Economist’s BN win prediction a ‘big spin’

Anisah Shukry | February 22, 2013
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) prediction that Barisan Nasional will win the 13th general election was 'pre-emptive' and 'spun' by Bernama, Pakatan leaders say.
PETALING JAYA: Pakatan Rakyat leaders are unperturbed by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) prediction that Barisan Nasional will win the 13th general election, as such predictions were “expected” and even “spun” by national news agency Bernama.
PKR strategy chief Rafizi Ramli told FMT today that the Bernama report “The Economist Intelligence Unit says Barisan Nasional will Win 13th general election” was a “complete spin” by Bernama and that incorrect information and facts were used in the report.
“We have the real report, and Institut Rakyat, our think-tank, will respond. If you read the actual report, it doesn’t imply at all that Pakatan is irresponsible, that it’s going to bankrupt the country, that it is not delivering its promises.
“The original report only comments from one perspective: that [because of] intense competition between Pakatan and BN, the government’s not making serious efforts to contain the budget deficit,” said Rafizi.
According to Rafizi, the report from the London-based think-tank said the contest between the two coalitions was causing Najib to throw out more money in terms of handouts.
“The EIU also fears that Pakatan’s offering is populist in nature and not sustainable. The report in itself is very neutral, but because of Bernama and the way they spin it, it looks like the Economist is giving us a real thrashing,” chuckled Rafizi.
The Bernama report, which was carried today and yesterday by major newspapers and news portals in the country, states that the EIU’s prediction of BN’s win was based on “its successful track record, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s reform agenda and his successful economic leadership”.
“For international observers, the outcome of the upcoming polls is already clear, that the BN will be victorious, the EIU said. It also said the opposition Pakatan Rakyat has been making ‘costly promises’,” the Bernama article said.
“On all these counts, Pakatan’s populism has remained just hot air… compared this with BN’s successful track record in fulfilling its promises, and you have a clear difference in approach,” Bernama added.
On the EIU’s website, the actual report is available for a fee, but it states in brief: “The ruling Barisan Nasional coalition is likely to win the general election that must be held by June 2013. However, it will probably fail to attain the two-thirds parliament majority that would enable [it] to make constitutional changes unchallenged.”
But the Bernama article failed to mention that the EIU predicted BN would not regain its two-thirds majority, lending credence to Rafizi’s claim that the report had been spun to BN’s advantage.
BN’s historic loss of its two-thirds majority in the 2008 general election resulted in the resignation of former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. This has piled pressure on Najib to regain the lost seats in the upcoming election or risk suffering a fate similar to his predecessor’s.
‘Not surprised EIU predicted BN win’
Nevertheless, Rafizi stressed that Pakatan was neither alarmed nor surprised that EIU had ultimately predicted the opposition pact’s loss, adding that it did not change a thing.
“It was only expected that the EIU would predict BN’s win – it’s less controversial and it [EIU] doesn’t have to work hard to justify its prediction. Look at Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajuddin – because he made an-out-of line prediction, he ultimately had a lot to answer for,” he said.
Rafizi was referring to the Bank Islam’s economist chief, who was suspended following a prediction he made during a forum in Singapore that Pakatan would win by a small margin in the next general election.
“Our society is not ready for out-of-line predictions, so we expect all these types of predictions. But what is most important is that we believe the next election will be the closest yet – that there will be a lot of silent voters, fence-sitters who will sway to Pakatan at the last minute.”
He stressed that the prediction would not change Pakatan’s evaluation of voter assessment, nor change their voter strategy as they go down to the ground.
“Predictions like that made by the EIU are basically made from macro information based on the economic situation and so on; it doesn’t really take into account the mood on the ground as we get closer to the election,” said Rafizi.
“It’s the same as the American presidential elections – all the polls and predictions made out a close fight between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, but in the end, it wasn’t even close,” he pointed out.
‘Peruse our manifesto’
Meanwhile, Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad of PAS said the report by the EIU was “regrettable” and “pre-emptive”, and compared it unfavourably to the writings of economist Dr Shankaran Nambiar.
“I would really like the electorate to be more discerning and I would call on all to refer to the writings of Dr Shankaran Nambiar, who is far more balanced and is not so simplistic as to say a BN victory is completely positive or negative,” said the Kuala Selangor MP.
He said that EIU should examine the opposition pact’s joint manifesto – which will be launched this Monday – before making any predictions.
“We are just about to launch our joint manifesto on Monday for the general election, so the EIU should give us a fair chance,” said Dzulkefly.
“Peruse it, comb the numbers, but don’t be pre-emptive and judgemental in so far as to disadvantage a particular group.”
According to the Bernama report, “The EIU pointed out that Pakatan had broken many of its earlier promises, including financial aid for pre-school education, for university students, senior citizens and the disabled, free healthcare for those over 65, lower property taxes and assistance for home buyers.”
But Dzulkefly said that the promises made by Pakatan prior to the 2008 general election were made by the individual parties in the pact rather than the coalition as a whole.
“You cannot expect the Pakatan state governments, which were pre-dated with promises of every individual parties pre-election 2008, to deliver every single promise,” he pointed out.
“In 2008, each and every party announced their own separate manifesto. You can’t expect Pakatan to deliver all of it simultaneously, because they were the independent promises of every individual party.”
But he assured FMT that things would be different for Pakatan this time around as it unveils its joint manifesto on Monday.
“We daresay that our manifesto, the Pakatan Harapan Rakyat, is truly our run, our promises. Each and every single one. We looked at it in detail, evaluated its feasibility. This is our joint manifesto, as opposed to what happened in 2008,” he said.
‘Pakatan’s numbers are doable’

He also rebutted Bernama’s claim that Pakatan’s populism was “just hot air”, stressing that, so far, the opposition parties were managing their states “quite well”.
“The Auditor -General’s report speaks for itself. We have managed our states quite well. I’m not saying we don’t have our shortcomings – this is our first learning curve.
“But truly we have proven ourselves and we stand by our principles; we have never been caught with corruption the way BN has, as revealed of late by Deepak [Jaikishan] and others. If given equitable access to the media, we can take BN on, hands down,” said Dzulkefly.
He also reiterated the call for the prime minister-cum-finance minister to debate with Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim over the facts and figures.
“Let’s debate this, let’s slog it through and see if the numbers are doable. We’ve proven in Selangor that we saved RM102.2 million last, which is the equivalent to 20% savings.
“In the same vein, should Pakatan form the next government, we are looking at that kind of savings,” said Dzulkefly.

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