Malaysiakini News

A conversation with Bruce Gale on Najibnomics

Stephen Ng  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | When I shared a response by one TK Chua to independent researcher Bruce Gale’s article in Singapore’s Straits Times, “Najibnomics has been good for Malaysia’s economy” on social media, I was amazed by the amount of criticism towards Gale’s article that I received from friends.

One friend even wrote, “Bruce Gale is all wrong. He does not even understand that Najib’s economic policies are not for the country’s well-being, but his and his cronies', and their continued position in power.”

I forwarded this comment to Gale, someone I would not say I know very well, but have had some acquaintance with since our university days in the 80s. We did touch base once when he was writing for Pelanduk Publications.

Occasionally, at university, Gale would join us other students, but I have to say he has always come across as someone very opinionated about things.

There are good and bad sides to being an opinionated person. However, I doubt Gale was willing to take any form of critique when he eventually booted himself out of our university alumni chat group on Whatsapp, not long after my private discussion with him about his article.

An unconvincing discussion

Perhaps I was just a layman to Gale, with no statistics up my sleeves to match his arguments, but isn’t his book meant to be read by ordinary people?

At least I am happy that Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming had seen it fit to take some time to respond to Gale’s article and his latest book, “Economic Reform in Malaysia: The Contribution of Najibnomics.”

If I had started to ask some pertinent questions about the viability of the East Coast Rail Link to be constructed for RM55 billion using a soft loan facility from a Chinese bank, how could he convince me that Najibnomics is at all good for the people?

My point is simple: Look at Keretapi Tanah Melayu plying the busiest route from Padang Besar to Singapore. In what particular year was KTM showing high profitability? My argument: “If the government has to keep pumping money into KTM, how do you think ECRL soft loan is going to be paid eventually?”.

Another good example is MAS. Until today, the national airline is not out of the doldrums after so many years running on a loss.

I also shared a few comments from friends with Gale. One of them wrote, “The GST (Goods and Services Tax) did help the government raise the much needed revenue. Revenue it may not have needed had there been near zero corruption.

“The cost of patronage politics and corruption is not a published figure and I doubt there has ever been any country that provides such statistics but the practice is well known in commercial and corporate circles.

“This guy (referring to Gale) obviously ignores the significant impact on budget and future development plans caused by corruption. Direct awards unexplained and non-existent public disclosure of public contract pricing have a far more direct impact on the economy due (to) the high numbers.”

Gale responded with a one-line answer: “Applications for bank loans fell by 2.4 per cent.” I am not sure what time period Gale was referring to, but on first impression it looks like a good number. To the layman, when the number of bank loans are reduced, it is supposed to be good.

However, a friend of mine shared his own insights: “Household debt fell not due to people being richer or having more available cash but banks applying stricter criteria on granting loans...

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