by: Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, PAS Central Working Committee Member.
It wasn’t always as bad. But of late, it has turned a lot worse.Judging by the spate of confusion and distress the nation is undergoing, Prime Minister Najib has to urgently invoke Divine Intervention to save his Administration from a tailspin – a choice which is as hard to him as to overturn the gambling license he recently awarded to the Ascot-Berjaya Group, in anticipation of a windfall from ‘sinful’ revenues.
Never mind the Limbang and Blok L-M fiasco. Never mind the Tanjong Pagar land swop which may turn out to be positive for us after all. Never mind the many exposé of the RM billion losses and colossal projects cost over-runs of stressed GLCs. The citizenry is perhaps numbed by the endemic and unbridled corruption. Never mind even the Sodomy 2.0 now showing.
Much worse is the latest Najib’s alarmist tactic and shock therapy which may prove to be ‘the medicine that will kill the patient’. Claims of the nation going bankrupt by 2019 may prove deadly. But to whom, you may really want to ask? The patient or the doctor?
Worst of it all is Najib’s newly-found-elegant-and-dignified escapism ie his latest ploy of leveraging credits for himself while swiftly and flagrantly passing the blame on others (read think-tanks) when challenged. This is despicable much as it’s very irresponsible for a Prime Minister.
As if admitting that the New Economic Model (NEM) was not a document of his government but merely a suggestion from Tan Sri Amirsham’s NEAC (National Economic Advisory Council) wasn’t dreadful enough, Najib’s earlier qualified support and now seen (after Perkasa) distancing himself from DS Idris Jala’s Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) subsidy rationalization programme, came down almost as the last straw that broke the nation’s back.
The nation is rudely reminded of the fate of Dr Lim Teck Ghee, the Asian Strategy Leadership Institute (ASLI) for challenging the alleged underachievement of 30% bumiputera corporate equity of the NEP. The power-that-be came down hard on him and he finally bowed out graciously. Will Idris Jala suffer the same fate?
Najib’s commitment is wavering while his direction is anything but clear. He truly displays his intrinsic character of indecision and fear, both traits miserably disqualifying him as a true statesman and a premier.
The nation now stood astounded, extremely distressed and enraged. How are they going to take all these and make sense of its disparate revelations?
This writer has penned numerous pieces on Najib’s penchant for flip-flopping and an open letter, imploring for his leadership to get us out of this unending quandary. A relentless optimist as he always claimed to be, this writer will not despair and will continue his advocacy. This piece is yet another.
Sooner rather than later, the better it is for Najib to take cognizant that the buck stops at him. He needs no reminder that as the Prime Minister he could only delegate tasks and assignments. But he still is responsible and accountable for it. Much as he wanted to, he couldn’t delegate responsibility. There’s no two ways about it. Najib must now take the bull by the horn and bite the bullet to the end. Otherwise it is best that he bows out graciously as did his Japanese counterpart a few days ago.
NEAC and Pemandu are his think-tankers. He could have more if he so wishes, each addressing specific predicament of this nation. Indeed he has a few more at his disposal. His think-thankers are about the best professional brains and talents of the nation, much superior to him at times, in their own respective expertise. But they are not there to be blamed for the various failures and shortcomings of Najib’s government.
Lest Najib thinks that this writer is yearning to see the eventual failure of the various blueprints of the government’s think-tanks, let it be known to him that he has to change his mind-set and negative perception. That’s of the obsolete paradigm of the Old Politics of the Umno/BN. That’s the destructive zero-sum game of the old political order. That needs debunking by all leaders of both political divides.
This writer, hopefully like all other opposition MPs and leaders would like to see and in fact would ensure and vouch that not only are the policies and blueprints of the BN’s government sound and viable, but they must also be judiciously and effectively implemented. Period.
To reiterate, Najib should know that from our perspective, the NEM as presented to date has finally addressed many pressing economic problems, both fundamentally and structurally. That is the good news ie that we generally are aware of our problems. We no longer could sweet talk and hoodwink the rakyat by our usual phrases of sound economic fundamentals, hefty foreign reserves and the healthy current account surplus.
Najib is eventually admitting that the economy has suffered a decade of stagnation as a result of being stifled by a middle-income trap, low value-added activities and low productivity. Over-reliance of unskilled foreign labour force and lagging in local human development to support a liberalized and high-valued-added economy were essentially the causal factors.
Similarly, there has been an over dependence on petro-dollars as revenue and a widening of a public-private investment gap. Confidence is at its lowest ebb, both foreign and local.
A mismatch of a high national saving with a low private investment rate is equally reflective of some structural problem of accessing credit and funds. The opposition and enlightened non-partisan bodies and academics had also been drumming that on to the deaf ears of the BN’s leaders for ages.
Of course it is important to get to the correct diagnosis as to ensure we have the right prescription to our problems. The NEM now sets as its target the achievement of a high income economy which is both inclusive and sustainable. That’s both encouraging and consoling to many.
Inclusivity provides for an equitable development for all regardless of race, religious and cultural divides. Sustainability consideration ensures that the future generations are not short-changed by reckless use of current resources by self-serving greedy leaders.
Unfortunately, the bad news is the fact that all these problems were known all along but there was hardly any serious effort to mitigate and resolve them.
What was missing then? A sheer political will to dismantle rent-seeking activities, debunk crony and corrupt practices which had endlessly subverted the otherwise good policies.
Quoting Najib verbatim, he admitted shamelessly, that out of RM54 billion of equity allocated to Bumiputra, only RM2 billion remains due to immediate and large sell down of Bumiputra shares in the capital market.
Embarrassingly, he went on to admit that “those who received bumiputra shares were not ordinary folk but mainly influential people ‘who sat in the front rows at functions such as Tan Sris and Datuk Sris”.
Has anything changed? Does Najib provide a leadership bent on reform and change?
What of Idris Jala’s subsidy cut and rationalization are new?
Yes, it has been presented in the most alarmist way as it could be. Yes he was apparently articulate. However, it is the conviction of this writer that the biggest loser and the most alarmed is not the rakyat, but none other than Najib himself and his Umno/BN political elites.
Idris Jala has certainly served his boss very well indeed. If anything he has overdone it.
His invoking bankruptcy has in fact finally let the cat out of the bag. Had it been said by any opposition leader, it will definitely be scorned at with such disdain and fury. Now it shall remain a political meal for their political nemesis.
It took a minister and ironically from the Prime Minister’s department to pronounce the Doomsday for Corporate Malaysia. With a prediction of an annual 12% increase of the federal government debt it would surely be RM1.03 trillion by year 2019. It’s well beyond Greece.
Admittedly, this writer has also been an ardent advocate of the need to have a blueprint or a national policy on subsidy in the parliament. It is in fact long outstanding. Both subsidy and taxation are two faces of the same coin for the stabilizing measures for a fiscal policy of any nation. It has a role and a place in the entire economy.
Premised on that, Jala’s rationale for a dire need for a subsidy cut is overly incomplete. His exposition is at best only half-truth and at worst misleading the nation. He couldn’t even convince himself that putting the entire blame on subsidy is justifiable.
He has chosen to exhibit selective amnesia when it comes to explaining how the economy has been crippled by endemic corruption and malignant leakages due to a dysfunctional delivery system. He also chose to overlook the Auditor General’s Report year in and out.
Of all those things said about the various subsidies given to the deserving citizenry and the least deserving ones like the IPPs, highways and other utility concessionaires, one that needs special mentioning here would be how money are spent to prop up (read subsdise) the Bursa composite index or its barometer on a daily basis. It is well into the billions yearly.
Call it what you may, but public funds from tax-payers money of the EPF and others, injected to support our blue chips of the GLCs need to also be addressed unequivocally and squarely along side with all other forms of ‘subsidy’. The various ‘incentives’, ‘grants’ and activities of ‘investment arms’ like Value-Cap and Ekuinas must not escape Idris Jala’s radar when he talks of the ballooning debt and widening fiscal deficit. Only then will he be truly honest and holistic about mitigating and averting the financial Armageddon in 2019.
Be that as it may, is Najib seriously contemplating to take it head on come what may?
Emphatically again, his greatest enemy is none other than himself. Perkasa, the Umno-ultra backed by the Tun, and other like-minded outfits will of course continue to challenge leaders out to execute change and reform. His Malay party will similarly derail his many intended reforms for reasons best known to them.
Najib has hardly a choice. He is placed between a hard place and a rock. After a succession of by-election defeats, failure is no longer an option.
Will he relent? Will he resort to blaming his think-tankers again? Will that be his greatest folly for now?
If he succumbs, he does it at his own peril. If so, Najib truly paves the way for a regime change. Hence the reason why we want a sound NEM, the 10 MP and all, in place soonest!