COMMENT Governing, no matter who does it, is part philosophy, part exigency, part panic, part payoff. And it is never easy to ascribe precise percentages to each factor.
However, the 2013 Budget of Prime Minister Najib Abdul
Razak, unveiled last Friday, is so patently an electioneering one there
is no difficulty making an inference as to its prime motivation: it is
to buy votes through payoffs even if that means a steadily worsening
national debt situation.
The coupling of ill-affordable
munificence with entrenched misallocation of resources is accompanied by
nervous anxiety that this time the ruse may not work.
a dose of gratuitous denunciation of the opposition must suffice to
make the point that though the fat lady may be long gone in the tooth,
her would-be replacement is a cad.
It is the government's
argument that it is better for the hoi polloi to persevere in faith with
the devils they know (despite the looming bankruptcy their profligate
ways invite) in preference to angels (who have done, to be sure, some
pretty nifty work in some places) promising the sun and the moon but who
are certain to wind up without the shirts on theirs and the people's
The fact that the auditor-general's annual report,
nominally the preamble to the Budget, was delayed this year till after
the latter's presentation was indicative of things seriously amiss.
Since the mid-1980s when the redoubtable Ahmad Nordin applied abundant
common sense to his office's fiduciary scrutiny of government accounts,
this comprehensive annual appraisal has become a matter for trepidation
by the public.
But to an administration that flashes the catch
word "transformation" as promiscuously as a desperate tart would her
wares, this delay in the AG's report is not be terribly distressing,
given that a general election is due and the fate of the government is
said to be balanced by a thread in which case such niceties like the
AG's report being released before the Budget can be ignored.
subservient mainstream media can spin this as a hiccup rather than what
it actually is: a red flag signaling more distress points in the system.
Expect GST after the polls
The annual budget of democracies is an account of how a government proposes to raise revenue and disburse it.
is inherently a statement of political and economic philosophy, the
enunciation of which is usually done in ways that transcend the
parochial simply from grave contemplation of the importance of the
matter it deals with - a country's finances whose responsible
stewardship is vital to the well-being of not just the present
generation of citizens but successive ones too.
disclosure that the already high national debt would soar past the RM500
billion mark under spending envisaged by the 2013 Budget is a matter of
grave concern, given that the economy is already overly dependent on
revenue from a fast depleting resource (oil) and is trapped in a labour
intensive, middle-income cycle.
The government has announced
plans to transform this reality into something more dynamic but so far
there are no signs that structural disparities stemming from crony
capitalistic practices and monopolies are being watered down and
Favouritism and protectionism towards an elitist few
and election year dole outs to an underclass essentially compose the
warp and woof of the government's economic policy.
is accompanied by Santa gifts to various groups, like taxi drivers,
intended more as sops than as sinews for their regeneration.
handouts are a conjuror's trick whose falsity will be exposed by the
severity of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) that the government plans
to introduce once this election is over and they have won the vote.
told, the handout-targeted groups of civil servants, the underclass,
and young voters comprise more than half the 12.5 million voters
presently on the rolls, an increase of two million over the size of the
electorate at the last election when the Umno-BN government lost to the
opposition in the popular vote on the peninsula and had to rely on their
traditional strong plurality in Borneo to carry them through.
Spiraling national debt
one wing of their Borneon bastion is in tumult, its appeasement by
Najib's announcement of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into a festering
issue - illegal migrants - is turning out to be as chimerical as,
perhaps, the handouts promised by 2013 Budget could well become.
Meanwhile, the national debt rises swiftly and menacingly, but a spendthrift government is undaunted.
indifference to spiraling national debt was the hallmark of the social
democracies of the West now is peril from insolvency, with national
debt-to-GDP ratios before their crises hit as anemic as the one Malaysia
But a government more interested in salvaging its
survival than in prudential management is apt to gallop to the
precipice's edge under a bogus patina of "transformation."
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