Malaysia

Najib’s cash handouts can bankrupt Malaysia, experts grumble to Dr Mahathir

BY V. ANBALAGAN, ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR
February 16, 2014

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak should stop playing Santa Claus as his cash handouts to the poor can bankrupt the Treasury, apart from not narrowing the income gap between the Malays and the Chinese, says a veteran newsman.

Retired New Straits Times group editor Datuk A. Kadir Jasin said that these were among the complaints made to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (pic), who had advised the complainants to "'shout' about issues and problems they think the PM and the government should know and pay attention to".

"Stop playing Santa Claus. Cash is not king and cash handouts could bankrupt the Treasury. Find a more sustainable way of helping the poor and bridging the widening income gap between the rich and the poor, among and within races," Kadir wrote in his popular blog The Scribe yesterday.

"Either it is a coincidence or the product of his policies, programmes and proclamations, the nominal income gap between the Malays and the Chinese has widened since 2009 (the year Najib became PM), erasing gains made in past decades," he added.

Kadir said Najib had to stop lavishing scarce public funds on cash handouts and salary increases that did not contribute to productivity and sustainability.

"The rural households – the bedrock of the Barisan Nasional (BN) in the 2013 general election – are worse off now than in 1957 when compared to the urban households," he said in his latest blog posting.

The newsman said Umno has to remember that almost all the 88 parliamentary seats it won in the peninsula last year were in the rural areas.

Similarly, all the BN seats in Sarawak and Sabah are also rural constituencies.

For the 2014 Budget, Najib had announced that households with a monthly income of RM3,000 and below were eligible to receive Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) of RM650 while unmarried individuals earning not more than RM2,000 would receive aid amounting to RM300.

A total of RM4.6 billion was allocated to benefit 7.9 million Malaysians under BR1M, which Najib started three years ago in a bid to direct more aid to the bottom 40% of society.

Kadir, who was the New Straits Times group editor-in-chief between 1988 and 2000, also said that only about 10% of the Bumiputera were employed in management and professional positions in 2012, a slight decline from 2009.

Some 62% were employed in semi-skilled jobs, which included bus drivers, and the rest in unskilled jobs, he said, adding that youth unemployment was high.

In the age bracket of 15 to 19, almost 25.7% are Indians, 15.6% Malays, 18.9% non-Malay Bumiputera and  9.9% Chinese were unemployed in 2012.

In the 20 to 24 age group, 14.1% of those who were jobless were Indians, 9.9% Malays, 13% non-Malay Bumiputera and 7.1% Chinese.

"This explains the disproportionate involvement of Indians in criminal activities," Kadir said when revealing that most of the comments came from informal coffee sessions or Kedai Kopi Assembly (KKA) with politicians, political veterans, economists and journalists.

He revealed that one of these sessions had involved Dr Mahathir where three young Malay economists "were desperate to be heard".

"Dr Mahathir’s advice to them is to 'shout' about issues and problems they think the PM and the government should know and pay attention to.

"This is vintage Dr Mahathir. The 'shout' message is 'typically Mahathir'. When you don’t have the power to act, you shout," Kadir wrote in his blog.

The veteran journalist said Dr Mahathir had once told him that "when he was out of Umno and without power, he had shouted to be heard".

"From the queue at his offices at the Perdana Leadership Foundation, Proton and Yayasan Albukhary, it is clear that he may be out of the loop but certainly not out of circulation, holding his Kabinet Rakyat sessions with people of all walks of life who have stories to tell, advice to seek and spirit to strengthen – like the veteran Wanita Umno leaders who were allegedly shown the door at the PMO (Prime Minister's Office) because they came without appointment," he added.

Kadir also said the question of a change in political leadership has been doing the rounds during the coffee sessions.

"At the princely Yemeni dinner, a question was posed: If Mohd Najib has to go (or he throws in the towel), who could or would take over?

"The response wasn’t spontaneous. It took a bit of head scratching among the balding participants before Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin’s name was mentioned. That was partly because Muhyiddin had purportedly said he was not interested in the job and that he was tired," he said.

Kadir noted that going by hierarchy, Muhyiddin was the successor as the latter was deputy prime minister and deputy Umno president.

"But like Mohd Najib, he was not elected by members. He was merely endorsed by the Umno Supreme Council.

"The most senior democratically elected Umno leader is Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who won the most votes as vice-president in last year’s party elections. But most KKA delegates think he is not the favoured successor.

"That honour belongs to Hishammuddin Hussein, the third-ranking VP, and Mohd Najib’s cousin," Kadir wrote. – February 16, 2014.