Pemandu slams ‘biased’ Refsa over performance analysis
KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 — Pemandu lashed out at the Research for Social Advancement (Refsa) today, saying that the think tank was “irresponsible” and presenting “biased opinions” in its latest critique of the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) annual report.
Refsa’s report, authored by two Cambridge-educated analysts, said yesterday that Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) was overstating its achievements and “stealing credit” when it presented its achievements in the annual report for 2011.
The disputes revolved around 2011 figures for actual versus committed investments, real versus nominal investment growth as well as several billion-ringgit projects.
Refsa said Pemandu had “downplayed” the fact that only RM12.9 billion, or seven per cent of the RM179 billion in committed investments, had been realised so far.
It also said Pemandu had used nominal figures — which do not adjust for inflation — to show that investment growth had exceeded targets.
Today, Pemandu issued a sharp response, saying investments took time and that expecting a sizeable percentage of investment to be realised within the same year it is committed was “absurd”.
“We have been clear in differentiating committed investment and realised investment in our announcements,” said Pemandu. “To suggest we are misleading the public is irresponsible.”
Pemandu said that the committed investments will be realised progressively by 2020 and the RM12.9 billion was realised by project owners in the first year of the implementation of the ETP was a “healthy beginning.”
It admitted, however, that it had used the nominal figure of 19.4 per cent to illustrate private investment growth exceeding targets rather than the real figure of 14.4 per cent after stripping out inflation, but blamed it on the fact that the real and constant price statistics were released by Bank Negara in March 2012, after its own report had gone to print.
It nevertheless noted that the real investment growth of 14.4 per cent was still above the 6.7 per cent average over the last ten years as well as the target of 12.8 per cent.
“It is interesting to see that Refsa chooses to repeatedly nitpick and present a totally biased opinion,” said Pemandu. “As an ‘independent research’ organisation, we question their approach.”
Pemandu also conceded that the private investment target of RM83 billion in its annual report should have been RM86 billion.
“Regardless, the RM94 billion in private investment achieved surpassed national targets,” it said.”There was no intention to purposefully set lower targets.”
Refsa had also questioned the ability of Karambunai to deliver on its ETP project— the integrated resort city — in Sabah, given its reportedly weak financials.
Pemandu responded saying that it did not guarantee the success of any project although it worked to facilitate progress.
On Refsa’s criticism that the private sector was rejecting the ETP because it only made up 37 per cent of total investment rather than the aimed for 60 per cent, Pemandu said that some big ticket and catalytic projects such as MRT and Rapid announced at the onset of the ETP skewed the ratio more towards government and GLCs. It said, however, the proportion is expected to become closer to the target ratio as time progressed.
Pemandu also denied Refsa’s claim that it is “stealing credit.”
“At no point has Pemandu claimed that RM94 billion private investments in 2011 to be wholly ETP’s achievement,” it said. “Our teams work closely with the ministries and agencies to contribute to the overall economic impact across Malaysia, and the RM94 billion achievement is a concerted effort by all parties.”
Pemandu was established soon after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak came into office in 2009 and is tasked with spearheading efforts to reform the economy and government administration under the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).
It is headed by oil and gas veteran Datuk Seri Idris Jala, who also served a stint as CEO of Malaysia Airlines.
Critics have expressed doubt over whether the ETP and GTP will succeed where attempts by previous administrations have failed, and have also described the programmes as merely serving the five-year plans of the country’s big businesses.
Jala responded by saying the ETP and GTP are different from older reform attempts as they are specific programmes with actionable goals and deadlines and take into account consultation with the country’s various stakeholders.
He is also known for his optimistic outlook and often urges members of the public to focus on the positives.
Opposition-linked Refsa is a not-for-profit institute that does research into social, economic and political issues.
Its analysis on the ETP annual report was authored by Ong Kian Ming, who holds degrees in economics from the London School of Economics and Cambridge and Teh Chi-Chang, a chartered financial analyst who holds a degree in accounting and financial analysis from the University of Warwick, and an MBA from the University of Cambridge.