Bogeyman politics

Campaigning in the PKR elections seems to have reached fevered pitch with the Kapar MP Abdullah Sani publicly accusing Daim of conspiring to stop Anwar from becoming Prime Minister. The PKR MP, who is campaigning for Rafizi’s bid to be elected deputy president promised to show proof at a later stage.

In a strange twist, one key claim that Rafizi has made for his bid is that a loyal deputy president, meaning himself (and by implication, his opponent, the incumbent Azmin, is disloyal) is vital to ensure that Anwar will succeed to be PM in the future. The rumoured story is that Mahathir is grooming Azmin to overtake Anwar, and the proof is Mahathir’s appointment of Azmin to the powerful Economic Affairs Ministry.

No one can know for certain what Mahathir really intends or thinks with respect to Anwar. And any claim in that respect must be dismissed as speculation. As I have mentioned in another article, you can claim anything with respect to anyone’s intentions and motivations. No one can prove you wrong. But neither can you prove it. You can feel Mahathir’s disgust over such tactics with his terse response: Show proof I want to block Anwar.

“I am not interested and stay away from interfering in the affairs of other parties,” he added.

But if you turn a deaf ear to the speculation and just look at the facts, Mahathir had appointed the PKR President to be his DPM and the PKR Deputy President to what is said to be a very powerful ministry, when previously no less than Rafizi had complained that Mahathir had not given due consideration to PKR’s dominant position as the party with the most number of MPs by rewarding it with ministries of greater significance. Who else should he have appointed to that ministry?

It just seems to me that a desperate Rafizi is resorting to “bogeyman” politics.

The bogeyman “is a common allusion to a mythical creature in many cultures used by adults to frighten children into good behaviour.”

“You need me to defend you and your loved ones against the bogeyman.”

UMNO has used this tactic for decades, casting the Chinese, the Christians as the bogeyman, ever ready to enslave the Malays and Christianise the Muslims. In more recent times, DAP is cast as both Chinese and Christian.

The harm of such tactics is that you make monsters out of innocent parties or communities and you create an unreasonable fear and paranoia about them, causing a breakdown in relationships. Not to mention that you are slandering in order to advance your own cause.

To see bogeyman politics being practised so early in PH’s history is a little alarming. If it works for Rafizi it could encourage others with similar ambitions to try such tactics and when they come into positions of power and influence they may start to demonise persons or communities, just as UMNO did.

What Rafizi does not realize, or perhaps does not care, is the harm he is causing to the relationship between Anwar and Mahathir, and by implication, between PKR and PPBM. And, I must say, the harm to Anwar in the eyes of the public. There is nothing more ugly than the sight of a man who feels entitled and who strikes out to defend that entitlement. I am not saying that this is Anwar, because I think he is a far better politician than this. But Rafizi is doing him no favours and linking Nurul Izzah with himself taints him even further.

Bogeyman politics is another relic of old Malaysia we should do away with.

In the new Malaysia, we need high journalistic standards

For the past 2 decades at least, reporting basically means “to tell it like it is”. Good reporting would be that care is taken to ensure accuracy. There is little editorial input. Or, at times, too much, and the report, while accurate, distorts what was actually said by leaving out the context.

Let me give some examples.

In this article, the headline says, “Selangor bought SPLASH at 10 times its price, claims Khalid Ibrahim”. Technically, if you read the article, Khalid “claimed the Selangor government paid 10 times the price to buy over water concessionaire Syarikat Pengeluar Air Selangor (SPLASH) when compared to an offer made in 2013.” A world of difference. It allows the “lie” that Khalid wants to perpetuate to be published but absolves him from all responsibility by reporting what he actually said in the article.

The fact of the matter is that one cannot compare the value of a company to the value of an offer someone made for it because you can set your offer price to anything you want.

So Khalid’s absurd statement was not called out but in fact that wrong implication was made a headline.

When the media fails to analyse what it is reporting and just allows statements to be published unfiltered, it fails in its role to be a guardian of the information that enters the public sphere through its gates. It allows itself to be manipulated by those who wish to influence public opinion via lies, innuendo and speculation.

This article, entitled “Former Kedah MB’s son questions Rafizi’s motives for slamming 3rd national car” does two things: Firstly, the person who asked the question is characterised as “former Kedah MB’s son”. It is said as if it means something; that here is someone who is speaking from some capacity. The truth is, the son is not even a “front” for the former MB, who passed away earlier this year. So in what capacity is he speaking that The Star is publishing him? The article did not say.
Did he call a press conference? No. This article was derived from a facebook posting.

Secondly, and this is my main gripe, this person questions Rafizi’s motives. And this is so characteristic of Malaysian politics. Rather than debate the merits of a person’s proposal or statement, you sidestep the whole issue by questioning the motivation.

The thing is, you can make a person’s motivation to be anything. You cannot be proven wrong. But in doing so you hope to weaken what that person has put forward.

I can question the motivation of Akhramsyah Sanusi, son of the late Tan Sri Sanusi Junid,for questioning the motivation of Rafizi.

Such “attacks” seem to be saying something, but it actually says nothing. It is innuendo and speculation. And in this instance, the attack is done by a non-player in the context. Star should not have given it any space. But in choosing to do so, it perpetuates this type of politics which is completely useless. If Dr Mahathir makes such a statement it is definitely worth reporting because it has implications. But seriously, the son of the late former MB (1996-1999) of Kedah? Frankly I question The Star’s motivation in publishing this.

This article is headlined “Bung’s ‘F*** you’ worse than my ‘gangster’, says Ramkarpal”. Need I say any more? If you want to run such an article you should say “Ramkarpal is childishly upset that he was ejected for refusing to apologise when asked but Bung was not for saying “F*** you” in Parliament (although he did subsequently apologise and retract his words). After all, Ramkarpal says, “F*** you is much worse than “gangster”.” It’s a much longer headline but at least it says something substantial, clarifies the truth of the situation, and hopefully discourages this type of nonsense from occupying public space.

The list goes on. The practice of “daring” another politician to do this, or to do that, or even to swear on whatever religious book is just theatre; it does not substantiate the truth or wisdom of whatever position that is being challenged. The practice of saying a minister supports whatever vile issue is at stake just because the minister has not by fiat acted on the matter, or when a party is now publicly silent on certain issues it is because it has sold out. Malaysian politics need to grow out of its childish ways. And the media should play its role to foster this.

Politicians and others with an agenda will always want to manipulate the public space but the media should play an intelligent role rather than be a mere amplifier for all and sundry. I am sure that politicians will call up media chiefs to complain but that I think is part and parcel of the role of being a guardian. When the media gives space for substantive debate and discussion, and starve childish politics of publicity or cast these antics in negative light, politicians can learn what will give them the publicity they need. Then too, hopefully, we can relegate the “Jamals and Bungs,” to their proper place in the public space, and Ramkarpal would not ask to be judged by the same standards.

Khazanah Nasional

I must confess that I knew very little about Khazanah. My impression is that this is the body the government uses to control GLCs. I get the sense that it has a lot of money and therefore a lot of power. And because it is under MoF it has the might of the administration behind it. And through it the government directly influences the economy. However, I never felt that Khazanah’s beneficiaries are Malaysians. In other words, I did not think it is a sovereign wealth fund. Rather it is akin to a bumiputera trust.

Note that these were my impressions. Whether true or not I did not know.

Well, since then I have consulted wikipedia, read this article on Cilisos, and this recent interview of Dr Mahathir on the subject, where he opines that Khazanah has deviated from its original objective.

So going by Dr Mahathir, who started Khazanah, the company (yes, it is actually a public limited company registered in 1994 with all shares except 1 held by MoF) said the firm was formed to hold shares for the Bumiputera until the latter possessed the capacity to purchase those shares.

He said this was because the Bumiputera who received shares had the tendency of selling them and enriching others instead.

“But along the way, Khazanah decided it should take all the shares for itself and if they are good shares, well, why not acquire the shares at the time of listing when the price of shares was very low and so they forget entirely about holding the shares for the Bumiputera.

“They decided that they should be holding the shares forever as a part of the government companies owned by the government,” he was quoted as saying.

According to the Cilisos article, and Wikipedia, Khazanah was given a new mandate in 2004 to exercise control over GLCs and nurture them to become well-run companies. Cilisos likens it to a change in role from being a babysitter to a parent.

This article suggests that the success of Khazanah in nurturing the GLCs can be seen in the fact that no GLC needed bailouts during the 2008 global economic crisis.

So going back to my impressions, Khazanah was at first a bumiputera trust and then became this entity that managed GLCs and nurtured them (and in doing so directly influencing the economy) and finally, from the way it is spoken of now, a sovereign wealth fund, evaluated by the appreciation of its value.

This is as much as I gathered in my simple research. If I am wrong, please correct me in the comments.

What Dr Mahathir wants to do is to return Khazanah to its original purpose. This means that Khazanah should always seek to return the wealth it holds in trust back to the Bumiputera public. It should hold control over companies only as long as it needs to do so.

Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying that Putrajaya would review the companies in which Khazanah has a stake in and sort matters to return the wealth fund to its original path.

“We need to agree with some of these companies to reduce the number (of shares held by Khazanah) and to a certain extent go back to the original intention of holding the shares allocated to the Bumiputera until such time when they can buy (them),” he said.

(In my research, I came to know that another company, Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), was established on 17 March 1978 as one of the instruments of the New Economic Policy (NEP) to re-engineer the economic imbalance in the Malaysia society. PNB has grown from strength to strength, with its assets under management (AUM) now reaching RM271 billion, from around RM3.5 billion in 1981. It is now the market leader in the Malaysian unit trust industry, with ASNB now managing more than 13 million accounts with almost 217 billion units in circulation (UIC). PNB has also enabled the sharing of corporate wealth with all Malaysians by delivering consistent, competitive returns over the years to its unit holders, with more than RM157 billion paid out since inception.)

Tan Sri Dato’ Azman Hj Mokhtar, who was appointed to lead Khazanah in 2004 with the new mandate, defended his record managing the sovereign wealth fund in his farewell message, directly referring to his ultimate shareholders as the “30 or so million Malaysians and then the millions more yet to be born.”

Interestingly, he also wrote of developing and practising the concept of “Building True Value” and elaborated that he interpreted this to include “developing among others human and knowledge capital and through the respect and preservation of the environment. He revealed that Khazanah had built key institutions include Yayasan Hasanah in Corporate Responsibility, Yayasan Khazanah for scholarships, Yayasan Amir for education, Khazanah Research Institute for economic policy development and Think City and the upcoming Taman Tugu Park in terms of the development of cities and community and public spaces.

I came across an interesting article by Dr Musa Mohd Nordin telling of how Khazanah had donated large funds to NGOs during the December 2014 floods, and then went on to tell of how Khazanah had continued to give to advance the causes of several NGOs.

The achievements of Tan Sri Dato’ Azman Hj Mokhtar and Khazanah are well defended by many. This recent article in The Star elaborates yet another aspect of what the company had done.

Looking from the outside, I am struck once again by how much a person can accomplish with the wealth and power he is vested with when he is guided by the simple goal of nation-building. I certainly hope that his recent experience would not sour him to the joy of serving the nation.

One cannot help but see the other side of the truth, that when a person is selfish and seeks only his own benefit, how much destruction he can wreak when given the wealth and power to do so. Of course I am thinking of what Cilisos termed as the sister of Khazanah, 1MDB.

Dr Mahathir seeks to return Khazanah to its original path. This, I think, takes nothing away from what Khazanah had achieved. Neither does the fact of what Khazanah has achieved negate what Dr Mahathir wants to do. It remains to be seen how this change will benefit the country and, as the PM intends, Bumiputeras.

SPLASHing in murky waters

I was intrigued when I saw the headline that the RM2.5 billion SPLASH deal was 10 times its price, according to Khalid Ibrahim, the former Selangor MB.

According to the article, Khalid “claimed the Selangor government paid 10 times the price to buy over water concessionaire Syarikat Pengeluar Air Selangor (SPLASH) when compared to an offer made in 2013.”

It seems he was asked to resign because PKR wanted him to offer a higher rate but he refused.

This seems to be congruent with what Najib has been claiming.

But it is not far off from the RM2.7 billion that I had mentioned, which is 10 times more than the RM250 million that was offered by Khalid Ibrahim (former Selangor menteri besar),” he said in a statement.

Khalid was asked to resign in 2014 due to the lower offer he had made to buy over SPLASH, said Najib.

According to Najib, a crony of a top PH leader will benefit handsomely from the purchase.

So it looks like Selangor deliberately paid 10 times more for SPLASH (and removed Khalid as MB when he refused to do their bidding) to benefit a crony of the top PH leader.

Except, of course, they were referring to an offer Khalid made of RM250 million for SPLASH, which was rejected because the offer was too low.

In an article in The Edge Markets, Khalid’s offer was characterised as “priced to fail” because RM250 million was only a tenth of the book value of the company.

Takeover offers for SPLASH in the past have been priced to fail (0.1 times price-to-book value [P/BV] or RM251 million as per the last offer in Nov 2013).

Whether or not a crony of a top PH leader will benefit from this deal, the fact of the matter is that Selangor is paying a fair price in relation to the value of the company.

Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shaari had earlier said the takeover value of RM2.55 billion is after a 28% discount, based on the net book value of SPLASH as of June 30, which stood at RM3.54 billion.

It is a shame that Najib and Khalid are resorting to lies and innuendos to tarnish PH. Are they are only capable of this type of politics? And it seems to me just too coincidental that both Najib’s and Khalid’s stories supported each other’s claims and extended the notion to imply that PKR has rigged the deal to benefit its cronies.

The fact of the matter is that Najib’s administration has been urging Selangor to settle its purchase of SPLASH, before the events of GE14. And Khalid was urging the federal government to force the issue by taking over the Selangor water concessionaires.

Now that this matter is settled and the restructuring can now move forward, these two have decided to twist the facts and cast the deal in bad light.

Old politics in new Malaysia

Many have characterised Malaysia after GE14 as the “New Malaysia”. In truth, what we have is the hope that the country will adopt a better set of values to build its society, that hope arising because the leadership of the country is now in the hands of a new set of leaders for the first time in the history of the nation.

But today, as we head towards the first 100 days anniversary of this historic development, thousands of people gathered in the rain to “defend race and religion” — a strong reminder that you can bring a horse to water, but you cannot compel it to drink.

It is undeniable that PAS cannot go past the fact that its agenda is about religion. What is unfortunate though is that it is unable to embrace a religion that has room for others to flourish. For them it is a zero sum game — for me to win, you have to lose.

It is also undeniable that UMNO, having flirted mildly with the idea of including other races, has clung on to its Malay agenda. It has demonstrated time and again that it is only willing to tolerate others as long as it is able to do whatever it wants. UMNO has shown this over the past decade or so in its leadership in Barisan Nasional.

And so, even though the sultans remain, the army is largely malay and muslim, the civil service is largely malay and muslim, the police force is largely malay and muslim, and even the new government is largely malay and muslim, PAS and UMNO has to conjure up demons and whip up the notion that race and religion require their defending.

DAP is now the devil incarnate, able to even compel Tun Dr Mahathir to comply with its agenda, which, according to UMNO, is anti “race and religion”. Somehow, DAP is now christian, with an agenda to christianise the country.

There is no logic. There is no truth. Only a desire to whip up racial and religious sentiments for political ends.

It just seems to me that UMNO and PAS are unwilling to let go of the past and embrace the opportunity for a better Malaysia. They are unwilling to become partners in nation-building. That the only way forward is for the country to leave them, and their divisive and exploitative ways, behind.

And then there is Rais Yatim.

Am I so glad he was not made Speaker of Parliament.

He has every right to his opinion about UEC. And in truth he has a point, that UEC does not comply with national educational policy. But this has nothing to do with “race and religion,” Tan Sri, unless you count the fact that it is what the chinese have been asking for for years. But of course you want to make it about race and religion, so that your opinion will have the force of that agenda.

GE14 is an opportunity. It is a beginning. It is historic. But we have a long way to go. How we need to pray for leaders who are willing to put the country first, willing to rule by uniting the people, willing to deal in truth and integrity.

The fall of the corrupt (reprise)

I will take my place at the watchtower.
I will stand at my post and watch.
I will watch and see what He says to me.
I need to think about how I should respond to Him
When He gets back to me with His answer.

Eternal One (to Habakkuk):

Write down this vision.
Write it clearly on tablets, so that anyone who reads it may run.

For the vision points ahead to a time I have appointed;
it testifies regarding the end, and it will not lie.
Even if there is a delay, wait for it.
It is coming and will come without delay.

So I wrote, “Look how pompous he is!
Something is not right in his soul; he is not honest and just.
But the righteous one will live by his faithfulness.”

Indeed, wine betrays the proud man who is always restless.
He has a big appetite; it is like the deep, dark pit of the dead.
Like death, he is never satisfied.
He gathers all the nations to himself and collects all the people for his own purposes.

Will not all these nations raise up their litany of insults?
Will they not provoke him with their taunts and mockery, saying,
“Woe to him who hoards what is not his!
How long can he profit from extortion and debt?”

Will not your creditors suddenly rise up against you?
One day they will wake up and will have had enough.
Indeed, you will be their spoil!

Why? Because you have plundered many nations,
now all who remain will come and plunder you—
Because you have made bloody and violent raids over the earth
and ransacked many peoples and their villages.

Woe to him who builds his house on such evil profits,
who puts his nest up high, safe for the future, safe from disaster!

You don’t realize it, but by cutting down so many peoples,
you have brought shame on your house;
You have sinned against your own soul.

For the stone in the wall will cry out against you;
the wooden rafter will answer from the ceiling.

Woe to him who builds a city on bloodshed
and who establishes a town by injustice!

Look! Is it not because of the Eternal, the Commander of heavenly armies,
that all the people work for is consumed in fire
And that all the nations produce comes to nothing?

For as the waters cover the sea,
the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge
That the Eternal is glorious and powerful.

Habakkuk 2: 1-14, The Voice

The composition of the PH cabinet

When Mahathir announced the composition of his cabinet 1.0, there was an outcry from certain quarters in PKR, decrying the notion that the party was not allocated any important ministerial position (and obviously ignoring the fact that it holds the deputy prime ministership and is promised the prime ministership). We command the largest bloc of MPs and deserve therefore the lion’s share of power (my interpretation).

That view received widespread condemnation, with the public pouring scorn on the idea winning GE14 is about enjoying the spoils of the victory. The public view is basically, “stop thinking about yourselves and start thinking about the welfare of the country”.

Now that cabinet 2.0 has been sworn in, a report in Malay Mail quotes the Fitch Group research outfit:

The Fitch Group research outfit said although PKR and DAP have the most ministerial and deputy ministerial positions totalling 15 and 12 respectively, a Cabinet line-up strictly proportionate with parties’ parliamentary seat count should see PKR holding 19 positions, DAP (17 positions), Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) (five positions), Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) (five positions), and Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) (three positions), with two positions to spare.

PPBM, Amanah and Warisan instead have 10, nine and five Cabinet positions respectively.

It is surprising that a research team from the international ratings group should fail to note the sentiment on the ground with respect to this notion that ministerial appointments should follow strictly and proportionately the number of parliamentary seat count by party.

While it is true the formation of the cabinet has taken a long time, likely due to intense negotiations in the background, it would be fatal for any political party to make this matter the focus of any disagreement among the component parties.

It is interesting to note that PKR has been publicly silent while the protest from DAP came from the youth wing.

Even more surprising is the research group alluding to racial composition as being an issue, noting that PPBM and Amanah are Malay dominated parties.

“While the number of Cabinet positions that was allocated to each party was in rough accordance to their seat count, the two largest parties, centrist Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and secular Democratic Action Party (DAP) are under-represented in the Cabinet, whereas the Malay-dominated parties Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) enjoy over-representation.

“This has likely resulted in some dissatisfaction among PKR and DAP and in our view, will potentially emerge as a flashpoint in inter-party relations within the PH coalition,” said BMI Research.

What they have failed to emphasize is the fact that it would be a mistake for Pakatan Harapan to emulate Barisan Nasional, by making race and religion a central core of its union. The basis of its manifesto is its vision for a government that will work for the good of the country, rather than one that has a power-sharing formula between race and religion and political parties.

For better or for worse, this is the platform it has represented itself to the nation which voted them into power. It would be in the interest of all parties in Pakatan Harapan to demonstrate that they are willing to set aside self interest in the interest of the nation.

Finally I wish to quote the writer at FinanceTwitter.com, who has a much better view of the cabinet composition:

One can argue until the cows come home but PKR (8 ministers), DAP (6 ministers), Amanah (5 ministers) and PPBM (6 ministers) have been allocated portfolios based on “equal partnership”. Such formula would prevent Pakatan Harapan from becoming Barisan Nasional 2.0 where the weak component parties will always get bullied and discriminated.

No doubt in the negotiations for cabinet positions self-interest will come into play. That is what negotiations are all about. No doubt certain parties have to give way in order to come to an agreement. In this I applaud DAP, who, at state level and also at federal level, have shown a willingness to take on a lesser role (though perhaps some are less and less willing to do so).

But everyone, politicians and also others whose role is to observe and analyse, everyone should be mindful that we want to empower the idea that the greater good of the nation must come before our personal ambitions and desire to be recognised and rewarded. We should not fan the flames of race and religion, nor the narrow view at state level (an analyst opines that the cabinet composition is a slap on the face for Sarawakians partly because the Sarawakian in the cabinet who is “only” a deputy minister is much more senior to Syed Saddiq who was made minister. This analyst should have noted that it is a slap in the face for ALL deputy ministers because he is the youngest.)

I have no idea how this cabinet will perform. It is likely some will do well and others less so. There is no need to rehash all the old tired arguments about who deserves what, and which group or sex have been snubbed or favoured, and whether race and/or religion is reflected in decisions. We now have the opportunity to be more politically mature. We should give these men and women the opportunity to show us what they can do, now that they have been appointed.

Najib’s worldview

Some weeks ago, Tun Dr Mahathir, in his characteristic sarcasm said of Najib, who pleaded ignorance to all the shenanigans in 1MDB, that “Najib always assumes that people are stupid.”

This week speaking at the opening the UMNO Pekan Division delegates meeting, Najib said,

“In the last general election, we lost to a party that did not spend much money; we did not know where their divisional offices were, their canopies were the earliest to close, but even when we flocked to our canopies, we still lost.

“When we are not paid, we get annoyed; when money is given, we say we did not receive it. There were candidates who kept for themselves the money meant for spending (in the election campaign). How could we have not lost? If we had such an attitude, then we were the cause of our party’s defeat.”

In other words, it’s all about money.

There was an old Hong Kong movie where firemen, at a burning building, told the occupants, “Got money, got water. No money, no water. Got money, water will flow. No money, water will stop.”

We are here for the money. We invest money to get us into positions of influence in UMNO to get more money. Money must flow before we will do your bidding.

And very likely his assessment of UMNO is spot on. After all, despite the scandals that surrounded his administration, Najib was firmly in control of UMNO. So much so he was able to expel the second most powerful man in UMNO, for daring to question his actions.

Najib was famous for saying that “Cash is King“. And it seems that what he learned about how to work UMNO, was what he believed is how to work Malaysia. If I give you enough money, you will let me continue to do as I please. Or, as he was famously quoted, “I help you, you help me.” My own impression of Najib’s administration was that he throws money at problems. Even his last campaign promise, at the last day of the GE14 campaign, was about money.

Najib said that if his Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition wins the election, people aged 26 and under would no longer pay income tax and any that had paid in the past would be reimbursed.

He also promised to add two public holidays at the beginning of Ramadan, which starts next week, and said toll roads would be free for a period of five days starting two days before the Muslim Eid festival, which marks the end of the holy month.

Perhaps it is possible to conclude that Najib always assumes that everyone has a price.

This view, where money is at the centre of everything, is a corrupt worldview, and will corrupt all who comes under its influence. It is utterly cynical. It’s proponents will seek to corrupt those around them, or else replace them with more pliable persons. Such a worldview at the apex of a nation, could destroy that nation.

The ongoing effort by the PH administration to weed out the corrupt from positions of influence is vital. Because the corrupt will seek to corrupt. That is how they amass power and money. We must really pray for those working to free the administration from corruption.

Now is the time to pile on the bad news

I read this article covering an analyst basically saying that “now is not the time” for bad news. Rather it is the time to rebuild confidence among investors. Interestingly the analyst also highlighted the fact that there is a possible US-China trade war and emerging economies such as Malaysia could be hurt.

Bad news must be kept at bay, says an analyst, saying it was time Putrajaya rebuild confidence among investors against a backdrop of a possible US-China trade war that could hurt emerging economies such as Malaysia.

Hoo Ke Ping said while it was important to announce that the government was cleansing the system it inherited, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad must immediately take on the role of the “salesman” to encourage foreign investors to stay on, while attracting more of them.

“Just keep the bad news and politicking to themselves for the time being,” Hoo told FMT, amid criticism that being “honest” about the critical state of the nation’s economy could backfire on the present government.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/06/24/its-the-economy-so-less-bad-news-please-putrajaya-told/

There have been many such calls in one form or another. This one interested me because it takes into account the “time”, and noted the possible effects of the US-China trade war.

I have come across an article that basically said that if a significant trade war erupts, it would be countries like Malaysia and Singapore that would experience the most significant impact. And I believe it because our economy is very open and very dependent on trade as we do not have a significant internal economy. The US and China are our most significant trading partners. If their economies are hurt, we will feel even more pain.

This, I believe, is unfortunately our situation, until the present quarrel between the 2 largest economies in the world is resolved.

This, I believe, is the most significant factor affecting investors vis-a-vis Malaysia. And there is nothing we can do about it.

Which is why I believe that NOW is the best time to lay bare all the bad news that are being uncovered. You are going to suffer anyway. You might as well get the bad news over with.

Secondly, I believe that investors, when faced with a changing situation, wants to reach the bottom as soon as possible. Everyone knows that the country is facing financial issues due to corruption. What they do not know is the degree. It will be a mistake to feed the investing public small doses of bad news over time, because they will not have a sense of the bottom.

Thirdly, from a political point of view, now is the time to pile up the bad news on Najib. At some point in the future the public will be desensitised because they want to move forward. In the meantime some very significant policy changes are going to be made. The public must understand and support these policy changes and the best way to get that is confirmation after confirmation that their worst fears of what went on inside Najib’s administration is well-founded. PH must build a strong momentum to get the public on their side with regard to policy changes and institutional reform. The public must understand that this is necessary to avoid that in future.

I think the PH government is doing this right. And I wish them all the best.

In due course, when the bottom of bad news is reached, and the US-China trade war is resolved and stabilised, investors will reassess Malaysia’s potential. I’m sure that their assessment will be positive.