Don’t sugar-coat growth statistics, Amanah tells government

Dzulkefly AhmadKUALA LUMPUR: There is a disconnect between favourable government statistics on economic growth and the rising and burdensome cost of living, Parti Amanah Negara strategy director Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad charged today.

He said Prime Minister Najib Razak, at the Invest Malaysia seminar 2018 on Jan 23, had “cherry picked” figures to show positive economic growth, investment and employment.

Dzulkefly said the government should not sugar-coat statistics.

Najib also made “another round of promises” to enhance transparency, accountability and competency, Dzulkefly said in a statement.

“The big question is whether it is enough to boost investor confidence at such a late hour? Najib took pot shots at the opposition and his critics. He is mistaken if he thinks that the investment community is oblivious of the nation’s micro and macro-economic situations and the scandals besetting it. Investors are fully informed of the risk profiles of their investment portfolios.”

Dzulkefly said a nation’s economic health was optimal when the Bottom 40 (B-40) enjoyed the nation’s wealth equitably as the Middle 40 (M-40) and the Top 20 (T-20).

“Najib needs reminding that when the economy was flourishing between 2014-2016, the EPU (Economic Planning Unit) reported that the income of the B-40 actually plummeted. The share of the total income of the B-40 dropped from 16.8% (2014) to 16.4% (2016). Najib has failed to achieve an economic growth which is both equitable and inclusive.”

He listed out some of the major scandals and fiscal improprieties that have been a drag on the economy, including those involving 1MDB, Felda, and Mara.

He went on to mention some of the comments by economists regarding the economy. He noted that Dr Muhammad Khalid, commenting on Malaysia’s 5.8% GDP growth, had reminded Putrajaya that the GDP was not the best indicator of a nation’s economic health.

Dzulkefly noted that Dr Yeah Kim Leng, while acknowledging BR1M’s short-term benefits, had asserted that the creation of fair opportunities for employment, instead of reinforcing a subsistence mindset among Malaysians, was critical.

Kamal Salih, former director of the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research he added, had said that the approach of enhancing wages was more economically sustainable than a programme of cash handouts (BRIM).

Dzulkefly also quoted warnings from former Bank Negara deputy governor Lin See-Yan and Prof Jomo Sundaram on the economic situation and the need for fiscal discipline.