Saturday, January 05, 2013

Malaysia Politics

Just days into 2013, election fever in Malaysia has certainly gathered pace.  Dr M, the 4th PM of Malaysia has fired his latest take, titled "Change" posted on his blog (click to this, and followed immediately, a counter from a Pak Sako which appeared veteran opposition members, Mr Lim Kit Siang's blog titled "What Change? A Reply to Dr M" (click to this,

As our closest neighbour, we should always keep a close tab on developments there.  Who will win in this coming election?  I say, it will be a close call.  

For your reading pleasure, I have copied the two articles from the two blogs which are featured below and we shall make our own judgment but keep close to our hearts.  Read on.

By Dr M
Title: Change
1. In his campaign to become President of the US Barack Obama promised change, “time for change”, he said.
2. He promised to close down Guantanamo Detention Camp.

3. He promised to stop trials of detainees by Military Courts.
4. He promised to pull out from Iraq and Afghanistan.
5. And many more.
6. Now four years into his first term he has failed to keep his promises.
7. Guantanamo is still holding so-called terrorists; still torturing them. No military courts but no trials by civilian courts either.
8. Instead of pulling out from Iraq and Afghanistan he approved a “surge” in the troops sent to this area. Later he pulled out some troops but American soldiers are still in the two countries.
9. Making promises during campaigns for elections is easy. Keeping them is a different matter. The best hope is that people’s memory is short. They would normally forget the promises.
10. Now the opposition in Malaysia have copied Obama and is promising change.
11. Give them a chance they say. The BN has ruled this country for 55 years. It is time to change. They will change this into a welfare state. Everything will be free. No fees for education. No tolls. Large subsidy for petrol. 20% royalty to oil producing states etc..etc.
12. The Socialist and Communist have tried this welfare state idea. They failed. Malaysia has no ideology. But the reality is that all Governments need money in order to develop the country and to subsidise living cost for the people. But when Government foregoes taxes, tolls and fees, it will have less money. But it will still have to spend money on running and maintaining utilities, expressways, schools, hospitals, operational and development cost, pension, subsidies, etc.
13. So where does the Government get necessary funds.
14. Borrowing is okay if the money is invested and giving a return to repay the loans. But borrowing money in order to just spend will lead to non-payment of debts.
15. That’s what happened to Greece. It’s bankrupt now. The whole of Europe cannot put it back together again.
16. Admittedly the BN has ruled this country every since independence. But look at the record and compare it with other countries which gained independence at the same time. Compare it even with the developed West. They are in deep financial trouble and try as they might, they have not been able to overcome the crisis.
17. Remember 1997- 8 crisis. The then Deputy PM and Minister of Finance tried the IMF solution without the IMF loans. Banks and companies were faced with the threat of bankruptcy from non-performing loans. Imports cost more. Cost of living shot up.
18. The track record of the Minister of Finance then was bad although there is a fondness of claiming success brought about by other people as his success. PNB, UIA and Islamic banking were part of the claim.
19. Now as leader of the Opposition he is claiming to bring about change. What good change did he introduce when he was in the Government. All he was interested in was getting up the leadership ladder of UMNO in order to become Prime Minister. How he achieved his objective does not bear scrutiny.
20. Five years for the Anwar or Hadi-led opposition to govern is dangerous. Many things can be destroyed in five years. We have some experience of this. Besides the Opposition as Government will ensure there will be no return for the BN. Officer in the Government will be used to “gempar” (threaten) whoever tries to change Government. We know this has happened before.
21. Already we see this person who claims to fight for free speech suing and resorting to the courts to shut the mouths of his critics. Other powers of the Government will be similarly abused. Nepotism and cronyism will be employed as indeed they are in the party he now heads.
22. The record is there. Malaysians must not allow themselves to be hoodwinked as I was hoodwinked by the appearance of religious piety in the past.
23. The BN has listened to the people and has changed many laws and policies. All that the people need to do is to urge the BN to carry out whatever change the people desire. But changing the Government can and will result in this country becoming unstable and unable to grow.
By Pak Sako
Title: What Change? A reply to Dr M

JAN 4 ― Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad published a piece called “Change” yesterday in his blog.
In it he asked why change governments.
He then criticised the socialist ideology. He strangely claimed that “Malaysia has no ideology”.
That is completely untrue.
When Dr Mahathir came into power in 1981, Malaysia was introduced to the neoliberal ideology.
This is an ideology that is biased in favour of corporations and capitalists.
It is the opposite of socialism, which aspires to put people first.
The neoliberal ideology was aggressively promoted around the world in the early 1980s by influential global networks of business interests and their supporters.
Their mantra?
Sell off public assets. Remove regulations, so big businesses can run free. Control workers’ wage demands. Cut public expenditure.
Dr Mahathir joined the bandwagon. This is well-documented in books and papers.
His economic advisors were businessman Daim Zainuddin and the well-known neoliberal strategist, Kenichi Ohmae.
It was Ohmae’s rejected mega-project to create a “Multimedia Supercity” in Tokyo that got recycled in Malaysia as the “Multimedia Super Corridor”. Read Dr Tim Bunnell’s book, “Malaysia, Modernity and the Multimedia Super Corridor” (2004).
Ohmae’s ideological influence was “extremely significant”. And what other ideology is that if not neoliberalism?
After becoming prime minister, Dr Mahathir quickly announced a privatisation policy in 1983 — in line with the standard neoliberal programme.
Publicly-held assets were sold off to private business interests, entrepreneurs and corporate “captains” to supposedly make the economy more ‘efficient’.
But efficient for whom?
The “massive privatisation strategy” carried out during Dr Mahathir’s tenure is said to be linked to “increased competition for resources within the ruling Malay party [Umno]”; it redistributed resources “in favour of emerging factions centred on key political leaders”.
That is what political economist Jeff Tan found out and wrote in his book, “Privatization in Malaysia: Regulation, Rent-Seeking and Policy Failure” (2008).
Indeed, many privatisations are improperly justified handouts for the capitalist elite from the public coffers.
Selling off the public’s holdings remains a favoured economic policy of the Malaysian government until today. Witness the recent sale of Penang’s port and other public-owned assets to well-connected tycoons.
The neoliberal ideology calls for weaker worker unions so that big businesses can have the “economic freedom” to exploit workers to maximise profits.
Again, the Malaysian government’s development agenda subordinated labour in favour of private business interests in the 1980s under Mahathir’s watch, according to economist KS Jomo and Patricia Todd in their book “Trade Unions and the state in Peninsular Malaysia” (1994).
Labour organisations in Malaysia are weak relative to business power. They have no bite to negotiate for better working hours, conditions and pay.
The neoliberalism ideology wants ‘free markets’ in labour, so that the ‘price’ of an employee (his wage) can be competed down if necessary. Fixing minimum wages is bad.
Dr Mahathir forcefully argued against minimum wages in Malaysia, claiming it might bankrupt Malaysia, without providing sufficient evidence (“Dr M: Minimum wage may bankrupt Malaysia”, The Malaysian Insider, March 2, 2012). Dr Mahathir did not bother at all to consider the positive aspects of minimum wages.
The neoliberal ideology is opposed to strong states that directly ensure the people’s welfare, but it supports a strong state to enable businesses and capitalists to flourish freely, to ensure corporate welfare.
This involves all kinds of hidden subsidies and supports for businesses, including overlooking environmental regulation and standards.
And so we have today Lynas and the threat of radiation. Our rivers are polluted by business activities, and yet the people must pay businesses to buy water filters for their homes and mineral water.
Dr Mahathir does not like the welfare state approach, which says “if we properly meet basic social needs and securities first, economic prosperity will come”. Dr Mahathir prefers the opposite, neoliberal approach, which says “support the corporate class, and enough wealth will ‘trickle down’ to the people”. Now Malaysia has one of the higher income inequalities amongst the Asean countries. The super-rich are sucking hundreds of billions of dollars out of the country in illegal outflows.
Dr Mahathir complains about an unjust neoliberal world order, but Dr Mahathir hypocritically follows the neoliberal ideology, says political science professor Johan Saravanamuttu in his book Malaysia’s Foreign Policy, The First Fifty Years (2010).
Even the Nobel economist whom Dr Mahathir is fond of quoting, Joseph Stiglitz, has rubbished this neoliberal ideology, calling it a “grab-bag of ideas” about markets supposedly serving the public interest by “privatisation, liberalization”, when in fact it is simply “a political doctrine serving certain interests”. Read Stiglitz’s article called, “The end of neo-liberalism?”(2008).
On debt, Dr Mahathir says Greece borrowed a lot of money and is bankrupt.
But Europe fears Italy has also borrowed too much and is going bankrupt.
Malaysia has been given a financial warning: a top debt ratings agency says our public finances are weak, and are at the same level as debt-struck Italy (“Fitch warns Malaysia of possible downgrade due to ‘deteriorating’ public debt ratios’, The Edge, 1 August 2012).
Malaysia’s debt is now more than half of the income Malaysia as a whole earns in a year. This debt is RM456 billion. This debt nearly doubled since 2007, or in just four years.
This is to say every Malaysian now owes about RM16,000. If you earn RM4,000 a month, then you need to give up four month’s pay to settle the debt.
Dr Mahathir says: “Look at [Barisan’s] record… compare it even with the developed West. They are in deep financial trouble…”
Dr Mahathir says: “Five years to give a trial as government is dangerous. Many things can be destroyed in five years.”
But which government doubled Malaysia’s debt in less than five years? Barisan Nasional, right? ―

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