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Showing posts with label Pakatan Harapan (PH). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pakatan Harapan (PH). Show all posts

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Politicising education hurts the Chinese

 

https://youtu.be/1F2l-BKDXGA


As Malaysia tackles a RM1 trillion national debt, it may be wise for Lim Guan Eng to focus on revitalising the economy than to whip up a confrontation with his own community over a RM30mil grant


WHEN Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, in his Budget 2019 presented early this month, removed the RM30mil matching grant for Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC), it hurt not just the MCA but also the Chinese community.

The government will provide a mere RM5.5mil as development fund to TAR UC. The fuming Chinese community is now taking up the issue as TAR UC, along with Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), another institution of higher learning linked to MCA, has provided affordable education to many Chinese students over the past 50 years.

The removal of the matching grant to TAR UC – an annual amount given by the Barisan Nasional government to the university college previously to match the funds it raised – will negatively impact its continued survival.

Hence, emotive comments against Lim have been dominating the vernacular media since the grant issue emerged.

A petition against the Finance Ministry has also been launched.

Notably, though they are two non-profit institutions set up by MCA – TAR UC in 1969 and UTAR in 2001 – they are now seen as part and parcel of the Chinese community, which has been supporting their operation and expansion with billions in cash donations and land.

The late philanthropist of Penang, Tan Sri Loh Boon Siew, told me in an interview in 1991 that he had contributed land and cash to TAR UC. Other Chinese tycoons, too, have privately shared such information with me.

Together with the matching grants from the government totalling RM1.353bil over the last 50 years, MCA was able to expand the reach of the university college, from Setapak to Penang, Sabah and Pahang.

In the last 17 years, MCA also built UTAR campuses in Sungai Long (Selangor) and Kampar (Perak).

In the five decades since TAR UC started, children from poor Chinese families and other ethnic groups, regardless of political leanings, have benefitted from the education offered by it due to its affordable fees.

In fact, TAR UC and UTAR are two of MCA’s best non-political projects which have contributed tremendously to the Chinese society, to compensate for its past failure to safeguard Chinese rights in the Umno-dominated Barisan regime.

Putting into historical context, TAR UC – which started as TAR College before being upgraded to university college status in 2013 – was a product of political compromise when non-­bumiputra student intake into the five public universities then was limited by the introduction of the bumiputra quota. The one-to-one matching grant enabled TAR UC to provide an avenue for higher education for those from the lower-income group as well as performing students denied entry into public universities by the quota system.

Hence on Sept 15, 1972, Datuk Hussein Onn, the then-Education Minister, handed over the Instrument of Government to the institution.

A 77ha plot in Setapak was allocated for the construction of TAR College’s main campus.

Later, UTAR was set up and officially launched on Aug 13, 2002, by then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad after higher education in the private sector was liberalised.

According to MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, some 200,000 students have graduated from TAR UC/UTAR over the past 50 years.

Currently, the student population in the two institutions totals 28,000. Employees stand at 1,500 (60% Chinese, 40% non-Chinese).

These figures show that not just the Chinese have benefitted from the existence of UTAR and TAR UC but the Malays and Indians as well. Among the Pakatan Harapan leaders who were beneficiaries of the TAR affordable education are Cabinet ministers Teresa Kok, Datuk Salahuddin Ayub and Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail as well as Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and exco member Chong Eng.

As these two institutions have become integral to the Chinese community, it is natural that vernacular newspapers are following closely the developments in this issue.

From the writing in the Chinese media, it can be seen that this issue is threatening to become a “Chinese community vs LGE/DAP” confrontation. This may not augur well for Lim.

While there are people who agree with Lim’s argument to separate education from politics, and that MCA must cut its links with these institutions, they form a miserable minority.

In a strongly worded comment piece “Play-killing UTAR”, Sin Chew Daily deputy editor-in-chief Tay Tian Yan points out that in speaking up on the grant issue, it is not meant to support MCA, but to show concern for the future generations of the Chinese community, particularly those from the poorer classes.

In response to Lim’s warning to MCA that the two institutions cannot raise tuition fees, Tay concludes: “UTAR will die an eventual death if it cannot raise fees and is not given a grant. What will be the future of our Chinese youth?”

Generally, Lim is seen as abusing his power to punish his political rivals and in the process undermine the interest of his very own community. Such political gimmicks should be stopped when dealing with taxpayers’ money, given that 80% of the country’s revenue is contributed by Chinese businesses and individuals in the form of taxes.

For many people, it is particularly repugnant when Lim threatened to “take action” against MCA if the institutions raise tuition fees.

In a China Press editorial yesterday, Lim was reminded that last year when he was Penang Chief Minister, he had said education allocations to schools should be given regardless of political backgrounds. And he acted fairly.

“But after LGE became Finance Minister, his statement last year on equality dissipated. Shouldn’t the former Penang CM give a big scolding to the current Finance Minister?” asks the writer mockingly.

The Pakatan government has also been reminded that 95% of Chinese voted them in to oust the previous administration in the May 9 general election. Their support should not be taken for granted and forgotten.

In short, TAR UC and UTAR should not be penalised just because of their parental link with MCA.

Looking at national development, these two institutions have nurtured much talent to serve the country, particularly in the field of accountancy.

File photo of UTAR's Faculty of Business and Finance in Kampar, Perak.
File photo of UTAR's Faculty of Business and Finance in Kampar, Perak.
In fact, from my own observations, these institutions are more professionally run than many other private colleges and universities.

For this reason, and for their affordable fees, my husband and I sent our daughter to study in UTAR. She graduated last June.

As the country is confronted with a slowing economy and has to tackle a national debt of over RM1 trillion, it may be wiser for Lim to focus on revitalising the economy and other bigger national issues than to whip up a confrontation with his own community over a RM30mil grant.

By  Ho Wah Foon, The Star


Related post:


Monday, November 26, 2018

Ministers and leaders who benefited from UTAR & TAR UC, removed matching grants to varsity

https://youtu.be/AiIUc3spw-Y

Varsity grads: Chew says he is disappointed with Lim for removing the matching grants when some leaders like (from left) Kok, Salahuddin and Saifuddin were products of the MCA-linked institutions.

KUALA LUMPUR: MCA has pointed out that several Pakatan Harapan leaders were beneficiaries of MCA-linked institutions of higher learning.

MCA central committee member Datuk Chew Kok Woh named ministers Teresa Kok, Datuk Salahuddin Ayub and Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail as the beneficiaries.

He said even Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and state executive councillor Chong Eng were products of Tunku Abdul Rahman University College, then known as KTAR, and now TAR UC.

Chew expressed disappointment that Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng had removed matching grants to TAR UC.

He said although TAR UC and Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman were set up by MCA, they were never used for political reasons, saying all the graduates could verify TAR UC and UTAR were apolitical.

He said these institutions were professionally run, adding Lim’s decision spoke volumes about his “politics of vindictiveness”.

In fact, he said, the decision was a timely reminder that DAP had done nothing for education except to criticise.

“What has DAP done for Chinese education? Name us one,” he said in a statement.

He said DAP should not punish parents and students by depriving them of affordable education because of political reasons.

Chew feared that Lim’s action would lead to higher tuition fees at these institutions.

He said many parents, who could not afford private colleges and universities, depended on TAR UC and UTAR.

Chew said the two institutions had produced more than 180,000 graduates of high calibre since its inception in 1969, while UTAR has 56,000 graduates since 2005.

“We need to put aside politics to help Malaysians, especially those from the lower-income background,” he said.

Chew said TAR UC and UTAR graduates, including these Pakatan leaders, could vouch that these two institutions were not “MCA indoctrination centres”.

It was recently announced by Lim that the government would only allocate a RM5.5mil development fund for UTAR and TAR UC, instead of a RM30mil matching grant for TAR UC.

Lim insisted that both education institutes break off ties with MCA before the government provides more allocation for the two institutions.

In the Dewan Rakyat, Ayer Hitam MP and MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong debated with Lim, stating that the matching grants were vital to help ensure lower student fees for the two institutions.

On Facebook, Dr Wee expressed his disappointment in the Finance Minister’s reply, adding that TAR UC was wholly owned by the TARC Education Foundation and should not be seen as part of MCA’s assets, and that the university college also submitted audited accounts to the Education Ministry every year.

Dr Wee also told reporters in Parliament House that TAR UC might have to increase its fees to cover operational costs.

Founded in February 1969 as KTAR, the institute was upgraded to university college status in May 2013 and renamed TAR UC.- The Star

Related News

Politicising education hurts the Chinese

 WHEN Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, in his Budget 2019 presented early this month, removed the RM30mil matching grant for Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC), it hurt not just the MCA but also the Chinese community. The government will provide a mere RM5.5mil as development fund to TAR UC.

File photo of UTAR's Faculty of Business and Finance in Kampar, Perak.
UTAR's Faculty of Business and Finance in Kampar, Perak.

 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Umno is swimming against the tide


Empires are built, destroyed and rebuilt. If Umno wishes to witness the final part of that life cycle, it must navigate out of choppy waters by making right calls.


IF there’s one thing the Umno leadership needs to accept – no matter how painful – is that it’s now in the opposition. They got kicked out, and that’s life.

So, for God’s sake, please start acting and thinking like an opposition party. It may be hard after 60 years being at the helm, since the party has enjoyed the privileges of power, which can be intoxicating.

Suddenly, the motorcades are gone, invitations to events have trickled, telephones are not going off the hook, and the formal suits have stayed in the closet.

Umno leaders should forget about “doing deals”. That was precisely what got the party into trouble – those dubious deals.

Some Umno leaders find it hard to be “out of power”. They need to be in power – even if it means playing second fiddle, or even placing third or fourth in the pecking order. But here’s the bad news – Pakatan Harapan doesn’t need Umno.

They need to stop leveraging on the spin that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad needs them to keep Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim at bay. It sounds good for them, but the danger is that Umno MPs may start believing in their inflated sense of self-worth.

The PH government has the numbers. They have formed government and are running the country.

Governments in other countries, such as the Kuomintang party, which founded Taiwan, is now in the opposition but was the ruling party for decades, amassing huge assets. And like Umno, it also got embroiled in corruption.

The KMT maybe be broken now, but it still has plenty of assets. When the party fled to Taiwan after losing the civil war to the communists in 1949, it took millions in gold, bonds and antiques, all of which became part of the foundations of the party’s fortunes.

It also inherited assets left by the Japanese during their 50 years ruling Taiwan, but the KMT has come under investigation for public and private assets it seized after arriving in the country.

With its assets recently frozen, it had to cut staff from 800 to under 400 personnel because of insufficient funds. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Then, there is the Indian National Congress, founded in 1885, and which ruled India for 60 years, yet today, is in the opposition and struggling to remain relevant.

In Britain, the Conservative and Labour parties have been voted in and out of government. Amazingly, in all circumstances, even when alliances were made with smaller parties, the loser ended up accepting the people’s verdict and simply worked towards getting re-elected.

So, it is terribly embarrassing to see how Umno leaders crawled to Dr Mahathir, seeking advice on how to keep his former party alive. I mean, why would he even want to see Umno remain intact?

If that’s not enough, Umno had to use its usual trump cards of race and religion as reasons for the formation of a unity government, comprising mainly Malays and Muslims, to safeguard the interests of the community – after billions of ringgit vanished!

It’s also incomprehensible to be telling Umno leaders in Kelantan and Terengganu, who have fought against PAS since Umno’s formation, that they now must work with the Islamist party.

And in the same breath, try to persuade what’s left of the Barisan Nasional component parties that it is merely trying to reach an understanding with the fellow opposition party.

Umno and PAS are supposed to represent different things. Umno is Malay and Muslim, but is supposed to be moderate, inclusive and has shared power with the MCA and MIC, even in Malay-dominated constituencies.

Of course, these Barisan component parties don’t understand what’s going on because Umno members themselves are clueless about this purported deal with PAS.

And why should PAS want to share power with Umno? It has control of two states. It has exuberantly introduced whipping and gender segregation at public events again, making the two states look like some extremist Middle East country.

The party is happy to equate liberalism with open sex, hedonism, LGBT and everything else it deems sins. And can we be blamed if we feel that Umno is happily singing the same tune and sharing the same ignorance of what liberalism means? And now, we even have a new term – super liberalism. Go figure.

And why shouldn’t non-Muslims feel resentment for PAS when its president questioned Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for attending gatherings involving other faiths, or for the PKR president-elect to contest in a multi-racial constituency?

If Umno chooses to work with a party like PAS, then it’s heading down a slippery slope, if it’s purely about retaining or winning the Malay votes, because the party is bound to be grilled for what it stands for. Surely, it can’t be the same as PAS.

The DAP and PKR had been in the opposition for years, even decades, with their leaders paying a heavy price for their political convictions, but they continued with their struggles. We don’t have to agree with their politics and what they stand for, but credit where it’s due for their convictions.

And here we are – Umno suffers one defeat, and it’s running around like a headless chicken, which is how the party is being described now.

If it wants to get its house back in order, Umno first needs to reform itself. It is a flawed product, but not entirely a rejected or expired item.

It must appear an alternative. The voters are testing the PH government to see if it’s any good. Why not? After all, they gave the Alliance and Barisan a good 60 years, and they became arrogant and corrupt.

The voters are basically the customers, but Umno forgot that detail and expected the customers to be grateful, which is ironic. But that was exactly how Umno treated its customers.

Malaysians would like to see Umno leaders stop acting like big shots (which they no longer are), admit their mistakes and excesses of the past and, step down from their pedestal and be ordinary Malaysians.

Surely, we want leaders who can speak the languages of the people, understand their needs and sentiments, and just be one of us.

They ought to know that we are tired of having to address them by their titles and being expected to line up to kiss their hands. And for some bizarre reason, we wonder, too, why their identity cards need to carry their fathers’ titles!

So, we now have Tan Sri Awang Ibrahim bin Tan Sri Osman Tengah. If you don’t believe me, check the Mykads of most Umno members.

That’s how ridiculously far we have allowed this scheme of grandiosity to go with our obsession with titles. Now, it’s refreshing to see Cabinet ministers with no fancy titles.

We are watching all these newbies, so, don’t try to con us with pictures of them flying economy class, especially during the first year, and then subsequently, and quietly, enjoying the perks of power.

It’s obvious that the corrupt show their greedy selves in the second term of office.

But all is not lost for Umno. It has 49 MPs and that’s a substantial number. It must come across as an opposition worthy of being voted back into power, or it can continue to use the faces of political minnows, with their aggressive and irrational behaviour that is incongruous with the New Malaysia. It looks like Umno hasn’t learnt yet.

If the leaders can’t think well, then, it has to set up a really good think-tank capable of drafting the best papers and sound bites for Barisan leaders, and even produce policy papers that will put the party in good light.

Unlike the other component parties, Umno is still able to retain some very good youth leaders who can articulate their thoughts well, and with good command of Bahasa Malaysia and English. These fresh faces must surely be in the forefront.

If the warlords who run the divisions continue to have their way – now that the easily available funds are drying up quickly – then the demise of Umno will be near, and if they are still looking for deals, then it will be even closer.

Wong Chun Wai
On the beat by Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group's managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Putting in place a new Malaysian order

https://youtu.be/fCZj0DuDNUk

Robert Kuok attends CEP meeting

https://youtu.be/93Rm3baD_2g

THE winds of change have been sweeping through the country in the past fortnight at breathtaking speed.

First, the incredible election results that very few predicted correctly. Then the post-election drama until Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed was sworn in for a historic second time as PM. Followed by many decisions and measures announced daily as Mahathir hit the ground running, or rather sprinting.

The liberation of Anwar Ibrahim “from prison to palace” and from palace to padang for the night rally last Wednesday completed the key milestones in the quick journey from the old discredited order to the new world being born.

Mahathir was not only the man of the hour, masterfully guiding the ship to the harbour, avoiding the last dangers, but also a man in a hurry, laying the foundations for recovering the economy, reforms to key institutions, and getting to the bottom of the 1MDB sacndal.

Quite a few have aptly quoted Shakespeare to describe what happened: “There is a tide in the affairs of men which when taken at the flood leads on to fortune.”

There is another saying, when a revolution has taken place but there is chaos afterwards and the future is uncertain: “The old world is dying but the new cannot be born.”

What is most remarkable about the first post-election days is not how quickly the old era is passing away but how rapidly the new order is being built.

The reconciliation of the two giants of Malaysian politics, Mahathir and Anwar, paved the way to this remarkable new chapter.

When they fell out two decades ago, their story was worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy. Destiny or will or both have provided them a second chance to get it right this time, and if they do, Malaysia itself will have the opportunity to have a bright future.

It will always be remembered that the sacrifices made by Anwar and his family through his three jail terms and the reformasi movement he generated brought the country to where it is.

Equally, history will record that Mahathir not only laid the foundation of the country’s recent economic development and progressive foreign policy in his long stint as PM but also that he returned to “save Malaysia” from the lowest depths the country had descended into.

If reformasi has been the war cry, implementing a true reform agenda is now the prerogative.

Mahathir has now embarked full scale on reform – Anwar says his role is to keep it on the right track.

Understandably, the PM’s first priority is the economy. The new government has been acting to ensure that as far as possible its new policies should not lead to confidence erosion by investors and fund managers.

Removing the GST, Pakatan Harapan’s main election promise, is the number one political prerogative. Concerns that this will lead to a RM40bil revenue shortfall are being countered by expectations of increased revenue from renewal of a sales tax, the hike in oil prices to the current US$80 (RM318) a barrel, and savings from a planned reduction of wastage in government expenditure. The GST removal on June 1 should also lead to price reductions, a boost to consumer spending and the economy as a whole, and thus generate extra state revenue.

The new government will have to deal with the explosive jump in government debt in recent years. In a mere six years between 2011 and 2017, government debt rose 51% from RM456bil to RM687bil, while government-guaranteed debt jumped 94% from RM117bil to RM227bil.

Added together, the federal and federal-guaranteed debt went from RM573bil to RM914bil. It might be more if the debts of other entities are included.

This massive jump in debt may partly explain how the previous government was able to splurge on many projects and on welfare schemes, in failed efforts to win over the public and in schemes that mainly benefited the powerful and their cronies.

The commercial viability and social value of many of the loan-fuelled expenses are questionable.

An audit should be done on sources and uses of the loans, and how to reduce the damage by cutting loss-making projects and improving the performance of those that can be saved.

Recent years also saw the opening up of financial sectors, leading to high foreign participation in government debt and in the stock market, as capital surged into emerging markets like Malaysia in search of higher yield.

There are benefits in good years, but the country also becomes more vulnerable when global trends turn negative, as is happening since higher interest rates in the United States are prompting capital to flow back.

Dealing with the boom-and-bust cycle in capital flows will be a challenge for the new government.

Beyond economics and institutional reforms, there are other pressing issues the new government should focus on.

One of them is the environment. There are crises developing, on water resources and supply, floods, damage to forests and watersheds, hillside collapse and erosion, deterioration of the coastal environment and of course climate change.

Environmental damage harms social life and the economy. Floods and water shortage affect production, and fish prices have shot up due to overfishing and sea pollution.

Priority must thus be put on revamping environment-related policies and on strengthening the Environment Ministry. They have been neglected for far too long.

-  By Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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'Dr M shouldn't be meeting the likes of the Chief Justice' - Nation



A beacon for peaceful change


EXCLUSIVE: PETALING JAYA: Nobody in the world, says investigative journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown, “not a single expert really”, thought there could be a change of government in Malaysia.

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Jobs ahead for Pakatan's first 100 days fiscal reform


Dr Mahathir moves swiftly to inject confidence and stability into the market

WHEN the results of the 14th general election were finally formalised early Thursday morning, showing that Pakatan Harapan had won and would form the new government, there was a sense of excitement among its voters over the reforms promised by the incoming administration.

At the same time, that wave of buoyancy was tinged with worries of uncertainty. Malaysia was taking a path not traversed and for financial markets, anxiety is something they have never digested well.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad since then has moved swiftly to inject confidence and stability among investors and the population.

His swearing in as PM and the announcement of key ministries in the Cabinet will help in soothing nervy investors ahead of Monday when the stock market opens.

Strong track record: Dr Mahathir at the swearing in ceremony as the 7th Prime Minister. He expects the stock market to see its capitalisation increase over time. — Bernama
Strong track record: Dr Mahathir at the swearing in ceremony as the 7th Prime Minister. He expects the stock market to see its capitalisation increase over time. — Bernama
 
The early movements of the stock market will be closely watched and that is something Dr Mahathir too has quickly sought to assuage. He tried calming anxious investors by saying he expects the stock market to see its capitalisation increase over time. He also assured businesses and investors that Malaysia remains business-friendly and the economy is among his top priorities.

Hints of what businesses and investors can expect are laid out in Pakatan’s manifesto and its to-do list within the first 100 days. Central among the pledges is the confirmation that the unpopular goods and services tax (GST) will be cancelled and replaced with a sales and services tax (SST).

The other measures it intends to carry out in the initial period is to reduce the cost of living, stabilise the price of petrol and introduce targeted petrol subsidies, abolish unnecessary debts that have been imposed on Felda settlers, introduce EPF contributions for housewives, equalise the minimum wage nationally and start the processes to increase the minimum wage, postpone the repayment of the National Higher Education Fund Corp or PTPTN for all graduates whose salaries are below RM4,000 per month and abolish the blacklisting policy.

It also plans to set up a Royal Commissions of Inquiry into 1Malaysia Development Bhd, Felda, Mara and Tabung Haji and reform the governance of these bodies. A Special cabinet committee to properly enforce the Malaysia Agreement 1963 will be set up. There are plans to introduce the Skim Peduli Sihat with RM500 worth of funding for the B40 (low-income) group for basic treatment in registered private clinics, and initiate a comprehensive review of all mega-projects that have been awarded to foreign countries.

What impact the measures will have on government finances is another source of uncertainty but Socio-Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie feels it’s too early to assess any impact. “We will have to wait and see if Pakatan will table a new budget. The current estimates are based on the old budget, but I believe the Pakatan budget will continue with fiscal consolidation,” he says.

Pakatan’s alternative budget projects for a smaller fiscal deficit of 2.04%.

AmBank Group Research chief economist Anthony Dass says there needs to be some clarification on the new government’s policy and strategy without risking the ratings.

“Removing the GST and introducing the SST and other subsidies will act positively on the economy, as they help to improve the disposable income of households, and thus, spending. This will help buffer any shortfalls from the GST. Besides prudent financial management as we have seen in Selangor and Penang, a more transparent public procurement system or tendering process will improve competition and lower margins for players and ease budget strains,” he says.

Improving disposable income: Central among the pledges is the confirmation that the unpopular GST will be cancelled and replaced with the SST.
Improving disposable income: Central among the pledges is the confirmation that the unpopular GST will be cancelled and replaced with the SST.
Fiscal implications

Among the to-do list for its first 100 days in office, it is the promise to repeal the GST that has rating agencies worried.

“We are closely following the developments around some campaign promises that could have a negative impact on market sentiment and trigger volatility in the financial markets. These dynamics will take time to unfold and a lot will depend on what the new Government unveils in the coming weeks and months,” says Moody’s Investors Service Financial Institutions Group vice-president Simon Chen in a statement.

“If investor sentiment worsens materially, we will see increasing risks of capital outflows and a further weakening of the ringgit, that could in turn dampen private-sector consumption and operating conditions for banks in Malaysia.”

He did, however, say that Malaysia has weathered challenging periods, in particular, during the 1MDB scandal.

Fitch Ratings in a statement says the May 9 results means a higher likelihood of fiscal and economic policy change.

 “The extent to which the new government’s agenda will shift major policy is uncertain, but the Pakatan victory and its policy platform indicate a much greater potential for change. In the meantime, Fitch will monitor the new Government’s policy agenda as it evolves,” it says.

It views policy slippage leading to deterioration in fiscal discipline and higher government debt or deficits as a negative rating sensitivity.

“Among the most notable proposals is the replacement of the GST – a value-added tax launched in 2015 – with the narrower SST that had preceded it. The GST has become a key source of government revenue, accounting for 18% of total revenue equivalent to just over 3% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017.

“By comparison, the SST accounted for only 8% of total revenue and 1.6% of the GDP in its last year, 2014. As such, absent offsetting measures, the replacement of the GST would result in a correspondingly higher deficit,” it says.

Lee: We will have to wait and see if Pakatan will table a new budget.
Lee: We will have to wait and see if Pakatan will table a new budget.

Fitch points to another significant proposal, which is to reinstate some of the fuel subsidies. It says that if fuel subsidies were to be reinstated, they could offset some potential budgetary gains from rising oil and commodity prices.

Maybank Investment Bank in a report says that the removal of the GST will mean a projected revenue loss of RM44bil based on the current budget estimates. It says that even if the GST is replaced by the SST, which brought in RM17bil in 2014, there could be a prospective loss of RM27bil in government revenue and that could lift the budget deficit by 1.9 percentage points.

The report, however, does point to Pakatan’s alternative budget released in October 2017, which says that abolishing the GST will stimulate the economy and raise other tax revenues by boosting consumer and business activities. It says tax revenues will rise from better economic growth, higher receipts of corporate income tax, real property gains tax and other sources of income.

Government expenditure is also expected to drop by cutting certain allocations such as for the Prime Minister’s Office that can help buffer the cost of the GST removal.

It says that operating expenditure could be improved by having open tenders and the rationalisation in non-critical spending from supplies and services, which accounts for 14.4% of operating expenditure, grants and transfers to state governments and statutory bodies (9%) and the others’ category (7.8%), which consists of grants to statutory funds, public corporations and international organisations as well as insurance claims and gratuities.

Higher oil prices, however, are a revenue source for the Pakatan government and can help mitigate the loss of income from the removal of the GST. Maybank’s analysis shows that for every US$10 rise in the crude oil price, government revenue will rise by between RM7bil and RM8bil. That increase will have to be balanced out by the Pakatan manifesto’s pledge to give higher royalties to Sabah and Sarawak, and petrol subsidies.

Growth direction

Fiscal consolidation will mean there will likely be an impact on economic growth, as government expenditure plays an important role in generating growth. Economists are, however, optimistic that consumption boost from lower prices from the removal of the GST will help buffer any shortfall from spending.

They feel that the policies that will be rolled out in the coming months will be positive for the market and economy.

“We reiterate our -2.8% budget deficit to GDP for 2018 with the GDP to grow around 5.5%, supported by domestic demand and exports on the back of a stronger global GDP,” says Dass.

“We foresee better management in the operating expenditure with a more transparent procurement system or tendering process and efficiency in development expenditure projects and targets.”

Maybank is keeping its 2018 growth target at 5.3%, pending details on Pakatan’s economic policies.

“We are neutral to positive on the consumer spending growth outlook, based on Budget 2018 and Pakatan’s GE14 manifesto on measures to address living costs and boost disposable income. The main issue on the growth outlook now is investment, as businesses adopt a ‘wait-and-see’ stance and amid potential government reviews of several China-linked infrastructure projects and investments,” it says.

The investment climate, though, will be crucial in generating higher economic growth for the new government.

Lee says investor-friendly policies are important and the next three to six months will be important after Cabinet positions are filled and their work starts.

“Dr Mahathir’s strong track record, added with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the prime minister-in-waiting and the maturity of Malaysians as reflected in this GE, augur well for the country. These are positive signs on the business and consumer confidence,” says Dass.

“This will help the investment mood to improve and the pick-up in capital expenditure.”

By jagdev singh sidhu, The Star


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In the spotlight: Many shed tears of joy when Dr Mahathir was sworn in as the seventh Prime Minister.

Old PM heralds hope for new corporate culture

MALAYSIA’S poor handling of public finances is a subject matter that has very often lit controversy. It is not only during the Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak government but stretches back to the days of our new ‘old’ Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.



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Back to the future for Malaysia

Earth-shattering news: The aftershocks of the general election are not over by any means. Voter turnout declined by 8.84 percentage points from 84.8 in 2013 to 76 this time around.

MOST Malaysians, including myself, went to bed in the early hours of Thursday morning after hearing the news that the Pakatan Harapan coalition of four parties had won a simple majority of 113 seats out of the 222 parliamentary seats contested in the 14th General Election.

It was earth-shattering news that the Barisan Nasional that had ruled Malaysia for 61 years is now in opposition.

The 92-year-old Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has just been sworn in as the seventh Prime Minister of Malaysia, after having served 22 years as the fourth Prime Minister from 1981 to 2003.

In 2016, Dr Mahathir quit Umno and came out with the former Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to form Parti Pribumi.

The Pakatan coalition comprises Parti Primbumi, Parti Keadilan Rakyat led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s wife Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, DAP and Parti Amanah Negara. The last comprises a faction that split off from PAS.

Going forth, there will be a period of political crossovers in which each party tries to bolster its majority at the parliamentary and state levels.

The aftershocks of the general election are not over by any means. My preliminary analysis of the published and available data on the elections showed that voter turnout declined by 8.84 percentage points from 84.8% in 2013 to 76% this time around.

Despite this, the total votes cast in the Parliamentary election were 11.93 million, or roughly 671,000 more than 2013. Out of this, Pakatan got 5.24 million or an increase of 1.25 million votes (over the votes cast for PKR and DAP in 2013) to 43.9% of total votes cast.

In essence, Barisan had a swing against it of just under one million votes to 4.24 million or 35.53% of the total votes cast.

In addition to the rejection of the past government on issues that include the 1MDB scandal, three key trends can be discerned from this year’s general election, which was orderly and surprisingly quiet on polling day, since there were few of the usual rumbustious rallies that followed past elections.

The Malaysian electorate has become mature, learning to be cautious and yet bold in voting for change.

First, it was clear that the urban voters swung decisively to the Pakatan coalition. This trend was clear for quite some time, as the urban population increased with the rural-urban drift.

Umno has traditionally depended on the rural vote for its support, but relied on its urban partners, the MCA, MIC and Gerakan to bolster the urban vote.

This time around, the MCA, MIC and Gerakan were almost wiped out at the polls, with the MCA and MIC party leaders losing their seats and Gerakan winning no seats at all.

This meant that the decisive gains were achieved in the more densely populated states in the West coast of Peninsular Malaysia, particularly with stronger majorities in Penang and Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Johor.

The last was the birthplace and stronghold of Umno, but this time round, even the veteran MP for Johor Baru Tan Sri Shahrir Samad lost heavily.

What was pivotal was the voting in Sabah and Sarawak, which together carried 56 Parliamentary seats and were considered safe “deposits” on which Barisan could rely to carry a majority.

In the end, Pakatan and its ally, Warisan took 24 parliament seats.

Secondly, PAS, the Islamic party that focuses largely on religion, dropped a net of three Parliamentary seats, but took back Terengganu, so that it once again controls two states (Kelantan and Terengganu).

It was clear that the breakaway faction Amanah was not able to draw away sufficient hardcore votes to weaken PAS.

The PAS support amounted to 2.01 million or 16.88% of total votes cast, an increase compared with 1.63 million votes or 14.78% in 2013.

What the rise of Pakatan means is that the urban Malay voters had elected for a change of government and improvements in economic livelihood rather than voting along religious affiliations.

The non-Malay vote, on the other hand, were put off by PAS push for hudud laws and were uncomfortable with Umno’s flirting with PAS on areas touching on religion.

Third, what this general election has done is to bring more new faces and talent into the political arena.

One of the weaknesses of multi-party politics is that under conditions of uncertainty, the tendency was to rely on recycled politicians, rather than experiment with younger professionals.

The new government has the opportunity to engage in generational renewal by bringing in younger leaders from more diverse backgrounds into positions of authority on change at all levels.

Time is of the essence, as Dr Mahathir has promised to stay on as Prime Minister for two years, before passing the baton to Anwar who will be 73 by then.

Nothing would signal more the restoration of the rule of law than the immediate release of Anwar from jail.

To safeguard his legacy, Dr Mahathir has now an unique and historic opportunity to address many of the issues that festered when he was Prime Minister for the first time. If the rule of law has weakened, it was partly because of the controversial steps he took to intervene in the legal institutions in the 1980s.

He needs to strengthen the very institutions that protect the rule of law which he now upholds.

On the economic front, he has inherited an economy that has grown by 5.9% last year, but as the saying goes, the GDP numbers look good, but the people feel bad.

With oil prices back up to over US$70 per barrel, and Malaysia as a net energy exporter, the economic winds are favourable for making the necessary tough reforms.

Cutting GST may be popular, but one has to look closely at the fiscal situation more prudently for the long haul.

How to create good jobs in an age of robotics, even as more youth enter the labour force, is a pressing challenge not just for Malaysia, but throughout the developing world.

On the foreign affairs front, Malaysia will have to navigate between the growing tensions between the United States and China.

Given his feisty style, Dr Mahathir has not been known to mince his words about what he thinks about the South China Sea or for that matter, where Malaysia stands as a leading voice in the South.

In her unique way, Malaysia has voted for a generational change, but with the oldest leader managing that transition. Most new governments find very short political honeymoons, as expectations are now high on delivery. It is always easier to oppose than to propose and implement.

How smoothly that transition occurs will have huge impact not only on Malaysians, but the region as a whole.

By Andrew Sheng who writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.


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In the spotlight: Many shed tears of joy when Dr Mahathir was sworn in as the seventh Prime Minister.Old PM heralds hope for new corporate culture

 
MALAYSIA’S poor handling of public finances is a subject matter that has very often lit controversy. It is not only during the Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak government but stretches back to the days of our new ‘old’ Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Major force: SMEs now number around 500,000 and despite the presence of huge conglomerates, SMEs still provide the most employment opportunities and keep the economic engine running. 

My wishlist to the new government

An efficient and business friendly civil service will help the SME community greatly.


 

Expect unorthodox ideas and measures

TUN Dr Mahathir Mohamad is back in action and with lots more gusto too, at 93.





Friday, May 11, 2018

The world’s oldest PM, Dr. Mahathir must now walk the talk

Najib and Mahathir face off in fierce Malaysian election:
 https://news.cgtn.com/news/3d3d414f33517a4d77457a6333566d54/share.html

https://youtu.be/dbCkQ9347-A

Dr M must now walk the talk


WHEN I attended an election rally of Pakatan Harapan in Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur, two weeks ago, I was delighted to see the Malays, Indians and Chinese clapping hands in unison when PKR’s vice-president Tian Chua promised that the coalition would look after the interests of all, regardless of race, once it came into power.

I was touched by the reactions on the ground. It was a good feeling to be among people who share similar aspirations for racial harmony and welfare for all in this multiracial country.

My son also had the same experience at a Pakatan ceramah in Hulu Kelang, Selangor, last week.

It was drizzling and he was soaked. Then a Malay man gave him a shirt to change. He came home telling me he hoped that Pakatan would win to bring back the long-lost spirit of muhibbah and unity.

The spirit of muhibbah had for a long time turned into a rare commodity because the authorities allowed political opportunists to disrupt peace with their disparaging remarks against other communities and religious groups.

Now that Pakatan has toppled the Barisan Nasional government led by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in the May 9 general election, it is natural for Malaysians like me and my son to expect a better tomorrow where divisive racist politics is curbed, if not eliminated.

I look forward to the return of the good old days when the spirit of muhibbah among races prevailed.

This expectation is not unrealistic, given the emphasis to multiracialism and unity in the speeches of leaders under Pakatan led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The former premier, once disliked by some Chinese for his past racist rule but who appears to have repented, is now the Prime Minister.

But as Dr Mahathir, who has galvanised almost all Opposition forces against Najib for the latter’s association with the 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Bhd) controversy, is likely to play a key part in governing and “saving” the country, his policy speeches made during campaign are in focus now.

While Dr Mahathir has promised to get rid of corruption in government and Felda, he has also pledged to remove the 6% Goods and Services Tax (GST) and reintroduce fuel subsidies – two issues that have impacted the lower-income group negatively.

But if GST is removed and fuel subsidies are reinstated, Dr Mahathir’s government will have to implement measures to ensure that Malaysia’s fiscal position will not be undermined by populist moves.

With the prices of oil and gas returning to a four-year high, the impact on government finance may be cushioned slightly this year. But for the longer term, sustainability is in doubt.

Indeed, international rating agency Moody’s cautioned yesterday that these campaign promises, if implemented without any other adjustments, would be “credit negative for Malaysia’s sovereign”.

A downgrade in sovereign rating will have a negative impact on the ringgit, interest rates and ranking of our bonds.

It may also affect foreign portfolio investments.

But as Dr Mahathir is a deft hand at crisis management, having led the country out of the 1986 recession and 1998 Asian financial and local political crisis, he should have the wits to forestall any fiscal shortfall.

With many businessmen and economists silently supporting Pakatan, there should be no shortage of talent to help him manage the economy.

These skilled people may emerge in the open soon.

What worries businessmen and economists most is the doctor’s pledge that China investments in Malaysia would be reviewed, and terminated if there were unfair terms in current contracts.

But as Selangor and Penang have attracted substantial direct investments from China, PKR’s Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and DAP’s Lim Guan Eng could present an objective and clearer picture of Chinese investments to Dr Mahathir.

While it is difficult to revoke the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) due to the vast economic benefits it can bring to the country and the favourable terms in loan repayment, it is easier for Malaysia to delay the implementation of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project or stop China from getting the contract.

But before doing anything drastic to cut down national debt, government lawyers have a duty to advise the chief commander on paying vast compensation for breach of contract. As China views Malaysia as a strategic location in its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing has been following the political developments closely.

But to be sure, Dr Mahathir was a business-friendly leader when he was the Prime Minister, the first time around.

He was responsible for allowing direct trade between Malaysia and China in the late 1980s, which led to China becoming our largest trading partner. Hence, he is not expected to make policies detrimental to the economy.

One question many people are asking now is: will Malaysia become more democratic under Pakatan rule?

From the campaign speeches made by the coalition’s strategists and Dr Mahathir, this appears to be so – at least for the foreseeable future.

Two PKR vice-presidents, Rafizi Ramli and Tian Chua, have told voters that if one day Pakatan becomes corrupt, the people should vote the coalition out – just like how they brought Najib down.

What Pakatan wants to see is a two- or three-party political system where people have a choice to pick the best among the contenders.

Since Malaysians have boldly voted out Barisan that ruled for over six decades, there is no reason why Pakatan cannot be toppled if it is corrupted by power and greed.

In the campaign speeches, Dr Mahathir promised that he would pass the baton to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who will be released from jail next month.

Will he keep this promise after assuming the powerful post?

The logical answer is he will. At 93, his health may not permit him to carry on with this high-pressured job.

It will also be politically unwise for him to stay beyond his welcome, as Anwar had ori­ginally been the choice of the coalition before Dr Mahathir came into the picture.

Many have high expectations of Anwar, who has the experience of an acting premier, deputy premier and finance minister before he was sacked from the Cabinet in 1998 by Dr Mahathir.

Having survived bitter political battles and endured imprisonments under Dr Mahathir and Najib from 1998 until now, Anwar should understand the people’s needs better and rule with a multiracial outlook.- by Ho Wah Foon The Star

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By The Star Says

Joceline Tan

By Joceline Tan

 


In the spotlight: Many shed tears of joy when Dr Mahathir was sworn in as the seventh Prime Minister.Old PM heralds hope for new corporate culture

MALAYSIA’S poor handling of public finances is a subject matter that has very often lit controversy. It is not only during the Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak government but stretches back to the days of our new ‘old’ Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.



Related posts:


Mahathir to be sworn in as PM on May 10 2018. After six decades in power, BN falls to ‘Malaysian tsuna...