Monday, September 26, 2016

Economic Crisis: Ignoring Lessons of the Past

A Kadir Jasin

PARDON me for this lengthy article but I feel that it is necessary to refresh our memory of the two major recessions that we had gone through in 1986 and 1997-98 respectively. It may also be helpful to students of economic, finance and politics.

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Although these crises were caused by different factors, the swift and decisive handling by the government had limited their effects on the country and its people.

The 1986 crisis was caused by the collapsed of commodities prices all at the same time. This is the curse of dependency on commodities. Demand and hence prices could fall suddenly, resulting in crisis.

On the other hand the 1997/98 recession was financial in nature. It was triggered mainly by the private sector borrowing heavily in the US dollars. When speculators attacked Asian currencies, many private sector companies became insolvent.

Many such corporations in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea did not have enough money to pay their debts when the exchange rate of domestic currencies tumbled. When governments went into the market defend their currencies, they lost the money. In the case of Thailand, almost all its currency reserves were lost. Most of them ended up being rescued by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In the first major recession, the government was aware of the problems faced by the people due to the collapse of commodities and took care of rubber tappers, smallholders and those working in the palm oil plantations. It took care of petty traders too. But more importantly it showed that the government was serious about helping those facing problems.

The Cabinet took a pay cut. Ministers’ allowances were also reduced. It was to show to the rakyat that ministers too were willing to sacrifice at the time when the people were facing a difficult time. The rakyat appreciated the gesture and they felt that the government was serious in trying to overcome the crisis.

It was this trust that made it easier for the government to implement its recovery plan. The Prime Minister then was Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Finance Minister was Tun Daim Zainuddin.

The government reduced development expenditure to match revenue and made it clear that from that point onward we would live within our means. This was an opportunity for the government to restructure the economy.

The civil service was bloated and revenue was used mainly to pay civil servants. The government froze new recruitment and, in the future, new employees would not get pension directly from the treasury. Instead, a pension fund would be established.

To reduce the number of civil servants and save government spending privatization was sped up. Tens of thousands opted to become employees of the privatized companies, generally with better salaries. The government saved on salaries and was no longer responsible for their operating and capital expenditures (opex and capex).  This saved the government a lot of money.

The government decided that the country must not rely entirely on commodities and must shift to manufacturing and services. Laws were amended or relaxed to make it more attractive for foreign investors. The policy was so successful that it created jobs not only for Malaysians but also for foreigners.

The government then focused its attention to rebuilding and strengthening the financial sector. It cleaned up banks, insurance companies and deposit taking co-operatives. The number of financial institutions was reduced through mergers and acquisitions (M&A) to created larger companies that could better withstand future shocks.

The government’s clear direction and forceful implementation helped to restore the economy and boosted the confidence of the people. It was so successful that growth rate, measured by the Gross Domestic Product (DGP), was consistently above eight percent and this added to the income of the people.

In the case of the 1997/98 crises, the situation was different - there was no recession in the world economy and, as such, our exports continued to do well and brought in a lot of money for the country.

lt was the private sector that faced problems and our banks were badly affected  and had to be saved. The government formed Danamodal and Danaharta. The first was to save the banks and the second to buy up assets of troubled companies. The government also helped companies facing trouble.

To halt speculation against the ringgit, the government introduced what we called limited currency control, which was condemned by almost whole world. The exchanged rate of the ringgit was fixed at RM3.80 to a US dollar and the movement of capital in and out of the country was monitor. It created certainty for the business people.

The success in overcoming both crises was largely because people trusted the government. They were confident that the government knew what it took to save the country. They did not suffer too badly and only for a short time. The proof of their support was the Barisan Nasional won with two-third majority in both general elections held after the crises.

The Present Crisis

What immediately comes to mind is the question, what is government doing about it? Whatever the government is doing, the rakyat don’t feel that their hardship is being eased.

Instead, subsidies were reduced or abolished in order to make government finances look good. If that isn't bad enough for the people, rates and charges were raised and, to top it all, the goods and services tax (GST) was introduced.

Some ministers and deputy ministers thought that all the rakyat are uninformed and went on to make stupid statements that GST would reduce prices of goods and services.

This is the problem when the Prime Minister is also the Minister of Finance. Many in the Cabinet disagreed with the Finance Minister but had to agree and support the Prime Minister.

For sure the government is not honest with the people. Ministers, senior government civil servants and editors spin everything in the hope of fooling the people so much so that they sound like idiots.

Yes prices of commodities had fallen. But that had happened before, but the government was able to overcome the problem in a relatively short time. The people did not suffer a prolonged period of suffering.

To make it worse, there is the billion ringgit 1MDB scandal. Its debts as of the beginning of this year, according to PAC, had risen to RM50 billion. It has caused the government a huge trust deficit.

The government keeps saying that our growth is high and is better than most countries. No, it is not true. Our GDP growth is declining and is lower than most developing Asean countries. Even if there is growth, what good is it if the people do not feel its benefit?

The present government of (Datuk Seri I Mappadulung Daeng Mattimung Karaeng Sandrobone Sultan Abdul Jalil) Mohd Najib Abdul Razak and of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi before that are obsessed with growth.

To be truthful, the present day so-called economic architects are pale in comparison to the likes of the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and Tun Tan Siew Sin, Tun Dr Mahathir, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Daim.

As leaders, Mohd Najib and Abdullah are clueless about finance and economy. They relied on outsiders like (Tan Sri) Nor Mohamed Yackop, (Datuk Seri) Idris Jala and (Datuk Seri) Abdul Wahid Omar.

Not all of these people have good record of economic and business management yet were given so much power to manage and manipulate the economy. They were just too happy to deliver growth to their bosses without any consideration for cost and the long-term effects of their so-called consolidation and transformation.

They are best known for accumulating debt. Our external debt had increased to RM848.24 billion in the second quarter of 2016 from RM809.09 billion in the first quarter of 2016. This is mind boggling considering that external debt averaged only RM186.05 billion from 1990 to 2016, reaching an all time high of RM852.86 billion in the third quarter of 2015. External debt is reported by Bank Negara.

According to Bank Negara, as at the end on June 2016, total outstanding debt of the Federal Government amounted to RM655.7 billion or 53.4 per cent of the estimated 2016 GDP.

We can never be sure of the true situation. In recent months the government had resorted to juggling with the figures to show positive development. It recently moved about RM22 billion civil servants’ housing loans to a new statutory agency called the Public Sector Home Financing Board. The board immediately established an RM25-billion bond programme guaranteed by the Government. It’s the case of moving the debt from one pocket to another.

During 1986 recession, the government also froze civil servants’ increment. It made sure that everybody sacrificed. You can’t ask rakyat to sacrifice and yet civil servants are treated differently. The rakyat pay all kind of taxes to fund the government’s Opex. But under Mohd Najib, civil servants are given salary increases and special bonuses at the time when rest of the rakyat are suffering a high cost of living.

Civil service keeps bloating. In fact, under Abdullah and on the recommendation of Nor Mohamed, new agencies were created with overlapping functions outside the purview of the Public Services Department (PSD). Unknown to the public, Nor Mohamed was politically ambitious and had used these agencies to build his political base. He went on to contest the Tasek Gelugor parliamentary seat for the Barisan Nasional in the 2008 general election and won. But he was unpopular. He was rejected by his own division. He was involved in the failed Bank Negara forex operations in the 1980’s and is deeply involved in the management of 1MDB.

I have mentioned many a time of the fact that our household debt is among the highest in the world. With growth tapering and unemployment rising, household debt is becoming less manageable. Many young Malaysians are today officially bankrupt.

The rakyat are more concerned with the bread and butter issues than economic statistics. It’s a double whammy when they have to pay GST on goods and services that have gone up in prices due to the GST.

GDP growth alone is not the measure of the state of the economy and the welfare of the people. There are other factors like fair distribution of wealth and sustainability that have to be taken into consideration.

If people are suffering and not happy because they can’t afford to pay for their daily needs, what good is the government’s growth figure?

And what good is the so-called good news that we have escaped the middle-income trap, when income gap is widening and the number of poor and indebted households is rising?

The Khazanah Poser

And would the authority be able to deny (or clarify) that some senior managers at government-owned companies (GLCs) like Khazanah are rumoured to be earning as much as RM250,000 a month and many are earning RM100,000. Even a retired university professor is rumoured to earn RM70,000 a month?
And what about children of a wealthy former minister, a private sector company chairman and even an expatriate being given or offered scholarships on the pretext of meritocracy?

No wonder children of the ordinary rakyat who excelled in International Baccalaureate studies at the Malay College Kuala kangsar and other institutions are unable to get funding despite being offered places by the best universities in the UK.

And no wonder too the people are angry.

Mohd Najib had gone to town asking for suggestions for his 2017 Budget. Normally budget dialogues are held in June or July in order to give sufficient time for officials to act on the feedback. But now he is asking for feedback in September and budget is in October. He can’t be serious. The most logical proposal is perhaps to ask him to step down as Finance Minister.

And what madness it is to ask Khazanah to spend RM650 million on a recreational park in Kuala Lumpur?

All these goes to show just how insensitive and wasteful the government is and how indifferent it is to the suffering of the rakyat.

The government does not have to force Khazanah to be a park developer and possibly wasting another RM650 million of taxpayers’ money. If it wants a park for the people, all that it has to do is to gazette Bukit Kiara as the Cabinet had agreed a long time ago.

Is this the government that listens to people and fulfills its promises as enshrines in its “Janji Ditepati” election?


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Cacian Kukuhkan Azam dan Iltizam Dr Mahathir

A Kadir Jasin

SAYA tidak pasti sama ada Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz bersungguh-sungguh atau berjenaka apabila dia berkata, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad akan diberikan apa saja yang diperlukannya untuk menjatuhkan Perdana Menteri.

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Kalau sebaliknya Menteri Pelancongan dan Kebudayaan itu mempersendakan Dr Mahathir sebagai percubaan menyeronokkan bosnya, (Datuk Seri I Mappadulung Daeng Mattimung Karaeng Sandrobone Sultan Abdul Jalil) Mohd Najib Abdul Razak, saya rasa dia silap besar.

Dr Mahathir pastinya tidak berjenaka apabila beliau berkata beliau sedang berusaha menjatuhkan Barisan Nasional (BN) pada pilihan raya umum (PRU) akan datang.

Beliau terpaksa berusaha menjatuhkan BN kerana parti gabungan itu enggan menyingkirkan Mohd Najib. Pada asalnya beliau tidak berhasrat menumbangkan BN. Beliau hanya mahu Mohd Najib berundur. Tetapi apabila BN, khususnya Umno, terus taat kepada Mohd Najib sebagai ketua parti dan Perdana Menteri, beliau mengubah matlamat kepada mengalahkan BN pada PRU akan datang.

Bagi Mohamed Nazri, kecualilah dia bebal kelas dedak, dia tentu tahu Dr Mahathir jarang berjenaka dalam hal-hal yang serius seperti kesejahteraan negara.

Berkenaan menghiburkan Mohd Najib pula, saya rasa amat sukar menyeronokkan beliau sekarang. Bayangkan, macam mana nak gembira kalau hendak ke Perhimpunan Agung Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu (UNGA) pun tak selesa - takut ditanya bukan-bukan oleh kor media PBB atau kena ejek penunjuk perasaan di seberang jalan di hadapan bangunan PBB. Lagi menggerunkan adalah kemungkinan dikunjungi agensi penyiasatan jenayah Amerika yang ingin berbual-bual dengan “Malaysian Official 1”.

Tak cukup dengan itu, anugerah UNESCO kepada isterinya, (Datin Paduka Seri Puan Puti Reno I Minasa Daeng Sunggu Karaeng Bonto Matene) Rosmah Mansor, berkaitan projek Permata Negara biayaan kerajaan dibatalkan pula oleh penganjur bersamanya "kerana laporan Wall Street Journal (WSJ) dan New York Times (NYT)". Satu dunia sudah tahu pendedahan sensasi dua akhbar itu mengenai skandal berbilion ringgit membabitkan duit 1MDB.

Ramai orang tahu betapa besarnya pengorbanan Mohd Najib demi isterinya.
Kita pun tahu juga pasangan Mohd Najib-Rosmah amat menggemari pertemuan global berprofil tinggi serta peluang beristirahat serta membeli-belah di butik-butik berjenama tinggi.

Tapi tahun ini mereka sudah ketinggalan dua persidangan besar dalam diari antarabangsa, iaitu UNGA di New York dan Forum Ekonomi Dunia (WEF) di Davos, Switzerland Januari lalu.

Mohd Najib berucap di UNGA tahun lalu
Secara kebetulan kedua-dua buah negara yang menjadi tuan rumah persidangan yang disebutkan itu – Amerika Syarikat dan Swirzerland - adalah juga antara negara yang sedang menyiasat dan bertindak ke atas skandal 1MDB. Seperti diakui oleh Menteri di Jabatan Perdana Menteri merangkap Pengarah Komunikasi Strategik BN, (Datuk), Abdul Rahman Dahlan, Mohd Najib adalah “Malaysian Official 1” (MO1) 1MDB.

Dr Mahathir Tak Lawak

Berkenaan Dr Mahathir, saya berasa saya boleh bercakap mengenai betapa sayang dan komitednya beliau kepada Umno.

Saya sangat yakin beliau pasti tidak meninggalkan Umno apatah lagi menentangnya kalau Mohd Najib mengundurkan diri atau disingkir.

Malangnya, seperti kita semua lihat, setiap hari yang berlalu Mohd Najib menjadi lebih kuat kerana dia serta konco-konconya bersedia menggunakan apa saja instrumen dan institusi negara untuk bergayut kepada kuasa.

Harapan kita hanyalah PRU. Itu pun kalau tidak disabotaj, dikhianati dan diselewengkan oleh instrumen dan institusi negara, khususnya Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya (SPR) dan para penghasut pro-Umno/BN.

Sejak tahun 1946, ketika masih belasan tahun, Dr Mahathir komited dan sayangkan Umno. Tetapi hari ini komitmen beliau adalah mengalahkan Umno. Seperti sering beliau ungkapkan, latihan perubatan mengajar beliau tidak terlalu emosi dan lebih praktikal. Kalau beliau perlu memotong kaki pesakit demi menyelamatkan nyawanya, itulah yang akan beliau lakukan.

Jadi kalau orang seperti Mohamed Nazri berasa bahawa dengan mempersendakan Dr Mahathir, mereka boleh melemahkan semangat beliau, mereka silap besar.

Meminjam ungkapan yang dipakai oleh (Datuk Seri) Adnan Mansor baru-baru ini, saya yakin ramai orang, termasuk pemandu TEKSI, tahu punca dendam kesumat Mohamed Nazri terhadap Dr Mahathir dan mengapa dia teramat sayang kepada Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi dan Mohd Najib.

Mohd Nazri dan Mohd Najib sepatutnya sedar bahawa setiap cabaran dan sindiran yang mereka tujukan kepada Dr Mahathir mengukuhkan lagi iltizam beliau untuk berjuang. Perjuangan adalah sinonim dengan Dr Mahathir.

Mohamed Nazri (bersama Lim Guan Eng) patut kenal siapa Dr Mahathir
Macai, balaci dan kamjat mereka mungkin tidak tahu kerana usia mereka baru setahun jagung dan kail mereka panjang sejengkal.

Maaflah kalau saya kata, saya boleh bercakap sedikit sebanyak mengenai Dr Mahathir kerana saya mengenali beliau agak lama – 52 tahun.

Dalam tempoh itu, ada ketika kita bersetuju untuk tidak bersetuju. Kita berbeza pendapat dan, dari sudut pandangan sesetengah orang, kita bergaduh. Suatu ketika, (Tan Sri) Sanusi Junid waktu menjadi Menteri Besar Kedah, beranggapan Dr Mahathir dan saya “bergaduh besar” sehingga dia membawa Dr Mahathir ke rumah ayah saya di Pendang, Kedah dan memberikan seekor lembu untuk dikorbankan. Bersetuju atau tidak, kita tetap berkawan. Itulah ikrar saya kepada beliau apabila saya meletakkan jawatan Ketua Pengarang Kumpulan NSTP pada tahun 2000.

Kami berpisah jalan, tetapi kami tetap bersama dalam perjuangan.

Beberapa hari sebelum melancarkan kempen "Selamatkan Malaysia"/Deklarasi Rakyat” pada 4 Mac lalu, beliau memanggil saya ke rumahnya di Seri Kembangan bersama bekas Peguam Negara, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman, untuk berbincang mengenai “legality” perisytiharan  itu.

Selesai berbincang, Dr Mahathir membisikkan kepada saya bahawa beliau terpaksa meninggalkan Umno sebelum melancarkan deklarasi itu. Saya memberitahu beliau yang saya tidak terperanjat kerana saya sendiri telah meninggalkan Umno lebih setahun. Saya keluar Umno secara rasmi pada 29 Jun 2015.

Beliau nampak terkejut tetapi mungkin berasa lega kerana orang lain yang beliau kenal lama pun telah meninggalkan Umno secara rasmi.

Saya mengenali Dr Mahathir pada 1964 apabila beliau datang ke kampung saya untuk bertanding kali pertama mewakili Perikatan dalam pilihan raya umum tahun itu. Waktu itu saya berusia 16 tahun dan rumah saya adalah antara tempat persinggahan beliau kerana ayah saya cergas dalam Umno.

Bahaya Cabar Dr Mahathir

Kesilapan besar sesiapa pun yang berdepan dengan Dr Mahathir adalah mencabar kegigihan beliau dan mempersendakan rancangannya.

Buat masa ini, rancangan nombor satu beliau adalah menjatuhkan BN dalam PRU akan datang melalui kerjasama di kalangan parti-parti pembangkang.

Kalau beliau bukan seorang yang gigih, beliau sudah lama menyerah kalah, khususnya setelah bersara daripada jawatan Perdana Menteri pada 2003.

Pelbagai halangan, tembok dan ranjau didirikan untuk menghalang beliau daripada terus memainkan peranan sebagai mentor demi negara yang beliau cintai.

Ahad lalu beliau menceritakan bagaimana beliau terpaksa menyewa pesawat eksekutif untuk terbang ke Alor Setar bagi menghadap Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong kerana kesuntukan masa.

Beberapa jam sebelum menghadap Yang di-Pertuan Agong di Istana Anak Bukit, Kedah, beliau merasmikan mesyuarat agung Perkim di Kuala Lumpur.

Kata beliau, kawan-kawan yang ketika beliau menjadi Perdana Menteri dulu berlumba-lumba meminjamkan pesawat peribadi mereka, telah menghilangkan diri. Mereka takut dilihat bersama beliau.

Pada sebelah malamnya, Dr Mahathir bertolak ke London. Oleh kerana tidak ada pesawat peribadi untuk digunakan, beliau terbang dengan pesawat perdagangan.

Menurut kakitangan beliau, mereka mencadangkan beberapa syarikat penerbangan, tetapi Dr Mahathir bertegas mahu terbang dengan MAS.
Cintanya kepada negara mengatasi keselesaan diri. Bukanlah mudah bagi seorang yang berusia 92 tahun berkongsi pesawat raksasa (Airbus A380) dengan 500 penumpang lain untuk penerbangan 13 jam.
Perhubungan unik: Almarham Sultan Iskandar Johor bersama Dr Mahathir
Jadi kalau ada orang, tidak kira bangsa atau kedudukan – menteri, raja, temenggung, bendahara, syahbandar, blogger pelarian atau pemakan dedak - yang berasa mempersendakan beliau sebagai orang tua nyanyuk boleh mematahkan semangat beliau mereka silap besar.

Cacian dan jenaka murahan mereka mungkin membuatkan sesetengah orang ketawa berdekah-dekah, tetapi bagi Dr Mahathir ia umpama kuman yang menguatkan lagi daya tahan badannya. Azam dan iltizam beliau menjadi bertambah kukuh.

Itulah Dr Mahathir yang saya kenali dan dampingi sejak 52 tahun lalu. Beliau bukan insan yang gilakan sanjungan dan patah hati semata-mata kerana makian dan cacian. Hidup matinya berakar-umbikan perjuangan. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Economy: Enough of Selling Snake Oil

A Kadir Jasin

THERE is no need for me to mention any name, either to honour, dishonour or humour, the person involved in this particular issue. I am sure the person I have in mind is assisted by scores of officers to respond to people like me.

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Being alone, I cannot hope to win on word count. Also, unlike him I do not have big media to carry my message far and wide. But I shall persevere.

For the benefit of students of government, politics, economic and finance let me restate that it’s incorrect to compare our national debt with that of rich countries and say that ours is low.

This is a false comparison, unless of course the intention is to mislead the uninformed and feed more the dedak to the people.

Yes, Japanese government debt is very high – 229 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It’s the highest in the world. But Japan is a rich country and its economy is huge.

It is the third largest after the USA and China. Its nominal GDP is US$4.2 trillion. Ours is just over US$300 billion. The Japanese government debt amounts to US$10.6 trillion compared to ours at US$157.5 billion.

According to one pro-government blogger who uses a pseudonym, the govt debt was RM407.1 billion or 53.15% of the GDP in 2010. On March 17 last, in a parliamentary reply, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) disclosed that sovereign debt amounted to RM630.5 billion, which was at 54.5 per cent GDP. The government’s self-imposed limit is 55 per cent. Let’s remind ourselves that Mohd Najib is Finance Minister since 2008. (Watch here)

But Japan has more people to share the debt. It has nearly 200 million compered to 24 million that we have. Their GDP per capita, according to World Bank national data, was US$32,477 while ours is US$9,766 - three times more - in 2014.

And there isn’t an RM50-billion (US$12.5 billion) scandal in Japan. The worse scandal they ever had was the Lockheed Corporation kickback of US$1.8 million to Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka back in the 1970’s.

Even for that he was stripped of his post, arrested, tried and found guilty by two lower courts. He died of a heart attack before the trial could be finalised. Compared to the 1MDB scandal, the Tanaka-Lockheed scandal was chicken feed – dedak.

Other developed countries are also highly indebted partly because lenders are willing to lend them money to them at lower interest rates than when they lend to the developing countries. In the case of Japan, most of its borrowings were domestic.

We are Malaysians and we are talking about our country. For good or evil, this is where most of us are born, live and die. We have to desire to migrate to Japan, Greece, Indonesia, the Philippines or Vietnam.

What High Income?

During 1986 recession, the government cut ministers’ salaries and froze the salaries of civil servants. All were required to sacrifice. You can’t ask the ordinary rakyat to sacrifice when politicians and civil servants are treated favourably.

Under the rule of Prime Ministyer (Datuk Seri I Mappadulung Daeng Mattimung Karaeng Sandrobone Sultan Abdul Jalil) Mohd Najib Abdul Razak, civil servants are given salary increases and bonuses when rest of the rakyat suffer due to rising cost of living.

Not only that government debt is high – equivalent to almost 55 per cent of the GDP - the people too are badly indebted. Our household debt is among highest in the world.

According to the 2014 statistics of the Bank for International Settlements, at 68.9 per cent of the GDP, Malaysians were the 16th most indebted people in the world and the 2nd among developing countries. Thailand at 15th led the household indebtedness among developing countries. Japan at 66 per cent was immediately below us.

To show growth, the government kept borrowing and encouraged the people to do the same. Mohd Najib and his advisers believe that a high growth rate would help burnish his image.

In reality, most rakyat are not concerned with high GDP and good rating. They don’t understand and they don’t care. They are concerned about the bread and butter issues of daily existence – the rising cost living, unemployment, their children not getting Mara study loans and Khazanah scholarships being awarded to children of politicians and rich people.

They are angry that everything has gone up in prices and in the midst of all that Mohd Najib went ahead with the implementation of the good and services tax (GST). Now everybody has to pay tax and has less money to spend. And when they don’t spend, Mohd Najib has less GST to collect. It’s a vicious cycle.

The challenge is to break this cycle. Taking the money from everybody and redistributing it to some through 1Malaysia Peoples Assistance (BR1M) does not appear to improve the sustainability of the economy.

The better way is to let the hardworking people to keep their income and spend it the way the want. The government must go back to supervising and, where necessary, controlling the supply of goods and services and their prices. There appears to be no control whatsoever in the last few years apart from occasional “raids” on hawkers which are mostly photo opportunity for the media.

If growth were the measure of a country’s success, then Angola and Equatorial Guinea, where growth used to be 30 to 40 per cent, would be the most successful countries in the world. But their people are among the poorest.

Growth does not reflect the true state of a country’s economy these days. There are other factors that have to be taken into account. Distribution of wealth is more important. But our wealth distribution has been on the decline for the past decade and inequality is widening.

If people are suffering and are unhappy, their quality of life is falling and they can’t afford to pay for their daily needs, what good is the government’s growth statistics?

The government claims we have escaped the middle-income trap and on the way to becoming a high-income country by 2020.

What nonsense this is.

Would the people who are selling the high-income snake oil dare deny that our per capita GDP has in fact declined – from US$9,766 in 2014 to US$9,291 last year and US$8,821 so far this year?


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Kerajaan Ingkar Perintah Raja-raja

A Kadir Jasin

TUN Dr Mahathir Mohamad hari ini melaporkan kepada pelopor Deklarasi Rakyat di rumahnya di Seri Kembangan hasil menghadap Yang di-Pertuan Agong 15 September lepas.

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Dr Mahathir menghadap Seri Paduka Baginda di Istana Anak Bukit, Alor Setar, Kedah bagi menyerahkan petisyen Deklarasi Rakyat kepada Seri Paduka Baginda.

Hadir dalam mesyuarat hari ini adalah penandatangan dari parti-parti politik, badan bukan Kerajaan, bloggers dan penggiat media sosial.

Mesyuarat memperbaharui keputusan untuk menyembahkan petisyen yang sama kepada Majlis Raja-raja melalui Penyimpan Mohor Besar Raja-raja Melayu.

Selain itu, usaha juga akan dibuat untuk menghadap mana-mana Raja Melayu yang sanggup berjumpa dengan wakil Deklarasi Rakyat.

Mesyuarat diperingatkan semula mengenai titah Raja-Raja Melayu pada 6 Oktober tahun lalu yang mahukan kerajaan menyelesaikan siasatan berkaitan 1MDB secepat mungkin dan mengambil tindakan tegas yang bersesuaian ke atas semua yang didapati terlibat dan arahan Persidangan Raja-raja kepada Peguam Negara, (Tan Sri) Mohamed Apandi Ali, pada 17 Februari supaya membuat beberapa pindaan ke atas Akta Majlis Keselamatan Negara.

Sebaliknya, Apandi menutup siasatan ke atas 1MDB dan membebaskan Perdana Menteri (Datuk Seri I Mappadulung Daeng Mattimung Karaeng Sandrobone Sultan Abdul Jalil) Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak daripada segala tanggungjawab.

Akta Majlis Keselamatan Negara pula dikuatkuasakan menjadi undang-undang pada 4 Ogos tanpa mendapat persetujuan Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Dr Mahathir mengulangi hujah beliau bahawa Yang di-Pertuan Agong boleh merujuk kepada Mahkamah Persekutuan bagi mendapat perintah mengenai status undang-undang akta tersebut di bawah Perkara 130 Perlembagaan Persekutuan yang menyatakan Yang  di-Pertuan Agong boleh meminta mahkamah agung memberi pendapat mengenai kesan mana-mana peruntukan perlembagaan. (Baca lanjut di sini)

Mesyuarat berpendapat kerajaan telah mengingkari dan tidak mempedulikan titah Raja-raja mengenai 1MDB dan Akta MKN.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Dr Mahathir Serah Petisyen Rakyat Kepada Yang di-Pertuan Agong

A Kadir Jasin

MUTAKHIR, 19 September

إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ

Mursyidul Am PAS, Allahyarham Datuk Dr Haron Din meninggal dunia di Amerika Syarikat hari ini waktu Malaysia.

Allahyarham dilaporkan telah membuat amanat supaya dikebumikan di AS sekiranya dia ditakdirkan meninggal dunia di negara itu.

Amanat terakhir arwah itu disampaikan kepada ahli keluarga dan rakan seperjuangannya sebelum berlepas ke AS pada 10 September lalu.


DULI Yang Maha Mulia Sari Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong petang semalam menerima menghadap Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad di Istana Anak Bukit, Alor Star.

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Majlis itu diadakan bagi membolehkan Dr Mahathir mempersembahkan petisyen Deklarasi Rakyat kepada Ke Bawah Duli. Pertemuan itu berlangsung lebih sejam.

Deklarasi Rakyat yang dilancarkan 4 Mac lalu telah menerima lebih 1.4 juta tanda tangan.

Ia antara lain mendesak pengunduran Perdana Menteri (Datuk Seri I Mappadulung Daeng Mattimung Karaeng Sandrobone Sultan Abdul Jalil) Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak dan mereformasikan sistem politik serta institusi negara.

Gerakan Deklarasi Rakyat Selamatkan Malaysia juga sedang mencuba menghadapkan petisyen yang sama kepada semua Raja-Raja.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ousting the BN is the Only Option

A Kadir Jasin

THE SUNDAY Star front page headline today - “ Childcare: An uphill task” - is a graphic indication of how bad the economy has become and is made worse by the government’s inept policies.

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The reason? The rise in minimum wage and the inability of the low- and middle-income parents to pay higher fees consummating with the higher salaries the centres have to pay teachers and caregivers. (More here)

In his fixation with high income economy, Prime Minister-cum-Minister of Finance, (Datuk Seri Mappadulung Daeng Mattimung Karaeng Sanrobone) Mohd Najib Abdul Razak had enforced the minimum wage nationwide on July 1 this year despite objections by many parties.

The monthly minimum wage for the Peninsula is RM1,000 and RM920 for Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan.

This is despite knowing that many employers do not have financial capacity to pay the prescribed rates.

Sunday Star Front Page Today
For this reason alone, he is no longer fit to continue as the Prime Minister. Consider this my feedback to his request for public input for the 2017 budget. Let us have somebody else planning the budget.

His cockeyed high-income policy and pseudo transformation have caused so much damage to the economy and brought untold miseries to the people. Only the rating agencies seem to like his transformation mantra. The worse is yet to come.

As I had stated in my Sunday’s Sinar Harian column “Asam Pedas”, the government has technically ran out of money and could be fiddling with technicalities to hide the truth.

My assertion that government’s revenue might have fallen below its operating expenditure (Opex) has neither been challenged nor clarified. As we all know allocations for education and health have been reduced and development projects delayed. (More here)

In today’s article in the Sinar, I urged the new Second Finance Minister Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani to tell the truth.

Ousting the BN is the Answer

Looking at things from this angle, the success of the Deklarasi Rakyat’s twin-objective of removing Mohd Najib and reforming the institutions becomes even more vital.

Neither Mohd Najib’s removal nor the reformation of the institutions would be possible without the Barisan Nasional being removed from the a seat of power.

In the nutshell, the Opposition's objective in the coming general elections (GE) should be the defeat of the BN. Anything less is unacceptable and ineffective.

They should position themselves as the future government and behave likewise - enough of partisanship and jingoism. They have to band together to convince the people that they are better than the BN.

Opposition leaders can choose to call their alliance whatever name they like but their objective must be to end the BN hegemony and to carry out democratic and institutional reforms.

The concluding paragraph of the Deklarasi Rakyat states:

“We call upon all Malaysians, irrespective of race, religion, political affiliation, creed or parties, young and old to join us in saving Malaysia from the Government headed by Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak, to pave the way for much needed democratic and institutional reforms, and to restore the important principle of the separation of powers among the executive, legislature and judiciary which will ensure the independence, credibility, professionalism and integrity of our national institutions.”

Since the declaration was launched on March 4, it has garnered more than 1.4 million signatures but has been largely ignored by the government. Even attempts to present the petition of the King have not succeeded so far.

With so many key institutions, including the monarchy, being undermined by the BN-controlled executive and legislative branches, only its defeat at the polls would make it possible for the check and balance mechanism to be restored and enhanced.

The NGO leaders have repeatedly stated that they would support the opposition alliance only if there is genuine unity and the commitment to make reforms a key element in its manifesto.

In the meantime the 1MDB scandal continues to worsen, the economy is sputtering and the Prime Minister is becoming less able to rule.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has commenced civil proceedings against people accused of stealing and laundering the 1MDB money. The operating expenditure of the central government could have gone into the deficit. The corporate sector is reporting lower income and is closing down marginal businesses, retrenching staff and leaving the country .

The country’s biggest investment fund, the EPF a few days ago revealed that its second quarter 2016 investment income had declined by 26% to RM8.44 billion.

Forging a United Alliance

That new objective of defeating the BN had been made clear at the various plenary sessions of the Deklarasi Rakyat as well as the meetings of the newly registered Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

The party's Chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and President Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had openly declared their intention to forge a united opposition front to take on the BN one-to-one in the coming GE.

They both had held meetings with counterparts from the PKR, DAP, Amanah and even PAS. Independent observers are unanimous that the surprised court meeting between Dr Mahathir and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on Sept. 5 had boosted the opposition’s chances of trouncing the BN in the coming GE.

Dr Mahathir-Anwar meeting a boost to the opposition
In that “muhibbah” meeting, Dr Mahathir had agreed to support Anwar’s legal challenge against the enforcement of the National Security Council Act (NSCA). His lawyer, Haniff Khatri Abdulla, had confirmed that he had been instructed to speak to Anwar’s legal team.

Dr Mahathir said after the meeting that if he could work with Lim Kit Siang (the DAP’s strongman) there is no reason why he couldn’t work with Anwar. The latter, on his part, believes that Dr Mahathir has embraced the reform agenda.
Mahyuddin had also either met or spoken to leaders of the opposition parties, including those from PAS, to get the sense of the processes that they have to go through to come to the decision to take on the BN one-to-one in the coming generals polls.

Only a one-to-one contest could guarantee that the opposition candidates could match up to the BN’s logistical might and its “cash is king” strategy. The BN could already be engaging in fund-raising in anticipation of an earlier GE. Watch out for project launches, corporate deals and share transactions on Bursa Malaysia.

The opposition leaders should learn to speak and behave like leaders, cease partisan politics and put an end to petty squabbles or risk being condemned by the people for missing this golden opportunity.


About Me

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I was born in 1947 in Kedah. I came from a rice farming family. I have been a journalist since 1969. I am the Editor-in-Chief of magazine publishing company, Berita Publishing Sdn Bhd. I was Group Editor NST Sdn Bhd and Group Editor-in-Chief of NSTP Bhd between 1988 and 2000. I write fortnightly column “Other Thots” in the Malaysian Business magazine, Kunta Kinte Original in Berita Harian and A Kadir Jasin Bercerita in Dewan Masyarakat. Books: Biar Putih Tulang (1998), Other Thots – Opinions & Observations 1992-2001 (2001), The Wings of an Eagle (2003), Mencari Dugalia Huso (2006), Damned That Thots (2006), Blogger (2006), PRU 2008-Rakyat Sahut Cabaran (2008), Komedi & Tragedi-Latest in Contemporary Malaysian Politics (2009) and Membangun Bangsa dengan Pena (2009).