Tuesday 3 April 2012

Do you trust Idris and PAMANDU? — Lucius Goon

APRIL 3 — Please allow me to apologise.  Yesterday, I wrote a short letter to The Malaysian Insider which was produced in its Side View column in which I said that Idris Jala and his PEMANDU people were going to come up with a glowing report card for the Najib government and show a drop in street crime, despite the fact that more Malaysian neighbourhoods are paying for their own 24-hour security.

I was wrong. PEMANDU did not produce a glowing report, it produced an OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD REPORT. Whoa, there is no more hardcore poverty in Malaysia! I guess the consultants preparing the report rarely got to peek out of their offices in the Klang Valley.

Malaysia achieved the highest GDP since 1957 with RM94 billion, generating a GNI of RM852 billion in 2011 and street crime has dropped 39 per cent, according to PEMANDU.

I found this rah-rah cheerleading figures somewhat familiar and, thanks to the Internet, found that the Abdullah government also put out a similar type of numbers a few weeks before the elections in 2008.

In 2008, the BN government said that international trade had crossed the RM1 trillion mark. And that economic growth for 2007 was the highest since 2004. And that the number of prosecutions and reports of corrupt acts had increased, this to show that awareness about corruption had increased!

Abdullah also talked about hardcore poverty and crime and offered some really impressive numbers.

Hey but Abdullah only had the civil service. He did not have Idris Jala and his bunch of hires at PEMANDU to come up with even more impressive numbers and which insult the intelligence of the average Malaysian.

A couple of readers took exception to my description of Idris Jala and his track record but this is a guy who has been selling his track record since Day One so it bears scrutiny. Scepticism about PEMANDU’s numbers is rife with Bank Negara, the MOF and EPU. But these arms of government know that this is election year and overstating facts is the name of the game.

Idris, Najib and everyone else are entitled to put forward all the magic numbers they want but please campaign in Baling, and the small places in Sabah and Sarawak and talk to them about how hardcore poverty has been eradicated.

And while you are in Sarawak, spend a little more time and investigate the wealth distribution in the state!
As for crime, please let Malaysians know why security has been outsourced to individual households. Could it be that we have the highest number of security guards per capita in the world?

And while you are collating these figures on Nepalese and Bangladeshi guards, can you please also find out if their numbers far outstrip the combined forces of the police and armed forces. Just saying that maybe there is a national security threat somewhere.

Najib last night said that Malaysia is well on its way to becoming a high-income economy. Yup, I guess that is why we continue to spend RM30 billion in subsidies and gave out RM3 billion in handouts.

It all boils down to this: do you trust Idris Jala and PEMANDU? He once sold us a story on a transformation of a national icon. And we know what has happened since those halcyon days.

He once said that the country was on the road to bankruptcy. Last night, even the glowing but hardly believable figures furnished by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi just before the elections in 2008 were outdone, outstripped by a government facing another election.

* Lucius Goon reads The Malaysian Insider.

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