Tuesday, June 24, 2008

If Abdullah Badawi Continues ... The Barisan Nasional Does Not Deserve to Rule

Matthias Chang
Future FastForward, Sunday, 22 June 2008 06:04

Giving Up Hope On Barisan Nasional

No one is perfect.

No organization is perfect.

But the Barisan Nasional under the leadership of the former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had direction and a powerful vision. There was an urgency to get things done and more importantly, the realization that we must anticipate events and plan ahead.

Thinking and planning requires discipline and hard work and the ability to see the big picture.

These skills cannot be acquired overnight. Fortunately for Malaysia, in the last twenty two years, we had the benefit of a “thinking leader” who motivated his Cabinet colleagues to do likewise in some measure.

Many a times, when someone asked me for my view of Mahathir’s Cabinet, my response and explanation was that, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was the sun and the Cabinet, the moon. The moon’s glow is the reflected shine of the sun. Hence, the ministers were perceived to have been effective.

Sadly, today, we are experiencing a total eclipse!

There is no shine coming from the Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi and as such how can we expect any reflected glow in the Cabinet?

This is in essence, the problem of the Barisan Nasional.

If you take the view that I am too harsh on the national leaders, please ask the following simple questions:

1) Name me a leader, who in your view is a thinker.
2) Name me a leader, who in your view has full command of the issues, challenges and future direction of his/her ministry at his/her fingertips?

Rebranding of Barisan Nasional

Soon after the General Elections debacle, the component parties of the Barisan Nasional took pains to tell the electorate that they have realized their mistakes and would turn a new leaf.

They would even rebrand to meet the expectations of the people.

A hundred days have gone by and I see the same old status quo:

1) A tired and listless Abdullah Badawi, hanging on to an impotent and fearful UMNO;
2) A tired and befuddled Ong Ka Ting and a humiliated MCA;
3) A tired and devastated Koh Tsu Koon and a floundering Gerakan;
4) A tired and irrelevant Samy Vellu and a hopeless MIC; and
5) Tired and frustrated “second cousins” of the Barisan Nasional from Sarawak and Sabah.

Self-interest and the “cari makan” attitude prevail!

National interest is on the back burner. To survive and enjoy the perks of office is paramount. There is the endless spin by Badawi’s spin doctors about serving the people, but no one is walking the talk!

The Rubbish About “Core Values”

The flavour of the month and justification for inaction is that one must uphold certain “core values” such as “I am a party man” and “loyalty to party takes priority”.

One would have thought that a political party is but a vehicle to serve the people and the nation, so that if a party fails to live up to the people’s expectations, it must reform and renew.

And if its leadership have, through corruption and utter irresponsibility, brought about a state of affairs that is endangering the viability and social stability of the state, one would have thought that a member’s paramount duty is to remove such malignant leadership.

But the Barisan Nasional is in a state of denial. They are content with a torchlight running on low batteries when the nation is demanding full sunshine!

I have therefore come to the sad and painful conclusion that the Barisan Nasional is not fit to lead and rule our country.

The Future of Malaysia

The future of Malaysia cannot be left solely in the hands of UMNO, the backbone of the Barisan Nasional. Since March 2008, UMNO has failed to provide the leadership expected of them as the “backbone” of the Barisan Nasional.

The members, by their cowardice, have allowed the political cancer to spread throughout the body politic.

The component parties are equally guilty in the present state of affairs and by their inaction have abandoned their responsibilities as component members of the ruling alliance.

Given the above scenario, and the urgency of the challenges faced by the country, the entire nation must now come together to effect massive change and remove the cancer that has afflicted our country.

Events As Forecasted

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend two hours with a friend from the U.K. who was on a visit to Malaysia. He remarked that all the issues that I wrote and forecasted in my e-mails to him and others since 2007 have been spot on. He added that when he first read the numerous e-mails in the comfort of his home and in the cosy environment of “Mother England”, the analyses were too dire to be true.

The recent announcements by the Bank of International Settlements (the Central Bank of all central banks) that the threat of a great depression is upon us and the alarm by the Royal Bank of Scotland that the global financial meltdown will intensify to phase two within the next 90 days was a wake up call to him.

There is now an on-going currency war.

The Daily Telegraph of U.K. reported that Morgan Stanley has warned of a “catastrophic event” as the European Central Bank (ECB) fights the Federal Reserve.

Another leading financial journal warned that Asia will suffer a double whammy – inflation and export collapse! The recent petrol price hike is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Barisan Nasional government is in a state of paralysis, totally devoid of any ideas as to how to prepare and confront the impending crisis which will turn extremely acute in the second half of 2008 and spilling over to 2009. They are just too busy dividing the plundered loot than to care for the ordinary people.

Replacing Badawi

Any leader that replaces Badawi cannot do worse, but there is a good probability that he can do better.

Recall the time when Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad indicated his intention to retire. The trillion dollar question then was who can replace Mahathir? No one gave Badawi a thought. Yet, when he was appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister, the aura of the office gave him the legitimacy and the people were willing to afford him a chance to prove his worth.

Sadly, he has since betrayed that trust!

Let me assure you, that whosoever replaces Badawi will enjoy a similar endorsement, until and unless the new leader abuses power and commits blatant corruption.

The people have the remedy at hand – remove him and his cahoots by the ballot.

If we failed to effect change now, do not complain when the shit hits the ceiling fan!


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Monday, June 23, 2008

Who Is The Richest Man In Malaysia? It Is Not Robert Kuok ...

Matthias Chang
Future FastForward, Monday, 23 June 2008 05:24

The Myth of the Richest Man

The Badawi spin doctors since last year have on at least four occasions published the list of the 40 richest men in Malaysia and heading the list is Robert Kuok of the Shangri-la Hotel chain fame.

Everyone seems to accept this pronouncement as Gospel truth!

But this is a lie, a lie perpetrated to divert attention and the spotlight on the two men who controls the Malaysian economy.

The 2nd richest man in Malaysia is none other than Tun Daim, but he is never on the list of the rich and famous.

But my focus is not on him.

I want the spotlight to focus on the actual richest man in Malaysia.

He is none other than Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, our Prime Minister. Badawi’s financial tentacles reach far and wide and within four years, his family and cahoots have amassed a fortune second to none.

How did Badawi and his family become so rich in such a short period of time?

This is the multi-billion dollar question.

Simple! By abusing his powers as Prime Minister and as Finance Minister!

The Rothschild’s Game Plan

Mayer Amshel Bauer Rothschild, the founder of the Rothschild money empire said:
“Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes the law.”

And over the years, the Rothschild dynasty and its global affiliates have applied this principle so successfully that they control the US Federal Reserve and other strategic central banks.

They are the global money power!

The Money Powers of Badawi

It is strange how people forget or rather ignore the fact that Badawi is also the Finance Minister.

The combined powers of a Prime Minister and that of the Finance Minister have enabled Badawi to harness all the financial resources and control levers of the national money-making machine.

No doubt, the precedent was set by Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. But you will recall that it was only after the 1997 financial crisis and the abuse of power by Anwar Ibrahim as Finance Minister, and his slavish adherence to the IMF, World Bank and the Washington Consensus, that compelled Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to take over the Ministry of Finance, so as to put right the economy.

Under the guidance of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the economy recovered rapidly and by the fall of 2003, we had a robust economy that enabled Badawi to call for the March 2004 General Elections. Badawi’s enormous election victory was grounded to a large extent on an economy that had fully recovered from the turmoil of 1997/1998 crisis.

Badawi and his family, specifically his son and son-in-law and key advisers realised upon taking power that they have in their hands all the control levers of the national money-making machine – the levers that control Bank Negara (the central bank) and Petronas, the national oil company.

Obviously, there are the subsidiary levers that control the various government agencies that have been established to assist the national money-making machine.

All the Positive Data, But …

Every other week since March 2004, we have been inundated with positive data as to how robust is our economy. The Governor of Bank Negara never ceased to remind us that inflation is low and under control. I have to assume she does not go to the market to purchase food for her family - such chores must have been delegated to her maids etc.

Then there is the bravado and hype of the various development corridors amounting to a massive RM1.3 trillion.

But ask any businessmen, and they all moan and groan about the lack of direction, the loss of economic momentum and the slowdown in the collections of receivables.

How does one explain this phenomenon?

Let me explain. During Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure as Prime Minister, our economy was like a car cruising at a constant speed of 120 kph after 22 years of building up the speed and momentum. We were experiencing a steady and comfortable ride.

Applying the laws of physics, a matter in motion has its own momentum, but if the momentum is not maintained, it slows down and then comes to a halt.

This is exactly what is happening to our economy. It is now moving but at a slower rate, in fact decreasing rapidly because the Badawi regime did not maintain the previous momentum.

The Badawi regime, instead of applying the levers of the national money-making machine to accelerate the development of the country, has diverted the resources for self-enrichment. The ensuing disaster was compounded by gross negligence and mismanagement by his advisers, the so-called smart wannabes on the 4th Floor!

This small band of crooks, led by Badawi and his family has initiated a process of self-enrichment and plunder. This disease has now infected the top echelons of the national elites in both the public and private sectors – everyone for himself - the cari makan, jaga perut mentality!

What Are the Chances of Recovery?

The damage to the economy by the Badawi regime is so extensive and the disease so widespread, that it will take at the minimum, ten years to recover from the present state of affairs and this is conditional upon Badawi stepping down before the 2nd half of this financial year.

This is because the present situation will be further aggravated by the impact and consequences of the global financial tsunami! The 2nd phase has been predicted by the experts to commence in less than 90 days!

But if the Badawi regime is allowed to survive and continue its plunder and gross mismanagement, Malaysia as a nation will end up as a failed state.

The Bumiputera community will suffer the most and because its fate is so tied up with the non-bumiputera economy, the entire edifice will implode and we will witness social upheaval never experienced by our beloved country.

Bring Back the Plundered Billions!

For a start, the entire nation must demand from the Badawi regime, its web of collaborators and “bankers” to repatriate the billions that have been siphoned and stashed overseas in numbered accounts in foreign banks.

The Bumiputera community must demand from the Badawi regime that they cease immediately the destruction of the Bumiputera economic and financial crown jewels.

30 years of the NEP has enabled the Bumiputera community to create and establish successful economic and financial entities, the pride of our nation. Proton is just one example of these sterling achievements.

If the Bumiputera community fails to reclaim its dignity and proud achievements, do not thereafter blame the non-bumiputera community and the foreign governments for not according you the respect you so deserve after more than 30 years of sweat and toil.

Take heed of my observations for they reflect the objective truth. Ignore them at your peril.

If you, my brothers and sisters fail, then I fail as well.

Therefore let us unite to resolve this national disaster.

Remove the malignant leadership!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

You eliminate the plague by killing the rats

No, don’t end subsidies. End wastages, high administrative costs and corruption. Then we will be able to afford subsidies, just like the other countries that also have subsidies can. And this is what we want Tengku Razaleigh and Anwar to talk about.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

The country will go bankrupt if the government continues giving out subsidies, says Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. I suppose this is a statement of support for the recent increase in the price of petrol and a vote of no confidence on Anwar Ibrahim’s pledge that Pakatan Rakyat will reduce the price of petrol if or when it comes to power.

TALK IS CHEAP

I do not quite agree with Tengku Razaleigh’s statement or with what Anwar Ibrahim has pledged. First of all, for Anwar to say that the petrol price should not have been increased is easy. We don’t want to know about what should not have been. We want to know what should be.

Can Anwar please table his economic blueprint so that we can see what he has up his sleeve? Malaysians no longer want to buy this ‘vote me in first and then I will show you how I can do it’ -- or what the Americans would label as ‘read my lips’ rhetoric.

Read my lips: there will be no petrol price increase after the 8 March 2008 general election. Read my lips: I am not going to call for a general election soon and Parliament is not going to be dissolved tomorrow. Read my lips: I did not use the rakyat’s money to buy a RM200 million Airbus. Read my lips: my son’s company, Scomi, did not get RM1.5 billion worth of contracts from Petronas. Read my lips: I am not getting married to Jeanne Danker. Read my lips: I do not have a house in Perth. Read my lips: I am not involved in the Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal. Read my lips: Najib Tun Razak is my successor. Read my lips: Anwar Ibrahim is my successor and I am not going to sack him in three days’ time and do you need me to kiss him in public to prove it? Read my lips: only three people are involved in the Altantuya murder. Read my lips: the Royal Commission of Inquiry will wrap up the Lingam Tape scandal before you can finish screaming mala fide. Read my lips: I will not be challenging Ghafar Baba for the Umno Deputy Presidency. Read my lips: I am not rejoining Umno even if I die and am reborn and I will remain in Semangat 46 until the day I die like Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn. Read my lips: Malaysia did not physically lose RM30 billion in the currency speculation fiasco and it is only a paper loss. Read my lips: Raja Petra was not detained under the Internal Security Act, as I did not sign any detention order. Read my lips: Raja Petra was detained under the Internal Security Act for planning to bring in M16s, Molotov Cocktails and grenade launchers to start an armed revolution.

Nope, no more read my lips rhetoric please. We have had enough of all this over the last 50 years. What we want now is for you to put your money where your mouth is. ‘Show me the money’, the Americans would say. Yes, money talks, bullshit walks -- and bullshit is what has been dished out these last 50 years. It is time everyone come clean and put their cards on the table, face up. We want to see what hand they are playing with. Do they have a full hand or is this mere poker playing?

SUBSIDIES

There is nothing wrong with subsidies. America subsidies its agriculture until sometimes you make more money not planting anything, which helps control the price of farm produce. Japan subsidises exports until it is cheaper to buy a Japanese camera in Kuala Lumpur than in Tokyo. Britain subsidises education for its citizens by charging the foreign students high fees.

How do these countries do it without going bankrupt, if subsidies are supposed to make a country go bankrupt? Britain, for example, has the best education system in the world -- and that is why foreign students do not mind paying high fees to receive a British education, thereby making it possible to subsidise local students. But then Britain’s universities are not headed by BTN operatives whose main function is to brainwash Malay students into believing that Malays own this country under the Ketuanan Melayu concept while the ‘immigrant’ Indians and Chinese should be reminded that they are ‘guests’ of this country and if they don’t like it they can go back to India or China.

That is why students flock to Britain in spite of the cost. And that is why Britain can subsidise its citizens. You can’t get these foreigners to come to Malaysia even if it is free. Hell, you can’t get them to come here even if you paid them, don’t talk about free. It is the quality and not the cost or subsidies that count. If you are able to offer quality education like Britain, the cost does not matter and locals can be subsidised from the fees the foreign students pay. So we have to look at the system. We solve the system and the rest automatically solves itself.

CORRUPTION

Malaysia’s problem is corruption. We spend double what we should because of corruption. Corruption, not subsidies, is what is killing this country’s economy. Corruption, not subsidies, is what is bankrupting Malaysia. Hundreds of billions has been wasted over the last 51 years since Merdeka. These hundreds of billions, if it had been put to good use, could have done a lot for this country. Today, we talk about ending the subsidies because we no longer have any money. But we no longer have any money not because of the subsidies but because of the corruption.

Just add it up. The amount is astronomical.

TOO LARGE AN ADMINISTRATION

In the early days, we used to spend RM1 on administration and RM4 on development. And this was when we did not have any money. Yet we could still allocate 80% of the country’s expenditure to development, as modest as it may have been. Today, after 50 years of ‘progress’, we spend an estimated RM8 on administration and only RM1 on development. The Malays call this ‘mahal tali dari lembu’ (the rope is more expensive than the cow).

Out of a workforce of 10 million or so, 1.1 million-1.2 million work for the government. This means about 5% of Malaysians work for the government. And why is that? Just go into any government department and see for yourself why. No one is working. Everyone is just sitting around doing nothing. And if you disturb their peace by going to a government office to ask for something just see the fuck face they give you. They forget that we are paying their salaries and that they work for us. We are not disturbing them by going to a government office. It is their job to serve us.

Indonesia, which has ten times Malaysia’s population, has only twice the number of civil servants. Granted things are a bit slow in Indonesia. But considering their very underpaid civil servants and understaffed civil service that would be unavoidable. America, which has about the same size population as Indonesia, has only twice the civil service. Going by Malaysia’s ratio, America should have a civil service of 15 million instead of just four million.

We spend RM10 billion to develop Malaysia and another RM90 billion on administrative costs and ‘leakages’. That is how we spend our RM100 billion. And that is why we have no money. So herein lies the problem. Solve this problem and we will have more money for other things, subsidies included.

SOLUTIONS: END WASTAGE, ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS AND CORRUPTION

No, don’t end subsidies. End wastages, high administrative costs and corruption. Then we will be able to afford subsidies, just like the other countries that also have subsidies can. And this is what we want Tengku Razaleigh and Anwar to talk about. Don’t say ‘read my lips, no more subsidies’. Instead, say ‘read my lips, no more wastages, high administrative costs and corruption’. That is what we want to hear Tengku Razaleigh and Anwar say. And if Tengku Razaleigh and Anwar don’t understand what I am talking about, then step aside and let me show you what I mean. But be prepared for a ‘blood bath’ because only a ‘butcher’s knife’ can achieve the results.

Sigh….I just love the way Iran solved its serious corruption problem in 1979. They lined up 10,000 corrupted civil servants and shot them all. No more corrupted government officers, no more corruption. How I wish I had been born in Iran instead of England. I would have had a great time in 1979. Sigh…..

Monday, June 2, 2008

Privatization is Indispensable for Growth and Globalization

Every nation is seeking welfare and prosperity, and governments usually make their outmost attempts to secure the best interests of their people. This will be supposedly feasible mainly through economic growth and is a path that all governments have followed for a long time.

No matter what the economic system, the prime goal of any government is that the people be better off. To achieve that goal there are different ways and means, depending on the economic policies a certain country adopts.

Some countries have chosen state controlled economy. That is, the state, or public sector, predominantly oversight all economic sectors and decisions rest on the central government. In this system, the private sector's role is minimal.

On the other extreme, we do have economic systems in which the public sector duties are limited to defense and security of the country and protecting citizens' certain rights and the state do not interfere in economic affairs. The so-called market economy with differences depending on specific circumstances, is working.

Which system is more effective in assisting a country to achieve the goals it has set for growth and prosperity? The issue has dominated debates in academic centers, and it has been studied by various political systems and scholars. There have been pros and cons for both systems and no inclusive answer has yet been found. Many books have been written on the topic, and hundred of speeches have been delivered and seminars and conferences have been held to address the issue. It is noteworthy that in 1940s prominent British economist John Maynard Keynes emphasized the directive role of the government or so-called welfare government despite the fact that he supported market economy.

Undoubtedly, no system is perfect. Each system has its own advantages and flaws. However, we need to focus on the approaches the world has so far adopted. Despite of all these theories, as mentioned earlier, market economy is now in use and it is the primary system every country employs to secure the best interests of its people. Interestingly, the World Trade Organization (WTO) that replaced GATT after Uruguay Round is based on market economy and emphasizes minimal government involvement.

Having all this in mind, privatization now is a key factor to integrate into the world trade and eventually into the process of globalization. The conceptual definition of privatization can inherently shed light on the path that one may take. What is privatization? Privatization is the implementation of a decision to sell companies owned by the state to private individuals/ companies.

At the first glance it seems that privatization will lead ex-public sector commercial enterprises to work more active with better efficiency, higher productivity, and improving product quality in a competitive market. Based on the latest definitions made by world economists, the advantages and disadvantages of privatization can be listed as the following:

*Faster growth because of the competition;
*Encouraging innovations;
*Effective & time bound results;
*Increase of cost affectivity;
* Quality improvement;
*Making possible more services to the public;
*Promotion of productivity;
*Significant Growth in the business.

* Probable threat of lay offs;
* It cuts back the work to gain more benefit;
*Increasing unemployment;
*Possible bankruptcy because of low profitability;
*Lack of ethical / human morals due to being merely business minded

Does privatization inherently lead to market economy or the ways and means are the key factors? Studying the expertise of countries that have set foot on the path leading to privatization sounds helpful, but what concerns Iran is quite different.

Iran is a big country in the Middle East, being gifted with great capabilities and of course massive natural resources that can help the process of growth. It is now a couple of years that privatization has been the motto of economic circles as well as the scholars in the country.

Given the importance of the issue, certainly this debate will continue over the months to come and newspapers will focus on the private sector and market economy. So far so good.

Now there is no single person ranging from top officials to lowest level, who may have his own doubts that privatization and market economy is indispensable, because now the economic growth of the country is at stake. In existing circumstances, however time and action is very important. It seems the privatization has been debated more than enough. So the further the action be postponed, not only the challenges will be more difficult, but it's adversely impacts will do no good to the economy as well as our foreign trade relations. Its first and most pressing effect is domestic lower manufacturing as well as slowdown of industrial process to which authorities attach importance.

Internationally, with the absence of a strong and efficient private sector, the interaction with the world and integrating with global economy will be out of reach. Now the benefits of privatization are pretty clear and the economic, legal and social grounds for action are prepared and moreover its indispensability is mostly reaffirmed; then as to why cannot we make it? What is the actual problem? Is there any missing ring in this chain? We already pointed out that privatization has its own hurdles but it is not an impossible job. Moreover there is neither a missing ring nor any ambiguity.

There are different general and specific issues in the process of privatization:

-For privatizations, prerequisites need to be provided by the governments including redefining rules and policies. To facilitate the privatization, many countries apply tools including removing the restrictions, tax exemptions, and productivity rewards for successful businesses. Simultaneously, some state control policies such as selling state corporations bonds in stock markets through real value pricing, prevention of companies and particularly big corporations from misconduct and if necessary discipline them are unavoidable. Moreover, the economic and political stability is a key factor in encouraging investment by the private sector.

- Privatization is not a sector-dependent or cross-sectional project but it should be looked upon in a national perspective. So an inclusive work attempt on the part of the public and private sectors as well as the relevant agencies and the people is necessary. In other words, a national will is essential.

- Every sector or economic variables has its particular job and responsibilities to do with the coordination of others. So let's not just blame others for any failure in finishing the work to which they assigned to perform. It does not mean we turn a deaf ear to flaws and drawbacks. But, conversely, we need to look further upon those problems and work to remove the impediments. We also, through coordination and interaction, should develop the advantages.

This process that must have launched decades ago, cannot be done right away. We should take our time. However since the legal and economic means and ways are already there, and more important the experience for this development do exist, this certainly will contribute to cut short the long time for privatization we needed ten or twenty years before.

-We should move with having realities in mind. The priority must be given to relative small and medium enterprises (SME) with the directives from the governments in order to prevent them from digression. So we have to do away with very ambitious plans that may force us to slowdown or come to a complete halt. Industrialization and privatization are two sides of the same coin. It is not just a claim or mere theory. Taking a look on developed nations through the past century and emerging industrial and new developed countries in the course of recent decades proves this. With more than 1.2 billion population and absolutely centralized economy, China not only managed to relatively privatize its economy within a decade and being integrated into world trade, but has been so active in world interactions that now concerns the economists. China, has had outpaced the United States in foreign direct investments (FDI) for years.

Now that the other countries could have achieved this goal, taking stock of these experiences will ease our work. The operational mechanisms have already been worked out; the five year development plan is very good means and provide a good opportunity for doing this great job. Five years is pretty long time and we may achieve this goal to some fair extent. At the end of that period, taking stocks of experience and problems, the assessment of our performance will be a great help to accelerate the pace of privatization and eventually the economic growth over the years to come.
___________________________________________________________________________
About the author:
Mr Abdolreza Ghofrani, is a Senior International and Economic Expert.
© Press TV 2007: Fri, 30 May 2008 20:51:12


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