Malaysiakini News

Mahathir as the destructive force?

Rais Hussin  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been described by Mohd Zuhdi Marzuki of PAS as nothing less than the proverbial bull in the china shop.

According to Zuhdi, one of the five tembikai (watermelons) in the PAS central policy committee, Mahathir is the personification of all that is destructive about current Malaysia. As such, he has been urging president Abdul Hadi Awang to sever all ties with Pakatan Harapan. 

Zuhdi is one of the infamous five tembikai - green (PAS) outside, but very very red (Umno) inside – while the other four includes Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar, Nik Abduh Nik Aziz, Mohd Zuhdi Marzuki, Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi and Khairuddin Aman Razali At-Takiri. Of course, lurking behind their back is Nasharuddin Mat Isa, the man linked to Umno. 

Now let us go back to Zuhdi’s tall tales. How did the cost of living begin? Mahathir is to be blamed, as he introduced the policy of privatisation first, Zuhdi argued, not without a dash of polemics. With privatisation, according to Zuhdi, came all the ills of a private economy where the cost of living spiraled out of control.

And how did Malaysia become a country that neglected its agricultural base? Again, Mahathir (photo) was to be blamed, as he introduced a policy of industrialisation that led to the marginalisation of the agricultural sector, transforming Malaysia into a country that is lopsided, economically.

Instead of having a strong agricultural sector, Malaysia is trapped where the state of our industrialisation simply cannot rival or compete with China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea. Malaysia, in other words, backed itself to a corner because of Mahathir.

Further, Zuhdi argued that had the Malay language been given more prominence, Malaysia would have prospered too.

Yet such an assertion must seem strange, as the digital economy is completely run and operated mostly in English. How can more Malay - rather than English - help Malaysia become the centre of industrial prowess? Even the Sultan of Johor has called for the return to the English medium to keep pace with globalisation. Is Zuhdi trying to challenge the Sultan of Johor too?

Indeed, how did the Malaysian roads become clogged and congested?

Well, the blame goes again to Mahathir, as he was the one who introduced the national automobile policy where Proton Saga was first rebranded and created with the help of Mitsubishi. Now, if the national car industry never began in the first place, how did Proton Saga create the necessary skillset to allow Perodua to prosper as one of the top car manufacturers in the country?

In fact, a large number of PAS members themselves are likely to drive a Perodua or Kancil. And, when they do, they too could prosper in their respective jobs and businesses, as both models are more fuel efficient.

Now, had Zuhdi been given more time to focus on the ills of Malaysia, including the poor performance of the national football team, surely he would have said that Mahathir did not create enough football fields to allow young Malaysian talents to rise to the fore. Perhaps Zuhdi could have said that the sepak takraw teams in Malaysia have lost to Burma and Thailand since Mahathir does not play the game as well.

Further, if the focus had been on the failure of Malaysia to convert Cyberjaya into a first-rate information technology corridor, the blame would more than likely, have been squared on the distance between Cyberjaya and Kuala Lumpur.

In other words, there is no end to the lament of Zuhdi, as his goal is to disparage everything about Mahathir in order to consolidate the electoral pact of PAS and Umno, a strategy he conceived with the goal of perpetuating both parties' joint hegemony.

The fact is Zuhdi has perfected the art of seeing the glass as perpetually half empty, if not completely cracked and leaking altogether.

Yes, Malaysia is leaky, and leaking. But it is due to the massive and monumental corruption, malfeasance and abuse of power at the top, allegedly cascading from Umno, which PAS now seeks to collaborate with. A PAS-Umno collaboration is no longer a secret relationship, it is an open and audacious relationship using religion and race to further divide Malaysians through fear tactics.

A rebuttal 

This is where one's rebuttal of Zuhdi must begin.

First, where was Zuhdi when the corruption cases in Malaysia went from millions to billions, as was the case of 1MDB and Felda? Each year, Malaysia needs an equivalent of RM9 billion in subsidies from the government to keep the prices of the Malaysian goods in stable order.

Maybe this is RM9 billion can be saved further, at the expense of the people. But the alleged corruption and mismanagement of 1MDB under the tenure of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak (photo) has cost the country of close to RM42 billion and counting.

That is the equivalent of nearly eight years of subsidy that could otherwise be used to defray the rising cost of living.

Why is Zuhdi quiet on this?

Selective amnesia, perhaps.

How long as has Najib been in power? Since April 3, 2009. From 2009 - 2017, a mere 8.5 years, the cost of living in Malaysia has shot up while the country's income has remained perpetually stagnant, reducing immensely the disposable income of the people.

Now, does one go back in time, to blame Mahathir for his tenure between 1980-2002, where there was only one mild recession in 1984 when the prices of rubber and tin crashed across the world, or does one blame the current prime minister who has chaired over an economy whose cost of living has been increasing painfully at exactly the same period Najib has been the prime minister?

Why is Zuhdi quiet on this?

Selective amnesia, perhaps.

Of course, the blame falls on Najib. In the course of the last eight and half years, he has come up with template after template, each of which failed. To begin with, there is no Bumiputera Empowerment Fund that can help the Malays credibly. If there is, the funds in Tabung Haji, Mara, Felda, and Army Veterans Associations would have seen an increase. Yet, the lot of the Malays has remained weak and paltry.

Second, one has hardly heard of 1Malaysia anymore, let alone Kedai 1 Malaysia. Or 1Malaysia Clinic. Ironically, Kedai 1 Malaysia has been found to sell goods that are more expensive than the mom and pop shops.

Third, the so-called National Economic Transformation Model has lost its traction. Performance Management & Delivery Unit (Pemandu), that was to spearhead the reform of the government, ended up coming up with a slew of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) where added meetings and trips abroad were all counted as added productivity to Malaysia - not wastage.

In fact, this transformation is nothing but transformation using exciting decks of PowerPoint presentations that help to camouflage the facts rather than the actual telling of facts. It is nothing more than a “PowerPoint” Transformation Model that is focused primarily on telling “narratives” to help prop up Najib.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Fourth, the Blue Ocean Strategy has become a sea of red ink. The listing of Felda Global Ventures has collapsed. Non-core businesses like properties in London and Australia have had to be sold off in order to cover the embarrassment of former chairperson Isa Samad, who is under the investigation for corrupt practices.

Why is Zuhdi quiet on this?

Selective amnesia, perhaps.

Indeed, even the Malaysia's public finance is in severe shape. An 84 percent of government spending in 2018 is listed as operational expenditure, while a mere 16 percent is dedicated to development expenditure of 14 states.

Of the 16 percent, more than a quarter according to the budget of 2018 is corralled, and given to the gargantuan Prime Minister's Office and Department.

How can Malaysia avoid the ignominy of what economists at Khazanah Malaysia called the "Middle Income Trap" if each state will receive less than one percent of the development expenditure?

Why is Zuhdi quiet on this?

Selective amnesia, perhaps.

In fact, Zuhdi claims that powers were concentrated in the hands of Mahathir when he was Malaysia's fourth prime minister. Now if the finances of the budget of Najib are so tight - and they are tight to the point of sheer ridicule - then Najib is the one who has mismanaged the economy and tightened the money further so that the state is left with crumbs.

Instead, over the last 8.5 years, it is the federal government that has received the lion's share of the national budget, regardless of whether the states can survive or not. Not surprisingly, even the annual budget of USM in Penang is bigger than the entire budget of the Penang government!

Why is Zuhdi quiet on this?

Selective amnesia, perhaps.

When the Penang government was unable to raise sufficient development expenditure from the federal government, it has had to privatise its economy; a template once deployed by Mahathir once to relieve the pressures on the government's fiscal crisis. 

More importantly, over the last three years, the value of ringgit has lost more than 22 percent under Najib, and close to RM161 billion in Bank Negara. If such a huge amount disappears into thin air, it must be due to Malaysia's corruption.

That would make the country politically unstable, thus eroding the confidence in the ringgit as alluded by former Bank Negara governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz (photo) when she said that 1MDB's issues must be resolved credibly to in order for the ringgit to regain its  confidence as sentiments play big role as well in its value, apart from the economic fundamentals.

Thus, foreign direct investment has never seen it attractive enough to invest in a country where the yield of the currency begins with a deficit of 22 percent per ringgit.

Why is Zuhdi quiet on this?

Selective amnesia, perhaps.

Finally, Zuhdi claims that Mahathir will destroy the country. If Mahathir can destroy the country, why was it during his time that one saw the creation of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), the KL Twin Towers, the KL Towers, the North South Plus Highway, the development of Putrajaya as the new federal government centre, Penang bridge, MRT and LRT, and a growth rate that prior to the Asian financial crisis had been close to eight to 10 percent each year, leading him to believe in 1990 that if the country had continued at such trajectory, especially 7.5 percent, Malaysia would become a developed economy by 2020 and factually so.

Of course under Najib the dream is dashed. Perhaps forever, if nothing credible is done.

Why is Zuhdi quiet on this?

Selective amnesia, perhaps.

Instead, Umno under Najib has failed to achieve the target of 2020 and is now pushing it back to 2050; a full delay of 30 years. Doesn’t that suggest Umno and BN have had to start over? That it failed in their policies from 2009 onwards? 

Now, why should the people give Umno or Najib the chance to govern a country for another 30 years, when Mahathir had improved the country during his 22 years in power.

Why is Zuhdi quiet on this?

Selective amnesia, perhaps.

As Mahathir is known to have said: "During my time, I won five elections, all of which with a two-thirds majority."

One wonders if Najib and BN can even win a third of the seats in a serious reversal of fortune. One must add that it was during Mahathir's time that Malaysians of all background truly believed in the concept of "Malaysia Boleh" – the "can-do" spirit.

Under Najib, however, as Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said, "Satu Malaysia" has effectively become "Sapu Malaysia" (Steal Malaysia).

Zuhdi, sadly, still believes that there is nothing wrong with the latter and that PAS should be in league with Umno. Can it be that Zuhdi is a believer in "Samun Malaysia?" (Rob Malaysia).

If not, why is he more Catholic than the Pope, as the saying goes.

God Save Malaysia.

RAIS HUSSIN is Bersatu supreme council member and policy and strategy bureau head.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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