Friday, October 1, 2010

Mamakutty’s wealth prescription will bankrupt Malaysia, say analysts, politicians

October 01, 2010
Pua says the country cannot keep spending irresponsibly. — File pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s prescription of growth and wealth to avoid race relations problems plaguing Malaysia will bankrupt the nation if followed by Datuk Seri Najib Razak, analysts and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders said.

They pointed out that the former premier’s own advice had failed during his administration which showed a trend of declining race relations amid ballooning government expenditure.

“Najib will be crazy to follow Dr Mahathir’s prescription for it’ll only bankrupt the country and worsen race relations, especially when the root causes of deteriorating race relations are not first addressed,” DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua told The Malaysian Insider.

“Race relations were getting worse by the day between 2005 and 2009 despite record government expenditure and budget, and a record-breaking number of projects,” he said.

Dr Mahathir said on Wednesday he had formulated the Bangsa Malaysia concept under his Vision 2020 plan based on the premise that thriving economic growth would ease race relations.

Pua, however, pointed out that after Dr Mahathir’s administration, the government budget had expanded from RM128 billion in 2004 to a hefty RM200 billion last year.

“Yet race relations had been increasingly worse in those past five years compared to the years before,” said the Petaling Jaya Utara MP, citing incidents of Umno leaders waving the keris, a traditional Malay dagger, during annual general meetings.

In 2005, then-Umno Youth chief Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein sparked an uproar when he wielded the keris at the party annual general meeting, which was criticised as a symbol of Malay supremacy.

Recently, there has been a spike in racial tension, such as the incident of two school principals accused of uttering racial slurs, the furore surrounding a Chinese MP’s visit to a surau, and a National Civics Bureau (BTN) senior official who allegedly referred to the Chinese and Indian communities as “si mata sepet” and “si botol” at a closed-door Puteri Umno function on Monday.

PAS vice-president Datuk Mahfuz Omar echoed Pua’s views and noted that Najib’s administration now suffered a tight budget due to Dr Mahathir’s wastefulness.

“We are having financial management problems because of spending during Dr Mahathir’s time and Pak Lah’s time,” said Mahfuz, referring to former premier Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Malaysia is facing uncertain economic prospects with average GDP growth in the next five years projected to be just shy of the six per cent target Najib had set.

“Najib does not need to take Dr Mahathir’s advice because if he does, the country will lose a lot of money like what happened in Dr Mahathir’s time,” said Mahfuz.

Mahfuz says the Najib administration now suffered a tight budget due to Dr Mahathir’s wastefulness. — File pic
The Pokok Sena MP also pointed out that the infamous Kampung Medan racial clash had occurred during the administration of the country’s longest-serving prime minister.

“There were racial problems even during his time, like Kampung Medan,” said Mahfuz.

In 2001, a violent clash between the Malay and Indian communities in the Petaling Jaya suburb left six dead.

Pua dismissed the former Umno president’s spending strategy to ease racial tension as “unsustainable” and irresponsible.

“Looking forward, it’s unsustainable. The country does not have the money to keep spending the way Dr Mahathir wants us to spend,” he said, pointing out that the national debt had increased from 40 per cent of the GDP to 52 per cent today at RM363 billion.

“We cannot keep spending irresponsibly,” stressed Pua.

The lawmaker pointed out that the abuse of affirmative action policies was the underlying factor of race relations problems, but not a stagnant economy as claimed by Dr Mahathir.

“It is NEP (New Economic Policy) abuses — the ‘bastardisation’ as described by Nazir Razak — where they benefited a minority few,” said Pua, referring to CIMB group CEO Datuk Seri Nazir Razak who is Najib’s younger brother.

Recently, Nazir had lambasted the policy for being “bastardised” over the decades since its inception in 1971 for deviating from its goal of eradicating poverty.

Political analyst Dr Lim Teck Ghee agreed with Pua, saying that unfair wealth distribution caused by NEP-type policies was the reason behind simmering racial tension.

“Unequal income distribution has contributed to an increase in racial tension. It was during his period that growth in racial polarisation started to take place because of his policy,” said Lim, citing Dr Mahathir’s continuation of the NEP despite its targeted end date in 1990.

The Centre for Policy Initiatives director also slammed the former premier for squandering billions to feed his appetite for grand projects.

“The big projects undertaken during Mahathir’s time, when a lot of money was thrown around, resulted in bailouts between 1970 and 2007 costing the country more than RM100 billion,” said Lim.

“It is a recipe for disaster when projects are simply generated. It is economically unjustifiable, unsustainable and badly managed,” he added.

Political analyst Professor Madya Dr Samsul Adabi also cautioned against frittering away the country’s finances.

“We cannot simply spend,” said Samsul.

Like Dr Mahathir, he noted that wealth generation would help reduce racial tension in the country, but stressed that other factors also played a part.

“I agree because it can be one of the factors in reducing race relations problems, but there are other factors too,” said the analyst.

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