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Malaysians under economic threat

 | April 4, 2012

It is imperative that the Najib-led government warn citizens of an impending economic crisis, based on the 2010 household debt of RM581 billion or 76 % of the GDP.

COMMENT

Since 1981, Malaysia has been under undemocratic and authoritarian rule with a display of unabated gross abuses of power till today. It was the year “visionary” Dr Mahathir Mohamad became the country’s fourth prime minister.

Also since then Umno, as a party, and its leaders, have become very powerful so much so that they see themselves as the de facto government and the “power-that-be”.

And under the Najib government, Umno is set to advance its doctrine towards a totalitarian regime.

Against this background, the role of the other Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties has essentially been political window-dressing with the exception of Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB), the lead party in Sarawak.

In Sarawak, Taib Mahmud’s PBB was given a free hand to govern as long as the loot was shared with the Umno warlords in the Peninsula.

Such type of “corrupt sharing” and governance left many ills in its trails which will eventually surface and expose its many fallacies.

Which is essentially what is happening now in Malaysia.

Malaysia is now riding on a major national crisis which is threatening its foundations of nation building.

It is therefore imperative that the nation implements pro-democracy measures and puts in place a good national leadership to override these threats and to enable the nation to move away from these fallacies of mismanagement.

It is vital that the nation move forward to secure itself in an advantageous and strong position in all aspects in this competitive and unpredictable world.

National threats

Malaysia’s survival and prosperity are, however, under threats from these ills and malpractices perpetuated by Umno and PBB.

By the end of 2011, Malaysia’s national debt was 53.8% of the GDP, which stands at RM456 billion and is expected to escalate further.

This is due to the many years of deficit budgets since the Mahathir era. The national debt is further aggravated by the household total debt of RM581 billion in 2010 which is 76 % of the GDP.

The 2012 budget figures are not helping to alleviate the problem. The revenue is expected to be only RM186.9 billion, slightly more than enough to cover the operating expenditure of RM181.6 billion. The development cost, meanwhile, is estimated to be RM49.2 billion and is to be financed mainly by borrowings.

It is crucial that the Najib government issue a high alert warning of impending economic crisis requiring all sectors of the government and the private sector to stop, slow down or reduce borrowings except for urgent or vital expenditure.

Under such colossal debt accumulation any responsible government should opt for a surplus, or balanced budget. Or they should reduce the deficit annually on a progressive scale.

In plain language, a deficit budget means the government has overspent. Over-expenditure is permitted in genuine cases such as additional funds needed during times of war, natural calamities and the likes.

In fact, Malaysia does not have to resort to substantial borrowings to finance its development projects if public funds are utilised for genuine development for the people.

Unfortunately, the Malaysian government is infested with greedy politicians who feed on the public money to enrich themselves.

Public money is abused through corrupt practices such as the awards of public projects which are given directly to proxies and crony companies associated with those in the corridors of power.

‘Tax-free’ earnings

Naturally, the development costs of these public projects are very much inflated to benefit the Umno and PBB elite groups. In Sarawak, Taib has literally stolen billions of state funds since 2007. In 2012 we hope to stop him “stealing” about RM1.7 billion.

Because of such inflated project contracts, more funds are required to cover these unnecessary higher costs. In which case the only way out is to have a deficit budget to cover this “special” cost item.

Hence the government year in and year out has to borrow from the Employees Provicent Fund (EPF) and other private sources. Not surprising then, over the years these debts have ballooned to more than RM456 billion.

Furthermore, these Umno and PBB crooks escape paying income tax. These gangs not only plunder the public funds, but also loot other sources of the nation’s wealth such as lands, timber and others.

The dreadful consequences of uncontrolled borrowing will lead to lesser and lesser funds left for development. Eventually, one day Malaysia cannot borrow funds for development anymore because the debts have become a national monster!

It may even threaten the funds for operating expenditure to pay the salaries of those in the civil service, the police and the military.

Many households may not be able to borrow anymore when the government taps are running dry.

Corruption, a national scourge

Due to the widespread corrupt practices of the Umno and PBB top brass, the government is trying to cover the “extra” cost of project “over-runs” by operating on annual deficit budgets.

There are so many recorded high-profile cases that can attest to such malpractices but are never investigated and tried.

The exorbitant price paid for substandard military hardware by the Defence Ministry and the purchase of private land by the government for the Port Klang Free Zone project are among the more notable malpractices.

In other words, these gangs can operate anywhere in Malaysia and even overseas as long as big public money is involved.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the Attorney-General’s Chambers are both in cahoots, sweeping these high-profile cases under the carpet.

Consequently, when there is no effort or action to curb or eradicate corruption in the country, it has become a national scourge.

Ringgit, a weak currency

Meanwhile, the ringgit remains weak against the US dollar. In fact, it has never improved since after the 1997/98 economic crisis. Currently, one US dollar is traded for about RM3.

A nation’s economic strength is reflected in the value of its currency vis-à-vis other major currencies. Despite Malaysia having strong economic fundamentals, the ringgit does not appreciate.

In view of the mounting national debt, this will put pressure on the already weak ringgit.

If there is no improvement to reduce the national debt, the confidence in the financial market may be eroded.

Consequently, the sensitive and volatile sentiments against the ringgit may result in the repeat of the economic crisis of 1997/98, causing the collapse of the currency and the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange.

EC is just a sham

Finally, we have the Election Commission (EC), which was set up to carry out elections based on laws and democratic policies.

But the EC has “hijacked” free and fair elections and has become a grave threat to true democracy.

If indeed EC is true to its calling, it should respond to calls to clean up the electoral system from all kinds of unlawful and undemocratic practices as demanded by Bersih 2.0 and the opposition.

But instead, the EC is busy carrying out the following dirty covert operations:

  • Deleting many names of voters known as supporters of Pakatan Rakyat in Pakatan strongholds from the electoral rolls without their consent, or deleting and transferring their names to other constituencies;
  • Transferring thousands of Umno voters to opposition strongholds;
  • Registering the names of many Umno supporters more than once in the electoral rolls, meaning that they can vote more than once in different constituencies; and
  • Increasing the number of phantom postal voters by the thousands who are on standby to “cast” their votes in favour of Umno candidates when defeat is imminent.

These are not only acts of cheating but also that of treason.

The director-general of the National Registration Department and the EC chairman should resign for perpetrating the national scams involving the security of the country.

Declare ‘nation under threat’

We call on Bersih 2.0 and all political parties that are concerned with the future of our beloved country to openly declare that the nation is now facing a serious national crisis.

This will enable all parties concerned to take counter measures to rectify the major national problems, with the participation of the rakyat.

We want to bring changes to the present political scenario through the conduct of a fair and clean 13th general election and if this means launching a Bersih 3.0 rally, so be it.

And if despite this, the Bersih movement and other political parties contesting in the coming national polls find that the election was conducted in an undemocratic and unlawful way, then they should be prepared to launch another Bersih 4.0 rally.

Awang Abdillah is a political analyst, writer and FMT columnist. He is also a member of the Sarawak Bersih committee.


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