Najib’s errors of judgement The good, the bad and the politically ugly

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has “pulled out all the stops and given the voters their sentiments, to let them think twice about voting for the opposition” in elections that must be held by next April when BN’s five-year mandate won in March 2008 runs out.

‘Handouts may backfire’

“Reforms are meant to usher development for the people. Nowadays, the trend is whenever any anti-people decision is taken, it is taken in the name of reforms,”

Independent political analyst Wong Chin Huat also agreed with Ibrahim that the polls would be called after February.

He however warned that the handouts might backfire on BN, especially with voters who understand the current state of Malaysia’s economy.

“The government is trying to emulate Singapore in giving out money to the people.

“But the difference is, they are giving out money not because they have managed the country well and made extra revenue, but because they want to give.

“It’s very likely to get people, especially the more sophisticated voters, to take the money and think whether they want to vote for this government or not,” he said.

Wong said the handouts would possibly create a short-term positive impact on the government but the period would not last long.

“They need to capture the good feeling very fast,” he added.

Meanwhile, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan pointed out that there were two ways to decide the election date in relation to the handouts.

“The government may say, if you want to get the handouts, vote for us. So election can be in November. If not, they will disburse the cash first and call it next year,” he said.

 

“People will compare the budget to Pakatan Rakyat’s and will also see how the second round of Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) will fuel inflation,” Chin added.

The fledging Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition pact, formed just four years ago in the wake of landmark wins in Election 2008, has promised to raise the disposable income of Malaysians in an alternative set of Budget proposals just two days before the Najib administration unveiled its official proposals for spending and taxes.

What happened? How did we go from significant federal budget surpluses to massive deficits? Frankly, it is not that complicated.Once bitten, the scar remained forever.Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had said disposable income would rise through fiscal reform measures such as cutting the triple import taxes on foreign-made cars, abolishment of tolls and waiver of student loans, as PR sought to pre-empt Najib’s Budget announcement.Further, as a result of the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Barisant, this country will driven into the worst recession since indepent which will result in a massive reduction in federal revenue.

Anwar said a PR government would be able to pay for the proposed measures not through raising taxes but by plugging leakages that arise as a result of inefficiencies and corruption.

Arnold Puyok, a political scientist from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Sabah, said the goodies announced for the young and singles “is an indication that the ruling party is set to win the hearts and minds of first-time voters in the upcoming election”.

He said it was still too early to tell if such sweeteners will tilt the hotly-contested elections in BN’s favour.

Unless Najib can use money from his own pocket to give it out to the poor, then I truly says he cares for the poor. But to use the taxpayers money to pay out during an election year is like trying to buy their votea slew of cash handouts and tax cuts spread across the board, was trained to appeal to key demographic groups in the run-up to the 13th general election, but said voters had become increasingly shrewd and capable of weighing the short-term personal gains against the long-term fiscal impact on the national economy.The rakyat should reject all these handouts as they are nothing but to fish for votes. The country can do better to spend the money for infrastructure development which brings more benefit to the people. All these handouts come to billions of ringgit, not small money. We all have to be responsible and not allow dumnobn to use the money for political gains. The rakyat cannot afford to see the country go into further debts. The country is hurting real bad. All these Cash hand-outs by the corrupted UMNO/BN are the result of the Mar 2008 GE tsunami when more Pakatan Rakyat MPs were elected into Parliament and when PR took over 5 States,which fell to 4 after the few Perak Kataks lompat to become Independent but BN friendly.Wake up Malaysians and vote in more PR MPs into Parliament this 13th GE and bersih Malaysians will continue to enjoy BR1M 3.0,4.0 and 5.0 and in the process,bankrupt the nation,the way 1Malaysia PM Najib continues to give hand-outs..Take the money but vote for PR this 13th GE as the money rightly belongs to Malaysians..

“There are only two words to describe it — election budget,” said Monash University’s political science lecturer James Chin.

When he was at the height of his career, soccer star Maradona was accused of scoring a crucial goal by using his hand to direct the ball, which the rules of football prohibit. Denying the charge, the footballer claimed it was not his hand but the ‘hand of God’ which had been at work.

To paraphrase Voltaire, if the ‘hand of God’ hadn’t existed, Maradona would have had to invent it. A similar observation might be made about India’s political and security establishments which also evoke a mysterious ‘hand’ when things go amiss. However, the ‘hand’ that is conjured up in the Indian context belongs not to the Almighty but to a lesser entity which is generically described as ‘foreign’. Indeed, the so-called ‘foreign hand’ crops up so often as a convenient scapegoat when things go wrong with us that our crisis managers and spin-doctors might well wonder what they would do without it.Najib is what Bush will be in Malaysia’s history. He will be known as the tainted liar of a PM that has brought Malaysia to the brink of bankruptcy.Mamakkutti resembles Mugabe’s asshole more than anything else.Its great to dish out money…especially when its not yours!. And the country’s debt continues to climb to its highest ever.. I know what every intelligent Malaysian will do…collect the the money and vote for change !!. If we could only distribute to the needy a fraction of the billions ‘lost’ over the years by corruption, cronyism and pure incompetence. Poverty would be a non issue.

It only shows how silly Najib is. At this time, only he himself would believe this kind of handouts work for him during election.has squandered the opportunity to position itself as the natural party of governance.Policy is not the only issue. Procedure determines the final outcome of a policy. It is procedure that was violated in both spectrum“Young people are not easily attracted to monetary incentives especially when they are related to electoral politics. They may consider the goodies as a form of government assistance. But whether this is translated into votes remain to be seen,” Arnold said.
But another analyst, Faisal Hazis, believes voters have smartened up since Election 2008.

“Voters today are smarter, not so easy for them to fall for sweet deals as before,” said the head of political science and international relations at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).

“Cash handouts like BR1M do not promise permanent support as shown in the Merdeka Center’s earlier survey some months back where support for Najib rose several percentage points after the first round of BR1M, but dropped not long after it was handed out,” Faisal said.

According to independent pollster Merdeka Center, the PM’s personal approval score dipped four percentage points in the last survey in May from 69 per cent to 65 per cent in February, following a repeat in April of last year’s violent clashes between police and civil society demonstrators lobbying for the electoral roll to be cleaned up.

Herizal Hazri, deputy country representative for Asia Foundation, a US-based NGO working to improve governance, law and civil society issues through policy, said the people-friendly budget geared towards low-income earners was a positive move to raise the disposable income and spur domestic growth, but highlighted the lack of controls to monitor government spending.

The country’s growth has been driven by “goodies” and infrastructure projects, both of which are bad news for Malaysians because it increases government debt, said Kuala Selangor MP Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad.

He said last night that on top of the government debt of RM477 billion (or 53 percent of the gross domestic product, out of the statutory limit of 55 percent), the government has also assumed RM116 billion in liabilities from statutory bodies and government-linked corporations.

This, combined with widening income disparities and over-dependence on oil and gas revenues would not allow for reckless spending, said Dzulkefly, who is also PAS Research Centre Head.

“Even when it is close to the elections, it would not allow them to be recklessly giving goodies and handouts, as free as they would like to. But of course, it goes both ways and Pakatan Rakyat should not also do that,” he said, before detailing the coalition’s alternative budget, which aims to achieve 5.2 percent growth while also slashing the budget deficit by 3.5 percent.

Dzulkefly was speaking as a panellist during a pre-budget forum organised by Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.

He also told the 50-odd members of the audience that an economic boom-and-bust cycle normally last about ten years, but Malaysia has been having budget deficits for 14 consecutive years, which he described as “strange”.

“We have seen the boom and the bust times, while others – even Indonesia, Thailand and Australia – are having good times and enjoying not just a balanced, but a surplus budget…That tells a lot about how reckless and unscrupulous (we are) in terms of fiscal discipline in the development that we all choose,” he said.

Issues of competitiveness, sustainability and the poor

Earlier in the forum, political scientist Dr. Ong Kian Ming (right) gave the audience a run-down of the statistics to paint a grave picture of the economy.

This included a relatively high income inequalities, “pockets” of poverty especially in rural areas, a drop in the Global Competitiveness Report rankings and the Corruption Index and poor achievements in education.

All these take place while the government debt increases from RM267 billion (47 percent of the GDP) to the current RM477 billion, as well as increasing pollution.

“From these three issue of uplifting the poor, competitiveness and sustainability, they are actually very serious concerns. It has to be addressed not just by the budget, but also by larger government policies,” said the academician, who had recently joined DAP as an election strategist.

Meanwhile, Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj (left) told the audience not to expect a good budget from the government because “the ruling elite in the BN (Barisan National) has not got clue there is a problem,” he said.

He said this could be seen from the government’s talk of liberalisation, privatisation, and lowering corporate taxes to draw investors, and questioned whether such measures are still viable.

The PSM politician said measures to protect workers rather than capitalist, such as a retrenchment fund, are needed instead in order to fuel domestic consumption.

This would in turn encourage investors and entrepreneurs to produce goods and services to meet demand, rather than investing excess funds in financial speculation.

No plans to deal with depletion of oil and gas reserves

The last speaker, Malaysiakini chief executive officer Premesh Chandran, said that Pakatan Rakyat’s policies thus “had done well, but could do better”. Some areas of improvement include coming up with concrete plans for improving public transportation, making the spending of constituency allocations transparent and address healthcare issues, particularly in Pakatan Rakyat-led states.

Premesh also warned that a “perfect storm” is forming, because Malaysia’s population is ageing and does not have the wealth (mainly oil and gas) to support them, and there are no plans to deal with the eventual depletion of oil and gas reserves.

Prior to the start of the forum, a 30-minute candlelight vigil was also held outside the venue in solidarity with Suaram. The human rights NGO is the subject of several ongoing investigations, which it claims to be politically motivated.
Faisal said voters today are smarter and will not so easily fall for sweet deals as before.
“What’s worrisome in this budget is that there is no discussion of methods to monitor the implementation of the Budget, whether it will truly be carried out in a transparent manner or otherwise,” he said.
Professor Jayum A. Jawan, who lectures on politics and government in Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), shared a similar view with Kuching-based Faisal, describing the “one-off handouts” as a populist stunt to fish for votes among the less politically-aware groups who are usually based in rural areas, notably the interior of Malaysia’s two easternmost states across the South China Sea which are still largely forested.

“The allocation for transport, public infrastructure, fishermen, farmers and those in Sabah and Sarawak are very welcome. The one worrisome thing is how will all these be delivered? Will all the proposals reach the man in the interior there?” asked the deputy dean of post-graduate studies in UPM’s Faculty of Human Ecology.

“The ‘one-off’ handouts are only temporary and will have a limited impact on some people,” he added.

Jayum said he was concerned that the budget was too heavily concentrated on operational costs and cautioned that the government needed to ensure increased productivity levels among the civil service force to balance out the high operating costs.

Like Jayum, Monash University’s Chin was also hesitant to say that the people-friendly proposals to cut rocketing costs of living that Najib put forward in Budget 2013 would result in voters paying back the favour to BN at the ballot box where it most matters.

“The ultimate test of the budget will be the stock market reaction on Monday; it will surely go up and will also affect the Astro initial public offering (IPO). It all fits in.

“If he (Najib) does not call for an election now, he’s crazy,” Chin said.
Their central theme has to be this: we are a party for the future, ready to govern.Power abhors a vacuum. Unless the Najib gets its act together, it might find the space as UMNO  the natural party of governance has been occupied by nimbler political forces ahead of the

About 10 years ago, I did a TV news story on a local nonprofit claiming to help battered women. Their funding method was to solicit boat donations, which they’d then sell to fund their charitable work.

While the “charity” wouldn’t talk to me, their tax returns had plenty to say. For example, in the year previous to my report, their income was about $23 million. But they donated only $50,000 to a local women’s shelter. The vast majority of the remaining money – more than $20 million – went to marketing. It was paid to a for-profit company, which happened to be owned by the same group of people who ran the charity.

After putting together my news story, I contacted the state attorney general’s office to report what was obviously a scam disguised as a nonprofit. Their response was essentially that it was unclear they were doing anything illegal, and even if they were, state investigators were far too busy to look into it.

I’ve seen lots of similar stories in the 20-plus years I’ve been doing consumer news. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there have been times when I wondered why I was working so hard while surrounded by others so willing to throw their integrity under the bus in exchange for some quick cash.

If you’re like me – saddled with inconvenient morals and ethics – use the following list as businesses to beware of. But if you’re not so encumbered, the following proven moneymakers might lead to a lucrative new career.

1. Be an investment guru

Don’t let a total lack of expertise hold you back – use this simple method to convince the gullible you’re the next Warren Buffett…

  • Purchase a large list of likely investors. Divide it into two or more groups.
  • Send a different stock idea to each group. (Use a dart board to pick them – it doesn’t matter.)
  • Wait a few weeks. Throw out the group that received a losing recommendation. Send an additional pick to those who got a winner.
  • Repeat this process until what remains is a group you’ve supplied with three or four consecutive winners.
  • Offer them the opportunity to harness your “Super-Secret Proven Investment Method!” for a mere $199 a month.

If that seems like too much hassle, just run ads promising a 50 percent return. Your victims should be wary: After all, if you can earn 50 percent on your own money, you’d hardly need theirs. Don’t worry – that won’t occur to them.

2. Start a nonprofit

As mentioned above, call yourself a charity, and cash is sure to follow. From children to dolphins, show people pictures of mammals in distress and they’ll hand over money. Inexplicably, they’ll often do so without taking the few seconds required to check out a nonprofit at free sites like Better Business BureauGuidestar, or Charity Navigator.

 

Hate the idea of filing the paperwork necessary to start a nonprofit? Just fake it.

Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, I began seeing collection boxes on various store counters in my neighborhood soliciting donations for a charity called “The Orphans of 9/11.” Instead of dropping in my change, I called the charity to request their tax return. Turns out they weren’t collecting donations in my state, and didn’t use collection boxes at all.

Someone had merely stolen their logo and fabricated the boxes. They’d been emptying them regularly for months, but I was the first person who attempted to verify they were legitimate.

When I called my local police department to report this despicable crime, they took a report, but said they didn’t have the manpower to stake out the boxes and catch the thief. Their advice: Go around my neighborhood and inform the merchants.

3. Offer simple solutions to complex problems

From losing weight to getting rich, a lot of people are desperate to believe there’s gain without pain.

 

I did my first news story on weight-loss products more than 15 years ago. The subject was fat-burning pants that supposedly made you thinner while you slept. (Do a search for “fat-burning pants” and you’ll see they’re still being sold today.)

The expert I interviewed was an M.D. specializing in weight-loss research at a local university. I don’t need the script to remember his exact words: “There are two ways to lose weight. Eat less or exercise more.”

Because so many people are unwilling to exert effort to accomplish meaningful change in their lives, this field is wide open. There’s no shortage of problems out there. Pick one, create a product or service offering a simple solution – whether it works or not is irrelevant – and you’re off to the races.

And if you’re worried about a watchdog government agency like the Federal Trade Commission raining on your parade, check out the next idea…

4. Cure what ails

Create a product that promises a quick fix to a common illness, and you’re in business. Don’t worry about people reading the label – just create a catchy ad.

 

In 2008 we did a TV news story on a widely advertised headache remedy called HeadOn: You can watch the story here. The idea seemed appealing – rub a wax stick resembling lip balm on your head and your headache would disappear.

HeadOn was marketed back then as a homeopathic medicine. (Apparently, it’s since been sold to another company and reformulated – you can read about it on Wikipedia.) Homeopathic remedies are supposed to work by essentially taking a curative active ingredient, then diluting it to the point where it’s basically no longer present. In the case of HeadOn, for example, the active ingredient was diluted to the point of an eye-dropper in a swimming pool. Then it was put into wax tubes and was somehow supposed to cure a headache by being rubbed on the surface of the skin.

If anything that ridiculous can be sold, what can’t be? Don’t be concerned the big drugstore chains will laugh you out of their office when you come up with your concoction. When I did my story, at least one major chain not only offered HeadOn, they created their own generic version.

I called the Federal Trade Commission to ask how they could allow a product so silly to be marketed so heavily. Their response: We generally don’t start an investigation until we receive lots of complaints. Even then, the process could take years.

5. Predict the future

Whether it’s love or money, we’d all like to know what’s going to happen next. Alas, life is complicated. There are simply too many variables for anyone to reliably know what the future holds. But that doesn’t prevent everyone from psychic hotlines to Wall Street investment houses from promising you they can predict what’s ahead – and charging money to do it.

 

For nearly 10 years, we’ve been getting annual economic predictions from a major Wall Street analyst, then comparing them with responses from people we stop on the street. The verdict? When it comes to things like oil prices, stock market returns, and housing prices, Main Street is often just as accurate as Wall Street. For further advice on how to become a paid prognosticator, see How to Play a Stock Market Expert on TV.

Perhaps picking on Wall Street professionals is unfair: At least their guesses are educated, and they’ll admit their predictions are based on events subject to change. Psychics and fortune-tellers, on the other hand, operate openly without those constraints – and rake in millions doing so.

We all know – or certainly should – the future is unknowable. But because the desire to see what’s ahead is so compelling, this is an area rife with promise for anyone willing to convince others they have a crystal ball.

6. Kick people while they’re down

While there’s always an audience for practically anything that promises a quick fix to a common problem, the desperate are the mother lode for the unscrupulous. Fromforeclosure rescue to debt settlement to non-existent government grants, many of the most successful scams target those down on their luck.

 

People drowning in a sea of debt and desperation will cling to any life ring you care to throw. Keep in mind, however, before wading in: It’s critical to be utterly devoid of decency. Just in case, might want to lay in a supply of sleeping pills.

The bottom line

If you’re looking to make a buck or two, and can leave your scruples at the door, there’s plenty of opportunity out there. So stop worrying about what’s honest and start thinking about what sells!

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