15th August 2020
MALAYSIANS MUST UNITE AGAINST ECONOMIC HARDSHIP
The just announced 17.1% Q2 GDP (year-on-year) contraction is both shocking and expected. This massive plunge has so far made Malaysia the worst performing economy in ASEAN. An official declaration of recession is postponed for now, saved by the narrow 0.7% positive Q1 2020 growth, otherwise we would join Singapore, Indonesia and Philippines that are already in recession in this region. What is equally shocking is that in this impending economic emergency, the ruling Perikatan Nasional portrays incoherence, lackluster, and a lacking sense of urgency.
The ruling parties seem to be hell-bent for intra-party elections, the coming state elections, and possibly even a general election. Winning elections and clinging to power is an art they have mastered. All else, including the oft promised to serve the country and helping the people is secondary. They are busy traveling the length and breadth, not to galvanise Malaysian solidarity necessary to face the impending hardship, but to campaign to secure votes for their survival.
Members of Parliament arguing over whether GST or SST is the better system to increase the government coffer are not a priority now. Identifying ways to prevent wastages and leakages should take priority rather than speculating over whether GST or SST is better. Year after year the Auditor General’s reports had shown ten of millions of wastages due to poor management and indifferent attitude of civil servants. These are criminal acts and omissions causing wastages.
Raising the nation’s debt-to-GDP ratio from the current statutory limit of 55% to 60% seems to be an easy way out when other measures have yet to be taken. One of the first measures is to cut unnecessary spending, to trim and be lean. Another is to curtail the ridiculous tens and hundreds of thousands of monthly income among those appointed to key GLC posts. These and much more need be done before ultimately proceeding to borrow if necessary. Continuous borrowing and increasing our national debt will be met with subsequent fiscal crisis where much of our budget has to be allocated for debt servicing. It is also akin to mortgaging the lives of our future generations.
Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz had the impudence to suggest that appointing politicians to statutory bodies and GLCs was necessary to help provide check and balance and ensured firms operated according to government aspirations. We all know that the politics of patronage has been commonly used for rewards to secure political servitude. Tengku Zafrul has insulted the intelligence of Malaysians by his suggestion. Political appointees to GLC boards are irrelevant. The vast majority adds no value other than occupying space.
We are aware that there are no easy answers to solving the economic woes in the current coronavirus pandemic and the deflationary world economy. No one can escape the impending hardship. Our government is not helping by trying to dissuade feelings of doom and gloom by suggesting that our economy will recover next year. The least it can do is to prepare our people to braise for hardship, to stay united, be resilient, and work hard. It can set an example by not engaging in divisive politicking. Unity is our best resolve against an impending economic hardship.
BG Dato Mohamed Arshad Raji (Rtd)
President, Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan