When I ponder on the legacy that Najib Razak will leave behind him, the one thought that hits me hardest is the staggering, colossal amount of the country’s money that has been spent by his administration and under his watch.
In 2007, the Prime Minister’s Department (JPM) of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi incurred a development expenditure estimated at RM4,040,285,900 and operating expenditure of RM2,705,007,500. Pak Lah’s total budget for JPM was RM6.74 billion.
In 2014, the PM’s Department is spending RM10,580,942,500 on development expenditure and RM5,869,615,000 on operating expenditure. Najib’s JPM budget this year totals RM16.45 billion.
Insulated by courtiers and isolated from the masses
This is a silver spooner PM who just spends, spends and spends.
Najib became an MP at age 23 as well as inherited his father’s hereditary ‘Datuk’ Orang Kaya Indera Shahbandar title upon Tun Razak’s demise. He then became Pahang Menteri Besar at 29.
For almost all his adult life, Najib has had fawning hangers-on surrounding him. It’s no wonder that he succumbed to the Great Wall of Consultants.
BELOW: The house where Mahathir grew up
What’s a few billions between ‘friends’?
Najib ni pula seorang anak bangsawan yang tidak pernah mengenal susah dan tidak mampu memahami rintihan rakyat marhaen. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that he doesn’t think twice about blowing a few billions on the consultants.
Dr Mahathir, on the other hand, has experienced personal hardship. During the Japanese occupation, he sold bananas at the market in Alor Setar. Today, even though the Tun is a hundred years old, he’s still working. He runs a bakery franchise.
Their vastly different paths in early life could be one of the reasons why Tun disapproves of Najib dishing out BR1M.
Fighting “villainous acts of sabotage”
Back in September 1998, Dr Mahathir Mohamad initiated a selective exchange control regime to tackle the Asian financial crisis.
The day after Dr Mahathir announced the capital controls, he sacked his deputy Anwar Ibrahim.
Tun is not an economist but he took it upon himself to perah otak – his own doctor’s brain, okay – figuring out the best way to deflect the currency speculators.
What happened in August 1998?
In Paul Krugman’s words:
“Malaysia’s neighbor Thailand, after months of promising that it wouldn’t, devalued the baht; and spooked investors began selling Malaysian ringgits (and Philippine pesos, Indonesian rupiahs, and so on) as well. This provoked an outburst on Mahathir’s part that surely counts as an instant classic. […] Mahathir had a full-fledged conspiracy theory: The U.S. government had prompted palindromic speculator George Soros to undermine Asia’s economies, because it wants to impose Western values (like democracy and civil rights) on them. And Mahathir’s ministers expanded on his remarks with a rhetoric that was unusual for a government with a long-term interest in maintaining the goodwill of international investors: Currency fluctuations are caused by “hostile elements bent on … unholy actions” that constitute “villainous acts of sabotage” and “the height of international criminality.” (Slate magazine, 14 Aug 1998)
Always the maverick, Tun.
The PM who used his own brain
Hari Ini Dalam Sejarah: 1 Sept 1998
Banker Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop recalls:
“Beliau juga sedar bahawa tindak balas yang tidak tepat akan hanya menjerumuskan Malaysia ke dalam kitaran ganas kemiskinan. Bak kata pepatah, tersilap langkah, antan patah lesung hilang. Dalam keadaan yang begitu genting, saya sering melihat Dr Mahathir Mohamad, walaupun dalam keadaan kesihatan yang kurang sihat, seperti demam dan batuk-batuk, begitu tabah dan terus berusaha siang dan malam, tanpa mengenal erti jemu, untuk mencari formula demi menyelamatkan ekonomi negara.
“Selepas pelan tindakan dilaksanakan pada 1 September 1998, Dr Mahathir Mohamad tidak berehat. Sebaliknya, beliau terus mempengerusikan mesyuarat Exco Majlis Tindakan Ekonomi Negara (MTEN) SETIAP HARI bagi membincangkan, menghalusi dan memantau keadaan ekonomi serta menyusun langkah-langkah ke arah mengukuhkan ekonomi.”
Tun is a workaholic. Najib is known for his extended holidays abroad.
Yang bijaksana tidak keliru, yang berakhlak tidak gundah gulana, yang berani tidak gentar – Kung Fu Tze
Tun dared defy the IMF
Here is how Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz rated the Tun’s decision to install the currency peg and clamp on capital – “One of the contentions of the critics was that capital would never again flow to Malaysia. That has been proven to be not correct,” he told Bloomberg in retrospect on 29 Oct 2003.
As chief economist for the World Bank then in 1998, Stiglitz supported the Malaysian position of “heretically introduced capital controls”.
A year after Dr M’s measures took effect, Stiglitz is quoted as having said that ”in the context of Malaysia and the quick recovery in Malaysia, the fact that the adverse effects that were predicted – some might say that some people wished upon Malaysia – did not occur is also an important lesson”.
They were not casual remarks but made during the presentation of the ‘World Development Review’ on 15 Sept 1999, a week after the IMF praised Malaysia for “its skillful handling of capital controls” (see, Global Intelligence Update‘s weekly analysis on 20 Sept 1999).
In 1998-1999, Tun relied on his own judgment and took decisive control of the wheel. These are qualities we’ve yet to glimpse in Najib.
Unfriending the PM
We can “unfriend” people on Facebook. A lot of us bloggers are getting increasingly fed-up of our current Prime Minister.
There has been a strong wave of disenchantment across the pro-establishment Malay blogosphere over the petrol price hike.
We bloggers are orang bawahan, you have to realise. We’re people with our feet planted on the ground. Some of us even plant kangkung to eat.
This PM is clueless about how the other half – the poorer three-quarters actually – live.
BELOW: Photo from the brochure of the Pelangi Beach Resort in Langkawi
Najib alienating BN core voters
A couple of weeks ago on Sept 14, the PM met up with the BN Backbenchers Club at the Pelangi Beach Resort in Langkawi for a budget dialogue.
Najib discussed the budget with a bunch of people who checked themselves into Pelangi. He’s only talking to the elite (and advisors and consultants) but is deaf and blind to the ordinary and poor people.
Now what do you think the budget 2015 holds for the working class?
PM ada peka? Ada prihatin?
BELOW: Najib listening to J-Star CEO Wong Chun Wai who bashes Isma endlessly
Poor people are the ones voting BN
People who vote BN and Umno are people like us – the bloggers who are Malay or like me who writes in Malay alternately.
Najib is totally out of touch with people like us who influence the “poor” (and “stupid”, says the J-Star) people who are the BN voter demographic. One example, superblog The Unspinners grumbled today, ‘Polisi Idris Jala utamakan biznesman, Tak peka sejarah sosiopolitik dan sosioekonomi‘.
Idris Jala is an evangelista.
Najib is listening to people who will vote BN … over their dead body. Or who prefer to see the BN dead. He will never, ever get their votes whatever he does to appease them. But more importantly, he is fast losing ours.