Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Jibby vs The Mad Hatter?

Further to my "Tiger In The Dock" post, the question arises whether Ling's arrest is actually Najib finally trying to be his own man in relation to Tun Mahathir. After all, Mahathir was the Finance Minister at the time of those cabinet meetings. Najib lawan tauke? The following commentary I found in cyberspace seems appropriate to post here:

Will Najib be man enough to stand up what he proclaimed or is he going to be a wimp and head for the exit with his tails between his legs.

1Malaysia is indeed a beautiful and profound concept. It can simply mean that there should not be many Malaysias - each pulling away in a different direction or working at cross-purposes.

It is undeniable that Malaysia is fractured by ethnicity, religion, economic class, literacy, geography, socio-economic philosophies and a plethora of other such factors.

The concept is not difficult to understand.

What Najib obviously needs to do is articulate the measures that are required to attain 1Malaysia. Mere sloganeering, bill boards and simplistic 1Malaysia clinics are not going to get us there. However, if he were to lay down all the steps that needs to be taken in one go, certainly the divisive forces who love to retain 'ketuanan' status are going to rise in arms.

Najib is not so naive that he cannot understand this. But to his credit, understanding the entrenched positions of the many Malaysias, he appears to be moving towards that goal cautiously by chipping away at the dividing the walls in small baby steps. The New Economic Model and its proposed underlying polices seemed to be a good start in that direction.

Most unfortunately, the die-hard extremists led by by PERKASA and strongly supported by the fork-tongued Mahathir and an unsure Deputy Prime Minister, who does not understand whether he is coming or going, are doing everything possible to ensure that 1Malaysia and the NEM are still-born.

Mahathir is now actually teasing Najib by asking for clarifications. And maybe he has become a little unsure of himself now that his compatriot, Ling is being prosecuted. Did it take Mahathir one year, while all the time singing plaudits about the Najib administration, to suddenly realize that he does not understand what 1 Malaysia is. Uncharacteristic or Machiavellian - waiting to strike at the right time?

If Najib really embraced 1Malaysia with a visionary zeal and not for short term political gains, and if he wants to become a true leader and is really intent on pulling out a nation that is certainly sliding towards the abyss, then he should start fighting the evil forces openly because the enemies of 1Malysia, surreptitiously supported by Mahathir, have drawn their swords.

Well, does Najib have the spunk? Judging from his response to the flak Tony Pua has drawn from UMNO quarters for his suggestion that bumiputera discount for luxury properties be removed, things do not appear hopeful. Please read Tony Pua's comment on the matter.

Where's NEM's "Market-Friendly" Affirmative Action Programme?

The Prime Minister should drop all pretense of implementing a “market-friendly and merit-based affirmative action programme” under the 10th Malaysia Plan.

Over the past week, I've been vilified by Utusan Malaysia and Umno leaders for having suggested that one of the steps to renew investor confidence in the country's economic policies is to remove the bumiputera discount applied to luxury property purchases. The most recent threat comes from the Deputy Minister from the Prime Minister's Department and UMNO Information Chief, Datuk Ahmad Maslan who warned me not to “play with fire”, using the defense of the Federal Constitution and the “social contract” as the basis for the race-based property discount policy.

The most disappointing of criticisms however, came directly from none other than the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak himself. Instead of commenting on the merits of the policy, he warned DAP leaders “against continuing to place pressure on the Malays and Bumiputeras on this matter because it could cause anger and dissatisfaction among them."

In coming up with the above suggestion, I had no intention of fanning racial sentiments or taking away the rights of bumiputeras as defined in the Constitution. I was looking at the policy strictly from the perspective of economic distributive justice. A person who purchases a RM2 million property under the current scheme of say, 7% discount will receive a benefit of RM140,000. However, a lower income person who purchases a property of RM100,000 will only receive a benefit of RM7,000, a fraction of the benefit enjoyed by the rich. The current policy is skewed towards greater benefit or “subsidy” for the wealthier community, which runs against the spirit of affirmative action policies.

The Prime Minister had in his inaugural speech on March 30 to local and foreign investors on the New Economic Model (NEM) said that the new “affirmative action approach based on “transparent and market-friendly affirmative action programmes” “will mean greater support for the Bumiputera, a greater support based on needs, not race”. It is as opposed to the previous New Economic Policy (NEP) of “imposing conditions to meet specific quotas or targets”.

Datuk Seri Najib has since backtracked from the above NEM proposal of not “imposing conditions to meet specific quotas or targets” in the 10th Malaysia Plan launched in June. However he had maintained that while the race-based 30% quota or target for bumiputeras will be retained, the race-based affirmative action policy will be “targetted primarily at improving the livelihoods of Bumiputera in the bottom 40% households” through “more transparent, market-friendly and merit-based instruments”.

However, his latest outright rejection of the proposal to remove race-based discounts for luxury properties flies direct in the face of not only the original NEM objectives, but also the watered-down affirmative action reforms outlined in the 10th Malaysia Plan. There is nothing that is “market-friendly” or “merit-based” in the race-based affirmative action policy of granting property discounts to wealthy individuals who could afford properties in the range of millions of ringgit.

UMNO, its mouth-piece Utusan Malaysia and Datuk Seri Najib has instead chosen to racialise and politicise the issue, inflaming racial sentiments to achieve short-term political mileage at the expense of the economy.

The above is the perfect example of what Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, the CEO of CIMB Bank had lamented recently where “wrangling over affirmative action in the proposed New Economic Model (NEM) is causing uncertainty among investors.” He had added that the time has come for the government to protect the interest of the majority of the Malays and not just selected few.

Both local and foreign investors are confused by not only the indecision and ambiguity over the proposed reforms over the decades old affirmative action programme, they are also turned off by the clear indications that the deeds and policies of the Government often do not match their words, as expressed in the NEM as well as the 10MP.

If the Government has no intention to reform its affirmative action policies as it stands today, then the Prime Minister and UMNO leaders should stop the hypocrisy and pretense that the Government is going to implement a “New Economic Model” which will be based on “market-friendly” or “merit-based programmes”. It'll only prove to investors that the Government is “all talk, no action” and that the Barisan Nasional is completely incapable of change, much less the transformation that is required to take us to a developed nation status by 2020.

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