Malaysia’s Chicken & Egg Story


(Long before the illusive 1Malaysia came along, Malaysia already been a multi racial, multi cultural country. We had our differences but we don’t see our fellow Malaysians as threats. Image source: http://ajinbgagah.blogspot.com)

It has been in everyone’s mind but no one dared to say or do the obvious…

Aizuddin Danian of VOI posted something that worth our serious consideration:-

He (Dr M) implies that the DAP, by promoting “meritocracy” is actually promoting a non-Malay domination of the society because its a foregone conclusion that the best Malaysians, in terms of education, business or any other field, are non-Malays.

That’s an interesting perspective on things and something i’ve never considered before.

Is “meritocracy” a very clever smokescreen for “racism”? The way Tun puts it does seem convincing. I think i understand his concerns — he realizes that Malays, left on their own without help from the Government, would take years to become competitive in a level playing field.

The Chinese have been forced to be competitive for the last 50 years of Independence, and its arguable than even a poorly-performing Chinese is better than an above average performing Malay.

Read the rest for an interesting insight on how things have been maintained to ensure stability in the country but at the same time, crippling enough for us not able to make the right leap to a developed nation.

Any way, let’s forget about the notion that one race in Malaysia trying to dominate another race. Let’s forget what Dr M is trying hard to achieve here – no doubt he is great statesman but he is not right all the time.  He is not a saint, he is after all just a politician. The explanation on the meritocracy may just be his means to the end and may be political in nature. So, let’s leave anything that is racial, religion or political in nature aside – track record have shown that no one had never been united under these three aspects.

Let’s look from the nation’s point of view – although we have multi race, multi culture, and multi religion groups in the country but at the end of the day, we are all Malaysians. So why is this fear against fellow Malaysians? Is it a big crime to be competitive? What if there is no other choice?

Let’s go back to the very start when it was “deemed” that Malays would not be able to compete without some kind of affirmative action? Who determined this – by some foreign educated politicians sitting in a luxury bungalow? What were the criteria used?

Perhaps historically, the non Malays have been competitive from the very first day they put their foot on this country. After all, with their families struggling back in India or China, it was a break or make for these early non Malays. If they were able to work hard and made good fortunes in business, there is a chance for them to remit back some money to their families back home and in some cases; to bring their families to new home called Malaya.

Perhaps it was the case of May 13 which the ruling politicians often cite when talking about affirmative actions. But recent revelations of what really happen on May 13th seem to be distancing the excuse of unequal opportunity with the tragedy (If you have time, read The Real Cause of May 13 Riots or Raja Petra’s 3 Parts post titled “The Real Story of May 13” – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 )

Whatever the reason may be – affirmative actions seems to be not working to the early aspiration which is to create level playing field for all Malaysians. It has been grossly abused and sadly, highly laced with political, corruption and self interest.

Zaid Ibrahim said:-

“Many Malays want meritocracy for very good reasons. They want their applications for contracts and projects to be given fair consideration by the authorities. They do not want only those who are politically connected to have the upper hand. They want a level playing field.

“They believe that they can succeed on merit if only they get a fair chance. They want to succeed with their pride intact; and at the same time they want to tell their children that Malays who work hard and with the right attitude can succeed, like everybody else,” he said.

Zaid said many Malays wanted meritocracy so that they could get their dues like promotion and higher positions by working hard.

“They want to be judged fairly and not lose their position or seniority because some one else has the right political cable. They want a promotion system that is transparent and free of interference.

“They want to say that they have succeeded because they did it the hard way. Why does Mahathir have to belittle these Malays? Why must the Malays be scrapped off their self-respect just to prove that Umno is responsible for everything in this country?” he added.

I still recall when we were still young, the competition on who got better marks among my cousins so stiff that it caused long term frictions among the families. Achieving a 99% mark was not acceptable (we used to get good whack of the cane from my mum when our marks went down below 95%).

Lack of scholarships means my dad going into overdrive at his workplace and trying to juggle multiple jobs to cover the college fees. Lack of places at the local universities means students like me to adapt to new environment and studies faster than the rest (I was interested in science but had to switch to law when there was no place at the local university). And since we know that our parents are practically sweating blood to cover our fees, failure was not an option. There was never second chance – it is do or die.

The policy makers will therefore be back at the starting point where once again the Malays (those who been untouched by the affirmative actions because they lack the right “cables”) find themselves facing with non Malays who remained competitive (perhaps at many times fold now compared to those non Malays in the 1950s). Enforcement of even more affirmative actions therefore is not going to solve the problem of uneven level of playing – it will only drive the other group to go another level of competitiveness (wonder why some Chinese schools have classes 7 days a week and have a very high bar of excellence?). Mind you that at an age of globalization, the world had become smaller and Malaysians are also competing with the rest of the world.

Affirmative action is fine if it was implemented for a short period but if continued on a long terms, it will not achieve the purpose of creating highly competitive society – why should they when the Government clears away obstacles for some and not for others.

The solution is to open up the arena and let everyone compete for the available places (the Government can create more places if they want more to fall in). The Government seems to be having this notion of the Malays being incapable of competing without their help. They are dead wrong. Never underestimate those who determined to make it into the top. Yes, in the beginning there will be some be left out on the competition but eventually they will bridge the gap. I have seen my fellow Malay brothers who had worked wonders through their sheer determinations and hard work.

Aizuddin rightfully ended his post with this remarks and I could not agree more:-

53 years of independence is not a long time. But i think it’s long enough to start believing in ourselves. It’ll be a painful journey, sure. However, unless we take it, Malaysia will not be able to make that leap from developing to developed. That goal should transcend all others.

It is time to work as one nation, not as competing groups within the same home. It is time to be competitive as a nation. It is time to pick the best of the best for anything that we do. It is time be Malaysians.

Read Also

Art Harun’s excellent Eh, Tun Dah Lupa?

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Slaying the Real Bogeyman


(Who is the real bogeyman in Malaysia? Some people determined to prove that it is none other than fellow Malaysians. Image source: http://img1.fantasticfiction.co.uk)

53rd anniversary of our independence is just around the corner, and yet we continue to read these nonsense – we should be ashamed of ourselves.

Read this first:-

In response, Tee said that the country does not want Ang’s children, whether legal or illegitimate, a favourite line he continually implies about the Chinese.

“She does not need to send her ‘children’ (if any were legitimate) to national school, if she is not confident with the national school or she is scared that her ‘children’ will become Malays. Her ‘children’ are not needed here.

“Just send her ‘children’ to schools in her homeland or overseas. The presence of ‘children’ are not needed here,” he said in a personal attack on Ang, who has also had two police reports lodged against her over her article.

(Source)

In response to that article, Aizuddin Danian said this:-

People like Helen Ang have proven themselves capable of critical thought. She’s taken an issue, examined the facts, and presented her argument in favour of her case. Instead of engaging her in discussion (Heaven forbid, she might have a valid point, who knows?), she becomes the subject of ad hominem attacks, and rudely invited to leave the country.

The worse thing for Malaysia is for her, and people like her (people capable of analyzing a problem and presenting a rational case), to take up the Lambs’ offer and leave. Just like any one of the 3 million Malaysians or ex-Malaysians who make their living away from the Motherland.

These are people who are able to compete at a global scale, world class human beings so to speak. Isn’t it a shame that many prefer not to ply their trade in our shores? Can we blame them for choosing greener pastures, or do we blame Lamb’s like Dr Mohd Ridhuan for driving them away by denying them the greens of our own garden and forcing them to make do with a diet of rocks and stones?

Somewhere else, we read this:-

Malay rights group Perkasa has urged the government to review the proposal to carry out open tender for the sale of strategic land, saying the move could erode “the little remaining assets owned the Malays and Bumiputera.”

(Source)

That call was objected with this:-

Open tenders by the government for the sale of strategic land would not erode Malay interests, says Kedah Gerakan Youth

(Source)

In every “race” in Malaysia for many years now, we have been fed with an invisible bogeyman from time to time by greedy, twisted politicians and agenda filled race based NGOs.

The Malays for example have always been told that the non-Malays in particular the Chinese is out to get them, out to strip them of their “rightful” rights and powers (even more so after the opposition had a major win in the last general election). The non Malays on the other hand have been told that implementation of Islamic way of life, will erode their beliefs and cultural values. So, that is what we been told explicitly and impliedly, over many form of media.

And for those who had never ventured out from the country, the only “foreigners” they see on daily basis are Malaysians from different cultural and racial background and with the constant lies by the politicians and NGOs; fear for fellow Malaysians is created.

To create further uneasiness, fellow Malaysians are also been labeled as “pendatang” (immigrants or squatters) by, ironically, the very people whom ancestors were immigrants themselves.

Khir Toyo’s father for example was from Indonesia, Ahmad Sabri’s grandparents were from India and the Mohd Ridhuan who rudely asked Helen Ang to send her “illegitimate” kids to her “homeland” – his ancestors were from China. At end of the day, we are all “pendatang” but you make yourself looking like an idiot when you start calling others “pendatang” but failed to recognize that you are a “pendatang” too.

They don’t realize how small we are when we are against the global community and only by being strongly united we can bring up this country at par with the developed countries. It is not the time to create fear and uneasiness among fellow Malaysians and foreign investors as whole – not when we are seeing the Foreign Direct Investments figures plunging down in recent months.

Instead of “conveniently” putting the blame on fellow Malaysians for all the shortcomings, self weaknesses and as a mean of unity the community against the oppositions, let’s focus on slaying the REAL bogeyman, shall we?

Implementation of NEP, NEM, Affirmative Policies

Some NGO says that Malay rights will be eroded with the removal of NEP but everyone knows that whilst the spirit of NEP is highly commendable, the implementation of the NEP has not been one. The PM’s banker brother even goes on to say that the NEP has been “bastardised”:-

The New Economic Policy (NEP) is “bastardised” as it deviated from its goal of poverty eradication, CIMB group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Nazir Razak said.

He said the NEP, formulated by second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, had come a longway from a social engineering experience, which was aimed at uplifting the livelihood of the people, especially Bumiputeras.

“But now, it (NEP) is so embedded in everything we do, in every part of government and businesses that it has become a problem. And every time I mention the NEP, I get blasted.”

(Source)

Many in the Government do realise the weaknesses in the implementation of policies such as NEP (now re-coated as NEM) but when it is raised, it is faced with objections. Often the question on the weaknesses of the implementation (and not the policy itself) is often met with claims that it is questioning the Malay rights. At the end of the day, the weakness in implementation remains unresolved and is left to be abused further.

Tony Pua of PR recently suggested the removal of Bumiputera discounts for properties more than RM500,000 and rechannel that money for Malays who did not have enough money to buy properties. His suggestion – instead of reviewed positively (to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor), was taken as questioning the Malay rights. Tony Pua at the end got a death threat and bullets in his mail.

Mismanagement of public funds

Wastage of tax-payers money by expensive and wasteful projects is nothing new in Malaysia. The Malays forms about 60% of Malaysians on whole. So, if the Government can be more prudent with its spending, curtail unnecessary wastages and channel the available funds for development where the people will benefit to the maximum, who is benefit the most? Mismanagement of public funds is one bogeyman that these racial politicians and NGOs should focus on.

And with mismanagement of funds, we all know, corruption usually tags along.

MACC have started to work its way to nab the bigger fish but it is has a long way to go before it can gain the public trust and respect. Sarawak Report has been uncovering pretty interesting revelation on a certain Chief Minister and his family’s wealth. Based on the allegations (backed with documents and facts), there seems to be a clear case of mismanagement of funds, abuse of powers and no proper distribution of wealth from the state to the people. But then again, this could be just the tip of the iceberg. Corruption is another bogeyman that has been let on loose for a very long time now.

Quality of life

Malaysia is not far off in terms of quality of education but how far we are off from creating quality graduates? Students are not allowed to participate in politics and those who go against the establishment are often punished. How many of the graduates is allowed to think rationally and out-of-the box? How many of them is well equipped to meet the challenges of today and excel in any fields they are in?

We already dismissed the English language in favor of the national language but for the wrong reasons. Can we maintain the quality? So, instead creating fear among Malaysians, why can’t these politicians and NGOs fight for better schools and quality graduates?

There has been a call to review and revise the minimum salary for Malaysians and whilst cost of living have gone up (what more with the removal government subsidies on key consumer items), it has been unfortunate that the general level of disposal income of Malaysians have not gone up accordingly. At the end of the day, Malaysians find that it is getting more difficult to bridge the expense – income gap. So, instead creating fear among Malaysians, why can’t these politicians and NGOs fight for better wages? Better wages means better business environment – are we in the right position for that? Fear against fellow Malaysians is not the right factor to create ideal business environment.

The above is just a handful of issues that the politicians and NGOs can spend time for the betterment of the community instead of wasting time hunting for a bogeyman that is not – fellow Malaysians. It is better for Malaysia and for the community. Let’s slay the real bogeyman instead of wasting time creating disunity among fellow Malaysians. Not when we are turning 53 years old.

I once watched a movie where a man is seen heading the shouting at a political rally. He looked so emotional and nothing seemed to stop him from making a point. When a friend asked him why he is participating in this rally, he said he did not know. He heard people shouting and decided to join in.

Similarly, let do the fighting where it is needed the most – real issues that affects all Malaysians. Let’s not make a fool of ourselves by creating an issue that distracts the rest from the real issues and get overworked with it.  Let’s not shout for the sake of shouting. After 53 years, we certainly can do better than this.

The RM0.05 Increase


(Sight of things to come but we wonder where the framework for proper management of public funds is? We want to see evidence of proper controls and enforcement to go hand to hand with reduction of subsidies. Otherwise, we will be back on square one – the corrupt & rich making money at the expense of the poor. Image source: The Malaysia Insider)

Another sneaky increase from BN led Government but this is something we already anticipated since the day the Government opened its mouth on subsidies and the country going bankrupt.

Sugar is now 25 sen more per kilo (new price is RM1.70 sen per kg) while RON 95 petrol and diesel is up by 5 sen per litre (new price for RON 95 is now RM1.85 per litre and diesel is RM1.75 per litre).

Liqued petroleum gas (LPG) is also up by 10 sen. The new price is RM1.85 per kg.

(Source)

And of course, to ‘sweeten’ the price hike, we get this over-used, over-killed, over-abused statement:-

He added that fuel and sugar prices were still the lowest in the region.

I am all out for reduction of subsidies – it is the right to do – let everyone pay the actual amount. But then again, it does not mean the Government (or rather corrupt politicians and civil servants) can pocket the money saved from subsidies into their own pockets. RM750 million is expected to be saved from this latest price hike but how much of it will be given back to the public?

Any attempt to divert the money saved from subsidies back to the public would also mean we need to plug the leakages that we been having in the system. Have we done that? Are we still looking at corruption, mismanagement of public funds, mismanagement of economy and wrongful allocation of public funds for personal gains?

At the speed we are doing things and the failure to go against those who have misused public funds in the past, it is likely we will still be with multiple leakages for now and in near future. This is why there have been voices of oppositions to the price hikes. It never been on the issue of why we need to reduce the subsidies but rather what we have done with the subsidies saved.

Anwar Ibrahim of Pakatan Rakyat was quoted:-

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today criticised the Najib administration’s rationale for the latest subsidy cuts, pointing out that the savings of RM750 million was a pittance compared to the billions spent for other “careless” expenditures.

The Pakatan Rakyat de facto leader accused the Barisan Nasional (BN) government of spending billions to bail out troubled government-linked companies and to foot exorbitant bills from foreign consultancies employed to help improve the prime minister’s international image

(Source)

Mahfuz Omar of Pakatan Rakyat asked:-

“The government wants the rakyat to change their lifestyles…but it is not willing to change its style of managing the economy.

“The government is wasteful when it conducts direct negotiations (for its business operations) which is expensive. It could easily adopt an open tender system.

“It doesn’t seem to understand that every disbursement is public money,”

(Source)

Tony Pua of Pakatan Rakyat said:-

The question to the government is, given the financial constraints that the government is facing, why isn’t the government targeting the fat cats which are lynching off the tax-payers’ hard-earned monies first, before attacking the livelihood of ordinary Malaysians? (note: he missed another fat cat – the highway robbers toll concessionaires)

(Source)

Whilst we are concerned with the reduction of subsidies for the people, we get to hear disturbing news like this:-

Anwar, who is also the Parliamentary opposition leader, further pointed out that just yesterday, the House was informed that the PM’s Department’s operational expenditure had reached over RM3.8 billion last year and had been allocated a budget of RM3.9 billion for this year.

“This includes expenses for secretariats for former prime ministers and for Permata, which is handled by the prime minister’s wife,” he said, referring to Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.

We have yet to get a proper answer for the almost RM1 million advertisement for some politician’s wife and here we have another increase to the Government’s expenses – courtesy of cut down of public subsidies? Where is the “change your lifestyle” at the Government’s end?

And another laughable matter that was reported along with the price hike is the impact on other consumer goods. It is no secret that a price hike in fuel and basic consumer goods is usually taken advantage by certain quarters to increase the price of their goods (and services) substantially. It is time to make the “killing” whenever the price of basic items goes up.

It is understandable if they want to pass on the increase of raw materials to the end consumers but the margin of increase should be reasonable. Instead we have people who not only pass the increase in raw material price to the consumers at many times fold but decides to make substantial profit at the same time. And you need not look far – just hop over and check what the latest price of roti canai and teh tarik (it can be anything from nasi lemak, thosai, wanton mee, etc) is. Does the Government have enough resources (sigh, more expenses to the Government) to make spot checks and enforce the right price?

Tony Pua of Pakatan Rakyat asked the same:-

It is hence shocking to hear the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, supported by the Performance & Management Delivery Unit (Pemandu) claim in their subsidy rationalisation fact sheet that the price increases will have “minimal impact” on households in Malaysia.

In the fact sheet, it’s “demonstrated” that the new teh tarik price taking into the impact of subsidy reduction of fuel and upward price adjustment would be around RM1.0155, or an increase of less than 2 sen.

The impact on other popular items such as roti canai was stated as being 0.24 sen per piece, 0.6 sen for rice, 6.3 sen for meat per kg and 1.05 sen for mee goreng.

Pemandu under the chairmanship of the Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Senator Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon must be living in a parallel universe for having the audacity to publish such numbers which are at best applicable only in a fictitious and theoretical universe, and at worse, showing the complete lack of understanding of real world market dynamics on the price of goods and services.

I challenge Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon to find me a mamak stall in Malaysia which will increase the price of teh tarik by a mere 1.55 sen or the price of roti canai by a minute 0.24 sen in the entire country to prove the “minimal impact” of the latest round of 5-in-1 price increase.

(Source)

Tony Pua (short of calling Koh Tsu Koon an idiot) has a valid point here – just how the Government is going to control the subsequent price increases on other consumer goods which is not under controlled items? The Government can ask the consumers to lodge complaint of the substantial increase but what the Government can really do against the business?

The fact that these items (roti canai, teh tarik, etc) are not controlled items (and it should not be) means the business is free to increase the price as they see fit (read in between the lines here). If consumers do not agree with price hike of these items, they have an option to look elsewhere. That is how the market works.

The problem starts when everyone else starts to increase their goods and services prices and the Government will not be able to do anything.

Not with the current disposable income. And here is where the Government can come in because it will be very difficult to get the private sectors (who is governed by net profit at end of the day) to simply increase their employees’ salary and when it comes to public sector, the Government is the employer and can determine how it can structure the salary scale for the public servants.

The Government can also curtail the leakages and ensure the money saved goes back to the public – by means of reduction of income tax (reduced tax due to Government’s expenses is now less), reduction of subsidies paid to IPPs and toll concessionaires (revise what the public need to pay these profit making entities), improve on the delivery system to reduce wastage of time and resources and make annual allowances to those earning below the minimum wages (those who do not earn enough to be taxed but still faced with the substantial price hike).

Certainly, the above list is not exhaustive because what we are seeing is nothing but works of economics in motion i.e. income = expenses. If you faced with a very high expenses (due to wastage, corruption and blatant profiteering) and very limited source of income (now that we have dwindling petrol reserves), there is very little choice but to relook at your spending – can you reduce the net expenses or can you increase the net income or both?

At the moment, the Government is looking at reducing the expenses by shredding off the subsidies paid on behalf of the people but is it really the right option? Shouldn’t reduction of wastages, arrest of corruption and blatant profiteering be top of the list for reduction of expenses?

The Government need not look far on this – they already worked this out in NEM but that model somehow went missing after some quarters made some noise. That is why reduction of subsidies (despite its merits) is dead wrong and highly questionable.

What is in 10MP?


What a show, my man!

(The problem with Najib is not his ideas but his will power and having the right character to make the actual change. After the stunt he pulled off in Perak, who is going to believe what he says? Image source: http://www.thenutgraph.com)

Najib had tabled the 10th Malaysia Plan yesterday and already there has been nothing but praises to this plan. The former PM, Pak Lah even went one step to say that “the 10th Malaysia Plan is a big leap to a new platform that will bring Malaysia greater success”. But was it really a “big leap”? Can we really put our foot into the “First World” status as mentioned by Najib?

There was no trace of NEM in the 10th Malaysia Plan (PM scared of the Perkasa buggers?) and certain things like lowering the age for primary school does not really means anything if we failed to check on the quality of education (the students will be getting the bullshit at an earlier age now). The 30% bumiputera equity quota is still there (computation of the 30% is still elusive till this day) and despite PM’s promise to closely monitor this, we know that the system has been tainted to the roof and we are only going to go back to square one. MIC was there with Samy Vellu promising to “monitor” the implementation of benefits to the “Indians” (wonder who) as usual – wondered what happened to all the previous monitoring (until Hindraf had to take the issue to the streets).

And in the midst of calls for cost cutting measure, tightening the expenses and wanting to reduce subsidies, some jokers came up with the idea of shifting the Parliament to Putrajaya for a tune RM800 million. If the old Parliament building (which by the way, was recently renovated for millions of ringgit) was completely destroyed (due to fire, etc) we can probably talk about having a new building for the Parliament. But if the old building is still good, then why waste RM800 million?

Whatever Najib have said from his carefully prepared speech in the Parliament actually means nothing to the ordinary people. Why? It is because whatever Najib have said is nothing but a general policy – another politician talk, designed to bring high hopes to various sectors. This is just one man making promises to the nation – whether he can make good of his promise, is another ball game altogether.

The same echoed by Anwar Ibrahim when he said:-

“You may have grand ideas, but whether you can implement it, it’s another thing”

The PM has given his “speech” in the Parliament – the various Ministers have to go back to their Ministries and start formulating how in the hell they are going to implement the plan at Ministry level. They only have framework and perhaps some statistics to work with. And we all know that we have some big time idiots heading some of the Ministries in Malaysia. Once the Minister have done with his Ministry level framework (in months), the buck now will be pushed to the various heads of department who now need to work out the details of implementation and enforcement before the man in the street can start seeing the success of the so-called 10th Malaysia Plan.

What I am saying here is nothing new. In the past, when Prime Ministers announced the Malaysia Plans, almost everyone applaud the “big leap” that the Plan promise to make in the next 5 years. But when it comes to a stage where someone like Idris Jala comes out and say that Malaysia may go bankrupt if nothing major is done, you will realise that whatever “big leap” that was promised ended up as nothing but empty promises.

So, similarly on 10th Malaysia Plan – ya, it sounds good with Najib pointing at various area of economics and promises of high income (which will be necessary if the Government is going pull out the subsidies) and making Malaysia more resilient (ya, throw in juicy words like “first world” whilst you are at it). Ya, it sounds good just like the past Malaysia Plans which saw Malaysia slipping away from the same footing with South Korea and Singapore.

If I was Pak Lah, I would not be so quick to say “big leap” right now – let’s wait for the actual implementation and enforcement. After all, this is Malaysia – we bound to have flip-flop and reversal of policies due to the political reasons.

Read Also

10th Malaysia Plan – Najib, the Sheriff of Nottingham

10MP big numbers that don’t add up

Subsidy Gone But…


We seriously need a divine’s help on this…

(How the Government’s financial management is going to affect us, the people, in the long run. Image source: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/)

A long, long time ago, when the petrol price was increased, one “work-with-me” PM vowed to use the RM4 billion saved on petrol subsidies on the development of public transportation.

Of course, nothing happened to the improvement of public transportation and when called upon to be accountable to the subsidies saved, only excuses after excuses were given – in the end, RM4 billion simply went “missing”. Considering the amount of money spent by the Government, RM4 billion might be a small amount to some but there is no clear line of sight on whether the money had gone back to the people (the refund of RM625 aside).

Now there are calls for reduction of Government’s subsidies once again.

Reduction of Subsidies

Considering the fact of the global financial trend and the diminishing pool of national oil reserves, at end of the day, subsidies has to go. That is the fact and we need to face this sooner or later.  Subsidies are bad and here’s why. The call for reduction of subsidy is right and timely.

Idris Jala has made the right case for reduction of subsidies when he said:-

Subsidies only result in market distortion and they drain the government of much needed funds that could be better used for more strategic and pressing development projects for the rakyat.

The time for subsidy rationalisation is now.

We do not want to end up like Greece with a total debt of EUR300 billion. Our deficit rose to record high of RM47 billion last year.

If the government continues at the rate of 12 per cent per annum, Malaysia could go bankrupt in 2019 with total debts amounting to RM1,158 billion.

(Source: TheStar)

Why waste money to keep price of things artificially low when the same amount of money can be used for development and generation of economy of the nation? With the Government having more cash at the disposal, they can use it to ensure a better economic environment for business and people. This in turn may translate to higher business profit and taxable income for the individuals.

More cash reserve also means better investment opportunities by Government investment arm. It also means better buffer to engage the poor and provide financial assistance to them. It also means we have more money to pay off our debts whilst we continue with the strengthening our economy.

Perhaps a greater push for alternative energy to reduce the dependant on fossil fuel?

Managing Subsidies Saved

But here is where we start to worry…

When we look at the very jokers who is going to manage the money saved from the subsidies, it is no wonder why many are asking the question – why now (and not when we have plenty of oil lying around in our shores) and why the people (why no change of lifestyle by the Government)?

(Looks good on paper but given the past track record, can the people behind pilot seat make it count? Image source: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/)

To common Malaysians like you and me, the call to reduce the Government subsidies by the billions really sounds like this – more from the people’s pocket and more into the corrupt’s and greed’s pockets.

And the same echoed in Malaysiakini:-

Fiscal austerity is required only when you have a clean management of country’s wealth, otherwise all the rakyat’s belt-tightening will go into the pockets of greedy politicians and businessmen

Asking the rakyat to sacrifice and support the cutting of subsidies, and here they are throwing away the nation’s money. How often do we read this type of news, but no one is sent to jail for misappropriation.

Good question – how many people who been caught for wasting public funds whilst still in Government office have been found guilty and severally punished? What about the million of ringgit which was wasted on an advertisement to congratulate a politician’s wife? What about the joker who wasted thousands of ringgit for a car plate number? Why they are not stripped naked and given the lashes for treating public funds as their own personal funds.

Subsidies on Toll

Out of the many subsidies paid out by the Government, one stands like a sore thumb – subsidies on the toll charges. Unlike increase of petrol price which we cannot do much once we become the net oil importer, the same cannot be said of the increase in toll charges. What global event that causes the increase in toll charges?

The answer is NONE!

(No justification whatsoever for increase of toll charges but the Government’s hands seems to be tied on this)

The only reason we are playing through our noses is because a long time when we needed highways to manage the  ever growing traffic problems, some civil servants and policy makers did not do their duty (that is “to do all they can to protect public’s interest”) properly. Toll concessionaire’s agreement became lopsided agreement and accountability became a secret. So, why the public need to pay more for highway tolls when all is needed is for the Government to review and redraw the contract obligations.

Will the Government have enough courage to say “fuck off” to the toll concessionaires when they come over asking for an increase of toll and demand for re-negotiations? Or they will just silently agree to it and let the people continue to suffer for it?

Policies on Economy

Najib, infamous for his call to people to change their lifestyle is yet to be proven as a leader who goes all out to manage the little resources that the country has and improve on the financial standing. No doubt, there has been plenty of talk on the topic but what about real action?

(NEM strives for better quality of life for the people with higher income and sustained national growth. But the very framework of NEM has been under fire by short sighted people)

Something called NEM was cooked up but already there are objections to it. There is a think tank behind the Government (good for the PM) but no firm policies have been made (meaning think-tank’s recommendations may end up in the dustbin or in danger of major modifications due to political pressure).

No major overhaul of the corruption fighting mechanism have been made – there seems to be an overwhelming tendency to go after the oppositions and where applicable, “small fishes”. Those who suppose to be accountable is still sitting comfortably in their chairs and pointing fingers at others.

What about the policies that promotes cost cutting measure, not only at the public sector but also cutting across Government linked companies? What happen to the KPI at GLC level? Just how much of the cost cutting measures have been implemented and enforced? The very fact that the Auditor General’s yearly report has not shown any good indication of cost cutting measures in place and blatant waste of public funds has been curtailed shows that Government has not been really serious to maximise the resources and source of income.

Cost of Goods

When the petrol prices went up, the price of a glass of teh-tarik at the local mamak restaurant went up substantially. When the price of petrol went down, the price of the teh-tarik did not go down. The owner of the restaurant made plenty of profit by increasing all prices of the food items.

(Want to measure how Government’s decision to increase fuel price and toll affects our daily expenses? Just check out the “latest” price of teh tarik at your local mamak restaurant)

The price of teh-tarik is just an example but an obvious sample where price of petrol affects daily consumer goods in a big way. The price of sugar, flour and cooking oil is expected to increase and there is no indication that there will be close monitoring of other items’ price. If the price of 3 basic items is going up, rest assured, others will follow suit.

With the planned reduction of subsidies, price of petrol, toll and others will also increase. With the increase of petrol and toll, we can only expect transportation cost to increase and when this happens, goods delivered will cost more too.

What the Government plans to do about this? How they are going to manage when price of goods sky-rockets? Are they going to do what they have done in the past – simply complain about it but do nothing?

Poor Implementation & Enforcement

MCA President, a couple of days ago said:-

Weaknesses in the implementation of Government policies have resulted in the disgruntled Chinese community wrongly assuming the Barisan Nasional is not doing anything for them

What Chua Soi Lek has said is not something new – it is something everyone already had known for a long time now. Chua Soi Lek only talked about weaknesses in implementation but there is more to it than just this.

We all agree that there is weakness in implementation of policies but it does not happen only in Malaysia. So, we are not really alone in this but what we want is “less talking and more action”.  Have we find out where are the weaknesses and quickly plug the weaknesses so that implementation is done without delays or unfairly? Has this been done in line with the expected reduction of subsidies?

To keep talking about weaknesses without talking about plugging in the weaknesses is nothing short of plain ignorance. Same goes for the quality of enforcement in Malaysia where sometimes more bite for enforcement is tainted with political pressure.

Final Say

But let’s say that God was kind on Malaysians and decide to wipe out corrupted, racists and good-for-nothing politicians and Government civil servants from the face of the earth and replace them with true nationalist, professional and idealistic people. What happens next?

We will go for the reduction of subsidies willingly – it is necessary after all. What ever the Government managed to save from these subsidies, then should be re-channeled to the people in form of tax relief, rebates, reduction of debt and certainly increase in taxable income. That is the right way to do, not the current way of pushing the buck back to the people whilst the politicians and the rich hold back and shake leg and whilst strict measures to handle the people’s burden due to increase of expenses is not been formulated and implemented.

We are against reduction of subsidies, not because we want the subsidies to be kept going (for ever and ever) – it is not good for the nation in the long run. We are against the reduction of subsidies because we know the subsidies saved will not be properly managed.

What so new in NEM? – Part 2


(Bakri Musa’s posts been interesting and thought provoking all the time. Image source: http://alifbata.net/)

For those who have not read M Bakri Musa’s excellent post on NEM titled “NEM and NEP – Only One Letter Different!” you should give a read – it is interesting and thought provoking.

NEM is as I mentioned earlier still in its infant stage. We do not know what the final product will look like. Will it be the same as the old outdated policies that it is replacing (that we might as well call it as NEP 3)? Or will it be a revolutionary policy that is going to change the face of Malaysia forever?

Whatever NEM is going to turn out to be, the learned Bakri Musa however sighted glaring flaws and commented:-

On a general level, this report suffers from three glaring conceptual flaws. One, it fails to recognize that the bane of past policies is in their implementation. Two, it ignores the major role culture plays in the successful execution of any economic initiative. And three, there is no attempt at learning from the successes and failures of earlier policies.

On the glaring flaws, I am sure the members of NEAC who formulated the model have looked into the past and have tried to “plug” the leakages in this new model.

Bakri Musa also warns Pakatan Rakyat and others who opposes the new model:-

The current report is silent on how this “public input” would come about. Before deluding ourselves that we could participate in robust public debates, let me intrude a cautionary note. Acknowledging that there will be opposition, the report urges the government to take “prompt action when resistance is encountered.”

You can be assured that those UMNO-Putras and others glutton on the NEP-spawned patronage system would be spared this “prompt action.” They as well as the Perkasa boys can continue with their shrill voices opposing NEM. For Pakatan folks and others however, be warned!

On the issue of corruption, considering that many people consider the MACC as ineffective and after Teoh Beng Hock’s death, as a mere pawn to those who walk along the corridors of power, the mention of “zero tolerance for corruption” was nothing but a laughable attempt to make things looking rosy on a piece of paper than in reality.

As many who labelled NEM’s call for “zero tolerance for corruption” as a waste of time and breath, Bakri Musa echoes the same when he said:-

Corruption will not be dented – much less ended – merely with the report blandly declaring “zero tolerance” for it. Make the Anti Corruption Commission independent, answerable only to Parliament or the King, and appoint a seasoned professional to head it.

If you cannot find a native, recruit from the FBI or Scotland Yard. That one move would more effectively curb corruption and improve our institutions than all the KPIs, National Integrity Institutes, and NEM’s and others’ declarations of “zero tolerance.” It would also be considerably cheaper.

For those who will be writing the details of NEM in the coming months and those who will be implementing it in the coming years, mindful of what Bakri Musa have said:-

Rest assured that if NEM were to offer rotten meat as NEP did, NEM will too get its share of maggots.

And when that happens, despite Najib’s fears and calls, we will back to the square one – status quo. Read the Bakri Musa’s post in full – very interesting pointers from the US based Malaysian surgeon.

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What so new in NEM?

The false premise and promise of Ketuanan Melayu – Bakri Musa

What so new in NEM?


(Najib’s NEM – looks good on paper but will it stick in reality? Can Malaysians afford to make that leap of faith with Najib’s ideas and face the world?)

Najib have just launched New Economic Model (some says identical to Pakatan Rakyat’s economy model) which supposedly replaces the New Economic Policy. But the question is what the impact on Malaysia and its people is?

The gist of NEM framework as reported by Reuters is as follows:-

  • State investor Khazanah to sell 32 percent stake in Pos Malaysia
  • To list stakes in two Petronas [PETR.UL] units
  • Facilitate foreign direct and domestic direct investments in emerging industries/sectors
  • Remove distortions in regulation and licensing, including replacement of Approved Permit system with a negative list of imports
  • Reduce direct state participation in the economy
  • Divest GLCs in industries where the private sector is operating effectively
  • Strengthen the competitive environment by introducing fair trade legislation
  • Set up an Equal Opportunity Commission to cover discriminatory and unfair practices
  • Review remaining entry restrictions in products and services sectors
  • Phase out price controls and subsidies that distort markets for goods and services
  • Apply government savings to a wider social safety net for the bottom 40 percent of households, prior to subsidy removal
  • Have zero tolerance for corruption
  • Create a transformation fund to assist distressed firms during the reform period
  • Easing entry and exit of firms as well as high skilled workers
  • Simplify bankruptcy laws pertaining to companies and individuals to promote vibrant entrepreneurship
  • Improve access to specialised skills
  • Use appropriate pricing, regulatory and strategic policies to manage non-renewable resources sustainably
  • Develop a comprehensive energy policy
  • Develop banking capacity to assess credit approvals for green investment using non-collateral based criteria
  • Liberalise entry of foreign experts specialising in financial analysis of viability of green technology projects
  • Reduce wastage and avoid cost overrun by better controlling expenditure
  • Establish open, efficient and transparent government procurement process
  • Adopt international best practices on fiscal transparency

Whilst some of the calls under NEM is nothing new for example “zero tolerance for corruption” which can be considered as redundant if you ask me (fight against corruption should not come under a specific policies, there should be zero tolerance for corruption from day 1), the pertinent question would be – is NEM just another name for the abuse ridden, crony favoured NEP?

(NEM will work if it is based on merits and sound decisions and implementations but it is doomed to fail from day 1 if element of race and political interference comes in play)

RPK stressed the same point:-

The New Economic Model should not be Version 3 of the National Economic Policy, which in turn is Version 2 of the New Economic Policy.

We should scrap the NEP foundation altogether and come out with Version 1 of an entirely new operating system. Bugs can never be totally eliminated with upgrades to a problematic operating system.

And Najib seems to be singing the same tune when he said this:-

As a government, and as prime minister, our aspirations for Malaysia and the Malaysian people go far beyond guiding our nation through a recovery.

Indeed, the work we have done for the past year will be wasted if we simply retreat to the status quo.

This is unacceptable to me.

Well Najib, it is also unacceptable to us if status quo means perpetuating corruption, wastage and cronyism.

Then again coming up with ideals is great but what about the implementation? What about the enforcement? And we need not go far. Let’s just take one of the items listed – “Have zero tolerance for corruption”. Just how effective MACC has been other than getting involved in a mess called Teoh Beng Hock? What is the progress of the case on the PKFZ scandal? There has been silence since now and much of the attention on it been distracted by the in-fighting within MCA, where some of the names are deeply involved in the PKFZ scandal.

(No matter what policy that the government dishes out, the benefits, at the end of the day must go back to the people. Government must not forget that the people are their ultimate boss, not the other way around)

Let’s take another – “Reduce wastage and avoid cost overrun by better controlling expenditure”. Does this means the wastage of public funds as reported in Auditor General’s yearly report is going to reduce? Have the necessary sanctions and cost cutting measures put in place to meet this aspiration?

As a reader mentioned in Malaysiakini:-

Anyone can make a thousand proposals, but the agencies trusted to implement these changes themselves are not reliable.

This should be addressed first before any new policy is designed. Otherwise, it’s a sheer waste of time and money. I have not seen or felt any changes and I don’t think I will in the near future.

We will still pay more for cars, earn less than others, suffer more, and cronies are still getting richer

What about the proposed Equal Opportunity Commission? Will it be like the toothless SUHAKAM – the human rights commission who can make noise but powerless to book the offenders? And just how “equal” the Equal Opportunity Commission want to be? The very mention of the word “equal” already got the Malay rights movement, Perkasa up in arms. So, is it back to status quo?

The fact is NEM is still in its infant stage – there are good items under the NEM but whether it turn out to be another one sided policy by another name or it can be implemented effectively, it will remain to be seen. One can just hope that it will not turn out to be another fresh coat of gloss to old ideas instead of crafting new ones.

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Budget 2008

And so, finally it is out in the open…