of course, the BN, everyone else will take the country to ruin.

So the heavily-controlled mainstream newspapers, magazines and broadcast organisations not just spewed fake news but engaged in regular propaganda blasts about how the government was so great, with documentaries about what it did, and through advertisements. The poor opposition is denied any airtime or space in the newspapers while the ruling party of the day runs riot over the opposition in all the various broadcast and print media.

Is it any surprise that the ruling party thrashed the opposition soundly in almost all the elections since 1969 (until the tide turned in 2008) when the opposition denied the ruling party two-thirds majority for a while? BN regained it following the collapse of many opposition parties into BN in the aftermath of oppressive measures following the May 13 riots shortly after the elections, riots which many consider to have been manufactured.

 

And then came 2008 – BN did not lose but soundly lost its two-thirds majority and five states in the general elections, its biggest setback yet. And the opposition finally began to think about riding into Putrajaya in triumph. In 2013, despite all of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s efforts, BN did not regain the two-thirds majority although UMNO did better.

So what made the change in 2008 and 2013? In two words, social media, which remained largely uncensored and unregulated and which gave the opposition a lot more space than it ever did before – there was a new medium to send news out instead of just print and broadcast and it was accessible to all.

A game changer

The control of the print and broadcast media no longer ensured that only some news of the favourable kind reached the general public. In Malaysia’s case, social media stopped the avalanche of fake news spewing out of the mainstream manufactured news factories.

But unfortunately, with fake news making such an impact on social media in the US for instance, with Donald Trump’s unexpected victory in the polls significantly attributed to it, the importance of social media is being increasingly recognised as a game changer for elections in Malaysia.

Thus, both Najib and his deputy have been increasingly talking about fake news on social media and the need to counter it effectively. But in all probability what they mean is that the true news is coming out from many sections of the social media, so we have to do something about it.

 

Their thinking goes something like this: We have to counter all these things which are true which are coming out from social media – we can blank it out from the print and broadcast media but we need a social media attack to counter these truths with lies.

Thus, we see Najib claiming in his blog rather preposterously that 1MDB will save RM200 billion in 20 years for Malaysia when the truth is that it has in all probability it has already lost as much as RM40 billion.

Expect this broadside by the BN on social media in Malaysia to increase – in the US, fake news may have reached epidemic proportions already, but in Malaysia, the process is just beginning but will increase very rapidly.

It is not going to be easy to differentiate the truth from the fake news but if you stick to respected and established online new organisations such as … – you know who they are, I don’t have to tell you – you will be safe.

Stick to independent news organisations who have a strong tradition of respect for truth, accuracy and balance and who cover both what the government as well as what the opposition has to say. Look at who are behind news portals – if they are not specific enough about ownership and editorial team, be suspicious.

Verify and crosscheck sources of information. Much is passed on over social media websites such as Facebook and WhatsApp with not even a mention of the source. If you want to check the source, type a key extract into a search engine and look at the results.

Please remember, especially at election time – you are more likely to get fake news and inadequate news of the right kind from mainstream media who have had a long track record compared to some of the online news portals who may not have as long a record.

And finally, please support those who supply good, fair information at reasonable prices (less than 60 sen a day) by subscribing to them (instead of sharing passwords indiscriminately), and take out advertisements with them and donating to them. It’s a small price to pay.

The sad truth is that information that is free is more likely to be tainted. Now, who was it who said that there is no such thing as a free lunch?


P GUNASEGARAM says truth often lies hidden under a pile of lies. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com.

Najib Camp’s Clarion Call: Be ready for another OPS LALANG


November 5, 2017

Najib Camp’s Clarion Call:  Be ready for another OPS LALANG, says Raja Petra

by Raja Petra Kamaruddin

Image result for raja petra kamarudin

 

The problem is people. If they want to believe RM42 billion of 1MDB’s money has disappeared into thin air they will believe it. And they will believe it because it is fun believing it or they are comfortable believing it — just like suicide bombers believe if they blow up a busload of schoolchildren they will be rewarded with more virgins than they can handle and if they take one virgin a night to bed it will be more than two months before they can come back to the first one.

Google has just announced that something needs to be done about Fake News. UMNO Youth Leader Khairy Jamaluddin is upset that Pakatan Harapan people are spreading Fake News. Cabinet Minister Salleh Said Keruak is equally unhappy that the Internet is being used as the primary source of Fake News.

Twenty years ago it had been forecasted that the opposition will gain a lot of ground if it takes to the Internet and ‘controls’ the news on the Internet. At that time there were only 280,000 Internet subscribers but one day there will be more than 20 million Internet subscribers so the opposition needs to monopolise the Internet and beat the government in the game of news dissemination. I was one of those who started my own anti-government website in 1997 called ‘Raja Petra’s Homepage’. Today there are more than 21 million Internet subscribers.

A knife is a useful tool in the kitchen. But a knife can also be a weapon that kills. So it all depends on what you want to use that knife for. And that includes how you use the Internet as well.

How do you stop Fake News on the Internet? You cannot. The problem is not the Internet. The problem is people — just like the problem is not guns but people who kill.

If people want to believe Fake News they will believe Fake News. And even if you ban or close down the Internet people will still listen to Fake News and will believe it.

Raja Petra claims  that Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak is a Victim of Fake News

Thousands of years ago people already believed in God, religion, and so on. Why did they believe in God? Had they ever met God? Did God come down to earth and make his existence known? Had people died and met God and came back to earth to tell the people that they met God so God does exist?

Nothing of that sort. People just believe in God because they want to believe in God. They feel ‘comfortable’ believing in God. They are not comfortable feeling that they are going to die and when they die that is the end of everything, nothing more is going to happen. People need to believe that death is not final or the end but just the beginning. They might live for a few years on earth but after they die they will live on forever in a special place which is far better than this miserable place called earth (or get reincarnated as something or someone better).

So, since birth, people have been indoctrinated into believing something that cannot be proven. And you believe what is comfortable to you, whether it is true or false. There are so many religions and if only one is the true religion that would mean all other religions are Fake News. Muslims insist that Muhammad is the last Prophet of God and that Islam is the true religion. That would mean all the other religions are the result of Fake News.

Image result for Isa Samad

Isa Samad, Chairman, Felda Global Ventures who was arrested by Malaysia’s Anti-Corruption Agency is another victim of Fake News by the Malaysian Opposition

If what Muslims believe is true, and they insist it is, then Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and many more are all Fake News. Christians, however, will insist their religion is true while all others, Islam included, are Fake News. And Atheists will say all religions, without exception, are Fake News and that God is as real as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

 

So, Fake News has created many fake religions but those who believe will insist their religion is not fake. In fact, they will insist their religion is true while all the others are Fake News.

So you see, you do not need the Internet to disseminate Fake News. Of course, the Internet is faster so it helps in the dissemination of Fake News. But people have been believing Fake News long before the Internet was invented. And that is why today we have so many different beliefs and religions. It is all because of Fake News.

The problem is people. If they want to believe RM42 billion of 1MDB’s money has disappeared into thin air they will believe it. And they will believe it because it is fun believing it or they are comfortable believing it — just like suicide bombers believe if they blow up a busload of schoolchildren they will be rewarded with more virgins than they can handle and if they take one virgin a night to bed it will be more than two months before they can come back to the first one.

Image result for Malaysiakini Staff

The Journalists of Malaysiakini led by Premesh Chandran and Steven Gan at their Headquarters Building, Jalan Tandang , Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia

Pakatan Harapan people love Fake News. Their religion is founded on Fake News. They get an erection or orgasm when they read Fake News. Malaysiakini, Malaysian Insight, Malaysia Chronicle, Sarawak Report and the many other opposition sites can say anything, and as long as it is anti-government it will be treated like Moses preaching in the Sermon on the Mount. If people verify what they are told before believing it no one would believe in God and no religion would exist. So the truth is not important, mere belief is. And that is why Pakatan people believe in Fake News.

Raja Petra Kamarudin

– http://www.malaysia-today.net/

Lim Kit Siang’s Take on Najib Razak’s So-Called Mother of All Budgets 2018


November 2, 2017

Lim Kit Siang’s Take on Najib Razak’s 2018 BudgetThe So-Called Mother of All Budgets

The Budget is a tool or instrument for presenting a statement about the state of the economy, its prospects, and policy announcements for improving governance. A well-crafted budget statement should be an objective and honest presentation meeting the goal of accountability.

Sadly, the budget he (Najib Razak) presented fails these basic tests. His speech of almost 12,000 words was more akin to a laundry list of giveaways, expenditure allocations both real and imagined, and vague statements about the economic consequences that would result.–Lim Kit Siang

http://www.malaysiakini.com

MP SPEAKS | Prime Minister Najib Razak described Budget 2018 being about “gifts, rewards and incentives.” It is a most mistaken view.

The Budget is a tool or instrument for presenting a statement about the state of the economy, its prospects, and policy announcements for improving governance. A well-crafted budget statement should be an objective and honest presentation meeting the goal of accountability.

Sadly, the budget he presented fails these basic tests. His speech of almost 12,000 words was more akin to a laundry list of giveaways, expenditure allocations both real and imagined, and vague statements about the economic consequences that would result.

The speech omitted any reference to urgently needed policy changes to restore the competitiveness of the economy that would enable the nation to escape the middle-income trap it finds itself in. The speech was silent about measures to correct the stagnation in real income, and address the looming danger associated with the mountain of debt – public, corporate and household.

The budget has been turned into an unabashed and irresponsible first salvo in the campaign for the 14th General Election. Page after page of the speech detailed expenditures and proposed allocations; no group was ignored in the largesse being extended.

Najib’s laundry list of giveaways, expenditure allocations both real and imagined, and vague statements.-2018 BUDGET

Little was said about how the proposed expenditures were designed to advance the overarching economic goals; no reference was made to how the addiction to deficit spending was to be overcome.

The projected deficit was itself a meaningless figure as the profligate spending in some measure would be financed outside of the budget, and nor did the PM in his speech or in the economic report provide details about the level of contingent liabilities or the new liabilities being assumed.

Electioneering

The PM chose to describe the budget as the “mother of all budgets”. Ironically, he was on target as this budget was an exercise in deception and was an unvarnished sales pitch seeking votes in the upcoming election.

Najib’s claim about “good news” needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt. The reality is that the news as reported in the budget statement is more in the nature of “fake news”. The budget framework is built upon dubious interpretation of statistical data in a highly selective manner.

The PM gloated over the growth numbers but was being selective. He failed to make any reference to issues of a structural nature raised by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in particular in the latter’s Annual Article IV Consultations and reported on its website.

Economic growth rates

Najib also made much about the revised growth rates issued by the International Financial Institutions and attempted to claim credit. He omitted to indicate that the revisions pertained to almost all countries – Malaysia being one in the group.

The revised growth rates should not therefore be interpreted as an approval of the competence of the government in managing the economy. Growth rates are revised to be higher because of global economic developments, primarily resulting from changes in monetary policies by the US Federal Reserve Bank and its counterpart the European Central Bank, and the partial recovery in prices for oil and gas.

The PM has been selective in the use of data. This is best illustrated by his use of the year 2009 as the base for measuring change. There is no rational reason for this choice other than an attempt to glorify his own tenure of office. It is also pertinent to note that 2009 marked a global recession. The choice of this low base amplifies the recovery in the years since.

Najib, however, chooses to remain silent about the negative developments, for instance, in the losses in the country’s external reserves (from a peak of US$ 140.0 billion in 2012 to US$101.2 billion in Sept 2017; total reserves as a percentage of external debt fell from a high of 121.1 percent in 2007 to 47.2 percent in 2016 or the decline in the value of the ringgit from US$1 = RM 3.34 in 2007 to US$1= RM4.20 in September 2017. These are not indicative of “efficient governance and prudent discipline” as he claimed.

Putrajaya’s fiscal situation

For two decades the government has operated with a deficit; the reported federal government debt now approximates 55 percent. Additionally, the Putrajaya has concealed its borrowings and the true size of its debt by making government-linked companies and other quasi-government entities undertake borrowings to finance public sector projects under the guise of so-called public-private projects.

The government has, at the same time, accumulated large hidden contingent liabilities by extending guarantees for borrowings by GLCs and other entities.

The fiscal situation has been worsened by corruption, mismanagement and other abuses including non-competitive acquisition of goods and services. The absence of competitive bidding results in price distorted costs. Tax revenues have been eroded by way of so-called “incentives” extended to government cronies without resulting in any discernable rise in private investment.

NEM goals

The reference in the speech to the New Economic Model (NEM) is more in the nature of a throwaway remark.

Certain clear-cut goals and policies adopted at the launch of the NEM have fallen by the way side. It should be recalled that there was a commitment to pursue further privatisation of the government’s non-financial public enterprises and reduce the government’s holdings in the GLCs which in reality function as state-owned enterprises.

It is significant that the speech contained no reference to the pursuit of these stated goals.

The findings from a recent highly professional study led by Terence Gomez has highlighted the dominant role played by GLCs in almost all sectors of the Malaysian economy, from aviation, banking, manufacturing, plantations to various modes of transportation.

In 2013, a total of 455 companies (including subsidiaries) were classified as government-linked investment companies (GLICs). There were 35 publicly listed companies which were among the top 100 companies listed on the Bursa Malaysia. The latter account for an overwhelming percentage of the capitalisation of the exchange.

Without a doubt, the government’s footprint is large in the business and commercial sectors. The entities in question act as monopolies or privileged entities, thus stifling private enterprise. This has led to flagging private investment despite tax and other incentives.

Of late several entities (e.g., Mara, Felda, Tabung Haji) have become mired in financial scandals. There is little or no accountability by such entities.

Furthermore, it is strange indeed that while Malaysia as a upper middle income country seeks to attract FDI flows, yet government linked agencies are currently exporting capital. These endeavors taken represent contradictions. But, more troubling is the fact that they give rise to abuses and corrupt practices.

The claims of successes in employment creation merit comment. While indeed some 2.3 million jobs have been created in the past eight years, most of these have been low paying jobs with many filled by migrant workers.

Serious shortages of skilled workers exist; paradoxically the brain drain continues unabated. These labor market developments along with the stagnation in wages are indicative of a failed set of policies that are contributing to the loss of competitiveness and entrapment as a middle-income country.

The self-congratulatory remarks about export growth are yet another example of delusion. While the current level of exports are expressed in ringgit terms, the PM has chosen to ignore the fact that he is comparing values based on different exchange rates.

The comparison of international reserve levels is rather devious – this is the only comparison linked to 1997!

The reporting of an increase in income per capita from RM27,819 in 2010 to RM49,713 in 2017. This trend is contradicted by the World Bank as the following numbers show:

The significance of these numbers points the extent to which Malaysia is lagging in terms of achieving “high income” status which in 2016 was set as income levels in excess of US$12,235.

Indeed, taking account of the current level of GNI per capita, projected exchange and growth rates, it is patently clear that the much-touted goal of achieving “high income” status by 2020 is a fading dream.

Budget allocations

The budget allocations for 2018 are projected at RM280.25 billion, an increase of RM20 billion, with RM234.25 billion for operating expenditure and some RM46 billion for development.

While further details are highlighted, Najib chose to be silent about a large item, namely debt service which amounts to 11 percent of the operating expenditure. The increased allocations are largely to restore cuts that were imposed earlier in the year.

Revenue collection in 2018 is projected at RM240 billion, an increase of approximately nine percent from RM220 billion in 2017.

No details are given either about the sources of revenue, or the amounts reduced by way of tax cuts and exemptions. The projected growth lacks credibility given GDP growth rate, reductions in revenue attributable to the exemptions from GST granted for big ticket items alongside the reductions in income tax rates.

In brief, the rosy estimates of modest growth in expenditure coupled with unrealistic levels of revenue receipts follow a pattern. Revenue projections are pitched high whilst expenditures are restrained in the budget.

Thus, there are inevitable supplementary expenditure requests later in the year. These approaches in budgeting enable the government to put out massaged numbers for the deficit. These practices appear to be sharpened in the preparation of the 2018 Budget.

Lip service was paid about fiscal consolidation without mention of how the PM proposes to reduce debt levels. While he was upbeat about all manner of “progress”, no mention was made about the record concerning deficits. It is noteworthy that it is now more than 20 years since Malaysia enjoyed a budget in surplus.

Once again total debt along with contingent liabilities will rise in the year ahead. These will represent burdens passed on to future generations. With an ageing population, the burden will be all the greater. The nation’s long-term interests are being sacrificed for short term political gains.

The claim that this budget will chart the course for building the nation for the next 30 years is a farfetched assertion. This is all the more questionable considering the fact that the Budget hardly lays out any long- term policies and goals but is only concerned with the “here and now” issues assumed to be of interest to a highly jaded electorate.

Rewriting history

Most remarkable, however, is the PM’s assertion: “Since we declared Independence, we have been fortunate as our forefathers have governed and administered this country embedded with shariah requirements”. Najib appears to be rewriting history by ignoring the fact that the country adopted a secular constitution and up until recently shariah played no major role in administration.

To claim that for six decades a shariah framework has operated with the federal constitution playing a secondary role is an outright distortion of the facts. The formulation used by the PM ought to raise a red flag about his coalition’s intentions regarding the status of the Constitution.

While acknowledging that “the framework has not been written in any government documents, but its practices are reflected in all inter-related national philosophies and policies” Najib appears to be outlining a position that the government will adopt in the event it is returned to power. It is thus a signal of how the secular federal constitution will be further sidelined.

Trends in investment

The PM set out several targets dealing with investment and trade. The statistics about trends in investment were selective.

Once again by choosing a low bench mark year (2009), a year that recorded a global recession, and inflated targets for 2018, he attempted to project progress.

These statistics appear impressive in attributing performance of private investment. A closer review, however, paints a different picture.

Given that the GLCs dominate the private sector, and that they largely operate as SOEs, much of the “improvement” can be attributed to government initiatives handled by these entities.

The process permits the government to by-pass concerns about the debt ceiling and at the same time permit nefarious projects as evidenced by the 1MDB saga.

The trends in private investment are erratic as inappropriate policies and political uncertainties have impacted on private investment, both domestic and foreign. The failure to announce corrective policy measures will result in sluggish investment patterns along with continuing outward capital flows

Passing reference is made in the 2018 Budget to accelerating exports. However, no indication is given as to what policies will be introduced to develop capacities in new products and promoting industries involving new technologies for instance the use of artificial intelligence.

No mention is made about how the government proposes to deal with the withdrawal of the US government from the TPPA; the PM was silent about what posture it intends to take viz. other trading arrangements within ASEAN or with the EU and the China-led proposals for a regional trade arrangement.

The claim that “…for the first time in the history of the nation’s budget…” a large allocation “is provided to assist farmers, fishermen smallholders and rubber tappers” appears to be a most strange claim. Every Five-Year Plan, every budget over the past six decades has contained allocations for these groups; it is disingenuous indeed to make claims that are short on a factual base.

 

The mega rail transportation projects that have been announced raise multiple concerns. For a start, cost benefit and feasibility studies have not been disclosed, assuming these have been done.

It is worthy of note that the projects will be financed by loans from China; the terms of these loans have yet to be announced. Reports in the media appear to suggest that major parts of these projects will be assigned to China’s enterprises who will invite some Malaysian entities to collaborate.

Najib evaded the entire issue of port expansion using loan funds in the face of overcapacity in the nation’s major port, Port Klang, following the departure of a major user. Many of the other transportation projects highlighted in the speech will not be financed from the Federal budget.

The following quote from his speech is most remarkable – it projects self-glorification and is somewhat insulting of past holders of the office of Finance Minister:

“This Budget that has never been crafted so well, even during the last 22 years or the past 60 years of our own nation, and marked in history, making this Budget the Mother of All Budgets.”

Ironically, this Budget may indeed qualify as the “mother of all budgets” for reasons other than those offered by the PM. The speech represents an open attempt to create fake news in pursuit of gaining credibility with an electorate that is largely disenchanted by the workings of a government tarred by endless scandals, led by someone viewed as a kleptomaniac.

The current budget also qualifies as such for its extensive giveaways, without a realistic vision or any demand for sacrifices. It provides no coherent strategies to permit the nation to escape the middle-income trap.

Malaysia urgently needs a course correction if it is to regain dynamism to enable it to move forward on the road to greater prosperity.


LIM KIT SIANG is DAP Parliamentary Leader and MP for Gelang Patah.