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27th March 2018
Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot) finds it amusing the rebuttal of Foreign Minister Anifah Aman’s on 26 Mar18 to ex ambassador, Dennis Ignatius; as we are unsure what Anifah wrote was in his capacity as a Foreign Minister or as a Member of Parliament. He mentioned that he listened and welcomed feedback from all including bias commentators.
There were several points of contention which Ignatius pointed out in his blog on 22 Mar 18, which Anifah simply brushed aside and called it ‘rant’. He conveniently chose a mere few points in his rebuttal while ignoring the rest that were all relevant. Before Anifah accuses Patriot as bias commentator, just like he did to Ignatius, we admit we are one. Patriot is non-partisan and in our numerous statements the last few months, though they may seem bias, we strived to be objective, and gave due credits to our government where necessary. Where we might have sounded bias, the arguments put forward were already compelling and those targeted for accusation were always in denial syndrome.
Patriot takes the principled stand that no single party should be an arbiter of truth. Any contentious point should be argued sensibly, honestly and with factual support. Ignatius in his blog had mentioned that, “They (the government) have been extraordinarily incompetent and reckless fiscally, forcing our nation into levels of debt that were unheard of before”. Anifah’s selective counter argument replied, “Our fiscal deficit has been reduced by more than half from 6.7% in 2009 to 3% in 2017”.
Malaysia’s real GDP growth from 2001 to 2017 had been an average of 5.4% per year, riding on the robust growth of China, and global phenomena of quantitative easing or fiat money creation. 2008 was the year of subprime crash in the US, which led to a global contagion effect, and by March 2009, Malaysia saw a record low growth of minus 5.8%. Hence, understandably the need for fiscal spending that came with massive borrowing. The following year, 2010, saw Malaysia with a record all-time high of 10.3% growth. Despite 16 years of average growth of 5.4%, our fiscal deficit (quite similar to budget deficit) had been continuous. In a well-managed economy, a budget deficit should preferably be within the range of 1 to 2 percent of the GDP, and not more than 3% that is the rule-of-thumb maximum deficit allowable. This does not mean a nation can go on budget deficit forever, as there should be compensation during years of growth and surpluses.
Anifah took pride in pointing out that the fiscal deficit had reduced to half, from 6.7% to 3%, without realizing that it was bad management in the first place that brought it to such high level. This is associated with unscrupulous wastages, leakages, and abuses. Deficit financing, which is the gap between revenue and spending, has to be met by borrowing. By 2015, our government debt had climbed to RM 627.5 billion from less than RM300 billion in 2008. In April 2015 our government imposed the GST which to date contributed an annual RM45 billion to the coffer. Currently in March 2018, the government debt is around RM 632.3 billion, or around 52% of the GDP. This figure does not include the contingent liabilities guaranteed by the government, such as loans taken by GLCs, which is estimated to another 25% of the GDP. At this rate of climbing debt, we are close to forced selling of our national assets.
As for the rest of the contentious points argued by Anifah, it is overly shallow and mere ranting like a politician and not a minister, and unworthy for us to comment. As a minister, how Anifah responds determines the sincerity of the government he represents, and how much trust the people can have on our politicians and those in power.
We advise him to walk to the streets frequented by urban poor as well as the heart of the rural inhabitants. Talk to them about cost of living, the food price, traveling cost, the GST, and ask them how much savings they have.
We hope Anifah takes our ‘bias commentary’ as constructive criticism that he professed welcomed to receive.
BG Dato Mohamed Arshad Raji (Rtd)
President, Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan