Malaysia, a victim of economic hit men?
OCT 18 — Ever since the prime minister announced the 2011 Budget last week, we have heard all sorts of objections about the various mega projects to be rolled out next year. Everyone’s part of the chorus line: opposition politicians, political analysts, economists, bloggers, tweeters and even kopitiam political pundits.
My first reaction to the 100-storey skyscraper idea—the name of which is so unimaginative that I can’t even remember it—was a question, “What for?!” Then all the funny and not-so-funny answers came fast and furious:
“To show the world we know how to build tall buildings with the help of foreign assistance.”
“To show the world that our politicians know how to line their own pockets through mega projects.”
“To show Malaysians that our government knows how to use money wisely whilst asking them to tighten their belts.”
“We need a tall building to ensure that all the crooked politicians die when we push them out the window.”
After laughing for a while, I realised that our Apco-advised prime minister had announced other mega projects too. In the same Budget, he announced the massive MRT project which will cost us a staggering amount of money.
Then, I also realised that the new tower and the MRT projects are not the only mega projects that Malaysia is undertaking. Even before the Budget was announced, the government has already taken steps towards at least two other mega projects: the massive redevelopment of Kampung Baru as well as the redevelopment of the Sungei Besi military airport.
Mind you, the prime minister have also been mooting the idea of a nuclear power plant, which I am sure will come with a huge price tag as well.
According to Dr Lim Teck Ghee — the renowned economist and public policy analyst who shot to fame for claiming Bumiputeras have already reached the NEP equity target — any project above RM300 or RM500 million can be defined as a mega project.
Before I proceed, let me clarify that I am not against mega projects per se but I have grave concerns about how they are financed — whether we will have the resources to pay the loans taken to finance these projects and, most importantly, whether our potential inability to repay the loans will mean that our political independence and sovereignty as a nation will be compromised.
If you are wondering what I am trying to get at, please google “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”, which is a book written by a former economic hit man called John Perkins. To make things easier for you, please let me quote from Wikipedia:
According to his book, Perkins' function was to convince the political and financial leadership of underdeveloped countries to accept enormous development loans from institutions like the World Bank and USAID. Saddled with debts they could not hope to pay, those countries were forced to acquiesce to political pressure from the United States on a variety of issues.
Perkins argues in his book that developing nations were effectively neutralized politically, had their wealth gaps driven wider and economies crippled in the long run. In this capacity Perkins recounts his meetings with some prominent individuals, including Graham Greene and Omar Torrijos. Perkins describes the role of an EHM as follows:
Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly-paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign "aid" organisations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet's natural resources. Their tools included fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalisation.
Frankly, I don’t know if we are borrowing from any of the financial institutions mentioned in the above Wikipedia entry, but I do know that “fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder” are quite possible, if not already established as fact by some quarters.
Moreover, it is public knowledge that Malaysia is paying millions of ringgit to international consulting firms like Apco and McKinsey to advise our government, not only on media and public relations by the former, but also on public policy and economic development by the latter.
So, the question is this: Is Malaysia the target of international economic hit men or am I a paranoid conspiracy theorist?
Whatever the answer, someone’s got to pay for all the mega projects. Whether the money is coming from EPF, Khazanah, Petronas or from overseas, ordinary Malaysians will have to somehow repay it.
More likely than not, we will be paying for all these so-called development projects through our noses whilst the political bigwigs and the Malaysian godfathers (the cronies of the political bigwigs) continue to enjoy the fruits of our labour.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.