Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ku Li Disputes RM60 billion stimulus

Ku Li: What RM60 bil?
Mar 22, 09 4:52pm

Former finance minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah lamented that only RM15 billion of the recently announced RM60 billion stimulus package goes directly to the people.

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Moreover, he said the RM15 billion is spread over two years instead of being fully utilised this year.

“What RM60 billion? It is not RM60 billion, it is RM15 billion (going directly to the people) - RM10 billion this year and RM5 billion next year,” the Umno veteran leader told Malaysiakini.

“The allocation for agencies like Khazanah (Nasional) is as much as RM29 billion. The rest are guarantees and tax exemptions, which non-tax paying people are not benefitting from anyway.

“What about the small and medium-sized industries? What about the small man doing businesses that employ nearly - or generate jobs - for over five million people?”

tengku razaleigh ku li interview 190309 04According to Razaleigh, who served as finance minister for eight years, the second stimulus plan was not nearly enough.

“The RM15 billion - or RM60 billion - will not amount to too much. It's over two years. You don't know what's going to happen next year. So why not concentrate everything this year. Say, throw a hundred billion this year.

“Of course, the government has no money. So where is the money? Some people have pocketed the money - that’s the trouble.”

In a 60-minute interview with Malaysiakini, Razaleigh also sees a continuing role for racially-based political parties such as Umno so long there are inter-ethnic inequalities in Malaysia.

The following is the third of a four-part interview conducted at Razaleigh’s palatial home-cum-office in Ampang dubbed as the ‘White House’.

Malaysiakini: You've written a lot about reforms in Umno. Can you pinpoint three major reforms it really needs?

Razaleigh: Number one, you have to learn how to behave, and not go around showing that you're arrogant and not giving two hoots about other people's welfare. I think this has to change.

tengku razaleigh ku li interview 190309 03Number two, Umno of the old days were for the people. Although it had the interest of the Malays at heart, the Malay members of Umno were for the people. And that is why the component parties that joined Umno - MCA, MIC and Gerakan - looked up to Umno because Umno leaders were not biased.

In those days, even during Umno general assemblies, they spoke for the people. Their minds were set that they had to take care of the interest of other Malaysians, whether Indian, Chinese… who were represented by their main allies of MCA, MIC and Gerakan.

Thirdly, I think corruption is eating into the system, it's cancerous and the people abhor it. Islam is against it. The Malays are against it. You can bring ‘buah tangan’ (gifts) when you visit somebody. That is a matter of habit culturally, which is acceptable, but not when you start stealing things which are not yours or cheating.

And we must start with the leaders. The leaders must impress upon everybody, particularly their followers that they are against it and you only do it by showing the example that they're not going to like this or condone such behaviour.

The best thing that leaders can do is that they themselves must come clean with the public, and that they are not going to be tainted like with they have been accused of all this while.

It is going to be difficult for Umno…

Why?

Because it is a patronage-based party…

It is not a patronage party. I beg to differ.

Umno members say that they joined the party because (they want government contracts)…

I didn't join Umno because of that. Many people joined my division not because I give them patronage. I don't patronise them.

But they joined Umno because they think we can look after them, and through our common effort, we're able to look after the people who are with us, not just the Malays, but also a lot of Chinese voters in my area as well, and we look after them just like (we do with) other voters in the constituency. There is no discrimination.

Only recently, people rely on patronage. That's why a lot more people rally around the leadership. And that's why the party is broken up, because so-and-so is somebody's crony or follower.

But such things have happened before. There were such things as Tunku Abdul Rahman's boys, or Tun Abdul Razak's boys… but they were not there because of patronage. I never joined the party because of patronage. There were many others in my generation who didn't join the party because of patronage. They believed in the cause that the party was fighting for.

But somehow a lot of leaders have deviated from that original cause…

These are the new breeds of leaders who exercise patronage because they probably are unable to transmit to their followers the kind of struggle that they have promised - to bring betterment to the lives of the people which we are all fighting for. So that's why they needed something extra to keep them (followers) together.

By giving contracts and things like that?

I don't know, possibly. But it didn't happen during my time. It was not expected of us to buy their support through contracts, through gifts, through whatever, you know. I was running a bank (Bank Bumiputra). I didn't simply give bank loans to people because the bank would then be bankrupt [laughs].

I was minister of finance. Everything was on tender. No ministry in my time could give awards. Only the Ministry of Finance could give awards, and these awards were always advertised.

And indeed, if we had anything for say, the bumiputeras, then we'd have a separate tender exercise for them. And it is made known to everybody that this limited exercise is confined to bumiputeras. Again, it is by tender, and not by private negotiation or whatever.

Is there a future for racialist parties like Umno, MCA and MIC?

There is, there is.

Why do you say that?


Because even in America today, the Jews get together, the Poles get together, even the blacks get together. Did you see what happened during (US President Barack) Obama's election? The blacks rallied around Obama. I'm not saying a hundred percent of them did, but the majority of them did.

But not as a racialist party.


It (US) is a developed society. But in a developing society like ours, people still think of themselves in terms of you and me, what my community gets, what your community gets. Even among the Chinese, they talk of Chinese education, Chinese culture, which I think should be preserved. To say that (racialist parties) is not going to be around, I don't think that's true.

Let’s not kick ourselves. Until we're really developed and we have equal statuses, and when you talk about hudud … not that I'm against it but I don't think hudud can be implemented here, not because we want to do away with a law that was handed down by God, but because there's no equality. There's still poverty. How can you implement hudud on people who're stealing if he did it because there was no other means by which he could support himself?

I think these racial feelings will be there for a long time… maybe 25 years, maybe 50 years. And it's very difficult to say that there won't be anymore racial feelings...

The only thing is, if we could only engender a cooperative spirit and comradeship, and if you have a cause to fight for, then we won't have these feelings that will cloud your thinking. Sports is one, culture is another, which will bind us together for common causes.

So there is still a future for parties like Umno…

Oh yes, definitely. MCA, DAP…

DAP does not call itself the Chinese Party of Malaysia.

Well, they have token Malay member. They have token Indian members. But they are (in reality) a Chinese party. I was very frustrated with DAP for some time when I joined them (at functions). Their functions are very, very Chinese [laughs].

What's your opinion on the teaching of Science and Maths in English?

Very simple, I support the policy of doing away with PPSMI (teaching of Science and Maths in English). What do you want? You want English? Or do you want them to be proficient in Maths and Science? These are two different things.

As a Malay and as a Malaysian, I'd like to be proficient in my own national language. But if you want me to know English better, then teach me English.

Why must you use a foreign language to master Science and Maths? For the well-being of the country, it is essential that everybody should know their (national) language and that they know their roots.

tengku razaleigh ku li interview 190309 08The Chinese hang on to their language for a simple reason - they want to know their roots. It's a rich cultural heritage to be gained. There's no reason to do away with Chinese, or Tamil, or Hindu.

The Malays feel very strongly about this (too), but it doesn't mean we dismiss English. By all means, we should concentrate on English. I'm for it.

But, if you want our people to be proficient and excel in English so that they can master the sciences, by all means, use English, but don't ignore the national language. I think we want to be competitive in the world, and we want our people to be proficient in not just English.

I don't have children. But if I have children I will make them proficient in Mandarin, in Arabic, in English, whatever…. Start them early, at age two or three… Let's not be prejudiced in this.

You were a former finance minister. We have the new finance minister unveiling his RM60 billion stimulus package. Do you think the money will be well spent…?

What RM60 billion? It is not RM60 billion, it is RM15 billion (going directly to the people) - RM10 billion this year and RM5 billion next year. The allocation for agencies like Khazanah (Nasional) is as much as RM29 billion. The rest are guarantees and tax exemptions, which non-tax paying people are not benefitting from anyway.

What about the small and medium-sized industries? What about the small man doing businesses that employ nearly - or generate jobs - for over five million people?

I don't think it (the stimulus package) is enough. I think if we really, really want to fight this, it should be about jobs, about spending. These are the things that should be at the top of your mind when you think about recession.

60 billion budget stimulus the four aims breakdown 100309How do you protect your country? You protect your country by getting your people to spend more money so that it will create more economic activity that will generate more opportunities for employment for businesses at the lower level, and to take care of their livelihood. We must do things that will generate activity that will support their daily lives.

So the RM15 billion - or RM60 billion - will not amount to too much. It's only over two years. You don't know what's going to happen next year. So why not concentrate everything this year. Say, throw a hundred billion this year.

Of course, the government has no money. So where is the money? Some people have pocketed the money - that’s the trouble.

Despite that Petronas is actually making quite a lot of money…

Yeah, so why don't you use all that money that you can afford to save the people this year? So that you can follow through to next year on a better footing. I would have thought that would be a better strategy.

What would you recommend as a former finance minister?


Well, I spoke to Asli (Asian Strategic and Leadership Institute). I was invited once, I think about two months ago, and I addressed a gathering there. It was an economic seminar of sorts. I suggested that apart from saving jobs, we should also create jobs, train people and look back on our labour policies. We are having too many foreigners here. We are sending money by the billions to their countries.

60 billion budget stimulus how malaysia will suffer 100309We're not blaming them for doing their work, and we're not angry with them. When we brought them to work here, we were aware that they would be remitting money to their homelands. Fine. But we are facing difficult times now. We have to look after our people.

But they say our people are very choosy about jobs. What do you expect? You cannot pay our people who have to maintain very high costs of living here with the rates that you pay these legal and illegal immigrants.

You must adjust these policies so that our people are better paid. You must get these people (foreign workers) out of the country and make sure that they are no longer around. You must get into mechanisation, you must automate, and you must choose industries that will minimise the use of labour. After all, we're going into industrialisation.

And we must pay our people better. We want to improve the standard of living of our people anyway.

If they want to employ locals, they will have to pay more and that will in turn increase the cost of living. Do you think that Malaysians have had it good over the past 10 or 20 years because of foreign workers?

Yes and no, because in certain sectors we can still use foreign labour. I'm not saying (we want foreign workers) one hundred percent out. But at least, there must be attraction for our local people to be in employment. You cannot expect to pay them with the meagre salary that you pay foreign workers.

They cannot survive. How can you expect to pay for their children's education? Their rental, transport costs, especially in Kuala Lumpur. They cannot live, they cannot survive. So, I think you have to make adjustments. You have to be realistic.

The other thing I spoke about was my pet subject - housing. I would have a national housing policy, because I believe that housing can create a multiplier effect and generate a lot of activity right down to central lightning to beds to transporting vans to what-have-you, and you can upgrade the skills of our people in Malaysia.

At the moment, we're relying on the Bangladeshis. We used to have people who were very good carpenters, but we don't have that now because they won't work at the rate you're paying them now and they can't survive at that rate. We should bring that back again but we must adjust their take-home pay and induce them to join this industry again.

But housing is a thing that I'm sold on. Look at the housing board in Singapore. If I talk about Singapore, the people here hate me [laughs]. They think Singapore shouldn't be an example, but there are good things done in Singapore that we should follow, that we should emulate - things that we can copy for our country, and improve on them.

The next thing that I suggested was the oil and gas hub which I spoke about in Parliament and two other seminars. It has fallen on deaf ears but Singapore is catching on (the idea). They're doing it and spending money on it. They don't have a drop of oil, but they're going ahead to become the oil and gas centre of Southeast Asia.

I think we're in a better place. We have friends in the Middle East. We have consumers like China, India… they're hungry for energy for the future. I think we can be a better place to take care of people who want to store their oil and gas and at the same time, supply to consumers like China, Japan, India… They need this for many, many more years.

And we have befriended the Middle East producers: Iran - which is under sanction today - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait… these are our age-old friends.

We have been trading with them, and I know them personally, and leaders like Dr Mahathir (Mohamad) know them. We can ask them to come here and tell them that it's safe to come here, (we are) not under threat of being bombed or whatever. And I even told John (Pang, Razaleigh’s aide) that we can even park any number of tankers in the South China Sea near Labuan.

And we don't have to worry about piracy…

No, not like Somalia (laughs). We have a big expense of sea. They (the tankers) can park there.

Tomorrow: ‘Nizar is still Perak MB’

1 comment:

powersaver said...

"If they want to employ locals, they will have to pay more and that will in turn increase the cost of living."

Is it? From what I've experienced, the foreigners is paid more than the locals. ie; when a semi-skilled illegal indonesian labour being paid RM80/day for laying bricks (construction), guess what our local semi-skilled, construction academy leavers being offered for? RM30/day! Bear in mind, it is a contract basis which the employer no need to contribute to anything such as epf, insurance or whatsoever. Tell me, how do you feel about this, insulted? Broken hearted? Please...... our pemimpin... look beyond your sight, get to the roots.... Tak perasan langsung ke????