Courting a national disaster

January 04, 2014 (TMI)

Dzulkefly Ahmad

There is a saying, “Without wise leadership, a nation falls, but with good counsellors, there is safety”.

The recent spate of events that have engulfed the nation has amply illustrated that we have neither wise leaders nor good counsellors.

That this fact underscores the current state of affairs of this embattled nation is an understatement. With inept leaders encircled by more-than-happy-to-curry-favour advisers/consultants, we have a recipe for disaster. The nation is in a tail-spin of sort and courting a national tragedy.

That this is seriously now the case is underpinned by two major arguments.

First, from the way the troubling economy is further mismanaged, and second, the deepening crisis of the racial-religious divide that is almost at a boiling point.

Consequent to the misdirected policies of pursuing and ramping “growth without a socially-just development” end-state, on the back of a much abused “interventionist affirmative action of the New Economic Policy”, the nation finds herself strapped in huge debt and 16 years of fiscal deficit which has now become very ‘toxic’ and ‘unsustainable’.

With the federal debt that has almost reached the statutory limit of 55% of the nation’s GDP, (RM543.3 billion, to be exact, as of MOF report), even the prime minister-cum-finance minister talks of the imminent bankruptcy. Very unfortunately though, debts were conveniently attributed to the “colossal subsidies” (RM46.7 billion, according to MOF) said to have been spent on the rakyat.

Never were Prime Minister Najib and his ministers abled to admit that the debts were equally or more likely due to the government mega-spending on big ticket infrastructural items in a “pump-priming” mode in both bullish times and bearish times. The PM was either oblivious and remorseless, or worse still, totally inept and clueless.

Leakages due to wastages, stupidity bordering negligence, as annually reported by the auditor general, and endemic abuses bordering corruption, epitomised by the PKFZ, NFC and MITP fiascos, are never blamed to be the cause of billions of ringgit being drained or misallocated.

Failures to dismantle monopoly have severely distorted the market and continuing crony-capitalism resulted in a new rentier-class – the likes of Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary et al, monopolising critical national assets and utilities, and a repeat of Mahathirnomics – of privatisation and a creation of a super-rich Bumiputera-Malay elite class.

It has made nonsense of the effort to achieve the high-income target of US$15,000 or RM48,000 per capita, arguably achievable through a hundred of the richest people in the country, when both income and wealth divide continues to yawn wider yearly.

Let it be known to the PM and his cahoots, lest they are still oblivious, that  statistically, welfare states like the Nordic countries, Austria and the Netherland devoted at least 20% of their national budget to social transfers or subsidy.  You were adamant about introducing the GST in 2015, while allowing leaks to go unchecked. The nation is still caught in a “middle-income trap”, which is irresponsible.

More interestingly, higher social transfers (subsidy) of the welfare state have resulted in less poverty, less inequality and longer expectancy, with statistically no net cost in terms of GDP, economic growth or even budget deficits.

Whether we are looking at the social market economy or an Islamic economy, we shall no longer view at welfare as a “populist” public policy. Welfare spending, as Keynes argues, has its role in stimulating demand when private investment and expenditure dry up, a part of the package of policy instruments to prevent economic crises and keep the market economy on track.

So Mr PM, your arguments that the rationalisation of subsidy (aka withdrawal of subsidy) must be put in place or otherwise the nation is going to go bankrupt, are both pathetic and misguided. With that drastic withdrawal of subsidy namely fuel, electricity tariff, toll, sugar etc, the nation is now heading for a pernicious hike in various cost of living. Your 11 austerity measures are however, too little to be of financial significance in reducing spending, though never too late.

Could you promptly revisit your economic measures and take heed of the copious critique, especially from among the economists who are not out there to curry favours?

Their honest assessment that your so-called ‘rationalisation of subsidy’ are triggering more than ‘double-whammy’ on the rakyat’s well-being  particularly on the bottom 40%, and more so on their purchasing power to drive domestic demand, are surely noteworthy.

Let us now turn to another critical dimension of your ineptness to run this ailing nation.

continue reading here…

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