Malaysia: 2018 National Budget–Need for Greater Fiscal Discipline


October 5, 2017

Malaysia: 2018 National Budget–Need for Greater Fiscal Discipline

by T K Chua@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for Najib as Finance Minister

 

In a couple of weeks, the 2018 national budget will be revealed and a peek into the options and challenges awaiting us, is in order.

Beware of Off-Budget Agencies

FIRST, the budget is not what it used to be. Increasingly there are expenditures and commitments outside the purview of the budget but their impact may eventually impinge on government finance. These are off-budget agencies of which the revenues, expenditures and debts should be tabulated and presented as addendum to the budget.

Keep Budget Deficits under Control

SECOND, in all likelihood, the 2018 budget will be another year of deficits. This means there will be new borrowings or sales of government assets to finance the deficit. New borrowings mean more accumulated debts and more debt service charges going forward. When more is provided for debt service charges, less will be available for other operating expenditures.

THIRD, most government revenue has almost reached its limits unless income and expenditure continue to grow. In recent times, the government has been relentless in its enforcement efforts to extract the maximum from individuals and business establishments. Similarly, the implementation of the GST is in full swing. It is doubtful that the government will be able to cover more loopholes and tax leakages/avoidance cases or to increase further the GST rates at this stage.

If revenues are limited, the government will not be able to offer new expenditure programmes unless it incurs more borrowing and debt.

FOURTH, most expenditure programmes are “locked in”, stifling the government’s ability to look at the new impetus. The government’s commitments toward BR1M, civil service salaries and benefits, pensions, and debt service charges will continue to grow. This will leave little room for the budget to meet new challenges lurking in the horizon.

Watch the Expenditure Side of Things

FIFTH, the government has looked at the revenue side by introducing new taxes and by enforcing stricter compliance of existing taxes. However, this trend can’t go on forever. It is time to look at the expenditure side of things.

The annual audit report has given more than sufficient information on wastage, inefficiency and abuse of government allocations and expenditures. Sometimes corruption is due to allocations being too lavishly handed out. If government departments and agencies have too much money, the tendency is to be careless with the expenditures.

 

MALAYSIA ‘SCREWED UP’ BY WORST FINANCE MINISTER NAJIB – RESERVES THE LOWEST IN ASIA THAT MoF UNABLE TO PAY EVEN US$600 MILLION DEBT?

Who is the de facto Minister of Finance– Najib Razak or Handbag Rosmah Mansor? How did she spend the funds  allocated for her signature project Permata?

Stringent and optimal budget allocations do not have to affect output or service to the people, as was commonly claimed. We only need those responsible to work harder and be more careful with the money.

The National Budget is not a Mundane or routine exercise

I think it would be a big mistake if we continue to look at the budget formulation as a mundane or routine exercise. Some of the trends are obviously unsustainable. Even if we start to reverse or correct the trends now, it may take us many years to restore sustainability.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

French Justice Catching up With Malaysians in Sub Scandal?


August 4, 2017

French Justice Catching up With Malaysians in Sub Scandal?

by John Berthelsen

http://www.asiasentinel.com

Image result for altantuya shaariibuu

Altantuya Shaariibuu– A  Mongolian model who was blown to bits. I met her dad Dr. Stev in Bangsar with Raja Petra Kamaruddin a few years ago. Pete was charged under ISA by the UMNO regime for his article “Let’s send the Altantuya murderers to Hell” (April 25, 2009). –Din Merican

Although Abdul Razak Baginda, the central figure in what was previously Malaysia’s most notorious scandal, has been charged with “active and passive complicity in corruption” by French prosecutors, according to Agence France Press on Aug. 1, it is unlikely that they are going to catch up with him anytime soon.

Razak remains in Malaysia, a close friend of Prime Minister Najib Razak, with extradiction doubtful since the premier himself also figures in a case involving a €114 million bribe to the United Malays National Organization for the purchase of French submarines. It is a case that involves political corruption, murder, sex and allegations that reach high up into both the Malaysian and French governments.  Neither Najib nor Razak Baginda is likely to go touring in France anytime soon.

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Dr. Razak Baginda–A close associate of Prime Minister Najib Razak

In addition to Razak Baginda, four former Thales International Asia officials have been indicted, including one in December 2015 by a French court for allegedly bribing Najib himself, according to a January 2016 AFP story quoting French judicial sources. The matter seemed to have been stalled after that report although the case has been under investigation for seven years.

Case in 1MDB’s shadow

The affair has since paled in Malaysia in the shadow of the massive 1Malaysia Development Bhd. scandal, in which US$5.4 billion disappeared from a state-backed investment fund through looting and mismanagement that has spurred investigations in half a dozen countries across the world. US prosecutors have alleged that anywhere from US$681 million to US$1 billion disappeared out of 1MDB into Najib’s pockets, part of it to be used to buy a vast store of real estate, paintings and other assets in the United States, which alerted the US Justice Department’s kleptocracy unit to name him a “Public Official 1” and to seize millions of dollars’ worth of assets.

The two cases have given Malaysia an international black eye but have done nothing yet to bring Najib down as prime minister. He remains insulated from defenestration through the payment of fulsome contributions to the top UMNO cadres who might be tempted to oust him. Although the opposition has unified in recent months under the unlikely leadership of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the betting is that, insulated by gerrymandering, religious xenophobia, political repression and a kept press, he won’t be ousted in the next election, which must be called before mid-2018.

“Apparently after (the opposition Pakatan Harapan) sorted out leadership issues in their coalition, they have been gaining a lot of traction,” said a well-wired political observer in Kuala Lumpur. “The tragedy for Malaysia is that their comeback kid is 92 years old and his “successor” (imprisoned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim) is in jail.”

Prize-winning series

As Asia Sentinel reported in a prize-winning series in 2012, a two-decade campaign by DCN and its subsidiaries to sell submarines to Malaysia and other countries resulted in a tangle of blackmail, influence peddling and misuse of corporate assets that took place with the knowledge of top French officials including then-foreign Minister Alain Juppe and with the consent of Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister. The case has had far wider implications, stretching from South America to Pakistan to India to Taiwan and other countries and featuring a series of unexplained deaths as DCN sought to peddle its weapons.

At the center of the Malaysia case were Razak Baginda and Najib, then on a vast weapons acquisition spree as Minister of Defense, buying fighter jets, patrol boats and armored weapons.  The ministry spent US$2 billion for Scorpene submarines manufactured by Thales.  A store of documents from French prosecutors made available to Asia Sentinel presented a damning indictment that showed Najib’s goal was to steer the kickbacks to UMNO through a private company called Perimekar Sdn Bhd. whose principal shareholder was Razak Baginda’s wife Masjaliza.

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 Dr. Baginda with his daughter and wife

 

Another €36 million was directed to Terasasi Hong Kong Ltd., whose principal officers were listed as Razak Baginda and his father. The company only existed as a name on a wall in a Hong Kong accounting office. At the time Razak Baginda was then the highly respected head of a Malaysian think tank called Malaysian Strategic Research, which was connected with UMNO.

DCN paid for lovers’ Macau tryst

Among the documents was one that showed a DCN confederate sent Razak Baginda on a jaunt to Macau with his then-girlfriend, Altantuya Shaariibuu, a 28-year-old Mongolian national and international party girl who was later murdered by two of Najib’s bodyguards. Altantuya was said to have also been a lover of Najib before he passed her to his best chum although Najib said he would deny knowing her by swearing on the Quran.

During negotiations at the end of the submarine contract, Altantuya was employed as a translator, according to the documents, although it is questionable how effective her language skills really were. In any case, after a whirlwind tour of Europe in his Ferrari, Razak Baginda apparently tired of Altantuya and jilted her, impelling her to fly to Kuala Lumpur to demand US$500,000 in what she described as blackmail in a letter found in her hotel room after her murder.

Altantuya was grabbed on Oct. 19, 2006 from in front of Razak Baginda’s home by Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar, members of an elite police unit responsible as bodyguards for Najib, and was dragged into a car and driven to a forested spot outside the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Shah Alam, where she was knocked unconscious and shot twice in the head.  The two then wrapped her body in C4 plastic explosive and blew her up, supposedly to destroy the fetus she was carrying.

Detailed confession not allowed in court

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What a ghastly murder of a Mongolian Model

Sirul gave a detailed confession to a fellow police officer in which he described in chilling fashion how the two had killed the woman, who begged for the life of her unborn child. Although Sirul had been read his rights, inexplicably the confession was never introduced in the lengthy trial that followed. At the conclusion of the trial, as he was being sentenced, Sirul broke into tears, telling the judge that he was the “black sheep who has been sacrificed to protect unnamed people.”

Although Razak Baginda was quoted in his own statement to police following the discovery of the murder as saying he had asked one of Najib’s aides to “do something” about the woman, who was harassing him, he was excused without the need to present evidence, The aide was never called to testify, nor were a long string of other Malaysian officials with connections to the case.

Ultimately, Azilah and Sirul were sentenced to death. However, the two have never been executed, Sirul, released temporarily on appeal, made tracks for Australia, where he was later detained. He remains there today after having implicated Najib in the murder and then retracted the allegation. Mahathir has repeatedly called vainly for the case to be reopened.  Nonetheless, it remains one of Malaysia’s biggest scandals, and is likely to remain so unless a new election sweeps out UMNO and its lieutenants.

Malaysian Opposition Parties in a Premiership Scramble


Malaysian Opposition Parties in a Premiership Scramble

by TK Chua@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for Mahathir and Kit Siang

Prime Minister (To  be Elected) Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammad and Deputy Lim Kit Siang!–A Case of counting chickens before they are hatched

It is disheartening to note that the opposition parties are now fighting who among their respective leaders would become the Prime Minister (PM) should they win the coming general election.

Rightly or wrongly, the position of the PM has become the most important “institution” in the country today. Years of power consolidation and concentration has made this position very invincible and powerful. Hence, the endless tussle for it, even though winning the election is by no means certain yet.

Image result for  Hadi Awang as Prime MinisterThe sickly PAS leader Hadi Awang wants to make history : Becoming First Mullah Prime Minister of Malaysia.

I think it is time for the opposition coalition to look at the position of the PM differently.

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 Hanuman  (Warrior-Protector) of PM Najib Razak

Right now the PM is all powerful because all the “actors” as provided for in our constitution have not played their rightful role.Instead of fighting for the post, the opposition coalition should be looking at the powers and jurisdiction of the PM within the confines of the constitution.

In other words, they shouldn’t be just looking at the powers of the PM as they exist today. They should “reconstruct” the PM the way they want the person to be. Please let me elaborate.

First, the opposition coalition must look at  important positions as provided for in the constitution other than that of the PM. Second, they should share these important positions fairly among the coalition partners to ensure checks and balance.

If important positions are fairly distributed among coalition partners, it will automatically circumscribe the powers of the PM.

The idea is really to prevent abuse or the arbitrary exercise of power. To begin with, all MPs from each coalition partner must play their respective roles jealously and dutifully. The executive branch headed by the PM has become too powerful because the legislature has more or less abdicated its power. An assertive legislature would send different signals to the executive branch.

Similarly, we can look at other important positions to ensure check and balance. For example, if the PM is from PPBM, the finance and home affairs ministers should be from other coalition partners. The same goes for the speaker of the Dewan Rakyat.

I believe it is easier to agree on the post of PM if the coalition partners first work out other important positions in the government. The overarching principle is to ensure power sharing and fair play.

Don’t fight over the post of PM; fight for a PM who can only exercise power within the confines of the constitution.

T K Chua is an FMT reader.

Citizen Nades on a Mission Larger than himself


April 5, 2017

Citizen Nades on a Mission Larger than himself beyond Curi-Curi (Steal-Steal) Malaysia

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

https://www.mariammokhtar.com/an-interview-with-citizen-nades-the-author-of-curi-curi-malaysia/

When R Nadeswaran, the former editor of Special and Investigative Reporting at theSun, retired last December, it was not because he had called it a day, or wanted to potter around in the garden, tending to his prized orchids.

He had a bigger mission at hand, and that was to focus on, and publish his second book, called ‘Curi-Curi Malaysia’.

Image result for nadeswaran curi curi malaysia

My friend and Fellow Malaysian, R Nadeswaran (Citizen Nades) is on a mission larger than himself. A pioneer investigative reporter, he is fearless and relentless in his pursuit of truth, but he is  responsible and balanced in his expose. I admire and respect Citizen Nades for his dedication to civic duty.

Like a good soldier, he will not retire but like me and others of his generation, he will fade away when his mission is finally accomplished, that is when the present incompetent and corrupt regime led by the infamous duo of Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor is replaced by a government committed to good governance. I wish him well as he charts his next mission–always larger than himself–to make Malaysia a place for all Malaysians and an oasis of integrity and honesty.–Din Merican

Launched in January 2017, ‘Curi-Curi Malaysia’ is self-published, and as Nades points out, is not an autobiography, which he claims he has no desire to write. Nor is it a compilation of his articles, which after a distinguished career spanning over 45 years, would probably fill several volumes, like the Encyclopædia Britannica.

No! ‘Curi-Curi Malaysia’ describes the hours of hard work done by him and his team of investigative journalists. More often than not, the work would have been shared with his former partner of many years, Terence Fernandez.

People may recognise Citizen Nades as the man who broke the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) story, or the reporter with the dogged determination to prevent the culprits in the PKFZ scandal from escaping scot-free (they did, as the recent court case in March showed!).

It will come as no surprise to many Malaysians, that there are other scandals, some we know about, and many of which we are unaware.

‘Curi-Curi Malaysia’ represents the tip of this iceberg. Nades covers only the stories for which he has expert knowledge. For that reason, he avoids sensitive topics, such as religious issues, in which, he readily admits, that he is not an expert, and religious interpretations are needed.

Many people who read about an exposé in a newspaper do not realise the months of work, the money spent and dedication needed to produce a one-page-long article. They do not know about the threats to the reporters, the unanswered calls, the emails which are ignored, the sleepless nights or the frustration of trying to get a straight response from a corrupt politician who is avoiding a straight answer.

Nor would the reader know about the angst of having to deal with a civil servant who is petrified of telling the truth, for fear of losing his job.

Work of journalists more challenging and frustrating

Equally important, says Nades, is having an editor, or a newspaper owner, who allows free rein over the piece, so that he, as a responsible journalist, need not look over his shoulder all the time.

In today’s climate, with newspaper ownership in the hands of the powerful, who have strong links to the ruling politicians, Nades knows that the work of many journalists is more challenging and frustrating than ever.

Nades, once referred to as “the scariest man in Malaysia”, is also a reporter of whom the politicians are wary. If an email from Nades were to land on the desk of a junior member of a government department, it would soon find its way to the minister. An example of a minister who is micro-managing, perhaps?

Ministers and civil servants treat Nades with kid gloves. One wrong slip and he may have a major story on his hands.

In the northern hemisphere, spring is in the air, and in England, the Chelsea Flower Show (CFS) will be open to the public and the Queen. In 2011, Tourism Malaysia tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the horticultural world.

As Nades pointed out, Tourism Malaysia opened a tender exercise, in which people were invited to pay for tender documents, despite having already awarded the contract to represent Malaysia at the prestigious show.

Nades was most interested in transparency and accountability, but it is doubtful if the respective Malaysian departments were willing to help him.

He managed to expose the cheating, and exorbitant expenses claimed by Malaysian officials, who stayed in London, to attend the CFS. More importantly, he discovered the Malaysian CFS garden exhibit did not have any Malaysian plant species, because quarantine laws had to be respected.

In fact, the award-winning Malaysian garden contained plants which, although native to Malaysia, were sourced and cultivated in Holland. Another wayang!

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Ng Yen Yen–Ex Tourism

The behind-the-scenes exchanges, of many other eye-watering cases of abuse of the Malaysian taxpayers’ money are highlighted in ‘Curi-Curi Malaysia’, the book that has taken Nades on a personal quest, throughout Peninsular Malaysia, Australia, England and Europe.

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Former Minister of Tourism Azalina Othman Said before she became Macho Minister in Najib Razak’s Cabinet (pic below)

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These scandals include the Awana Chelsea restaurant, the Brickendonbury sports centre, jet-setting VIP wives, the Paya Indah Wetlands, the palatial mansion in Port Klang and ministers Ng Yen Yen and Azalina Othman Said (both were Tourism Ministers).

At his book launch, Nades reminded his audience to make others aware of the controversies, the corruption and the injustice. He told us to do the right thing in GE-14. So, grab a copy, before ‘Curi-Curi Malaysia’ is banned.