(Warning: Long post ahead)
(PR is making it case to the general public that it can make a positive difference if it becomes the Government but we need a more convincing case. Image source: http://wargamarhaen.blogspot.com)
Interesting topic for the beginning of the year…
Well, it is in our best interest (no matter which side of the politics we may be) to know what the opposition intends to do if they come in power – although the chances of that happening in recent months is almost nil, no thanks to the Oppositions shooting themselves in their foot numerous times in the last 4 years (but who knows what can happen in the next few years).
Last year (although it seems too late), the Opposition came out with it’s “Change now, Save Malaysia” proposition and listed a list of items that the Opposition will do in the first 100 days if it is voted into power.
During Sunday’s convention here, Pakatan distributed its “Change now, save Malaysia” pamphlets detailing the CPF agenda to adopt “pro-rakyat” administrative principles if it becomes the federal government.
Among the policies are to free national institutions from political interference and corruption; ensure fair economic distribution of wealth; empower the people; strengthen the educational institution and return autonomy to Sabah and Sarawak.
The “100-Days Pakatan Rakyat” programme, which would be implemented during the first three months of Pakatan being in power, includes abolishing the Internal Security Act, reducing subsidies for the private sector, giving a RM500 monthly increment for teachers and increasing oil royalties by 20% for Sabah, Sarawak, Terengganu and Kelantan.
And it did not take long for BN to rubbish PR’s 100 days incentives:-
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has lambasted the Pakatan Rakyat’s 100-day reform plan, unveiled last month, describing it as populist and irresponsible.
He said the plan was unrealistic because it did not state the source of funds to finance the undertaking.
“In fact, it won’t take that long; in just two years, according to our estimates, our country will become like Greece if the plan is implemented without regard to the country’s means to implement it,” he said at the monthly gathering of the Prime Minister’s Department, here, Monday.
Never mind if Najib stayed cleared of other part of PR’s proposition like reform of the main national government institutions and abolishment of ISA and only focused on the proposed expenditure of the PR’s proposition and at the same time, plays the fear of the country going bankrupt like the country of Greece (hmm, now where did I hear that?).
Najib said “the plan was unrealistic because it did not state the source of funds to finance the undertaking”. In other words, this may imply that PR may be making plans for the expenditure BEFORE finalizing the source of income to fund the said expenditures. Something that well spinned in the mainstream media but let’s give the benefit of the doubt – after all, PR have yet to prove themselves and many still doubt their ability to able to run the country better than BN.
BN’s Yearly Budget
So, before we even come to PR’s 100 day plan proper and in detail, let’s look at BN side of view. After all, they have been presenting national budget and balancing between national expenditure and income on a yearly basis.
In 2010, Najib in presenting the 2010 Budget themed “1Malaysia, Together We Prosper” amounting to RM191.5 billion with RM138.3 billion or 72.2 per cent for operating expenditure and RM53.2 billion or 27.8 per cent for development expenditure. Of course, Najib infused the budget presentation with mega projects including the insane 100 story tower which then lead to many thinking that public funds is going to be used for the construction or in most cases, bailout.
And we are only talking about budgets. What about the actual expenditures? Tony Pua of PR made this observation:-
We had in fact applauded the Government’s decision to reduce operating expenditure by a significant 13.7% from RM160.2 billion in 2009 to a budgeted RM138.3 billion.
However, in the Budget announcement today, it has been announced that the Government’s operating expenditure is expected to hit RM152.2 billion, or a massive RM13.9 billion (10.1%) over budget.
This clearly demonstrates the government’s inability to impose financial discipline on its expenditure to ensure that the country’s financial objectives are met. It is also not the first year the Government has overspent its budget. In fact, the Government has consistently overspent its budget by at least 5% as far back as 2000, with the worst year being in 2008 when the budget was exceeded by 17.2%.
Now if you think about it, the Government when presenting the yearly budget would have matched the expected income to be collected against the budgeted expenditure. Certainly it cannot be a deficit budget – no enough cash to cover the expenses, so how to make up for the difference? More debts?
Mismatch of Budget & Actual
Presentation of a sound budget is one thing but the actual expenditure is another. If the Government had spent more than what was budgeted, then where is the source of funds to finance the additional expenses? How did Najib justify the source of income when the expenses went overboard as compared to the yearly budget and mind you, the Government has been overspending for the last 10 years?
But why the increased expenditure in the first place? Is it because the Government had under estimated the actual cost of operating and therefore under estimate the amount in their yearly budgets (for the last 10 years)? Or is it because there has been mismanagement of public funds and poor management of resources? Or a combination of both?
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is still studying the Auditor-General’s Report 2009 and does not dismiss the possibility of opening more investigation papers based on the report
A newspaper report had quoted the Auditor-General’s Report as mentioning that the Defence Ministry had spent RM300,000 on buying luxury items for the VVIP room, including RM95,880 on wallpaper, by using an allocation from the First Economic Stimulus Package.
And it only gets more absurd:-
Who in their right mind would pay RM42,320 for a laptop?
Kolej Kemahiran Tinggi Mara Balik Pulau in Penang not only paid the price but bought two units of the same brand – Acer Aspire-5052ANWXMI, at a whopping price of RM84,640, said the Auditor-General’s Report.
In addition, the college purchased 450 units of computer CAD with network card at RM3.45mil for 12 labs. Each 19-inch monitor costs RM8,500 while a 17-inch monitor costs RM7,500.
“The ministry signed a contract for the supply of 2.7 million metres of cloth worth RM27.54 million from December 2006 to November 2009.
“They spent RM7.01 million for the service of sewing 240,000 sets of uniforms for the period of April 2007 till March 2010,” said Ambrin.
He added that 2.7 million metres of cloth could produce 600,000 sets of uniforms but since only 240,000 were required, Rela has an excess of RM16.52 million worth of unused cloth.
So, whilst BN may rubbish PR’s propositions as unrealistic, what about the leakages and mismanagement of the current financial affair by BN themselves? Let’s come back to PR’s 100 days proposition.
PR in their “Change now, Save Malaysia” proposition summarized the followings to be done within the first 100 days after it comes into power:-
1. Reform the main national institutions of government, such as the Election Commission, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Malaysian Royal Police Force to introduce transparency and restore accountability of government.
2. Abolish the Internal Security Act.
3. Direct Khazanah Berhad, the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and all other government bodies that own highway concessions to complete the transference of such highway assets to the government with the purpose of abolishing tolls.
4. Change the structure of national subsidies by reducing corporate sector subsidies (such as the gas subsidies of RM19 billion to independent power producers) and transferring these savings toward subsidies for the rakyat.
5. Recognise the roles and contributions of public servants by re-evaluating the salary structures; starting with an increase in teachers’ allowances by RM500 per teacher per month as a recognition of the importance of their role as educators in nation building.
6. Restoring all private water concessions to the government, making water a public asset of the rakyat.
7. Deploy free Wi-Fi internet services to all Malaysians in the urban and semi-urban areas.
8. Dissolve Felda Plantations to redistribute its estate lands to the second and third generation of Felda settlers.
9. Increase oil royalties to Sabah, Sarawak, Terengganu and Kelantan to 20%.
10. Set up a Royal Commission to comprehensively resolve the problems of illegal immigration and citizenship in Sabah.
And mindful, the above is a proposed act within 100 days after PR forms the next Government (of course, discounting the days wasted on internal fighting as to who get which portfolio in the new Government which may be long and tiring).
Some of the above proposal may or may not be realistic at that point of time whilst others may not easy to be achieved within the first 100 days (it is going to take major and drastic actions on part of the new Government to even start to reform the Election Commission, the MACC, the AG’s Chambers and the Malaysian Royal Police Force).
PR published the “Orange Book” in December 2010 which further explains their Common Policy Platform and the 100 days initiatives and in the book, listed some rather interesting statistics of the country under BN, namely:-
- 12 years in a row of budget deficits for Malaysia
- 10 years in a row, that Malaysia has failed to achieve its economic growth targets
- Malaysia fell 26 spots in the institutional integrity ranking in the Global Competitiveness Report conducted by the World Economic Forum from 2007 to 2009.
- 34% of Malaysian workers (about 4 million people) are paid less than RM700 a month, which is below the poverty line.
- 62% of the RM39 billion paid in subsidies and compensation each year are given to corporations (IPPs, highway concessions etc), and not to the rakyat
- RM4 billion allocated for food subsidies (sugar, wheat, rice), which UMNO / BN is trying to revoke. RM19 billion worth of gas subsidies are given to independent power producers and RM4 billion is given to highway concessionaires each year
- RM19 billion worth of gas subsidies are given to independent power producers each year, compared to RM 11 billion worth of petrol subsides for the rakyat – now at risk of being revoked for the rakyat, but not for the corporations – rakyat to suffer, while these corporations will continue to enjoy special big profits.
That is however not to say that BN led Government have not recognized the same problems that PR has listed down rather “eagerly” in the Orange Book and I am pretty sure that mitigation actions have been put in place to improve / reform / etc but the fact that there has been a continued mismanagement of the petroleum money and the huge compensation / subsidies paid for IPP and toll concessionaires has not been acceptable to most of us.
Is it true that the PR propositions are unrealistic due to no evidence of income as claimed by Najib? The Orange Book does not specifically mention the source of income for the 100 days initiatives but we can see where PR is coming from.
PR in December 2010 clarified:-
Oleh itu, Pakatan Rakyat berhasrat untuk memperkenalkan imbuhan khas pendidik sebanyak RM500 kepada semua pegawai dan guru yang bertanggungjawab di dalam sistem pendidikan kita.
Ini akan menelan belanja RM3.2 bilion setahun. Jumlah ini adalah kecil jika dibandingkan dengan pembaziran-pembaziran lain yang kini berleluasa di bawah UMNO/Barisan Nasional.
Kos perbelanjaan semua lawatan Perdana Menteri ke luar negara setakat ini sebanyak RM8.7 juta boleh menanggung imbuhan bagi 1,450 orang guru. Bayaran kepada APCO sebanyak RM77 juta bagi tahun 2009 boleh menampung imbuhan bagi 12,800 orang guru iaitu keseluruhan tenaga kerja yang membangunkan profesionalisme keguruan. Pembaziran UMNO/Barisan Nasional sebanyak RM131 juta bagi menampung perbelanjaan perunding dan kos operasi PEMANDU bagi tahun 2010 boleh membayar imbuhan bagi 21,833 lagi orang guru, iaitu hampir keseluruhan tenaga kerja kementerian.
Ini belum lagi pembaziran-pembaziran mega seperti subsidi gas sebanyak RM19 bilion kepada sektor korporat dan kroni, kos menyelamatkan kroni yang melibatkan Empangan Bakun sebanyak RM6 bilion dan ketirisan akibat rasuah yang dianggarkan mencecah RM28 bilion setiap tahun.
Loosely translated – PR proposed RM500 as an additional allowance for teachers and the total money to be spent on this is expected to be RM3.2 billion. PR expects to pay for this from the savings from other unnecessary expenses like RM8.7 million from PM’s foreign visits expense, RM77 million from APCO consultancy fees, RM131 million from PEMANDU expenditures, RM19 billion from gas subsidy, RM6 billion from Bakun bailout and RM28 billion from corruption leakages.
So, I think we should not be too quick to call PR’s 100 days propositions as unrealistic as there are merits to the facts presented by them. It may be a populist measure or an unrealistic financial measure as Najib claims it to be but the fact is PR has presented the case to the general public. It now needs to explain further so that information is clear, complete and remains viable.
The only problem with this is that they should have done this much earlier – perhaps immediately after the general election in 2008 and keep up with a similar execution of the plan at State level and have a well run working model to be used as a basis for greater things. This way, their methods would have been proven and any shortcoming could have rectified before it is applied at national level.