Friday, September 19, 2008

From Badawi to Najib: Economic Reckoning

From Badawi to Najib: Economic Reckoning


September 18, 2008 —Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced this week that he has enough parliamentary support to unseat the current government, led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. If he does, Abdullah’s lacklustre economic management will be largely to blame.

The prime minister has not introduced any substantive reforms during his nearly five years in office, preferring to rely instead on opening up the government purse. Under the Ninth Malaysia Plan announced in 2005, he expanded public-sector spending to RM200 billion annually from RM160 billion. In his Midterm Plan Review this year, he increased this outlay to RM240 billion. The national debt now stands at RM285 billion, up from RM192 billion in 2004. The official fiscal deficit has risen to 4.8% of GDP this year, from 3.2% last year. Revenue is being spent faster than it is coming in.

It’s hard to argue that these outlays have served the broad public interest. Much of the funding has been channelled to elites in the majority Malay community, under the country’s pro-Malay affirmation action programme. That has created discontent with many Malay who don’t see the full benefits of the programme, and among the minority Chinese and Indians, who are excluded from it altogether.

Abdullah’s stewardship has had a real impact on the economy. Capital flight has risen sharply; Malaysian investment abroad now exceeds inward foreign investment. The Kuala Lumpur stock exchange has lost almost one-fifth of its value this year to date. Malaysia’s currency, the ringgit, saw its biggest one-month loss last month since the end of the dollar peg in 2005. Although GDP growth has averaged a robust 5% annual growth under Abdullah, that record is now under threat. Inflation reached a record 8.5% this summer. Job creation has reached record lows, as unemployment, particularly among young majority Malays, remains high. Ironically, only the opposition-led state governments are attracting new foreign investment — and without the federal government’s help, no less.

Abdullah’s 2004 attempts to promote growth and investment — such as through the promotion of the biotechnology and agricultural industries — have failed. He also fumbled discussions with the United States on a free trade agreement, which have now stalled. What Malaysia really needs is education reform and the liberalisation of its labour markets to improve its economic competitiveness.

The political opposition, in the form of Anwar and his Pakatan Rakyat coalition, have seized on these issues. They have promised to root out corruption and to implement a new economic policy to address the concerns of all ethnic communities in Malaysia. Their platform aims to move beyond populist spending to introduce structural reforms in government procurement programmes and in the management of government-linked companies.

When Abdullah assumed office in 2004, he inherited an economy in need of structural reform. Malaysians have had to pay for his poor stewardship through higher prices, stagnating wages and growing private sector debt. Soon, Abdullah may have to pay the political price for that record. — Wall Street Journal Asia

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Categories : Economy


Your Best Hope for Malaysia, Mr. Prime Minister is to meet Anwar face to face


Are you man enough, Mr PM?
September 19, 2008

MCPXAnwar seeks emergency House session

Meng: What Anwar is trying to do is to take over the government in a democratic way as provided for in the constitution. Unlike any other southeast Asian country, if he succeeds, it will be the first peaceful takeover in the region.

This would speak volumes for the maturity of Malaysians and the government. If and when it truly happens without a single shot fired or any blood shed, it will be a historical moment not only for Malaysia but for Asian nations.

Should I be pessimistic and cynical? Unfortunately UMNO never had a history of civility and respect for the Rule of Law. It would be highly unlikely that UMNO and BN would walk down this path without a fight. That would be sad but it would be the main reason we should seek to oust this oppressive regime once and for all.

We must pray for Anwar to succeed.

Maniam Sankar: I agree with the PM that there is a clear and current threat to the nation. I am only not sure whether that threat is the BN or Anwar.

The BN government’s laughable sodomy allegations, the recent ISA detentions and the uncensored Ahmad Ismail outburst will surely cause any right thinking investor to delay if not cancel any plans for Malaysia.

Even if we believe Anwar is causing instability, surely it is only because the BN is so weak that it allows him to do so. If any government cannot counter the arguments of its citizens except by detaining them under ISA, surely it is the government that is at fault. The administration must make the case to be trusted.

Given the PM’s inability to do so, why not he call a session of Parliament to rule whether Anwar is a threat? Only then would we be able to gauge the level of support both men have in Parliament.

Are you man enough, Mr PM?

Faizul Zainol: Pak Lah should just convene Parliament so that both he and Anwar can lay their cards on the table, once and for all. This will put to rest the speculation about crossovers.

But it looks like Pak Lah is scared. This puts more weight in Anwar’s claim that he has the numbers. Threats of ISA are a coward’s excuse and only add to further uncertainty and anxiety in the country.

End the tension once and for all. Call the emergency session of Parliament and lets’ have a really happy Hari Raya - one way or the other.

Rocky: The PM must be joking when he said Anwar is a threat to the country’s economy and security. If he is a threat, it is to those in power and their economical wealth and security because he has promised to bring about change that will rid of corruption and injustice .

The country’s economy is suffering not because of Anwar, but because the current government has closed one eye to corruption, abused the judiciary and played the racial card to gain political leverage. I dare say if Anwar comes to power, our economy will improve.

On the matter of security, it is the Umno racial bigots and Umno-controlled media who are causing racial tension so that they can remain in power with a divide and rule policy while disregarding the security of the nation and the well-being of the people.

So, the prime minister should not blame others for his inability to do a good job as we can see most often than not, he has been unable to deliver what he promised and has a tendency to either move the goalpost or remain elegantly silent, hoping the issue would go away.

Please do not assume Malaysians are stupid and unaware of what is going on around them.

Vimhal: The PM’s comment that Anwar Ibrahim is a threat to national security is absurd. He is the hope of the nation for a better Malaysia for now and generations to come.

We the rakyat congratulate Anwar for his bravery and determination and will always stand by him regardless of whether he forms the new government in days, weeks, months or even years.

Nitha Malar: A call for an immediate change in the government is necessary to avoid further damage being done to the political stability and economic growth of the country. A change in government can instill confidence in foreign investments and boost economic prospects if the government is aware of its current actions.

It seems to me the government is more concerned about staying in power instead of reflecting the will of people which is ultimately the core idea of democracy. We certainly have voiced our choices by our votes and it is now the government’s responsibility to mandate the people’s wish.

Patriotic and Proud To Be Malaysian: Anwar is this country’s salvation and hope for a better Malaysia, free from racial prejudices and disunity.

Asking the PM to convene an emergency parliamentary sitting to debate a vote of no confidence in the present BN government is standard procedure in any parliamentary democracy, which this country claims to be.

If parliament convenes on September 23 and the vote of no confidence is taken, and if the final count does not show that Anwar and Pakatan Rakyat have the overall majority to bring down the BN government, then that’s it. It would all be over for him and the BN would be able to get on with governing the country. But Anwar should be given a chance in Parliament. It is the only democratic thing to do.

Melsteve: Anwar is seen by millions as the long awaited salvation, a cure to the ailing economy. It is Pak Lah who is a threat to the economy. Remember that it was the rakyat who put BN in power even though with a lesser majority. How did Pak Lah repay this gesture? He simply increased the price of petrol by 78 sens. Thank you, Pak Lah. The rest is history.

The man on the street is crying because he has less money for his family. Syabas Pak Lah.

The longer he is in power, the bigger threat he is to our economy. I wonder what other surprises he has in store for the rakyat.

Concerned Malaysian: I am becoming increasingly concerned with the Malaysian version of the Bold and the Beautiful being replicated by our dear politicians in both the BN government and opposition.

The sad thing to all of this, we the Malaysian people are no longer the viewers of this soap opera. We are the affected bystanders.

We, are paying dearly and have been paying and will be paying more in times to come for this unwanted role that we partake as a nation.

The cost of living rockets upwards due to more inefficiencies in the economy (both private and public), our standard and quality of living begins to deteriorate, drop in the education system and standard, uncontrollable brain drain, a slump in the FDI and many more are the prices of this soap-opera.

We, Malaysians, are less human compared to the less of the world due to draconian ISA that curbs our freedom to express our rights and grievances. However, ISA is an exemption to BN racial inciters like Ahmad Ismail while an innocent reporter doing her job is detained.

Our once people friendly police are now against the people and are increasingly becoming like the watchdog of BN rather that the people.

I believe that millions of my Malaysian brothers and sisters want no role to play in this soap opera. We have families and loved ones to care for. All we want is peace, economic security and the right to co-exists in this beloved land of ours.

Kumar Ganesh: There is not a shred of evidence that the list of 31 defectors exists other than the fact that Anwar says so and he wouldn’t lie to us, would he? But why does he not go straight to the king with it? Why does he keep making demands of the prime minister, knowing that in the absence of concrete evidence, he will only be rejected?

If the list is no more than a wishlist, then never has so much political capital been squandered in one day. Not only has Anwar committed political suicide, he has also badly damaged the opposition. Anwar’s only hope then is to get arrested under the ISA. Then he can at least preserve a modicum of credibility without having to show his hand.

Dr Jacob George: I appeal to all Malaysian politicians and more so, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, deputy premier Najib Razak and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to meet and discuss a plan of action that serves the nation first and calls for a change that we can all believe in.

It is no longer about who wants to continue as prime minister or who hopes he will succeed as prime minister, let alone who feels he must be prime minister at any cost.

If of all persons, the notorious and brutal Robert Mugabe can finally allow a discourse for change and a unity government in Zimbabwe - can the above three not be statesmen and do the same for our beloved nation Malaysia?

Can we not have ‘politics of reconciliation’? Can we all not think of the nation instead of our own political agendas and obsession?

Comments : 22 Comments »

Categories : Democracy, Politics


Teresa Kok is free but RPK and Others are still under ISA: Divide and Rule?



Comments : 9 Comments »

Categories : Democracy


Georgetown University’s Take on Anwar Ibrahim


September 18, 2008
by Eric Pilch

Malaysia has entered a period of political turmoil and transformation as Anwar Ibrahim, a former Georgetown professor, seeks to take control of the government. Ibrahim, who served as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Malaysia in the 1990s, announced that he has secured the support of enough members of Parliament to remove the ruling National Coalition from power. If this transfer of support comes to fruition, Ibrahim will become the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

“We must reestablish the integrity of our judiciary and take an uncompromising stand against corruption and cronyism,” Ibrahim wrote in an email.While at Georgetown, Ibrahim served as a visiting professor in the School of Foreign Service and as a faculty member at the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. He also taught a class called “Contemporary Islam in Southeast Asia.”

Georgetown professor Max Gross assisted Ibrahim while he was teaching at Georgetown and described him as “kindly,” “very learned,” and a “pious Muslim.” “During the month of Ramadan, I came into the office with a cup of coffee and Ibrahim asked me ‘Aren’t you fasting?’” Gross said. “And it was a very nice way of saying, ‘Please don’t drink coffee in front of me’ without having to say it that way.“

According to John Esposito, Director of the Alwaleed Center and a friend of Ibrahim’s for 20 years, Ibrahim was once one of the most promising young politicians in Malaysia, but his career was disrupted after he was convicted of corruption and sodomy. Amnesty International said the charges brought against him were a pretext to discredit him and remove him from public life.

“No one believes those charges save the ones whose political longevity is dependent on my being clapped in the slammer,” Ibrahim wrote. Current Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has rejected Ibrahim’s advances on the government and told the on Tuesday, “The government is strong and here to stay.” However, Malaysia’s Justice Minister resigned last week to protest the detention of an anti-government journalist and blogger.

Badawi has repeatedly declined to meet with Anwar Ibrahim, despite frequent public requests. Ibrahim, in turn, has refused to release the names of his supporters until such a meeting is arranged, claiming his new legislative supporters would be detained or harassed if he publicly released their identities. Ibrahim originally set Tuesday, September 16 as the date that he would come to power, but his plans were derailed when the government announced that 50 members of Parliament would be visiting Taiwan for a week. Ibrahim called this a transparent design to thwart his plans.

“It has led the public to think that the government is a troupe of court jesters,” Ibrahim wrote. On Tuesday, Ibrahim announced that he would give Prime Minister Badawi a week or two to resign and accept defeat. “He thinks it will spell the death knell of his premiership. I’m trying to convince him that it’s more about national salvation than about the longevity or the lack of individual political careers.”

If Anwar Ibrahim is successful in his bid to become Prime Minister, it will be an historic transition of power, according to Georgetown Professor Pamela Sodhy, an expert on Southeast Asian politics. However, both Esposito and Sodhy expressed doubt that. Ibrahim would be successful. Esposito cited the tumultuous political climate and excessive powers vested in the government through the Internal Security Act.

“It’s a difficult situation and a potentially dangerous one,” Esposito said. If Ibrahim does become Prime Minister, he has expressed a commitment to economic reform and the removal of affirmative action policies for ethnic Malays. Either way, he wrote, his future would include Georgetown University.“I’m certain to come back, but in what capacity I can’t say,” Ibrahim wrote. “Georgetown will long remain in my memory as an idyllic place that gave me a renewal at a point in my life when it was most needed.”

For a full transcript of The Voice’s interview with Anwar Ibrahim, go to

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Categories : Anwar Ibrahim, Politics


Goodbye by October 9 (?)


Abdullah Badawi under pressure to step down by October 9, 2008
September 19, 2008
The UMNO supreme council which met yesterday saw several of its senior members demanding the party president Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to step down before October 9.

MCPXAccording to well-placed sources, they wanted Abdullah to hand over the reins of power to his Deputy Najib Abdul Razak before the date as they want to ‘save Abdullah from the embarrassment’ of not getting enough nominations to contest for the top party post.

Those who argued for an early exit for Abdullah felt that their boss, who is also the prime minister, could not garner sufficient support from the party’s 193 divisions when these divisions start their annual general meeting from Oct 9 to Nov 9.

Under the UMNO’s party constitution, aspiring candidate for the No 1 post need to obtain at least 58 nominations from these divisions nationwide.

Should Abdullah step down from his party president post by October 9, it would also mean he will have to relinquish his premiership as under convention UMNO president is also made the prime minister.

According to the sources, there were at least five supreme council members - including three ministers - who spoke against Abdullah’s self-imposed 2010 transition deadline to step down.

Leading the chorus for him to quit now was said to be vice-president Muhyiddin Yassin as well as Wanita chief Rafidah Aziz.

“There were a lot more who wanted to speak up but they were cut short by Najib who said the matter should be left to be discussed between him and Abdullah,” a source told Malaysiakini.

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