Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and his Team of Talented Professionals for New Malaysia

June 12, 2018

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and his Team of Talented Professionals for New Malaysia

by Dr. M Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California, USA

Image result for Dr Mahathir Mohamad

At 92, Prime Minister of Malaysia again with the rare opportunity to right past wrongs like appointing Abdullah Badawi and Najib Razak as his successors.

Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is that rare leader who recognizes his mistakes, admits to them publicly, and then goes about rectifying them with the tenacity of a hungry rooster chasing a worm. However lest we gloss over it, he is not that wise in that he had made the same mistake not once but twice. The first was with Abdullah Badawi; second, Najib.

Nor did Mahathir recognize his mistakes early enough when they would have been easier to remedy and before they could wreak havoc. Look at the wreckage inflicted by Najib. If Mahathir were to repeat those same mistakes now that he is Prime Minister again, the consequences this time would be far more catastrophic.

Mahathir corrected his blunder with Abdullah Badawi with ease; with Najib, less so. Between Abdullah and Najib, Malaysia wasted a precious decade and a half. Najib also squandered billions. That part of the wreckage is at least quantifiable, not so the damage he wreaked upon Malaysian institutions or the nation’s reputation.

Najib and Abdullah were not the only duds. Mahathir’s previous cabinet was filled with the Nazri Azizes, Zahid Hamidis, and Rahman Dahlans. Countless others of comparable appalling caliber helmed the nation’s institutions. It is this lethal combination of weak institutions in the hands of the corrupt and incompetent that cripples Malaysia and produces the 1MDB and other boondoggles.

Mahathir has his work cut out. At 93, he has precious little time. His saving grace is that today, unlike when he was leading UMNO and Barisan, Mahathir is now inundated with talent. Many are young.

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Minister of Education Dr. Maszlee Malik

His Minister of Education has a British doctorate, a vast improvement over his many predecessors. As a junior academic he was already an outspoken critic of the government through his role as moderator in the many wacanas (public debates). That is a rare trait among local lecturers where the culture is to suck up to your superiors; hence the derisive appellation Professor Kangkung. In debates, Maszlee Malik dazzled his audiences with his wit, eloquence, and receptiveness to diverse views.

Maszlee is also fluent in Malay, English, Arabic, and Mandarin, a worthy example for our teachers and students. He could “out-quote” the Koran and hadith with the most bearded ulamas; he could thus expose their stupidities in front of simple kampung folks.

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Minister of Health, an Imperial College PhD in Toxicology, Dzulkefly Ahmad.

Less young is Mahathir’s new Minister of Health, an Imperial College PhD in Toxicology, Dzulkefly Ahmad. He has much to do cleaning up the toxic residue of the Najib Administration.

The transfer of power executed by Mazlee and Dzulkefly with their respective predecessors was a picture of class and decorum. What a glaring contrast to the absence of Najib Razak at Mahathir’s swearing-in ceremony at the Palace. Najib has no class. Earlier he had skipped the traditional concession speech. On election night he abandoned his followers at a time when they needed support the most.

The new Minister of Transport, Anthony Loke, impressed me with his command of the National Language. When his ministry staff greeted him on his first day with their usual pomp and ceremony, he told them to dispense with that. How refreshing! They would serve the nation best by attending to the public first rather than to their minister, he reminded them.

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Minister of Transport Anthony Loke

Those elaborate ceremonies cost the rakyat a bundle. Think of the many public counters left unmanned because the staff had to greet and listen to their new minister.

With such superior talents, Mahathir should dispense with his old one-man-show habit. Give them space; nurture them. Najib’s mistake, apart from not being too bright, was that he was like a kid, craving praises and going so far as to buy them!

In a praiseworthy departure, Mahathir has ventured far beyond to tap Tommy Thomas to be the new Attorney-General. This infusion of top talent at the highest levels should be the new norm. Mahathir should have more such individuals “helicoptered” in to bring a fresh perspective and different expertise, beyond the typical thinking and time frame of a politician or civil servant.

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Attorney-General Tommy Thomas

I would argue that politicians are least suited to be ministers as they would be busy taking care of their constituents, attending to party matters, and campaigning for the next election. I do not suggest adopting in toto the American system where all cabinet members are non-politicians. Thomas as Attorney-General is a good start; he would also “de-politicize” that important office. A practicing engineer to be Works Minister and a professional economist or accountant for Finance Minister should be next.

One individual Mahathir should pay particular attention to is his Deputy, Dr. Wan Azizah. Like Mahathir, she is also a physician, and a specialist to boot. Unlike Mahathir who was once described by his admirers as the first Malay to graduate from medical school without having to sit for a supplemental,

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New Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Wan Azizah Ismail

Wan Azizah was a gold medalist, tops in her class in Ireland. The brilliance is there. She is no Najib, Abdullah, or Muhyddin. Help make her be not only the first female Prime Minister of Malaysia, but also the best.

That would be a legacy worthy of Mahathir. Achieve that and the soiled memories of his appointing Abdullah and Najib would recede from history.

Cut PMO spending, mega-projects to curb ballooning public debt, says Dr Jomo

February 4, 2018

Cut PMO spending, mega-projects to curb ballooning public debt, says  Dr Jomo

by Bede Hong


Cut PMO spending, mega-projects to curb ballooning public debt, says economist

Economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram says there is urgent need for greater transparency and accountability in ‘off-budget’ infrastructure spending, which is not part of the federal government budget and is thereby unaccountable to Parliament. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, February 4, 2018.

UNCHECKED overspending by the Prime Minister’s Office and disproportionate allocation of development funds have led to the official government debt fast approaching RM700 billion, said a prominent economist.

Former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Dr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram said there was an urgent need for greater transparency and accountability in “off-budget” infrastructure spending, which is not part of the federal government budget and is thereby unaccountable to Parliament.

“What Malaysia needs now is more appropriate development expenditure, not yet more operating expenditure, especially for the PMO, which has grown more than tenfold and has centralised power like never before,” Jomo told The Malaysian Insight in a telephone interview recently.

“Meanwhile, most infrastructure spending is not on the federal budget, and often involves dubious public-private partnerships, further reducing transparency and accountability, as (witnessed in) the recent rush to start the ECRL (East Coast Rail Line).”

Jomo recommended that allocations to the PMO be slashed to lower rising debt. The PMO was allocated RM17.43 billion in Budget 2018, almost double the RM8.938 billion it received in 2008.

Image result for tun razak exchangeTun Razak Exchange

Mega-projects such as the ECRL, Tun Razak Exchange, and Bandar Malaysia should also be scrutinised by an independent bipartisan parliamentary committee chaired by a member of the opposition party, said Jomo.

In the case of the 688km ECRL, should the rail system, which costs RM55 billion, nearly 8% of Malaysia’s public debt, fail to generate the expected level of demand and return on investment, it can put the government highly in debt to China.

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“ECRL would never pay for itself. Right now, the estimated government debt is large and it is growing very fast. When you talk about debt, you have to consider both the official debt as well as the government guaranteed debt.

“And because there’s no accountability for the government guaranteed debt, there’s a lot of room for hanky-panky. There’s hardly any reporting and so on.”

Jomo said there was also a need to prevent abuse of public-private partnerships, as “ultimately it is the public that bears the costs or the bulk of the risks, while the profits mainly accrue to the private partner”.

Jomo, a Visiting Fellow at the Khazanah Research Institute, has been a vocal critic of the government’s rising operation expenditure, which has grown an average 6% yearly for the last 10 years.

Operations spending grew from RM123.10 billion in 2007 to RM219.91 billion in 2017, exceeding Malaysia’s revenue which grew at an average of 4.9% yearly since 2007, when revenue stood at RM139.9 billion to RM225.34 billion in 2017.

Federal debt during the same period rose 10% annually from RM123 billion in 2007 to RM687.43 billion as at September 2017.

A recent report by The Edge Markets revealed that going by an annual growth rate of 10.7%, Malaysia’s debt could reach RM1 trillion by 2021 on excessive spending.

By the same projection, Malaysia’s debt could reach RM2 trillion in 2028 and RM3 trillion in 2032.

Funds diverted to service debt*

View at Medium.com


Jomo said high public debt, if left unaddressed long-term, would put the country at risk of default.  “Taking on debt for productive uses is generally desirable. However, much of the recent debt is not being used productively. Also, the government should be paying down debt or reducing debt when the economy is growing and incurring debt when there is a slowdown. However, for the last 10 years or more, we have just been taking on more and more debt, even when we claim the economy is growing well, which is usually seen as fiscally irresponsible,” he said.

Jomo said servicing the interest for high public debt diverted funds from other sectors, which would benefit the people, such as healthcare or education.

“Apparently that is the case in Malaysia where, allocations to public universities have been cut by more than half in the last two years,” he said.

While he acknowledged the need for development expenditure for the economy to progress, Jomo said the funding should be more targeted and “appropriate”.

“They should fund research, for example, to increase the productivity of oil palm by increasing its productive life span to 90 years from the current 25 years.Malaysia’s most successful industrialisation story is not electronics, which is controlled by foreign companies but palm oil, which is controlled by Malaysia,” he said.

* https://medium.com/@syahir21/whos-selling-oil-snake-to-whom-585c9edecf8d

View at Medium.com

Thank You, Prime Minister Najib Razak for more 1MDB Financial Mess

May 4, 2017

Thank You, Prime Minister Najib Razak for  more 1MDB Financial Mess

By Stephen Ng@www.malaysiakini.com

The collapse of a RM7.41 billion deal to develop Bandar Malaysia is a clear sign of bigger problems ahead for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and the state investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

Even Moody’s said that 1MDB’s agreement to resolve a debt dispute with Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC) may not be the end of the tunnel, as market sentiment depends largely on how 1MDB will settle bond payments in the future.

Now, with the latest development on Bandar Malaysia, we know we are in deeper mess as the debts would have to be paid by Malaysian taxpayers.

According to the Wall Street Journal, despite 12 extensions were given to the consortium, the Chinese government had refused to authorise the investment by the China Railway Engineering Corporation to acquire 60 percent stake in Bandar Malaysia on the basis that “the 1MDB fund hasn’t published financial statements for 2015 or 2016, so its current financial situation is unclear”.

This is seen as a slap in the face of Najib, who had recently visited China and took home what he calls “big investments”.

The initial announcements included a RM55 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project which was revealed later as nothing but a 20-year low-interest soft loan by the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim) and the main contractor would be China Communications Construction Co.

While China may see it as taking money from the left pocket to put into the right pocket (at least in my opinion), Najib has incurred another major debt of RM55 billion.

The noose is tightening

Najib, who has been in the middle of the storm since the US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a civil suit against several individuals to seize assets worth more than US$1 billion last year, may find it hard to hold his head up after the deal did not materialise.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the US authorities intend to file criminal charges against son of a Malaysian tycoon, Jho Low, who is a prominent figure in one of the biggest civil lawsuits filed by the DOJ. We will be hearing more of this in the near future.

The US DOJ claimed that a sum of RM2.6 billion, which had allegedly gone into Najib’s personal accounts, originated from the 1MDB fund. Based on the DOJ’s investigations, there is no Arab prince in Najib’s fairy tale story.

In the suit, he was dubbed the Malaysian Official No 1 (MO1), which later Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Abdul Rahman Dahlan (photo), announced to the whole world that MO1 referred to Najib.

At the moment, PKR lawmaker Rafizi Ramli is exposing alleged leaked documents that have since been blocked by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), which are said to be related to the money trail of SRC International. This could further implicate Najib in the court of public opinion.

Although Attorney-General Mohd Apandi Ali claimed that Najib was unaware of the amount of RM41 million banked into his private bank accounts, the evidence unearthed by international investigators who are on the money trail will put Najib in a tight spot, especially since the 1MDB scandal has reached international notoriety.

According to the latest Financial Times report, Italy is joining the fray as the 10th nation currently investigating the allegations of insider trading linked to the 1MDB scandal. The other nations include the US, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Luxembourg, UAE, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and Australia.

The failed TRX City deal would have been Najib’s final major milestone in the 1MDB rationalisation plan. Things are certainly not working out well for Najib, as it is obvious that not even the Chinese government thinks the investment was worth the consideration.

Bigger headache for 1MDB

Now that the deal has been called off, Najib and 1MDB are left in the lurch on how to explain to all Malaysians about the final settlement of the debts owing to the IPIC.

Finance Minister II, Johari Abdul Ghani has gone on record citing a letter dated August 11, 2016, from the Registrar of Corporate Affairs, which he claimed stated that Aabar Investment registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) belongs to IPIC.

However, it is strange that the letter was not used to defend 1MDB’s case filed by IPIC in the London Court of Arbitration. Despite calls by several people, including Rafizi, to publish the said letter, neither Johari nor Najib had attempted to clear the air. The truth, after all, could not be told.

Even if the letter is published, it does not absolve either 1MDB or Najib, as the Minister of Finance, of any wrongdoing, since the money had been transferred to some dubious company registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The fact that 1MDB will have to pay the Abu Dhabi state investment firm US$1.205 billion in two equal payments on July 31 and Dec 31 clearly shows that the RM3.51 billion paid to the dubious company registered in BVI had gone unaccounted for. Yet, the Malaysian government has done nothing to recover the money from the Aabar Investment (BVI).

For this reason, most Malaysians no longer have confidence in the Najib administration, since he has never been able to provide any concrete explanations since the 1MDB scandal came out into the open. In the arbitration, IPIC had, in fact, said that it has no links to Aabar BVI.

1MDB claimed that it will pay the debts by selling off its investment units in Brazen Sky Ltd, but even on that, former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin has asked, “Who is the buyer of these investments and for how much? Does this investment unit actually exist?”

It is because too many lies have been told that Malaysians are becoming very sceptical about everything said by Najib or his ministers.

It is also interesting that both the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Auditor-General’s Department have not started looking into the allegations made by Rafizi, even after fresh evidence surfaced regarding the mentmoney from SRC.

Whatever it is, we are really in deep mess and you, Najib, are fully responsible for it. The problem could have been solved much earlier.

STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in following political developments in the country since 2008.

Malaysian Prime Minister consolidates power

Washington DC

July 2, 2016

Malaysian Prime Minister consolidates power with Cabinet reshuffle

by John Berthelsen


Najib is bullet-proof as Premier.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on June 27 reshuffled 10 portfolios in his cabinet, rewarding a handful of United Malays National Organization stalwarts including Noh Omar, the Selangor UMNO chief, as Urban Well Being, Housing and Local Government Minister. The only notable departure is Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, who resigned as Second Finance Minister.

Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah–The Next Malaysian Ambassador to the USA?

What didn’t happen is probably more important. Hishamuddin Hussein, 54, Najib’s cousin and the current defense minister, and Khairy Jamaluddin, 40, the federal Minister for Youth and Sports and the son-in-law of former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, whose career seemed to be in eclipse when Badawi was driven from office in 2009, appear to be consolidating their own power under Najib despite not moving.

“At present Hisham and Khairy remain in their current positions but UMNO is theirs,” said a political observer. “They are the future of the party assuming UMNO wins the next election.”

Hisham has been regarded as a bit of a dim bulb. A wooden speaker, he was roundly criticized for bumbling over the investigation into the mysterious loss of MH370, the Boeing passenger jetliner that disappeared without a trace on March 8, 2014, with 239 passengers and crew. Although occasional fragments have been found that are believed to be part of the craft, the mystery of its disappearance has never been solved.

Khairy was considered a major reason for the fall of Badawi over allegations of undue influence over public service contracts.

What it all means for Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, 63, the Deputy Prime Minister and Najib’s chief spear-carrier, is unclear. He retains his position but in the past he has been regarded with distrust by many. He was a one-time ally of the now-imprisoned opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim but returned to UMNO after Anwar, then Finance Minister, fell from power.  He is looked on as a loose cannon but he has risen rapidly in power.

It is the third reshuffle in the seven years, some of it stormy, since Najib took power in 2009. The other major development happened on June 24 when Najib engineered the sacking of former Deputy Prime Muhyiddin Yassin from his position as vice president of the United Malays National Organization, along with Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, on a unanimous vote.

The ousting of Muhyiddin, who was axed nearly a year ago as Najib’s Deputy Prime Minister, and Mukhriz, who had been removed as chief minister of the state of Kedah, had long been expected. UMNO’s rousing victory in two by-elections earlier this year and a convincing win in Sarawak state polls earlier are an indication that despite being enmeshed in a huge scandal that has drawn money-laundering investigations in seven other countries, Najib is bullet-proof as premier.

They are aligned with the 91-year-old Mahathir in his attempt to drive Najib from power. They have joined him in an opposition attempt to gather more than a million signatures asking Najib to leave. The attempt so far has been inconclusive. It appears that the prime minister feels secure enough to call a snap election, more than two years before the current five-year term expires in August of 2018, according to the drums in Kuala Lumpur.

Although the firing of Muhyiddin last year kicked off an uproar that rank and file UMNO members, with the help of the Mahathir wing of the party and particularly in Muhyiddin’s Johor base, would rebel and drive the Najib faction from power, it didn’t happen.  It seems quite likely that Najib has calculated correctly that there will be little today.

It is likely that the only shadow on Najib’s career today is the investigations going on in the United States, Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong and other jurisdictions. Swiss authorities have charged that as much as US$4 billion has been laundered from the state-backed 1Malaysia Development Bhd., an investment vehicle set up in 2009 with Najib as its principal financial adviser. Literally dozens of news stories have traced the money out of 1MDB into a variety of accounts in the Cayman and British Virgin Islands, Switzerland and Singapore. Najib himself appears to have been the recipient of as much as US$681 million that was mysteriously deposited in his personal account in 2013 before the general election, and was equally mysteriously withdrawn and transmitted to another account in Singapore before it disappeared outright.

In May, the Monetary Authority of Singapore forced the closure of BSI Bank Ltd – the first merchant bank to be closed in Singapore in 32 years – for its role in moving money in and out of Singapore for individuals connected to 1MDB and fined the bank S$13.3 million for 41 cases of breaches of money laundering and other laws. MAS Managing Director Ravi Menon called BSI Bank “the worst case of control lapses and gross misconduct that we have seen in the Singapore financial sector.”

The monetary authority also said at the time that it was investigating “several other financial institutions and bank accounts through which suspicious and unusual transactions have taken place.”

None of this has had any effect on Najib’s standing within his party and, if the three recent elections are any gauge, with the voters. By sacking government officials, neutralizing investigations, threatening critics with sedition charges, closing important press outlets and banning external news sources including Asia Sentinel and the influential Sarawak Report, he has managed to largely contain criticism.

He has also been helped by social attitudes among ethnic Malays that regard all attempts to expose what is manifestly widespread corruption, both on Najib’s part and within UMO itself as a plot on the part of the minority ethnic Chinese community to take political power away from them to match economic power, which has resided in the Chinese community for decades.


Malaysia’s First Lady in a Controversy Again

June 16, 2016

Malaysia’s First Lady in a Controversy Again

by Mariam Mokhtar


Malaysia’s First Lady Rosmah Mansor

The furore over Rosmah Mansor’s use of a private jet to fly to Turkey last month has revived a question that was asked many times in the not-too-distant past: “Who is entitled to use a government jet or a private jet chartered by the government?”

Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has a lot of learning to do. He has been strident in his defence of the Prime Minister’s wife, who went to Turkey in a luxury Airbus A-319 to pick up an award.

The cost of the lease – RM86.4 million – was paid by taxpayers. This is what Hishammuddin has pretended not to understand. It is the rakyat’s money, not UMNO-Baru’s.

If it had been Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s own money, or money donated by Hishammuddin, no one would care. Surely Hishammuddin knows that every sen of taxpayers’ money must be accounted for.

Apparently, this was not the first time, as a government jet was allegedly used in 2014 to pick up an award in Padang, Indonesia.

The authorities knew that this latest exposé was damaging. Rosmah’s aide, Rizal Mansor, claimed that she had a tight schedule. If time was short, why didn’t the Malaysian Ambassador to Turkey pick up the award on her behalf instead?

In any case, what is wrong with the newly revamped national carrier, Malaysia Airlines Berhad? Any Malaysian citizen would be proud to fly the flag for Malaysia.

Hishammuddin tried to deflect the public’s attention by criticising former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who had flown to Ipoh in a private jet. Mahathir went there to take part in the Kuala Kangsar by-election campaign.

For a start, was Mahathir’s flight paid for by the taxpayer? If it wasn’t, Hishammuddin has really lost his sense of reason. If it was paid for by the rakyat, did it cost several million ringgit? If it was a government jet, why was Mahathir eligible to use it?

Government records are not transparent and the public outrage over the trip to Turkey is a direct result of that opaqueness.

So we come to the vital question: “Who is entitled to use a government jet?” For a start, how many government jets are there? How much is spent on them? Who has been using them and for what reason?

We are often told that government jets are for use by the ministers and the group of people known as VVIPs, meaning royal personages, like the Yang diPertuan Agong. Who else, apart from the King and his consort, are considered to be VVIPs entitled to fly on a government jet? Would the King’s niece or his aunt be eligible? Does the Lord Chamberlain get to use the jet?

Does the Malaysian government have a list of persons qualified to be called VVIPs? It is alleged that Najib’s daughter was also on the flight to Istanbul. Is her name in the entitlement list?

Rizal only made matters worse when he tried to justify the presence of the many suitcases in the luxury jet’s cabin. He said the fuel tanks had taken up too much space. So we’re asking, “What did those bags contain?”

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.








A case of Harapkan Pagar Pagar Makan Padi (Dr. Mahathir– Wawasan 2020 and Najib Razak–Sapu Malaysia)

May 4, 2016

A case of Harapkan Pagar Pagar Makan Padi (Dr. Mahathir– Wawasan 2020 and Najib Razak–Sapu Malaysia)

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

The epigram, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (“the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing”) by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in the January 1849 issue of his journal Les Guêpes (“The Wasps”) best describes what has been happening to this country in the realm of political economy.

Thus the pervasive pessimism and sense of inevitability as the unsavoury details of the donation uncovered in the Prime Minister’s personal account and 1MDB scandals have unfolded. What’s discernible is the same pattern of “pagar makan padi”, malfeasance, abdication of responsibility, incompetence, and attempts at cover up and whitewashing at the highest level. And predictably too, the chorus by Barisan’s cheerleaders and supporters, and exhortations by implicated leaders and the authorities urging the public and nation to “move on” from “self inflicted wounds”.

But what’s the cost of moving on from our alleged national masochism?This is not the first blow to our national treasury, leading to a hard hit at the wallet and well being of every Malaysian. The list of similar fiascos goes a long way back. More than 30 years, and even further back.

It includes the Bank Bumiputra bailout in the 80s, the Maminco debacle, Perwaja Steel wipeout, Bank Islam rescue, the Scorpene submarine scandal to name some of the spectacular cases in what is a massive and growing iceberg of fraud, embezzlement, cheating and chicanery orchestrated or sanctioned by those at the top with approval authority over the hundreds of thousands of government projects, big and small, carried out especially during the past three decades – and with just the tip of the iceberg uncovered and visible.

Various scholars have attempted to quantify the financial losses the country has squandered. During the 22 year+ rule of Dr Mahathir, Barry Wain, author of the book ‘Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times’ estimated that the direct financial losses amounted to about RM50 billion. This doubled if the invisible costs, such as unrecorded write-offs, were taken into account. The RM100 billion total loss was equivalent to US$40 billion at the then prevailing exchange rates.

No authoritative estimate has yet been made of losses on similar bloated, questionable or mismanaged projects undertaken after Dr. Mahathir left office. But the list of scandal-ridden mega projects and often related bailouts of government-linked companies since then has been equally, if not more, impressive; and depressing. They include the National Palace project, Port Klang Free Trade Zone project, and the smaller cost but oversized on infamy, ‘Cowgate’ project.

Between 2001 and 2015, Federal Government development expenditure totalled about RM 610 billion. If we assume that there is a hidden charge of 20% for commissions, kickbacks, overpayments and other forms of leakages and corrupt financial practices incurred in this category of expenditure alone, the country was poorer by RM120 billion.

Even a conservative estimate of 10 percent of the development budget lost to corruption, rent seeking and other forms of financial abuse means that the country has incurred a loss of RM 60 billion.

Should We Move On?

So what lessons can we take from this failure of our political leaders and authorities to curb the rot in the nation’s finances which is systemic and endemic.Apart from the huge financial losses, there are social costs that are non-quantifiable but more grievious in the impact on our national culture and consciousness.

One is that bad behavior is rewarded; and “clean, efficient and trustworthy” are simply empty slogans meant to distract and deceive.Two is that crime – especially white collar and also, the occasional murder – pays; and at the highest levels pays really well.

Three is that cash is especially king for those who, although they themselves may not be engaged in wrong doing, are perfectly happy with abetting or defending the wrong doers. American author Upton Sinclair wrote: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

We see it all the time in Malaysia with money and positions being the key determinants of the cognitive ability of the battery of financial experts, lawyers, media propagandists and other support cast of Barisan misgovernance; which has led them to ignore facts and truths inconvenient to their cause, or their client’s cause.

Four is that our belief and trust in justice being done at the end of the day in relation to financial or political scandals may prove to be idealistic or wildly over-optimistic.

This is especially the case when vested political interests have undermined, if not destroyed, what should be an autonomous, influence-free and non-partisan judiciary as well as other key governance agencies, including enforcement ones.

As the culture of impunity takes deep roots among those who control the levers of power, we find that the rakyat‘s trust in their politicians and officials has been eroding at a rapid pace. This is confirmed by the finding of the Edelman Trust Barometer 2016 which found that trust in the government fell seven points to 39% among the general population and 11 points to 34% among the informed public, compared to last year.

There are some things that are right as well as done well in the country which give us confidence and pride that we are moving on.But we cannot and should not move on from the current wrongs and controversies until the root causes are identified and eliminated.