Enough distractions, PH

Since its victory in the last general election, Pakatan Harapan (PH) has been feeding us an endless stream of distractions while not providing a political economic and socio-cultural plan that is different from Barisan Nasional’s (BN). First, it put forward the mythical RM1 trillion debt mountain that was used as an excuse to cut public expenditure. Well, Moody’s 2018 figures for Malaysia’s debt put it at 50.8% of our GDP, not the 85% claimed by the government. Then it continued to bash the last prime minister even though he is already in the hands of the AG’s Chambers and the courts. And with MCA reduced to just one MP in Parliament, why is it being treated as if it poses such a threat to PH?

Now, a new distraction cast by PH leaders has emerged which is more serious and threatens our peace and good relations with our neighbour Singapore. I am referring to PPBM’s policy and strategy bureau chief Rais Hussin’s warning Singapore of “pain by a thousand cuts” for its stance on this latest maritime and airspace dispute. Bluster indeed from one who will definitely not be cannon fodder when any skirmish starts.

Fabricated Singapore issues

Come on, are Malaysians to believe that these supposed “issues” with Singapore are not fabricated distractions after our peaceful coexistence with Singapore all these years – their water supply, the crooked bridge, the high-speed rail, the use of airspace and maritime territory? Why have they suddenly become issues of contention? DAP and PKR leaders will have to bear collective responsibility if they do not draw the line as soon as possible.

Does it take much courage for PH leaders to tell Dr Mahathir Mohamad that his crooked bridge and third Malaysian car are rejected by all rational Malaysians and have made us the laughing stock of the world? Does it have to be the little boy who blurts out: “Look! The Emperor has no clothes on”?

Put it another way: which foolhardy PH leader is prepared to stand up and declare that they support the prime minister’s crooked bridge and third Malaysian car?

No more Mahathir-ist policies, please

Apart from these two hare-brained schemes, the privatisation of Khazanah is a return to Mahathirism 1.0 that is not acceptable and must be opposed by all Malaysians. We must not allow our valuable sovereign wealth fund, Khazanah, to be privatised. During the financial crisis of 1997/98, it was Khazanah that stepped in to take over the assets of the failed companies owned by crony capitalists in Renong, MAS and TRI. After taking over the assets, Khazanah revamped these GLCs with professional managers and better rules of governance.

Certainly, GLCs being the people’s assets, should be the paragon of labour relations and democracy, demonstrating the use of best practices in environmental, gender and inclusive ethnic relations. Furthermore, we should ensure that the professional managers in GLCs are not over-paid – the income ratio in any GLC should not exceed 1:20 between the highest and lowest paid staff.

Mahathir’s privatisation drive during his first term (1981-2003) was a boon for crony capitalists, especially those linked to the power holder in Umno. Malaysian taxpayers were the losers since these erstwhile profitable public utilities were sold for a song to private capitalists, and we became captive to Umno-linked monopolies such as the North-South Highway operator. The lack of competitive tenders for many of these privatisation projects not only penalised taxpayers but also discriminated against the smaller Bumiputera entrepreneurs.

So please, never again! Don’t let Mahathir privatise our prized national asset and sovereign wealth fund Khazanah.

Show us a new vision for ‘New’ Malaysia

Instead of constantly raiding Petronas to patch the budget deficit, it is time that Petronas’ revenue is invested as a pension fund for the future generations and oil-producing states. We also want strong public sector health, education, housing and transport services including highways which have been privatised to crony capitalists at the expense of the public good. Our small and medium enterprises, farmers and fisherfolk need adequate support in order to develop our local food and industrial production.

The increasingly serious gap in income inequality needs to be addressed through progressive taxation on the high income earners, their wealth and property and effective tax laws to ensure there are no tax loopholes for the super-rich. Capital allowances and tax holidays for foreign firms must be reviewed while a tax should be imposed on all international financial transactions and hedge funds. Curb growing income inequality by imposing a higher marginal tax rate on high income earners, an incremental capital gains tax on property and financial assets, and other progressive taxes on wealth and luxury goods. The revenue from this progressive taxation can then be used for our social welfare services.

This is the sort of reforms we expect in the New Malaysia; spare us the never-ending race-based policies, flip-flops and tedious distractions.

Kua Kia Soong is the adviser to Suaram.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.