Najib should be sincere in his statements

Najib’s qualification instead of endorsement of Idris Jala’s warning that Malaysia could become next Greece and go bankrupt unless it saves RM103 billion in next five years to reduce the nation’s huge debt proof of lack of political will to address subsidy syndrome

Four things stand out in yesterday’s Subsidy Rationalisation Lab Open Day of the 1Malaysia Government Transformation Programme (GTP) where the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and CEO of Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu), Datuk Seri Idris Jala made his presentation on the country’s proposed five-year subsidy rationalization roadmap.

Firstly, the absence of Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, the Minister in charge of the 1Malaysia GTP and Chairman of Pemandu. Why is he on leave in the United States on such an important event in the Government Transformation Programme or is he seriously considering, according to reports quoting Gerakan sources, relinquishing the post as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department after the humiliation in the last meeting of Parliament where he dared not stand up to vouch for what 1Malaysia stands for – that he is Malaysian first and Chinese second?

Secondly, Idris’ failure to address the root causes of the national economic crisis instead of just dealing with its symptoms.

Idris warned that unless Malaysians bite the bullet and wean off subsidies to save the government RM103 billion in five years to reduce the nation’s deficit and huge debt, Malaysia could become another Greece and go bankrupt in nine years.

Although Idris said the government would focus on big ticket items such as fuel, electricity and toll to achieve the savings, he failed to focus on the biggest ticket items – corruption, mismanagement, extravagance and lack and accountability.

When corruption, mismanagement, extravagance and lack of accountability cost the government from RM10 billion to RM28 billion a year, what credibility has the government to talk about slashing subsidies affecting the rakyat when it has nothing to show to end the rampant and worsening state of corruption, the gross abuses of power and public funds like indiscriminate issue of APs and various forms of “piratisation” in the name of privatization?

Thirdly, the coincidence of the release of GLC conglomerate Sime Darby’s third quarter results, ending March 31, 2010, recording a net loss of RM309 million mainly due to its energy and utilities division; admission that for the nine months ended March 31, 2010, the total provision for four projects namely Qatar Petroleum project, the Maersk Oil Qatar project, the MOQ Marine project and Bakun dam amounted to RM1.3 billion; but no answer as to whether Sime Darby had incurred cost overruns for the Bakun contract amounting to RM1.7 billion and that the government has agreed to reimburse around RM700 million to Sime Darby, leaving the GLC with around RM1 billion to deal with.

With more questions than answers as to how the global conglomerate changed the meaning of “GLC” from Government-Linked Company to Government Losing-Concern with its billion-ringgit losses, raising grave questions about accountability, transparency and integrity, this is not the best backdrop to convince Malaysians that the government has the political will to set a good example to slash expenditures to save the country from the fate that befell Greece.

But the fourth item is most telling of all – in less than 12 hours of Idris’ apocalyptic speech that Malaysia can go bankrupt by 2019 if the government fails to cut its burgeoning subsidy bills, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak played down and distanced himself from Idris’ warning.

Najib said after the Umno Supreme Council meeting last night that the figures quoted by Idris were merely based on Pemandu’s studies and there is no firm decision by the government.

He said more studies were needed before subsidy cuts could be introduced.

He said: “We are still waiting for information and feedbacks from the rakyat on this.

“Idris’ remarks are just estimates… When it comes to matters which involve the well being of the people, we will consult the rakyat first.”

One can envisage that Idris would not have been discussed in very flattering terms in the Umno Supreme Council meeting.

Najib’s qualification instead of endorsement of Idris’ warning that Malaysia could become next Greece and go bankrupt unless it saves RM103 billion in next five years to reduce the nation’s huge debt is proof of the lack of political will of the Najib administration to address subsidy syndrome.

Are we back to square one before Idris’ apocalyptic warning yesterday morning?

Lim Kit Siang
28/05/10

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