Worrying trends in our spending

The budget 2009 has certain good salient points.

Those who use less than RM20 a month of electricity would not have to pay. This is indeed good news to the hard core poor.

35 Billions will be allocated o improve transportation over the next few years. This is long due, as public traspor shold have been beefed up long ago, as an efficient public transport system is needed for increased mobility and exchange of goods and services.

Not enough is put into health services. WHO recommends that a country should spend about 7 % of its GDP on health. We are spenidng much less on that. This is because we are spending too much on our operating expenses, which have ballooned from 80 Billion in 2004 to 154 billion this year, and almost 100% increase over 4 years.

On the macro aspects, certain things are worrisome.As I have just mentioned,  the operating expenses is getting too huge and takes about 75% of the total budget whereas the developemnt budget gets about 25 %.

This is just like  a household that uses 75% of its income to pay its servants  and the running costs of the households and have only 25% to save for children education and investment and saving for old age, and part of this spending are borrowed from bank. There is a high chance that the household may go into financial difficulty. Similarly, in our case, the operating cost is too huge and increasing at too fast a rate for comfort. A major part of this goes to payment to civil servants. The civil service must be trimmed, with emphasis on productivity and efficiency.

Another worrying aspects is that government revenue is increasingly dependent on petroleum sector.. Revenue from this sector increase fro 37% to 46 %. So the question is , how do we sustain our spending if our oil eventually runs out in a decade or 2?

 To counter this , we have to increase our human resource development.  But  with brain drain becoming more and more serious, and more and more youngsters working overseas, are we able to sustain our present lifestyle and living standard once the oil and gas money runs out? What is being done to this?

The increase in spending results in a deficit budget. A deficit budget for a short period is acceptable to help  jump start the economy. But when year in and year out , we have deficits spending, out debts will accumulate and the yearly loan payment would be bigger and bigger. That is also part of the reason for the huge increase in operating expenses. SO we really need to be careful here. We cannot just try to be popular and spend beyond our means. We would only be passing the burden to our children.

Overall, i think what is needed is to stress on efficiency and productivity of civil service, cut down on unnecessary waste in running the government, and tackle corruption and abuses in administration. This alone could help us save a lot of money. The money saved from this operating expenses can then be channelled to human resourse development and other productive sectors so that when our oil money runs out, we would not be caught flat footed.

The best way to reverse brain drain and increase human resource development is to start  adopting meritocractic principles in civil services, universities and colleges  as well as GLCs. There is really no 2 ways about this.

We must look and think further ahead, as our oil resources will be finishing quite soon.

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Budget 2009

For the budget announcements, I will quote Malaysikini on the salient points. I think the web portal has summarised it very well.

The operating expenses are shooting and a cursory calculation, it is now almost 75% of the total budget.

We really need to do something to trim this and by doing so we can use more money for development expenses.

The whole budget speech can also be viewed at the Star. Click here.

For other points, here is what Malaysiakini reported:

Gov’t to spend record RM208 bil for 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

The total expenditure was set at RM207.9 billion for 2009 compared to RM176.9 billion in 2008.

 

 Of this amount, RM154.2 billion is for operating expenditure, while RM53.7 billion is for development expenditure.

In 2008, the operating expenditure was RM128.8 billion and RM48.1 billion for development expenditure.

Budget deficit up

The budget deficit is estimated to be 3.6 percent of GDP in 2009 and 4.8 percent of GDP in 2008.

 

Abdullah had in the previous year’s budget speech forecast a deficit of 3.1 percent for 2008.

Economic growth slowing

GDP growth for 2009 is estimated at 5.4 percent and 5.7 percent for 2008. The most recent official forecast is for GDP growth in 2008 is 5 to 6 percent.

Additional income tax rebate

Those earning below RM35,000 per annum will get rebate of RM400 compared to RM350 previously.

Those earning between RM35,000 to RM50,000 per annum will get a one percentage point reduction in their marginal tax rate to 12 percent from 13 percent previously.

Those in the highest bracket of RM250,000 per annum will get a similar reduction to 27 percent from 28 percent previously.

Free electricity

Those whose use less than RM20 of electricity per month will not be charged.

One-month bonus for civil servants

Government servants will get one-month bonus or at least RM1,000 to be paid in two installments – in September and December. 

Those from Sabah and Sarawak will get free airfares to go home every two years, beginning January 2009.

Special allocations for Sabah, Sarawak

Sabah to get an additional allocation of RM580 million for upgrading infrastructures, while Sarawak will get RM420 million.

Hike in cigarette taxes

Excise duty will rise by 3 sen per stick from 15 sen to 18 sen. There was no increase last year.

Smokers will have to pay up to 60 sen extra for a 20-pack.

Staff training incentives

Firms can claim working capital allowance for upgrading their staff skills.

Toll charges for buses slashed

Toll charges for buses to cut by 50 percent for the next two years. The government will spend RM45 million to compensate toll operators for this.

To improve public transportation, the government has allocated RM35 billion in the next five years.

What’s not in 2009 Budget

No lowering the Employee Provident Fund contribution.

No hike in gambling taxes or alcohol duty.

No increase in the number of food items under price control

 

Please also read this post: Worrying trends in our spending

Racist remarks and reactions from MCA

An UMNO division leader was reported to have allegedly uttered racist remarks during one of the ceramahs in Permatang Pauh buyby-election. He was supposed to have said that “Chinese were squatters in the country, and were both selfish and unjust”, according to a Malaysiakini report today.

I am commenting not because of what this fellow said. Over the years, how many UMNO leaders have uttered things like that? On many occasions,  even keris were raised . So this racial profiling is nothing new.

I am commenting because the response is so predictable and of course gives me a sense of Deja Vu. MCA youth is starting a signature campaign to ask that this division head be sacked, according to the report.

When I said Deja Vu, I mean that so many times in the past, members of the component parties have complained of racist remarks of UMNO leaders, but usually nothing much will come out of it.

Remember 2006 UMNO youth meeting? Someone uttered racists remarks and caused an uproar among the youth leaders of the component parties. In the end, nothing happened. All sandiwara.

A former minister, who is now eyeing the top position of MCA, is said to have described the relations between component parties and UMNO as that of Master and servant. If that is so, why still stick around? Why not  come out of the coalition and be own boss?

I hate to mention that this reaction from MCA youth will probably lead to nothing except perhaps increase political mileage for the few youth leaders that started this signature campaign , and maybe win them some votes in the coming party election.

What they should do is to pressure their own party leaders to take a stand. Say, UMNO must act against this fellow and others who utter racist remarks, otherwise MCA with its 15 MPs will cease to support this coalition. If MCA leadership dares to issue this threat,  UMNO might just want to take disciplinary action , or use sedition act against the errand division chief, because at the present moment, UMNO needs every single BN MP to be on its side. It is as simple as this.

 The question is, the top brass of MCA, do they dare to issue such ultimatum?

A case of too little too late

The dust of permatang Pauh is settling. One consequence of this battle is that the voice for change within UMNO and component parties will even be louder now.

Already, malaysiakini reported that tengku Razaleigh has openly called for a new leadership. He is reported to say that  a new leadership “to unite our people… and forge a clear national direction” is needed.

“(Abdullah) does not have the minimal credibility needed to run the country day by day, let alone to take it in the new directions we need to go in a complex world,” he said. “This dangerous situation cannot continue.”

tengku razaleighRazaleigh said the coalition’s by-election campaign, which was criticised for its racial overtones and focus on sodomy allegations against Anwar, has “embarrassed and divided the nation with its ugliness.”

“It is time to face the music: it is we who have been buried,”

I foresee more dissenting voices in the component parties too.

But some of these voices askig for change are using “change ” to mount an tactical offensive to get rid of the incumbents/or incumbent-favoured successors. They are not angels of change but rather they are using change as a weapon to kick out the old leadership so that they themselves can ascend the throne. These are opportunists and they are not real reformers. Many in  UMNO and component parties belong to this category. To hope that they can effect changes if they ascend to the throne will be like asking ‘wolves’ to guard the sheep.

Real reforms are needed. As I see it, no one in UMNO would be really capable of changing its culture of money politics and the culture of manipulations. The rots are too entrenched.

As a medical person, I like to use medical analogy. This culture of rots is like stage 4 cancer. Cut away too little, the cancer will still be there and soon will be even more widespread. Cut too radically, the whole thing dies. So UMNO is in such a situation and there is little hope that anything can be done . It is really a case of too little too late. 

So who would be able to provide the necessary real reform? Who will be the dark knight to the rescue?

I leave it to you to ponder…

Permatang Pauh vote counting

Anwar Wins. The permatang Pauh voters have spoken on behalf of the people of Malaysia. This is another clear message to BN. They cannot carry on their old ways. They have to change or face changes sweeping them away.

Anwar has obtained a bigger majority at 15671 with a turnout rate of  81%. BN has failed to lower the majority despite choosing the voting date on a weekday.  Umno must take note and so must all the component parties including MCA, MIC and Gerakan. They are fast becoming irrelevant, if they still choose to go against the wish of the majority in Peninsular Malaysia.

From Malaysiakini:

9.50pm: Official EC tally – Anwar got 31,195 votes, Arif Shah, 15,524, Hanafi, 92. Anwar won with a majority of 15,671.

 

9.12pm: Official EC result: With 11 more boxes to go, Anwar has won the by-election with a 14,551 majority. He garnered 27,977 votes while BN’s Arif Shah obtained 13,426 while Akim’s Hanafi Hamat got 85. 

8pm: Unofficial: Anwar is the winner, obtaining a majority of 16,210. He garnered in 26,646 while Arif Omar 10,436 votes.

??   Unofficial PKR alert – Anwar wins with a majority of 17,652, obtaining 31,949 votes. BN’s Arif Shah garnered 14,297 while Akim’s Hanafi Hamat got 74. Hanafi to lose his RM15,000 deposit.

(Editor: This Malaysiakini figure cannot be right. Because the total votes exceed 65% turnout. Someone please clarify).

 7.59pm: Unofficial latest count, Anwar has obtained 16,101 votes as opposed to Arif Shah’s 6,071. 

7.43pm The EC starts to announce official results as per the ballot boxes it has counted. As it stands, Anwar is leading by 3,507 votes (or 48.11 percent).

The breakdown is as follows: Akim’s Hanafi Hamat (nine votes), Anwar (5,398 votes) and Arif Shah (1,891).

So far 20 ballot boxes of a total of 111 have been opened and counted. Anwar had won in ALL these 20 boxes. In one particular box, he had obtained 441 votes compared to Arif’s 14.

 

7.25pm: There are signs of significant swing to PKR despite the lower turnout. In the state constituency of Penanti, which PKR won at the March 8 general elections, the party has bagged the sole polling station, Telok Wang, it failed to win five months ago.

March 8 result: BN – 261 votes, PKR – 227
Aug 26 result: BN – 232 votes, PKR – 260

Anwar is also making gains in the state constitutency of Seberang Jaya, where PKR had lost to BN candidate Arif on March 8.

7.25pm: Anwar’s press conference at 9pm is believed to declare his victory. The press conference was rescheduled to 9pm from its original time of 7.45pm.

7.20pm: Unofficial results so far: Anwar 5,855; Arif Shah 1,910

A message to Permatang Pauh voters

Tomorrow is the D Day for The mother of all by elections , the Permatang Pauh Parlaimentary seat contest.

I hope that all parties should follow the rules, be fair and impartial to all the voters. I also hope that there would be no vote buying – not even giving ang pow to old people, like a lady minister is reported to be doing.

Most important of all, the voters of Permatang Pauh must come out in full force to vote. Employers must allow time off for their employees to votes. Those self employed should think of the big picture and take time off from their businesses to vote. Their votes will determine whether Malaysia will go back to its old way, or towards a better future for our children.

Voting is their constitutional right. It is up to voters to choose whoever they think can represent them effectively in Parliament. Every vote is important.

The March 8 election has given many Malaysians a glimmer of hope that perhaps the dawning of a 2 party system will bring about positive changes – better governance, lesser abuses and corruption, lesser emphasis on racial politics.

 I will quote from my article ” a square peg in a round hole- gerakan and Permatang Pauh” :

in the eyes of many Malaysians, the fight in Permatang Pauh is no longer about Anwar and Umno. It is no longer about Anwar the person, but about what he represents: A hope that finally raced-based policies can be done away with; a hope that there would be a better check and balance, the lack of which has been the main reasons why corruption and abuses have become so rampant; a hope that society would become more open, racial polarisation would be less and there would be more accountability and transparency.

It has become the fight for the survival of the still fragile two-party system. Many in civil society believe that everything must be done to nurture it so it will grow stronger and can play the role of an effective watchdog and be a counterbalance to the BN.

Anwar may not be able to deliver all these. But at least he gives us hope that he could help bring about  these changes. For those of you who wish to pursue this hope and nurture the budding 2 party system, you have no choice but to vote for Anwar. For those who want status quo, who think that abuses and corruption and manipulations are acceptable, please continue to vote BN. The choice is yours. THE CHOICE IS CLEAR.

Let democracy prevail. For those of us outside the area, let u hope that our brothers and sisters in Permatang Pauh will make the right choice and send the right person to Parliament.

 …………………………………………………………………….

A reader, Fadzli Sharip,  has so kindly translated the article. I will post the translation here to reach more voters:  (Thank you Fadzli)

(It’s a good comment. Let me loosely translate it to Malay for better reach. Sorry if any content is lost. Fadzli)

“Esok adalah hari penentuan, pilihanraya kecil yang TERBESAR, pilihanraya kerusi Parlimen Permatang Pauh.

Saya berharap semua parti akan mengikut peraturan, berlaku adil dan saksama kepada semua pengundi. Saya juga berharap tiada kegiatan beli undi – walaupun memberi ang pau kepada orang tua, sepertimana dilaporkan seorang menteri perempuan buat.

Yang paling penting, pengundi Permatang Pauh mesti keluar beramai-ramai. Majikan mesti memberikan masa dan membenarkan pekerja keluar mengundi. Yang bekerja sendiri juga mesti memikirkan masa depan dan meluangkan masa untuk mengundi. Undian mereka akan menentukan samada Malaysia akan kembali kepada cara lama atau memberikan harapan yang lebih cerah untuk anak-anak kita.

Mengundi adalah hak yang kita dalam perlambagaan. Terpulang kepada pengundi untuk memilih sesiapa yang difikirkan dapat mewakili mereka secara effektif dalam parlimen. Setiap undian itu adalah penting.

Pilihan raya 8 Mac lalu telah memberikan harapan kepada ramai rakyat Malaysia, satu titik permulaan dimana sistem dua parti akan memberikan perubahan baik – pentadbiran yang lebih baik, kurang penyalahgunaan kuasa dan rasuah, dan kurang politik perkauman.

Memetik artikel saya ” a square peg in a round hole- gerakan and Permatang Pauh” :

di mata ramai rakyat Malaysia, pertandingan
di Permatang Pauh bukan lagi mengenai Anwar dan UMNO. Bukan mengenai Anwar secara peribadi, tetapi apa yang diwakilinya: Suatu harapan dimana akhirnya politik perkauman tiada lagi; harapan dimana penilaian & pertimbangan yang lebih baik dalam kerajaan, dimana ketiadaannya telah menyebabkan rasuah dan penyalahgunaan kuasa telah menjadi-jadi; harapan agar masyarakat akan menjadi lebih terbuka, kurang perbezaan antara kaum dan kerajaan yang lebih bertanggungjawab dan telus.

Pilihanraya ini telah menjadi penentu wujudnya sistem dua parti yang sangat rapuh. Masyarakat maju percaya yang usaha harus dibuat untuk menyemai nya (sistem dua parti) agar ia akan tumbuh dengan lebih baik di mana ia menjaga keberkesanan dan menjadi pengimbang kepada BN.

Anwar mungkin tidak mampu untuk semuanya ini.
Sekurang-kurangnya dia memberikan harapan agar keadaan akan berubah. Jadi, bagi mereka yang mempunyai harapan yang sama dan menjada sistem dua parti, tiada pilihan kecuali mengundi Anwar. Bagi yang tidak mahukan perubahan, menerima rasuah dan penyalahgunaan kuasa dan manipulasi, undilah BN. Kuasa ditangan anda. PILIHAN DISINI JELAS.

Diharapkan demakrasi berterusan. Bagi yang diluar kawasan, marilah kita berdoa agar saudara kita di Permatang Pauh membuat pilihan yang betul dan menghantar calon yang betul ke parlimen.”

 

 

Dr Tan Kee Kwong endorses Anwar

Former Gerakan KL State Chairman and former MP for Segambut, Dr Tan Kee Kwong, openly endorsed Anwar yesterday. He said he made this decision based on his personal belief and because he was so sick of the rotten and corrupt practices of BN.

Bravo! Dr Tan is my good friend and was instrumental in influencing me to joining Parti Gerakan.  His father was none other than the Mister Opposition, Dr Tan Chee Khoon, and a founder of Parti Gerakan…

 In the press conference yesterday, as reported in Malaysiakini Chinese edition, he mentioned that ANwar is the agent for change. As I have mentioned in my writings before, this is no longer about ANwar but about what Anwar represents, which is what Gerakan’s ideology is about.

I think Dr Tan should be lauded for taking this step.

tan kee kwong support anwar 220808 1

    photo courtesy of Chinese Malaysiakini

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