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As the stories go… Tabung Haji and 1MDB

It is simply outrageous for the Prime Minister to brush off all the despondent criticisms towards the Tabung Haji Properties – 1MDB transaction with “it was not a bailout”.

He said:

Perdana Menteri menjelaskan, ketika Tabung Haji (TH) membeli sekeping tanah milik 1MDB ia adalah pelaburan dan bukannya ‘bailout’ 1MDB kerana TH boleh memperoleh keuntungan sehingga lebih RM170 juta melalui pembelian itu namun disebabkan perkara itu dijadikan isu, beliau menasihatkan TH menjual tanah berkenaan.

Najib berkata, melalui penjualan semula aset berkenaan, TH boleh untung sehingga RM5 hingga RM6 juta namun pada masa sama merugikan pendeposit TH sendiri kerana jika aset itu tetap milik TH, pendeposit boleh untung sehingga RM170 juta.

Now, since the Prime Minister thinks that all the rakyat are idiots, then let us try explain to him and his advisers on how we perceive things..

Firstly, in the eyes of the public, IT IS A BAILOUT. Why? Because regardless how much Tabung Haji Properties got from the deal (some say up to a huge amount of RM5 million), 1MDB received a cool RM188.5 million out of it. And they got that much because the government sold that land to them dirt cheap while Tabung Haji Properties had to pay really high.

Now why did the government sold that land for around RM60 per square feet but allowed 1MDB to resell it at nearly RM2,900 per square feet? That was a bumi tract of land.

We are not talking about Tabung Haji here. Of course Tabung Haji wasn’t bailed out. The common people know this. Even a child can identify with this. But 1MDB got easy money and this made the rakyat uneasy.

And to make matters worse, what most people couldn’t stomach is the fact that the hard earned money of depositors, the money from rural folks were used to transact with a much maligned entity. An entity which is perceived to be the epitome of ‘pecah amanah’ on a grand scale. It doesn’t matter if Tabung Haji Properties and Tabung Haji are two different entities. The ordinary folks don’t even care. It’s from their halal money, subsidising a mismanaged company. It’s a matter of perception.

The trust is simply not there. Compounded by the fact that when the news broke out, its ignorant chairman quickly lied to the public saying that the story on the exposed documents, in his own words were “tak betul”Well it turned out Azeez Tak Betul is the one Yang Tak Betul when the land purchase turned out to be true after all. The trust deficit widens. The people can’t trust you anymore.

And what did Tabung Haji Properties was ordered to do after that? Sell the bumi land off to a third party. Now is there a replacement for the bumi tract of land that is lost to the private sector?

Otherwise, the bumis will be at the losing end. 1MDB gets the money to pay off its laughing creditors, Tabung Haji Properties received a little bit of money to appease the people but the rakyat at large got swindled and lost a prime tract of land.

Is this the definition of New Economic Model? What kind of model is this when the Prime Minister wears so many hats and decides on various financial decisions?

The Finance Minister orders the land to be sold very cheap to 1MDB. The real market value of the land inflated their balance sheet. But 1MDB incurred a lot of debt due to mismanagement and has to service their loan interests. Top boss of 1MDB gets a lifeline from Tabung Haji when it received money through land sale. Tabung Haji incurred a lot of wrath. The Prime Minister advised Tabung Haji to sell the land to third party after people raised the issue (if it wasn’t exposed, government will not deem it as sensitive).

Now, why should the top boss of 1MDB also be the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister as well? Where is the segregation of duties? Where is the accountability? Can the Finance Minister be sacked because he failed in corporate governance? Can the Prime Minister order, without fear and favour, a complete and thorough investigation on 1MDB when he himself is in 1MDB and MOF?

We have written about this situation in 2009:

We have always believed that the PM should never hold the post of Finance Minister. Having two Finance Ministers shows lack of trust and above all, exposing the Prime Minister unnecessarily to an artillery of criticisms. The post of Finance Minister is a delicate post. One smart move will ensure strong vote of confidence from the people. One ill advised move or a contentious project made under the watch of the Finance Minister will render him hapless in the face of public scrutiny. Datuk Najib do not need this kind of attention as the Prime Minister. Repeating the mistakes of Pak Lah will be the death of Umno under Najib.

We told you so. We are in dire straits. We have serious trust issues. The answers are not forthcoming.

Instead of getting answers for 1MDB, Jho Low etc, we got replies in the form of crooked bridge and Team A/Team B battle royale in 1987 Umno AGM. What kind of nonsense is this?

Politics 101. You must not open new battle grounds when you can’t even afford to defend the 1MDB battle. You will then face so many battles in many fronts.

It is hard for the common people to say things to correct the government. Voltaire once said:

“It is dangerous to be right in matters where men in the establishment are wrong.”

To be continued..

p.s.: JMD will blog once again after months dishing it out on twitter.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” by Dr. Awang Puteh

Just like the great masterpiece of Oscar Wilde, this article which was published in The New Straits Times today and written by one who calls himself Dr. Awang Bin Puteh revealed how comical double standards, ‘lupa daratan’, vanity, arrogance and hypocrisy thrive in the corporate world and among billionaires. And we thought these people living in the upper echelons of society could at least be humble, reciprocal and more reflective about their social standing and how they came to be.

A recommended read indeed.

The Importance of Being Earnest

CRONY CAPITALISM? It’s time for YTL boss to walk the talk and show ethical leadership by example

APPARENTLY, the negative trait of Melayu mudah lupa is not only confined to the Malays, but also to other ethnic groups in Malaysia. This is evident from the statement by YTL Corporation Bhd managing director Tan Sri Francis Yeoh when he commented  on crony capitalism a few days ago.

Yeoh’s claims that he is successful because he is not a crony and doesn’t depend on government contracts.

He also went further, which seems tantamount to fanning the flame of racial provocation, by stating that non-Bumiputera small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) “absolutely have no chance” to even fight “for the crumbs” as they are already at the low end of the food chain.

He delighted in lecturing us, delivered with a straight face and an affectation of pious conviction, that Malaysians are not taking advantage of our ethnic diversity, and we must introduce more open competition and encourage greater transparency in business.

Not unexpectedly, his statement evoked negative reaction from the public, and many reacted in disbelief to Yeoh’s hypocrisy given his companies’ close links with the government in the past as well as in the present.

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam summed it up aptly when he said that “people who live in glass houses, should not throw stones”. He further correctly stressed that Yeoh’s talking about getting rid of cronyism doesn’t sound right while his companies bagged lucrative government contracts through direct negotiations rather than open tender exercises.

Why the repetitive mantra by Yeoh despite YTL receiving all the government’s love and special attention all these times? We know that great wealth buys great political influence, but to insult the people’s intelligence with his sermon borders on brazen arrogance.

Maybe these kinds of people live in a bubble, and not surpassingly, those inside the bubble sometimes think that they can pull the wool over our eyes.

Nonetheless, let us address Yeoh’s arguments specifically.

Yeoh is adamant that YTL is successful because he is not a crony and doesn’t depend on government contracts. That is a bold statement.

Without government contracts, YTL would still be a small-time contractor. In fact, it is continuously the beneficiary of government assistance. For instance, in 1990, YTL was awarded an almost RM1 billion contract to build public hospitals.

Unless Yeoh suffers from amnesia, he could not possibly forget his big break in 1992 when the government awarded him the first licence to build, operate and manage power plants.

Without this lucrative concession, his company would probably be stuck as Syarikat Pembinaan YTL Sdn Bhd, a relatively small construction and property development company. This foray into the power sector vaulted YTL into the big league, where its pre-tax profit last year alone amounted to RM2.5 billion, versus RM30 million in 1991 before contributions from power operations began flowing in.

Importantly, most of the projects given to YTL were and still are heavily subsidised by the rakyat. His power agreement with Tenaga Nasional Bhd was so lopsided and utterly unjust that Tan Sri Ani Arope, the then TNB chief executive officer, submitted his resignation after refusing to accept YTL’s terms.

His “take or pay” agreement with TNB obligated it to take up YTL’s power output — priced much higher than what TNB could easily produce — whether the utility needed it or not, for 21 years.

Maybe that’s what Yeoh meant when he stated that YTL became successful via “innovation”, which ripped off billions in taxpayers’ money.

Has he also conveniently forgotten how he was recently awarded a RM10 billion contract by the Education Ministry to provide, among others, laptops to schools, despite YTL not being a computer maker, nor expert in education services? The contract irked member of parliament Zaril Khir Johari, who raised questions on this issue in Parliament. His 1BestariNet programme, which is to install 4G high-speed broadband to all schools, indirectly means that the rakyat are actually funding the commercial expansion of YTL’s YES 4G network. So much for innovation.

Yeoh was also borderline malicious when he said the non-Bumiputera SMEs had been discriminated by the government.

Well, I wonder where he got his statistics from. Analyses done by the Economic Planning Unit show that non-Bumiputera businesses, especially Chinese companies, took 80 sen for every RM1 in government contracts.

Even funding for SMEs benefited non-Bumiputeras the most, as data shows that Bumiputera companies accounted for about 30 per cent of the entire funding for SMEs last year.

To put things in perspective, the value of the contract YTL secured from the Education Ministry alone, for providing only laptops to students, exceeds the entire funding for all Bumiputera SMEs for the entire period of last year!

It is heart-warming to learn that YTL supports national unity. Let us, for a second meditate upon and closely scrutinise these nationalistic statements from Yeoh: “We should leverage on our different ethnic races in the nation and should start working together. We have been working for a long time like we’re in a tunnel. We have not learnt to work together. We have been separated and not looked at each other’s strengths. We do not celebrate our diversity.”

Such enlightened view should indeed be emulated by other companies! However, in the name of transparency, would YTL be willing to make public the ethnic diversity figures in YTL workforce, its board of directors, exco, senior management, mid-management and low-level positions?

YTL should also make public how much was sub-contracted to Bumiputera and Indian companies, compared to Chinese-owned companies.

Similarly, in the name of transparency, would YTL also make public its power agreements, which had enabled YTL to make astronomical returns at the expense of the people? Please allow public scrutiny of the agreements, as suggested by MP Tony Pua from DAP not too long ago.

Yeoh also argued that he is a true patriot, for he has “defended the present government’s concerted efforts to introduce more open competition and encourage greater transparency in business”.

This is commendable, but flies in the face of facts. How does YTL explain its willing participation in direct negotiations with the government on some of the most lucrative contracts? It was only last week that a YTL Corp wholly-owned subsidiary was awarded a power plant project by the Energy Commission via direct tender!

Maybe YTL can make a declaration to the public that it will no longer participate in direct-negotiations and cease altogether from seeking contracts from the government.

There is still time for redemption for a devout man like Yeoh to walk the talk. I am sure he would like to show ethical leadership by example.

Moving forward, we have to help Yeoh from backsliding from his recent epiphany, and to become the born-again corporate leader that he aspires to be.

I would urge the government to be kind to him by avoiding any dealings with YTL group, either in providing contracts, or using its products and services. The government should also exclude YTL from participating in any way whatsoever in the KL-Singapore High Speed Rail project, if the project is yet to be awarded to him. He sorely needs help from the government to wean him away from his old habits.

As for me, I will also do my little part. I will stop patronising YTL hotels, shopping malls and Internet service provider, among others. I am boycotting YTL and I suggest the rest of Malaysia follow suit.

After all, Yeoh proudly claimed that his company gets 85 per cent of revenue from overseas operations.

Oh, by the way, the deafening silence from some of the most vocal critics of crony capitalism in Malaysia is really puzzling.

Imagine if the same statement was made by a Malay tycoon, I am sure the deafening silence will become a raging tropical thunderstorm.

Maybe when a Bumiputera businessman gets a contract, it’s cronyism and unfair privileges. But when people like Yeoh gets it, it is innovation, market forces and meritocracy.


Impact of Pakatan Rakyat’s mindset onto the people’s intelligence

On Labour Day last Thursday, a demonstration organised by Pakatan Rakyat to protest the implementation of GST (Goods and Services Tax) were held in Dataran Merdeka.

And as we all know, most people who take part in demonstrations do not actually know what they are protesting. Some even got their information backwards while others don’t even know why they are there in the first place.

Kudos to Pakatan Rakyat leaders who had successfully stupefied some of the rakyat.

As per the video below, we can now see the extend of stupidity Pakatan Rakyat leaders like Rafizi Ramli, Ong Kian Ming, Nizar Jamaluddin etc had done onto the average people on the street.


The snapshot on global economy and the local economy

If anyone of the readers here haven’t read the Confessions of an Economic Hitman book, here is a Youtube video where the author summarily describes the content of the book in about 11 minutes.

Locally, our own economy is floundering.

None of the great economic consultants employed by the Prime Minister are able to find the right formula to revitalise the local economy yet. Today, the blogger Darah Tuah wrote a snapshot on the economic position of this country right now particularly the economic relationship between the bumiputera and the non-bumiputera. The blogger gave recommendations as well.

Maybe PEMANDU and other advisers can learn a little bit of something about it too.

Please have a read HERE.

Thank you.

Stiglitz : The US is committed to a lack of transparency

Just read what the Nobel laureate, Professor Joseph Stiglitz has to say about the TPPA:

Though nothing has come of the World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Round of global trade negotiations since they were launched almost a dozen years ago, another round of talks is in the works. But this time the negotiations will not be held on a global, multilateral basis; rather, two huge regional agreements – one transpacific, and the other transatlantic – are to be negotiated. Are the coming talks likely to be more successful?

The Doha Round was torpedoed by the United States’ refusal to eliminate agricultural subsidies – a sine qua non for any true development round, given that 70% of those in the developing world depend on agriculture directly or indirectly. The US position was truly breathtaking, given that the WTO had already judged that America’s cotton subsidies – paid to fewer than 25,000 rich farmers – were illegal. America’s response was to bribe Brazil, which had brought the complaint, not to pursue the matter further, leaving in the lurch millions of poor cotton farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and India, who suffer from depressed prices because of America’s largesse to its wealthy farmers.

Given this recent history, it now seems clear that the negotiations to create a free-trade area between the US and Europe, and another between the US and much of the Pacific (except for China), are not about establishing a true free-trade system. Instead, the goal is a managed trade regime – managed, that is, to serve the special interests that have long dominated trade policy in the West.

There are a few basic principles that those entering the discussions will, one hopes, take to heart. First, any trade agreement has to be symmetrical. If, as part of the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” (TPP), the US demands that Japan eliminate its rice subsidies, the US should, in turn, offer to eliminate its production (and water) subsidies, not just on rice (which is relatively unimportant in the US) but on other agricultural commodities as well.

Second, no trade agreement should put commercial interests ahead of broader national interests, especially when non-trade-related issues like financial regulation and intellectual property are at stake. America’s trade agreement with Chile, for example, impedes Chile’s use of capital controls – even though the International Monetary Fund now recognizes that capital controls can be an important instrument of macro-prudential policy.

Other trade agreements have insisted on financial liberalization and deregulation as well, even though the 2008 crisis should have taught us that the absence of good regulation can jeopardize economic prosperity. America’s pharmaceutical industry, which wields considerable clout with the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), has succeeded in foisting on other countries an unbalanced intellectual-property regime, which, designed to fight generic drugs, puts profit ahead of saving lives. Even the US Supreme Court has now said that the US Patent Office went too far in granting patents on genes.

Finally, there must be a commitment to transparency. But those engaging in these trade negotiations should be forewarned: the US is committed to a lack of transparency. The USTR’s office has been reluctant to reveal its negotiating position even to members of the US Congress; on the basis of what has been leaked, one can understand why. The USTR’s office is backtracking on principles – for example, access to generic medicines – that Congress had inserted into earlier trade agreements, like that with Peru.

In the case of the TPP, there is a further concern. Asia has developed an efficient supply chain, with goods flowing easily from one country to another in the process of producing finished goods. But the TPP could interfere with that if China remains outside of it.

With formal tariffs already so low, negotiators will focus largely on non-tariff barriers – such as regulatory barriers. But the USTR’s office, representing corporate interests, will almost surely push for the lowest common standard, leveling downward rather than upward. For example, many countries have tax and regulatory provisions that discourage large automobiles – not because they are trying to discriminate against US goods, but because they worry about pollution and energy efficiency.

The more general point, alluded to earlier, is that trade agreements typically put commercial interests ahead of other values – the right to a healthy life and protection of the environment, to name just two. France, for example, wants a “cultural exception” in trade agreements that would allow it to continue to support its films – from which the whole world benefits. This and other broader values should be non-negotiable.

Indeed, the irony is that the social benefits of such subsidies are enormous, while the costs are negligible. Does anyone really believe that a French art film represents a serious threat to a Hollywood summer blockbuster? Yet Hollywood’s greed knows no limit, and America’s trade negotiators take no prisoners. And that’s precisely why such items should be taken off the table before negotiations begin. Otherwise, arms will be twisted, and there is a real risk that an agreement will sacrifice basic values to commercial interests.

If negotiators created a genuine free-trade regime that put the public interest first, with the views of ordinary citizens given at least as much weight as those of corporate lobbyists, I might be optimistic that what would emerge would strengthen the economy and improve social well-being. The reality, however, is that we have a managed trade regime that puts corporate interests first, and a process of negotiations that is undemocratic and non-transparent.

The likelihood that what emerges from the coming talks will serve ordinary Americans’ interests is low; the outlook for ordinary citizens in other countries is even bleaker.

Assessment by Financial Times

From the Financial Times today:

Malaysian PM faces big test as tight poll looms

By Jeremy Grant in Putrajaya

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak looks out through the window in his spacious office in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, and points to the foreign ministry on a nearby hill.

“They cheated the prime minister and occupied the highest spot,” he jokes, in a reference to the 1990s when Malaysia moved its government from Kuala Lumpur.

Now, as election fever rises, in the multi-ethnic southeast Asian country of 28m, Mr Najib and his long-dominant United Malays National Organisation (Umno) could be upstaged by a far bigger force: the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition, which hopes to seize power in the most contested poll in the nation’s history.

Since the era of Mahathir Mohamad, who led the country as prime minister from 1981 to 2003, Malaysia has been governed by Umno. The party and its coalition partners have enjoyed thumping parliamentary majorities that have ensured a firm grip on power since independence from Britain in 1957.

Mr Najib is expected to call an election within days after keeping the country guessing about timing. Meanwhile, the opposition, led by Mr Mahathir’s former deputy Anwar Ibrahim, believes it has its best ever chance of victory.

At the last election in 2008, Pakatan Rakyat robbed Umno and its partners in the governing Barisan Nasional coalition of a two-thirds majority in parliament.

The shock result prompted Umno to replace the incumbent prime minister with Mr Najib, a 59-year-old economist and son of a former Malaysian premier.

Such is the uncertainty over the outcome of this election, that even the prospect of a slim win by the ruling Barisan Nasional is unnerving investors. Malaysia’s stock market has been one of the worst performers in Asia this year. [not true, there is a steady increase in the KLSE for the past 3 months (8.88%) as compared to other volatile markets]

At stake is the future of a moderate Muslim country and US ally, which has been a linchpin of political unity in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as China’s regional clout has grown.

Most political analysts agree that Barisan Nasional stands little chance of regaining its two-thirds majority in parliament, but Mr Najib dismisses that in an interview, delayed by a few minutes as he completes afternoon prayers.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll have a good victory. Two thirds is achievable, but I also realise that in an election anything can happen so that’s why I say I am cautiously optimistic,” he says. “Investors are looking for a strong mandate for the current government. If we should, or rather when we get a good result, you will see an unprecedented boom in the stock market. I’m quite confident of that.”

Judging by the economic numbers, Mr Najib – a former finance minister [not true, he is still the finance minister] and avuncular technocrat – has the advantage of incumbency. He has presided over an economic performance last year that the International Monetary Fund said “surpassed expectations”. The economy grew by 5.6 per cent, driven by domestic demand and buoyant exports of commodities such as gas and palm oil.

The country has also been aided by an economic programme that the government launched in 2010 to double per capita income to $15,000 by 2020. That has seen billions of dollars pumped into projects in oil and gas and infrastructure, including in Iskandar, a vast industrial zone the size of Luxembourg across the strait from Singapore.

External confidence in Mr Najib’s reforms has seen foreign holdings of Malaysian government bonds jump by 550 per cent to M$215bn (US$69bn) since 2009, according to HSBC.

Mr Najib is also likely to get a small bounce from nationalist-minded voters after a military campaign to root out Filipino insurgents who recently invaded Sabah, on the Malaysian portion of the island of Borneo.

Yet there are concerns over the pace of reform, should Barisan Nasional lose, or scrape a win as most analysts see as more likely. Malaysia has a debt to GDP ratio of 51 per cent – one of the highest in Asia – and government revenues are weak. [not true, Singapore and Japan are considerably higher, twice and four times higher respectively, and many other countries have higher ratio]

Economists have urged the introduction of a general sales tax. Asked if he would do so, Mr Najib says: “I will look at the tax structure, definitely, because we need to enhance the revenue base . . . The government revenue base has to be predicated on a much stronger footing.”

The prime minister takes issue with the Pakatan Rakyat coalition’s economic proposals, which include raising the minimum wage, abolishing monopolies in telecommunications and rice, and removing excise duty on vehicles.

“I think it is too risky to put faith in a coalition that does not have a clear sense of direction that they want to take the country in. They have also presented a manifesto that is not credible,” he says.

Mr Najib argues that the opposition’s manifesto would send Malaysia’s current account into deficit within a year.

Yet Umno is vulnerable on corruption – a key weapon in the opposition’s campaign. Allegations of bribes to secure government contracts are rife, while Transparency International’s country rankings for last year revealed no significant fall in corruption levels for Malaysia. The non-governmental organisation ranked Malaysia 54th out of 176 countries in its 2012 corruption perceptions index.

The issue was thrown into sharp relief this month after allegations by Global Witness, a campaign group, of kickbacks in land deals in the state of Sarawak, involving the chief minister, who has dismissed the allegations.

Mr Najib declines to address the case, pointing out that the corruption commission is investigating. He insists the government is “equally concerned about corruption” as its critics.

“Prostitution and corruption are two things that mankind has had to live with for so long. But we are determined to tackle it. It is a scourge. But it is something that will not go away overnight,” he says.

Should the coalition eke out only a narrow win, Mr Najib – who routinely polls more favourably than Barisan – could be vulnerable to a leadership challenge. That could see him replaced by his deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin, a conservative Malay whose reformist credentials are untested. Mr Najib took a calculated risk last year by extending his reformist zeal to his own party, changing Umno’s constitution to make it easier to challenge the leadership.

“I’ve made Umno more democratic, more inclusive. Of course by doing that I’m putting myself at risk. But I believe that what were doing is good for the country and good for the party.”

Summarily, the article is quite fair. Although it is unfortunate that all the negative slant is based on something which is not true (as in the parentheses above). There is a strong message in the last paragraph above. Which clearly shows that apart from the economical reforms, there are reforms made from within the party; as opposed to the very autocratic and non transparent parties of DAP and PKR in recent years.

Improving Malaysian taxi service

Yesterday’s news in Cars, Bikes, Trucks gave some hope in one of the most problematic public transportation here in Malaysia, specifically in our capital city, Kuala Lumpur. I even wrote about it a couple of years ago where a few bad apples in the taxi service industry have tarnished the image of this country.

Thus it is encouraging to read the news:

SPAD Plans to Merge Taxi Companies

The merger of taxi companies in Malaysia is on the cards.

According to the chairman of Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, the proposed move to merge the cab companies would only increase the competitiveness of the public transport industry.

“If you remember the financial crisis in the late 90’s when the country was hit by economic downturn, several banks were merged to strengthen the financial institutions. This is the same formula for the taxi industry,” he said at a press conference after hosting meet-the-taxi-driver luncheon session for 500 cabbies at SPAD headquarters in KL Sentral today.

He also added that SPAD would standardize allocation and distribution of individual taxi permits as well as leasing as part of an effort to restructure the industry in the upcoming National Land Public Transport Masterplan.

“There are 45 per cent individual taxi permits out of the 37,000 taxi permits at present in Klang Valley. SPAD is scrutinising the whole range of individual taxi permits to ensure that the standard of service of the taxi drivers will continue to improve,” said Syed Hamid.

Cars, Bikes & Trucks learned that more details of the merger and restructuring of the taxi services would emerge when the government will host another round of meet-the-cabbies session soon.

Syed Hamid also added that since 2011, no new taxi permit was issued by the commission in view of the high number of taxi drivers in the country.

The taxi-to-passenger ratio for Klang Valley cabs is considered as among the highest in the world with 4.8 taxis against 1,000 populations.

This is in contrast New York City’s 13,237 yellow cabs in 2011, a ratio of 1.6 against 1,000 people followed by Hanoi at 2.2 per 1,000 persons, Jakarta at 2.65 per 1,000 populations and London at 2.8 per 1,000 people.

“The commission discovers that sizeable numbers of taxi permits are inactive or dormant. Most of these cases involve individuals, associations and organizations that received the Special Approval Letter (STK) in the past but failed to operate over a period of time,” he said.

In addition, he said, SPAD is currently negotiating with cab operators to standardize the existing hire purchase practice because “there’s a wide range of rental rate, between RM45 to RM15 per day.

Syed Hamid also said the commission won’t seize the taxi permit without a valid reason and “will only retrieve the dormant permit.”

“If the permit holders do not have the financial capability to purchase a new taxi including insurance, maintenance and so forth, SPAD will try to assist them to obtain loans from financial institutions,” said the commission supremo.

I won’t delve further on to something which is not yet certain but merging taxi companies will surely be a good thing. Actually the best case scenario is to follow the history of RapidKL buses.

Back in the day before RapidKL buses existed, even before the now defunct bus operators of Intrakota and Cityliner plough the routes, there were many bus operators in the Klang Valley. We had Len Seng buses, Len buses, the Selangor Omnibus, Sri Jaya buses etc. We also had the highly dangerous speed demons called Bas Mini Wilayah.

This scenario is very much akin to the current taxi industry where there are too many players and laden with poor service.

What happened to the bus service industry was, Prasarana bought over Intrakota and Cityliner in 2003 (while retaining those two as operators) and they began operating as RapidKL  in 2006.

As the result, there are synergy in the efficiency of resources where profitability of the routes increased, better service all around, timeliness has improved and a more manageable supply and demand.

Compare our current bus service to the one we had in the 90s and we can see huge improvement.

Therefore the merger of taxi operators should be something to look forward to. Just from the news report above we can see red flags all over the place. Too many dormant permits, too many taxis (disrupting the supply and demand), problematic hire purchase practice, and 45% of 37,000 permits are individual permit holders. That means, there are possibly 16,650 taxi drivers trying to survive on daily basis with meagre income.

Apart from bad service by some taxi drivers, the industry itself is rife with other problems such as political interference and alleged corruption in giving out taxi permits.

All these have to stop now.

Since the advent of ETP where the government is cultivating greater cooperation and initiative from the private sector, it would be good if there are highly experienced and financially capable companies to back this plan. If there is one flagship (let’s skip the Intrakota and Cityliner busines model) much like RapidKL to operate the whole taxi industry in the city centre, then there will be synergy which will benefit the end users.

Imagine if for example, RapidKL takes over all taxi operating companies and all willing taxi drivers are employed as full time staff. The management can then plan the routes and areas with greater efficiency. There won’t be any overlapping of supply, connectivity of residents in Klang Valley will be maximise. From residential areas where there are no RapidKL buses, there will be taxis to pick up passengers to LRT Stations. Or taxis will only travel the routes where there they will not overlap the LRT or monorail routes. Taxi drivers are paid salary instead of relying on meter fares. Thus decreasing the risk of taxi drivers cheating customers. Disciplinary action can be taken to errand taxi drivers and dealt with more effectively since they are full time staff. Above all, there is no more need to issue taxi permits.

Well this is just a suggestion; from an outsiders’ point of view.

Better connectivity is what is missing in our public transportation industry.

But if RapidKL has too much on its plate then there are other private conglomerates in the automotive industry that can surely operate this kind of business. What is important is the need to standardise and improve the service immediately. Otherwise the whole industry will jeopardise our reputation as one of tourists’ favourite destination.

Conclusion text of the 2013 budget


161. The new budget that I have tabled for 2013 is the last budget before the 13th General Election. This is among the series of budgets that will propel this beloved nation towards achieving the national vision.

162. With the permission of the Almighty, and the support of the rakyat, god willing we will witness six more budgets to be tabled by the Barisan Nasional Government before transforming Malaysia from middle to a high income and developed country.

163. As a party with the mandate, we urge the rakyat to evaluate critically and rationally each and every successful record of the Barisan Nasional. Over the last 55 years, the Barisan Nasional Government and the earlier Perikatan Government have created a better quality of life for the rakyat.

164. We are aware that there are parties requesting to be given a chance to form the next Government. In a democratic country, we understand that they too have their rights. It is the rakyat who ultimately decides who will be given the mandate through the ballot box.

165. The time has arrived when every rakyat will soon make a choice in determining their future as well as that of their children. An important question to ask in making that decision is whether life today is better than yesterday, and whether tomorrow gives hope that is full of possibilities and potential. If the answer is yes, please give the mandate to the present Government to further improve what we have today, without any hesitation.

166. We recognise that the Barisan Nasional Government is not without fault, but what differentiates us from others is that they do not have the courage to accept mistakes. On the other hand, they make excuses and to find fault in others.

167. Ultimately, parties that offer an alternative must also be evaluated on their merit. The rakyat knows them well. Among them, there are those who were trusted as leaders to manage the nation’s wealth. Furthermore in many states they are heading the Government.

168. If today they make promises, the rakyat must ask why is this leadership, while in power, did not take any action. When they had the opportunity; and did not implement what they promised, what guarantee is there that they will fulfil promises when they are in power?

169. Wasn’t it during the Asian financial crisis that the country was almost destroyed? And today, in the states that are administered by them, their manifestos contain only promises. Can they be trusted when in power?

170. This is contrary to the conduct of Barisan Nasional Government, when we make promises, we fulfil them. As a matter of fact, even before making promises, we are responsible in ensuring that we are capable of fulfilling them. In trying to win, they are willing to do anything but when they win all their promises will be forgotten.

171. According to Plato, ‘The measure of a man is what he does with power’. There are parties who are willing to sacrifice everything simply for the sake of power. The Barisan Nasional Government is guided by “fastabiqul khairat” as written in Al-Quran that I had recited earlier, which is to do good. The parties on the other side are guided by the “fastabiqul fasad” that is they will not hesitate to do bad.

172. The Barisan Nasional Government fosters racial unity which is the basis for national stability. But other parties, however others who want to be in power are sowing seeds of conflict and hate. This Government has been accused of several wrongdoings according to their own whims and fancy.

173. Thus, I urge Malaysians to judge the Barisan Nasional Government on its merits. Please join my colleagues and I to fulfil our potential towards developing a country that we can be truly proud of. A country where the weak are protected, those in need get help, the strong protect, the young loved, the elderly are valued, those in need assisted, and those with potentials given opportunities.

174. Truly, we want Malaysia to be well known internationally, prosperous and peaceful. With His Blessings, and the support of the rakyat we will make it a reality. To You, Allah we submit.

Nazir Razak bastardising the New Economic Model

“I have strong opinions about how the NEP has been bastardised over the years”.

That was what NAZIR RAZAK said in August 2010 about the National Economic Policy.

Kenyang perut, suka hati..

He further said “it has come a long way from the social engineering experiment originally aimed at eradicating poverty, Nazir (left) said that the NEP has appeared to enrich small pockets of people.”

But here are just some of the list of projects that have been bastardised by Nazir Razak and his partners in crime in Khazanah Nasional and Air Asia:

1) The MAS – Air Asia share swap in August 2011 where CIMB was the adviser of the deal. Allegedly, millions of tax payers’ money were used when the deal was brokered by him but subsequently the share swap was terminated after barely 8 months after the deal was struck. Clearly, the whole collaboration was poorly advised by CIMB and yet they got to pocket and keep the ‘brokerage fee’  even after the said deal was proven to be one of the biggest blunder by him and Khazanah Nasional.

In order to save his reputation as a leading broker of deals in this hemisphere, he made a meek riposte on how the deal was not in vain after all. But the truth is, small pockets of people got to have a really fat pocket over a dodgy affair without any comprehensive thought process being deliberated. The aftermath of the share swap is for all to read. Of course, the continuing saga of MAS and Air Asia will beset interested Malaysians for a bit longer than anticipated. With the continued collaboration between Air Asia and MAS sans the share swap is still ongoing, one couldn’t help to wonder if we won’t see the last of Nazir Razak’s greedy palms in this joint venture.

2) The IPO listing of Integrated Healthcare Holding (IHH) of which CIMB is also the adviser for the deal. In this instances, Nazir Razak via CIMB advised Khazanah Nasional that any individual bumiputra who wants to take up the shares must have a net asset of RM3 million and cash of RM250,000. For a bumiputra company to take up the shares, it must have RM10 million worth of net assets.

What irked the blogosphere was the fact that such ridiculous conditions will only make the rich bumiputra richer while the less rich but enough cash to buy some shares will not be given that opportunity. Hence, small pockets of people will going to have a really fat pocket.

Syed Akbar Ali made a good point when he wrote :

The purpose of having a special bumiputra share allocation is to make sure bumiputeras (individuals as well as companies) who are on the lower rungs of the economic ladder will also have a chance to parrtake of the nations wealth.  Isn’t it a tad too ridiculous when  you set conditions like these (RM250,000 cash or RM3.0 million assets for bumi individuals, RM10.0 million assets for bumi companies)?  

Even Chinese and Indians may not be able to meet these types of money requirements. If bumis can meet these tough requirements, why have the ‘special bumiputera allocation’ at all?

In the mean time, due to his ‘brilliant’ business advice and manoeuvres in the past, he will still be paid by Khazanah (read: our money) for this 2nd rate advice.

3) Sime Darby – E&O deal in 2011 was also brokered by Nazir Razak and CIMB. The deal which was executed in the most highly inappropriate manner with irregular increase of share prices and conflicts of interests abound. The fiasco was investigated by Securities Commission but no concrete results and action were made and taken respectively. Needless to say, the broker will always get away with the least amount of risk but with the maximum returns he could garnered.

Basically it is better for Nazir Razak to look into the mirror and revisit the statement he made back in 2010 before lambasting a policy which benefitted mostly him.

To us, Nazir Razak is the leading L’enfant terrible in bastardising the NEP. With the advent of New Economic Model (NEM), he is surely positioning himself as the Father of Bastardising the NEM too.

Here is a parody of MAS – Air Asia deal which Nazir Razak took part in.

Anwar Ibrahim vs ETP

Pemandu had issued an article to debunk the arguments or myths made by Anwar Ibrahim pertaining the ETP. I took the liberty to find what exactly Anwar had said and juxtapose it with what Pemandu had responded accordingly.

Note that in his usual attacks towards the government, Anwar did not provide any solutions beyond the general statements – better education system, prudent financial spending etc. If he had done so, he could have been a good leader. But when the parties within Pakatan Rakyat are unable to work together to form any comprehensive policies, it must have been safer for him to make such broad and general statements.

Nevertheless, the hypocrisy in him wouldn’t escape us unnoticed when he would nonchalantly criticise policies which he was clearly a part of, benefitted from it and definitely was instrumental in formulating them in the first place when he was in the government years ago.

Both articles by Pemandu and Anwar Ibrahim can be found here and here respectively.

Anwar Ibrahim: Poorer Malaysians in 2020 due to ETP 

His argument: The economic reality that awaits Malaysians in 2020 is harsh, if drastic reforms are not carried out immediately.

If we were to extrapolate ETP’s model using a range of inflation figures, the picture is not one of a prosperous Malaysia for all. It is a bleak Malaysia with more and more Malaysians falling below the poverty line. Malaysians in general will be poorer in 2020, going by ETP’s own projection.

At 4% inflation rate, even if real wages were to grow at the unrealistic 3.6% rate annually for the next 10 years, there will be an additional 1 million Malaysians earning below the equivalent of today’s RM1,500 per month in 2020.

At 6% inflation rate (lower than the average inflation of 6.6% in between 2005 and 2009), there will be an additional 1.7 million Malaysians earning below the threshold income of RM1,500 per month.

The implication of this on our society cannot be taken lightly and outlines the challenges we face and the urgency to address these challenges effectively.

Two-thirds of our population reside in urban areas in 2009. This will grow annually that by 2020, the national poverty line shall reflect closely the cost of living in urban areas. Certainly, the current RM700 national poverty line is obsolete. In many households in urban areas, families struggle to make ends meet with an income of RM1,500 per month.

Thus, the additional 1.7 million Malaysians earning the equivalent of RM1,500 per month in 2020 means that the plight and hardships of the urban poor will be a major economic challenge in 2020.

The additional 1.7 million urban poor will complete the bleak picture that ETP tries hard to gloss – that is by 2020, there will be between 7 million to 8.3 million urban poor with monthly earnings of RM1,500 and below; according to ETP’s own projections.

This means a significantly higher proportion of our workforce and population will fall deeper into poverty in 2020; based on ETP’s economic modelling.

The ramifications of this on the economy are numerous. It will certainly stretch the national resources to the maximum as the government’s obligation to provide direct assistance to the portion of our workforce and population in poverty will be ever increasing.

ETP’s claim that it will send Malaysians on a journey towards prosperity and high income will remain a claim in 2020. The journey will end in nightmare, if Malaysians do not change course immediately.

ETP on that False Statement 1: The ETP will send additional 1.7 million Malaysians into poverty in 2020. By 2020, there will be 7 million to 8 million urban poor with monthly earnings of RM1, 500. This means higher proportion of our workforce and population will fall deeper into poverty in 2020, based on ETP’s planning.

Response: It is not only misleading, but irresponsible to focus on the two lowest income brackets without considering the increases across the board, including the higher income bracket. There also seems to be inconsistencies between the number of urban poor stated vis-à-vis wage bracket projections.

The ETP is anchored on facilitating consistent movement from low to higher income brackets across the board. It anticipates for 600,000 people to be removed from the lowest income bracket of less than RM1,000 per month, one million to move into the RM1,000-RM2,000 bracket, 1.3 million into the RM2,000-RM4,000 bracket, 1.5 million into the RM4,000-RM7,000 bracket, 900,000 into the RM7,000-RM10,000 bracket and 400,000 into the more than RM10,000 bracket.

Under the Government Transformation Programme (GTP), the Government will continue to assist lower income families. Specifically, the Raising Living Standards of Low-Income Households (LIH) National Key Result Area (NKRA) is aimed to empower low income households to improve their social standing and create more income opportunities.  Some of the significant efforts undertaken under this NKRA include the 1AZAM programme, aimed at lifting low-income households out of poverty through means of employment, entrepreneurship, economic activities and services.

The ETP, supported by the GTP, aims to share the wealth of the country with all segments of the population, be it urban or rural, regardless of gender, and in all regions.

Anwar Ibrahim: Incorrect assumptions – The devil is in the details

His argument: Another fundamental flaw in the assumption used for ETP is the 2.8% average inflation for the period up to 2020. The inflation assumption is crucial to arrive at the magical target of RM48,000 gross national income (GNI) per capita by 2020 that has become the pillar of ETP. If inflation grows higher than 2.8% in the next few years, real wages will be lower and the GNI per capita target of RM48,000 is nothing more than a number on a fancy ETP brochure.

Much as we like to be optimistic that the nation can rein in inflation in an environment of high commodity and energy prices, we too have to be realistic if we are honest about the future.

The average inflation between 2001 and 2005 is 4.8%, reflecting the first energy price shock of 2003 that saw average crude oil prices moving beyond the psychological US$30 per barrel mark. The average inflation between 2005 and 2009 is even higher at 6.6% as a result of the 2008 crude oil price rally that saw the energy prices sky-rocketing throughout the world.

The environment of high energy and high commodity prices is here to stay. Realistically speaking, the days when the price of a barrel of crude oil is only US$20 is long gone and experts concur that it will settle at an average of US$80 per barrel for the foreseeable future, barring any future geopolitical shocks that may send the price sky-rocketing again.

Thus, we have to question the wisdom of adopting an over optimistic inflation projection of 2.8% over the next 10 years, when no economic, social and political indicators around us point to that direction. I dare say that while it may make ETP looks enticing to the public, it also makes a mockery of our intelligence.

The consequence that these flawed economic assumptions has on ETP is great. The premise that ETP can guarantee higher wages and deliver Malaysia to the path of high income nation status collapses instantly if we were to use more realistic assumptions detached from political spins and propaganda.

ETP on that False Statement 2: The assumption of 2.8% inflation for the period up to 2020 doesn’t reflect the current economic environment.

Response: The 6% average annual growth projected by the ETP required for Malaysia to achieve high income nation is real growth, and excludes the inflation factor.  This means that we are able to adapt to the inflation rate, whatever it may be at.

In 2009, the World Bank defined high income as USD$12,196. In 2010, it was USD$12,276. Based on the World Bank’s projected growth rates, by 2020 we will need to hit USD$15,000 per capita gross national income. This target was set independent of the ETP. Our efforts are aimed at achieving the standards set by the World Bank.

Between 2005 and 2010, Malaysia’s inflation rate averaged 2.77 per cent; this includes an all-time high of 8.5 per cent in August 2008 due to high oil prices. As at October 2011, inflation is up 3.4 per cent year-on-year while for the period of January to October 2011, it is up 3.2 per cent year-on-year.

Based on historical and current data, an assumption of 2.8 per cent inflation over 10 years from 2011 to 2020 is reasonable. ETP targets are definitely still relevant.

More response to false statements can be read here.

Idris Jala’s rectification

Exactly a week ago, Dato Seri Idris Jala was ‘quoted’ by The Malaysian Insider as saying “Malaysia could still become bankrupt within a decade if it spends borrowed money on operational expenditure such as subsidies instead of investing the cash.”

The opposition portal also alluded that this statement triggers alarm bells with forecast of bankruptcy.

As the result, blogger SatD made a scathing attack on Idris Jala in his blog and this writer further enquired through twitter on his statement particularly the part where the government could have breached some fiscal rules and guidelines (please refer here).

Below is the twitter conversation this writer had with him concerning the issue:

Is @IdrisJala_ implying e Finance Minister @NajibRazak didn’t follow fiscal rules n had mixed up e revenue/subsidies & borrowings/devlpmnt?

2 Nov via UberSocial for BlackBerry 


PM @NajibRazak n Husni Hanadzlah must answer what @IdrisJala_ had said; that Finance Ministry had broken e fiscal guidelines. 
Pls watch my speech on video, I spoke positively abt our economy! I spent 1 hour explaining what the Govt is doing@JebatMustDie @NajibRazak
2 Nov via Twitter for BlackBerry®
@JebatMustDie. I was responding to a question using scenarios (IF assumption). Under ETP, Msia shd be high income economy (not bankrupt) 

2 Nov via Twitter for BlackBerry®

TQ for d reply TS @IdrisJala_ but it didn’t answer e Q. Is govt breaking e fiscal rules by using borrowings to finance subsidies? TQ 

2 Nov via UberSocial for BlackBerry

@JebatMustDie. The govt is NOT breaking any fiscal rules! I hope you listen to my video (presn and QA). Nothing wrong with what I said. 

2 Nov via Twitter for iPad

M’sian Insider wrote differently from what u said @IdrisJala_ @etp_roadmap –bit.ly/tUUHKp (cont)

2 Nov via UberSocial for BlackBerry

Now you know! What people say can easily be reported differently.@JebatMustDie @etp_roadmap

2 Nov via Twitter for BlackBerry®

Sloppy reporting from TMI. Has PEMANDU rectified e article? :) RT@IdrisJala_: Now u know! What ppl say can easily be reported differently.

2 Nov via UberSocial for BlackBerry

As the result of intentional spin by The Malaysian Insider, The Mole contacted Idris Jala directly over this miscommunication and published an article to straighten the whole issue:

Idris Jala: ‘IF” is the word

By Azreen HaniThursday, November 3, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala has called on his critics and those bent on running down the government’s Economic Transformation Plan to listen carefully to his statements.

Stressing that the government did not break any fiscal rules, as implied by a newsportal, Idris who is also the Performance Management & Delivery Unit (Pemandu) chief said his statement about the country going bankrupt had once again been reported in bad light.

Idris was responding to a question posed on to him by blogger Jebat Must Die via micro blogging site Twitter.

Screen capture of the tweets

 Jebat Must Die had questioned Idris if it was true that the government breached fiscal rules by using borrowings to finance government subsidies.

In his reply Idris he tweeted: “The govt is NOT breaking any fiscal rules! I hope you listen to my video (presn and QA). Nothing wrong with what I said.” (The government is not breaking any fiscal rules! I hope you listen to my video (presentation and QA). Nothing wrong with what I said.)

The question was raised by the blogger based on a report by The Malaysian Insider which stated that Malaysia could become bankrupt if it spends borrowed money on operational expenditures such as subsidies instead of investing the cash.

Jebat Must Die in his latest blog posting asked whether Idris was implying that there is dereliction of duty by the Minister of Finance pertaining the government’s its fiscal responsibilities.

“Is he (Idris) saying that Malaysia will go bust if Government continues to finance subsidies through borrowings? Since we know that it is against the law to do that, we are now stuck in a quandary.” Jebat Must Die queried.

The fiscal rules and guidelines stated that operating expenditure is financed through revenues while borrowings are only used for development expenditure.

Idris pointed that his statement was reported differently.

Another blogger, SatD, the first to raised the issue following the newsportal report also pointed that Idris must be able to differentiate between development expenditure and operating expenditure of the government.

“What you are saying is misleading and reckless for someone of your position…..you give the impression that our Government does not have any financial discipline and does not adhere to the Law as provided for by the Constitution and its guidelines,” he wrote, criticising Idris for his statement (as reported by the news portal).

An officer from ETP’s corporate communications unit told The Mole the news portal did not report Idris’s comments in its actual context.

Idris, during the Q and A session inconjunction with ETP’s first year anniversary on Tuesday, gave a briefing on programme’s progress and answered a host of queries from the public.

Responding to a question on the rationalisation of subsidies and his past statement that the country could face a possibility of going bankrupt, Idris re-iterated that his statement on the country being bankrupt was based on a presumption that ‘IF nothing was done” to improve the economy.

“If our economy grows for the next ten year with less than 4 per cent, if we grow with only 3 per cent and we do not curb our operational expenditures which includes subsidies, and we need to borrow at 12.5 per cent, if our annual debt rises at 12.5 per cent per annum as we did in the last 10 years, and if our revenue does not grow, then we’ve had it. The presumption of we’ve had it means we would have reached our debt position of 100 per cent of GDP by 2019.”

Idris pointed that the introduction of ETP showed the government’s seriousness developing the economy in a very focused manner while ensuring Malaysia and her people achieved greater prosperity.

On suggestions that the government should not borrow money as it would increase national debt, Idris said it was not wrong to borrow.

“We should borrow the money provided that it is spent as an investment, (like) development expenditure (rather) than operating expenditure.”

“That is why when you run an economy of the country; we need to make sure our borrowing is proportionately focused on the investment,” he explained.

Pemandu has also released the full context of Idris’ comments on the need for Malaysia to keep GDP (gross domestic product) growing, as well as clarifications on the “bankruptcy” issue.

Time and time again, The Malaysian Insider was caught spinning what would be considered as a deliberate attempt to mislead their readers. This practice must stop. The country’s economic prospect looks fine. I believe the opposition has no more issue to criticise the Government in order to rile the public to vote against It.

The latest attempt by Anwar Ibrahim is one of them.

What Idris Jala should have said and promote to public is this: With ETP, Malaysia will not face bankruptcy. Full stop.

Thank you.

Superfluous remark by ‘non politician’ Minister? Again?

This article is in response to blogger SatD’s recent article last night.

The Economic Transformation Program (ETP) celebrated its one year anniversary yesterday with a dire scenario stated by Tan Sri Idris Jala, the man behind PEMANDU.

But before we go on, we must understand the fiscal rules and guidelines set by the Constitution of Malaysia and few other administrative laws that would show how the Government should exercise its fiscal responsibility. Particularly this part below:

Basically the document sets out the guidelines on how the Government should manage its debt and borrowings. We must thank SatD for graciously providing us the link.

It is clear above that the government must use the money to finance it’s operating expenditure (subsidies included) through government revenue while development expenditure must only use borrowings.

This is a good rule.

Money from borrowings is channelled for development expenditure as investment in development will create more money to finance the debt while expenditure such as subsidies and emoluments is financed by revenues since these kind of expenditure normally do not create more income.

This is a simple principle similar to what is contained in Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad book.

Fungibility aside, essentially, you must never ever use money from borrowings to finance operating expenditure. It would be irresponsible for the Government to do so.

But Tan Sri Idris Jala in his presentation yesterday said that there is a risk this country going to bankruptcy “if it spends borrowed money on operational expenditure such as subsidies instead of investing the cash.”

He said:

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 1 — Datuk Seri Idris Jala said today that Malaysia could still become bankrupt within a decade if it spends borrowed money on operational expenditure such as subsidies instead of investing the cash.

“If our economy grows less than four per cent… and we don’t cut our operating expenditure, if we borrow at 12.5 per cent, if our annual debt rises to 12.5 per cent and our revenue does not grow, then it will happen,” Idris said today after announcing the latest investment updates for the government’s economic transformation programme (ETP).

The performance management minister triggered alarm bells with his controversial bankruptcy forecast last year.

Malaysia’s national debt rose by 12.3 per cent to over RM407 billion last year, according to the Auditor-General’s latest report released last week.

Although the economy grew by 7.2 per cent in 2010, last year’s fiscal deficit maintained public debt at over 50 per cent of GDP for the second year running.

The Auditor-General said in the report that the government owed 53.1 per cent of GDP, slightly down from 53.7 per cent last year.

Economists have also said the country’s economic growth could slow to just 3.6 per cent next year from a projected 4.3 per cent this year due to the increasing risk of a double dip global recession.

Idris said today that Malaysia will not go through a recession but will suffer an economic slowdown as a result of the ongoing financial crisis in Europe spreading.

“It’s not as rosy as we would like,” the Sarawakian minister admitted during a public question-and-answer session.

He noted that the GDP this year was only at 4.4 per cent.

But he assured Malaysians “our government will not allow that to happen”.

He also said his forecast did not mean Putrajaya should stop borrowing.

“We should borrow money provided the money is spent as investment rather than as operating expenditure,” he said.

“We must make sure our borrowing is in proportion to investment,” he added.

Subsidies are among the government’s biggest operating expenses.

The CEO of the government’s Peformance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) said bankruptcy could be avoided even if the GDP falls below the targeted six per cent a year as long as it can increase its revenue collection.

Idris said that the country’s population has grown to 28 million but highlighted that only one per cent was currently paying income tax.

He said one of the ways to raise revenue was to implement the goods and services tax (GST).

He added that the GST would also help make the country globally competitive, noting that 140 other nations have already done so.

“If we do that, it propels competition. Sooner or later, we’ve got to implement GST,” he said.

He said the government has proposed the consumption tax but was unable to carry it out due to objections from the opposition Pakatan Rakyat pact.

What does that mean?

Is he implying that there is a dereliction of duties by the Minister of Finance over its fiscal responsibilities?

Is he saying that Malaysia will go bust if Government continues to finance subsidies through borrowings?

Since we know that it is against the law to do that, we are now stuck in a quandary.

Idris Jala is harping on this ‘Malaysia will go bankrupt if it borrows money to pay for subsidies’, therefore alarm bells should be triggered because rules and guidelines have been breached.

We have two Finance Ministers and yet this simple rule cannot be adhered too?

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Husni Hanadzlah have a serious issue at hand here. They have a senator in charge of the economic transformation of this country accusing the finance ministry of being irresponsible.

I am sure Idris Jala is not that reckless and misleading as what SatD implied at the end of his article posted last night.

But if there is a small chance that what Idris Jala was wrong, and that he was just listening to the many con-job con-sultans encircling PEMANDU, then he must do what is honourable; which is to retract his statement.

Because like what SatD had said:

…you (Idris) give the impression that our Government does not have any Financial Discipline and does not adhere to the Law as provided for by the Constitution and its guidelines.

True enough, looking at the many comments in the Malaysian Insider article, he had created a widespread negative perception towards Barisan Nasional. Worse, it could possibly based on a superfluous assumptions.

We all know his pride in telling the world that he is a non politician minister. The amount of backpedalling he had to do last year over his ‘Malaysia will go bankrupt’ remark caused PEMANDU some serious public relations nightmare.

Yes the powers that be within PEMANDU are all exponents of eliminating subsidies in order to proper Malaysia to a high income economy. Move away from this supposedly ‘middle income trap’, although real economist is sceptical whether Malaysia currently is suffering from middle income trap as suggested by the economic gurus in PEMANDU.

By the way, this is the summary outlook on Malaysia’s debts all through these years:

Evidence suggests our current debt ratio to GDP is manageable

It seems these days everyone can become an economist; more so when the person entrusted to manage the New Economic Model seems to be shooting in the dark when it comes to giving economic diagnosis.

When tweeted about this issue, Idris Jala response was:

Pls watch my speech on video, I spoke positively abt our economy! I spent 1 hour explaining what the Govt is doing

Which prompted me to respond with:

TQ for d reply TS @IdrisJala_ but it didn’t answer e Q. Is govt breaking e fiscal rules by using borrowings to finance subsidies? TQ

I end this article with a word of thanks to SatD. I hope The Mole will look into this issue by interviewing Husni Hanadzlah over the matter.

Malaysian Budget 2012

At 4.05pm Dato Sri Najib Tun Razak took the microphone and spoke about the Budget for Malaysia in 2012.

He started with the historical background of development in Malaysia since independence.

It is not a government that over promises but a government “yang saban hari memikir, merancang dan melaksanakan..” the country’s development.

After 53 budgets, and several national policies since independence, Najib today continues with the policies that had been successful and will propel Malaysia to be more progressive with a functioning democracy.

Key points:

– FDI increased to RM21.2 billion in the first 6 months of 2011.

– International reserves is at RM414 billion on 15th September 2011 and can finance up to 9.5 months of import

–  Out of the whole budget, 78% (RM181.6 billion) for administration, 22% (RM51 billion) for development. Total RM232.6 billion.

– Private Financing Initiative (PFI) will be initiated to built infrastructures (schools, hospital, low cost housing etc) totalling RM6 billion.

– The theme is “Belanjawan Membela Rakyat, Mensejahterakan Negara”

– 17 more service sub-sectors will be liberalised – dentistry, architect, accounting, etc whereby foreign equity up to 100% will be introduced.

– From the years 2011 to 2020, the policy “Dasar Transformasi Nasional” is introduced and will be used.

– Few highways, and projects will be developed in all 5 economic corridors introduced in the previous administration.

– Sukuk; Malaysia introduced world first Sukuk Wakala at USD2 billion and was over subscribed 4 times in 2011 with tax exemptions for any issuance in 2012.

– Felda Global Ventures will be listed. A co-operative where all Felda settlers will get dividends which will be announced soon.

– Sincere and hardworking entrepreneurs will be given 2nd chance if their businesses fail. RM100 million will be provided under Entreprenuer Revitalisation Fund operated by SME Bank.

– Franchising by local companies can improve the economy. Tax cuts will be given to these local franchisees.

– Exemptions from import duties and excise duty for hybrid cars importers till 31 December 2013.

– 70% tax cuts to all hotel operators for the next 5 years.

– Human capital development: Innovation will be the main impetus where R&D must be transformed into viable projects in private and public sector. 2012 is declared as Innovation Year with awards and other initiatives.

– Commercial Innovation Fund of RM500 million will fund companies with innovative products to help them market and produce. The Fund is syariah compliant.

– Knowledge is key in any civilisation or any developed nation. Education sector will be provided RM50.2 billion with extra RM1 billion to repair, build all schools.

– All fees for exams, co-curriculum, insurance for schools will be abolished in 2012 onwards. This means, education is now free for primary and secondary schools.

– Rural Transformation Program is set up to fund water electricity and roads

– Salary and pension revision upwards for civil servants and retirees.

– Civil servants are offered masters degrees and PHDs opportunities to further their studies on part time basis. RM80 million is allocated for this to improve their careers.

– Government will give a one off RM3,000 per person to all 4,300 contract workers

– Government will give a one off RM3,000 to ex-members of special and auxiliary police, including widows and widowers, covering 62,000 people to remember their contribution to the country.

– RM500 million of Army Care Fund to improve army camps etc.

– RM40 million allocated to increase Kedai 1Malaysia to all states.

– Ceiling price for affordable houses (First Home Scheme) will be set from RM220K to RM400K and will be developed by PR1MA (a government agency) in government lands. Husband and wife can apply in a joint loan scheme starting January 2012.

– To protect housebuyers, government will initiate a build and sell scheme for all houses priced at RM600K and below so that risks of stalled housing projects will not fall unto the buyers. Bank Islam will partner government for this scheme.

– Syarikat Perumahan Negara (SPNB) will build 10,000 housing units priced at RM45,000 in 2012.

– Expatriates in Malaysia increased to 41,000 in 2011. They can now start withdrawing money from EPF to buy houses.

– RM300 million will be allocated to build houses for fishermen.

– Puduraya has been upgraded at a cost of RM40 million. Kuala Lumpur General Hospital which is 141 years old will be upgraded at a cost RM300 million with a new wing for outpatients.

– Good news for doctors on call. RM600 per month for working beyond normal hours.

– Private budget taxi operators will get 100% exemption on duty excise on buying new taxi cars. No road tax for all budget taxi operators.

– Suspects with no money to pay defence lawyers will be provided with free defence lawyers.

– Government will provide training to women with potential to push them as company directors. RM10 million will be allocated.

– RM300 for small business as micro loans for women entrepreneurs.

– Discount for senior citizens to travel in LRT and monorail and no outpatient registration fee for them in hospitals.

– RM500 one off payment to household income Rm3000 and below to subsidise children school expenses.

– RM100 for all school children in primary and secondary through Bank Simpanan Nasional involving RM530 million.

– RM200 book voucher to all university students involving 260 million.

– Retiring age for civil servants to be increased from 58 to 60 years old

– Another half month bonus to all civil servants with RM500 for all pensioners. The previous half month bonus was paid last August.

“Perjuangan ini bukan perjuangan sehari, seminggu, sebulan mahupun setahun. Ia adalah perjuangan berdekad lamanya. Inilah sebuah bajet di bawah Dasar Transormasi Nasional diilhamkan demi rakyat. Kepada Allah jua kita berserah.”

Ends at 6.05pm.

So how does this budget compares to Pakatan Rakyat’s budget? I tweeted earlier that:

Be prepared to be nauseated by Pakatan tweets where they will gloat all the good things in today’s budget are copied from #BajetPR :p

And right on cue Anwar Ibrahim began lambasting the budget as a copycat of Pakatan’s budget. Story here.

But Eric Choo had put it succinctly in his tweet just now:

choows Eric Choo:

On 1 hand, they say it’s a copycat budget. On the other, they condemn it like it’s the worst sin committed. Are they slapping themselves?


There you go. Pakatan chasing its own tail trying to justify their relevance and existence vis-a-viz this Budget.

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