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Sakmongkol ak 47

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Thinking about our Economy

I received an e- mail from an office bearer of MCOBA. His name is Zin Dahari bin Zainal Abidin. He is the assistant Hon.sec of MCOBA( special functions). I have been writing recently about an old boy of MCKK. That gives us a chance to communicate.

Mr Zin Dahari said the vexing issue which he and his colleagues are debating now, is whether our economic fundamentals are that strong. On a small scale, here are my thoughts about the matter.

What started as an American problem, the explosion of the subprime lending scam, eventually became a worldwide economic slump. Malaysia which at one time said everything is OK is now saying different things. Recently, we were told that our economy contracted by 6%. This will make the prediction of our growth of negative 1% a gross understatement. It was meant more as a political palliative.

Maybe the economy will contract by 4%. If that is so, then our leaders have not been telling us the truth and not honest to us. It means our fundamentals are not healthy. The manufacturing sector which depends on worldwide demand is not alright. The much hyped resurgence in biotech and all that stuff have not produced the desired rescuing effects. The prices of our traditional commodities are not good.

In the meantime, our energies are being sapped by endless political feuds. By playing to the game of opposition parties, we the holder of overall power are contributing to the political mess. In Perak for example, our insistence of matching brinkmanship has further eroded our credibility and with it, our pledge to manage the economy. We should be cutting our losses there.

Our leaders don't seem to know which policies can fix the problem. We know we cannot depend entirely on external demand because our trading partners are also reeling from economic slumps. So, we think, strengthening domestic effective demand is the answer. We promised to pump in RM60 billion on top of the earlier 6-7 billion. So far, the desired effects in the form of domestic demand haven't materialised.

We should be asking this question? Was the stimulus package a shot in the arm or was it designed as a long term sustaining economic tool? By long term sustaining tool I mean, was it designed to build our capacities- efficiency, skills, competitiveness and so forth. If they have not, it is clear that the stimulus package was just a short cut solution meant more for political consumption. It means also, it was essentially political gimmickry.

It may actually mean, that the business- as- usual ways we have been practising are no more compatible with the new economic realities. Marxists will say, the superstructure or oberbau is no longer compatible with the changes that are occurring in the substructure or underbau. That being so, the superstructure will be blown away or most of it, anyway.

The Austrian economist, Joseph Alois Schumpeter recognised this principle too; he called it creative disruption. Old economic relations, institutions, practices, are no longer compatible with emerging realities. For example, competiveness requires removing impediments that hinder it. The current Prime Minister appears to have understood this phenomenon. He has for example liberalised some not that politically damaging economic sub sectors- i.e. those economic subsectors not already participated deeply by Malay economic interests.

He has also liberated some financial sub sectors- again, areas not heavily participated by Malays. In doing so, he has also recognised that 'revolutionary' changes in the superstructure need to be handled gingerly for fear of upsetting political realities. The biggest reality is that his political survival depends on Malay political support. Unfortunately, most of his appointed Malay ministers are not supporting him on this or have not understood the gravity of the problem as he has. That of course means, those he selected have no quality- most of them anyway.

If the PM understood Schumpeter, he must not stand in the way of collateral damages- inefficient and silly businesses will roll over. Skills-mismatched workers will have to re adjust and perhaps lose their jobs, economic institutions may halve to be revamped, leaders need to be despatched and replaced. He must do all these and he must be supported. His deputy must be in sync rather than seen to be plotting all the time. When changes take place, resources have to be reallocated.

There is also another dimension to this problem, at least here in Malaysia which seems to be unwilling to be said openly. One aspect of the superstructure that needed to be removed on account of having to accommodate with changes in the substructure, is Malay economic obstinacy. Sadly this Malay economic obstinacy is in the form of political insistence that the Malay-ness aspects of the NEP must be preserved at all costs. I say 'political', because in reality, by and large, the Malay at large is as hardworking and can be as efficient as any other economic actor, with the right leadership attitude. Malay economic responses are made to look bad because politicians actually want it to remain that way.

Recently Tun Dr Mahathir spoke about this pyramid scheme, mentioning the Maddof scam and so on,. The fact of the matter is, politicians have been using the NEP as their own giant Ponzi scheme, milking the benefits which were supposed to have liberated the Malay at large way back in 1970 and perhaps a few years extra. It is in the interests of the half past six Malay politicians to make vehement noises about Malay interests being threatened and what not, so that they can continue milking the economic advantages. The original NEP thought of by the great Tun Razak was hijacked and turned into a giant Ponzi scheme by UMNO political warlords.

Perhaps, the current PM is already sending his opposition to this continuance. He is in fact, returning to the roots his father established. He is doing it in his own understated and noiseless ways.

The dismantling of the MECD is one indication of showing publicly his intention to force the Malay mindset into accepting that the business as usual ways of doing things must be abandoned. We need to look the dismantling of MECD from this perspective. The only economic interests threatened are those of the political warlords.

How do we face the future? We know that old forms of doing things must give in to new realities. History can offer us only limited lessons to deal with emerging realities. At each successive wave of change, we add new elements on top of what history can offer us. We don't have any predetermined module and this is why, the quality of leadership is important.

The phases of economic changes that we have gone through, are really phases of partial equilibrium. We shall move from one phase to the next phase continually. That is the natural progression of society. We have seen this- we moved from an economy relying on commodities such as tin and rubber. We moved from that to manufacturing. From there we moved to industrialisation and then proceeded to higher quality manufacturing and high value added industrialisation. We continually adapt ourselves to new realities. We also recover previous economic fields as our skills and knowledge of doing things improved greatly. Oil fields that we thought have completely dried up can be re-milked using new skills and technology and improved knowledge.

Movement from previous phases of economic module represent in reality, discontinuance from earlier phases. At each successive phases, we re arrange our resources- financing, manpower, knowledge and skills. We re-shape our own capabilities and reworked our capacity building skills.

At the same time, readjustments here and there, means of course, we offer ourselves a wide array of possibilities. Again, the array of possibilities depends on quality leadership at all levels. The array of possibilities in turn has wide and far ranging implications.

We have to make changes in our economy. Maybe we have overpriced ourselves. The sub prime lending scam in USA showed that property prices are inflated artificially so as to lend to unqualified buyers. Protecting the financial institutions who perpetrated the scams will only lengthened the time to correct the mistakes.

If financial institutions are the ones that caused the lending scams, helping them by re capitalisation will only extend their miserable and lying lives. They will continue doing the same thing. Extending them capital may not be the right way. Better to allow the market to correct itself. One way is to allow collateral damage to occur to these mischief causing lending institutions, let them go bust.

End of part 1.


Unknown 31 May 2009 at 09:51  


I am glad you have decided to focus on the economy (I must say the only few bloggers going into the subject in detail.

Your take is mainly on Structural Changes which will take time, and we have heard incessantly in the news of the Structural Changes that the government intends to make...

Can you tell us what government agents mean when they say these Structural Changes are directed towards, "Establishing a high income economy and consumer?" How are those people selling goreng pisang going to be converted to high income consumers? Pardon my Ignorance Dato'

I believe there has to be parallel action... Long term structural with short term remedies. At the moment there seems to be no real effect of the short term remedies...Government Guarantees to Financial Institutions will not transform into stimulus as we have seen in the US.

NEAC has to move fast to form Task Forces to break tyhe current fall!!

Perak? I've given up all hope of reason prevailing on both sides of the house...

Anonymous,  31 May 2009 at 10:45  


Damn good reading.

I fully agree with your perception that Najib's deputy should be in sync with him and not seem to be plotting all the time.


Anonymous,  31 May 2009 at 10:56  


R u an MCKK old boy?

Our economy can't be realistically structured to higher added value unless we have visionary ppl heading the initiative.EAC will be packed with economists,theorists,visiting experts and ppl protecting their own turf.

The issue is >> do one start to build a car down up or up down i.e get engines,gearboxes,drive train off the shelf then fit a body shell round that OR you design a car first then componentise it.

Have you tried accessing u tried emailing the Ministers using their published emails?Have DS Najib ever replied any query or interacted with his commentators in
Why would one need the PM's walkabout at PuduRaya to realise that it needs upgrading--and how come Rm 30 m can very quickly be raised to do all that?How many ppl is aware of the mechanism for the 80% govt guaranteed loans?And isn't DanaJamin another layer and cost?
Its not about structural changes >>its about getting in touch with the needs of the people and creating the environment for creativity n productivity.

And sadly our leaders have not appreciated the wisdom of the rakyat can easily be harnessed using the internet.

Ariff Sabri 31 May 2009 at 11:05  

anon 10:56

no, i am not an old mckk boy. i hv written about an old MCKK boy- Dato Mokhtar bin Dato Sir Mahmud.
the series i wrote have attracted the attention of MCOBA and i am glad to making MCOBA aware of the existence of this venerable man. he will be 80 soon.

ajoyly 31 May 2009 at 11:21  

Very well expounded. At this time,all nonprofitable ventures and institutions should cease operations. And the government should rationalise its policies especially with regard to the NEP. As Dato' mentioned it has already served its purpose.

The Bumiputras are now on the same level playing fields as the non- Bumiputras. Thanks to Tun Razak's NEP, many Bumiputra professionals are serving in all fields of endeavour.

As rightly said, NEP is no longer needed, it is obsolete. The trend is to compete. Because competition is the basis of economic growth and advancement.

This is the reality and government must grapple with the issue of making the internal workings of the country competitive. So that the best brains will be able to formulate concepts to help expand the country's economy further even in this season of recessation.

This can only be done if the environment is free and competitive subject only to the vagaries of the international market place.

Malaysia must take positive measures in this regard to ensure its economic survival. And to do so it should not rely on obsolete instrument. Instead it must use openness, transparency and competitiveness to stimulate its economy.

kuldeep 31 May 2009 at 11:52  


Did you say that NEP is no longer needed as neatly summarised by Ajoyly?
You are going to have 60,00 Class F contractors on your doorstep soon.
Funny though..Gamuda is never too concerned about NEP but a 12 billion direct negotiated contract is a lot more than what Class F contractors cumulatively have enjoyed.
Tan Sri Francis Yeoh never benefited from NEP too but direct nego KT Hospital sure saved him before the IPP flew him into orbit.

Are you sure you said NEP is no longer required?

Ariff Sabri 31 May 2009 at 13:05  


ajoyly is free to xpress his views here.
i said- it has been hijacked by warlords and turned into a giant ponzi scheme benefiting a small percentage. the 60,000 class F contractors wish they can have bigger chunks enjoyed by the likes of YTL and Gamuda.
think about- hardworking Malays are not particular about NEP per se- but they would be interested to have a good honest Malay government.
come to think of it- thats what we require, a good government

kuldeep 31 May 2009 at 13:22  

exactly my sentiments...we do need smart honest guys in the govt doing the right things.
The problem is one guy makes Rm 200 million profit (thru govt largess) whereas whats more equitable would be 200 guys making a million each or even 2000 making 100k each.And wats more destructive is that the Rm 200 m profit was gained by know who whilst the ones actually doing all the work are struggling to survive.
Its not about Bumis or Non Bumis...the NEP that needs review is National Elite Proxies policy not Tun Razak's NEP legacy.

kuldeep 31 May 2009 at 14:20  

I can give you the example of the GLCs >> the salaries/bonus/perks of the head honchos and their immediate reports is collectively 100 million per annum (my estimate cos no published data)...
Before GLCs,KPIs and all this nonsense...the same functions are headed by as capable people earning not more than 30% of current incumbents.
For instance..MAS CEO is paid a million bucks and PMB CEO is paid 600 k ...these two functions was previously held by a single person i.e MAS MD earning not more than 300k.
Has the companies improved by multiple of 5 or 6 times?Are we paying caviar but still getting monkeys?
That aside...if the GLCs can save 70 % of their wage bill..the 70m can fund a lot of affirmative programmes such as setting up chicken closed system rearing for 5 million chickens i.e annual production of 30 million chickens.Thats enough to kickstart 400 entrepreneurs.
And if the govt is serious in getting value for money procurement...there's billions that they can save by adopting proper ,transparent tenders which in reality should fund the thousands of smaller entrepreneurs rather than a few privileged ppl.And the scheme can be for all races cos we're 1 Malaysia.

Anonymous,  31 May 2009 at 14:41  

Some very pertinent points raised in this write-up analysis. The crucial issue is how to unlink politics with the true stats of pure economics. Sadly, this has proven not to be possible in Malaysia. It's not the politics that's remained the stumbling block. Rather, it's those greedy politicians riding on the crest of their power wanting more and more in corrupt fashions at the expense of the country and her people. This has proven to be the critical challenge which, to date, no PM is forceful enough to stand up to the occasion.

Dhahran Sea,  31 May 2009 at 14:48  

Salam Tok Sak,
Insightful! The "good" news is, we are not that "stupid" afterall, i.e., those developed economies with their Ivy-leagued educated leaders also fell for the "Ponzi" scheme in the form of subprime time bombs! The "bad" news is, while our economy which relies heavily on the export markets (and these markets are in recession now), is bleeding now, our politician jokers (from both sides) are enjoying themselves with their endless political games seemingly oblivious to the sufferings of the rakyat!

I think one quick dose to stimulate the domestic economy has been suggested in Outsyed the Box Blogger - do away with the remnants of the protectionist policies for the domestic auto industry - reduce import duties/taxes for cars drastically and get Proton & Perodua to target for really "affordable national cars" prices - the public was made to "sacrifice" for > 30 years to protect Proton and what do we get? A company that is not competitive, loses money, and more importantly, the disposable incomes of Malaysians have been reduced by up to 15-20% for subsidizing Proton in the form of taxes and higher prices for "non-national" cars! All these for the past 30-odd years!

What is more important, protecting the 120,000 people in the highly inefficient domestic auto industry or the 20+ million consumers who have been "robbed" of a better standard of living for far too long? I'm sure, this is one "disruptive innovation" that Schumpeter would go for?

Obladiblada,  31 May 2009 at 15:46  

You are rather smart.
I didnt realise it until this posting.

Anonymous,  31 May 2009 at 16:10  

Malaysia has missed the boat on liberalizing the economy as a strategy to attract foreign investments, especially in the financial sector. All those changes announced by Najib recently are actually not of any substantial value in helping Malaysia get out of the current economic crisis especially in the short term, so the extremists in UMNO opposed to this changes can continue to cry and gain political capital.

The economic reality of the world currently is that there are not many investors who are looking to invest their money in foreign markets. After being so heavily burnt, global corporations, especially banks, are getting back to basics, looking to invest whatever money they have got left in markets and countries which are very very very secure, somehere where they can be damn sure that they do not have to bribe and where the courts credibility is impecable. Unfortunately not many global corporations will agree that Malaysia is a country that fulfills these two conditions.

Malaysia has to focus on stimulating the domestic economy and getting the most out of the money that the Government has at its disposal. This means the Government has to get rid of all those excesses associated with the NEP that is destroying value. No point having another stimulus package if all that this means is that many more UMNO warlords would be even more wealthy whilst others all around are suffering. Money politics in UMNO really became big time business after the 1998 economic crisis when the DR M's pump priming strategy meant that all sorts of dubious projects were launched, all on a direct negotiation basis. It was the era that spawned Project Management Consultants whose only claim to capability was their connections to UMNO.

So Najib would be well advised to focus on getting the biggest bang for every Ringgit the Government can afford. Go for direct tenders. Forget about grandiose projects. Think about projects which contribute directly to the economy immediately in a sustainable manner. We dont want another construction boom either!

Suci Dalam Debu 31 May 2009 at 16:31  


The NEP had enriched a few UMNO warlords but had actually weakened the malays in general.

Sadly, the malays don't realised this because Utusan Malaysia, BH, TV3 etc keep fooling and brainwashed the malays to blame others for their shortcomings.

Incompetence is nowadays synonym with UMNO and BN. UMNOPutras is synonym with thieves and bigots. Even a plain taxi driver's salary is a lot more halal than that of UMNO's members gaji...rasuah apa lagi?

It is so sad that not only are our leaders incompetent, they are also liars.....or misinformed & having selective memory loss to be politically correct.

Dato, previously I was 70% for BN and 30% for opposition, now I am 95% for PR and only 5% for BN.

I guess the same transformation is happening to you too, just that, it is not easy to give up on something you have supported for so long.

Remember Dato, change is the only constant in life and those that fails to keep up with the changes will fall by the wayside.

Dare to Change, and Malaysia will have a better tomorrow.

Ariff Sabri 31 May 2009 at 16:57  

dear readers,
this article has been reproduced at Malaysa Today
i am surprised to see comments deriding the MCKK Old Boys Association(MCOBA). I, the author is not an MCOBA member- i penned down this article as a response to a question raised by an MCOBA member. That was my way of introduction to this article.
i am sorry to say, this article has nothing to do with MCOBA members. therefore criticisms directed at them, should be done in another forum.
please read the article carefully. i can respond to what are raised in the Malaysia Today forum.
thank you.

Anonymous,  31 May 2009 at 17:27  

Ponzi scam works as long as there is "excesses". This global financial melt-down exposes many frauds and weak financial practices - individuals such as Maddof and Stanford, Financial Institutions such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac etc are being brought to their knees.

Imagine how long they have managed to get away with poor and most likely fraudulent practices.

There are many weaknesses and fraudulent practices too in the way NEP is being managed. I am glad in a way that this financial crunch situation brings out the reality of the situation.

The Govt now realizes that they cannot milk NEP forever for their own self-interest when the country's finance is running low!

The Malay must also realize that owning 100% is meaningless. 100% of zero is 0%!.

Unknown 31 May 2009 at 20:11  

i wrote about the problem with jobless grads and our education system's (over) emphasis on courses which do not require the use of our hands, meaning skills. do visit the malaysiandigest portal where i contribute weekly. this latest post should be up by now because it was sent in late thursday.

Anonymous,  31 May 2009 at 22:52  

very eye-opening and candid comments, well done. one thing I agree with is yr take on our cabinet: quality is sorely missing and i wish people like dt shahrir had been retained, if the new pm is serious abt a total revamp. as it stands, only he is charging fw with his 'creative destruction', while the rest of his team are cringing in fear of upsetting their constituents (read: not the rakyat, but those whose interests needed to be protected at all cost). change the team. get real, honest, God-fearing people who love their deen and bangsa more than their existence. and the NEP? by all means keep it going but it shd now be known as the New Equitable Policy where all malaysians of all stripes would get their just reward based on sheer diligence and hardwork. the ponzi scheme can be unravelled, but it takes political will of the highest form.
may God save us all from the avarice and wickedness of so-called leaders.

Satish 1 June 2009 at 01:09  

Well said man. I really hope Malaysia wakes up & fix all these problems.

Satish 1 June 2009 at 01:12  

Btw, here's my view of when Najib announced the liberalisation of some of the sectors in the service industry.

Suci Dalam Debu 1 June 2009 at 08:31  


It is not a hidden secret that the quality of our ministers and civil servants has declined a lot in one generation.

Compare the credentials of the ministers in Singapore with that of Malaysia. Sangat malulah.

Best-man-for-the-job has never been the criteria for moving upwards for a long time now. Our present leaders are there because they are experts in bodek business and buying support using their illegal gains.

Anonymous,  1 June 2009 at 11:38  


Indeed u have conclude yr part 1 succinctly!

‘If financial institutions are the ones that caused the lending scams, helping them by re capitalisation will only extend their miserable and lying lives. They will continue doing the same thing. Extending them capital may not be the right way. Better to allow the market to correct itself. One way is to allow collateral damage to occur to these mischief causing lending institutions, let them go bust.’

The financial institutions here should include all those ‘socio-economical dinosaurs’ created under the name of uplifting a supposedly ‘mistreated’ group of people.

Strong word?

Let me relate a well-told & yet easily neglected story here;

Many a Chinese M’sians has their original roots in the poor Southern China. Their ancestors left that land long time ago – some, tracing back 5-600 yrs old.

When they reached Malaya, they had had almost nothing, literately with only what they worn on their bodies. No knowledge, no money, no know-whos except determination. Yet many still chose to explore the unknowns, with only one thing in mind – the prosperity of the future generations.

Fast forward now, indeed, many of their children generation have established a high income/consuming economy among themselves, in the process also uplift the economy of M'sia. What takes?

Some said this is due to strong/weak culture. Some, long term economic foresight structured to higher added value due to their moneyed-mind.

And yet comparatively, the Malay M’sians r still way back economically, despite all the helps in the forms of government policies, rightly or wrongly implemented.

There is also a collateral damage of enhanced sense of siege/inferiority complex among the subsequent Malay generation. Unfortunately, this particular Malay psyche is the root cause of all the current ills facing M’sia.



Anonymous,  1 June 2009 at 11:38  


Those, who r directing their sight on race/culture, pls do look at cases like Ramli Burger.

These Malay entrepreneurs built their fortune, just like those early Chinese Malayan - blood, sweat & fore-sight for the future. There r also a minor class of Bumiputras who are now on the same level playing fields as the non- Bumiputras. Thanks to Tun Razak's NEP, many Bumiputra professionals are serving in all fields of endeavour.

Someone also mentioned about YTL and Gamuda. I would point to Naza and MMC.

Literally an eye for an eye? No!

These comparisons is ill-match. Because in all these cases, the Joe M’sians r the ultimate losers, irrespective of yr race, religion.

Dhahran Sea – ‘…we are not that "stupid" afterall…’ should be directed at those govt servants, especially the Malay govt servants.

There r a prevailing serving attitude among these Malay govt servants. It goes something like this;

1)Who am I dealing with – know-who, Malay & DLL
2)What can I get from the know-who & DLL
3)If (2) is nothing then, priority goes to Malay, regardless of the fact that the DLLS r more deserving the services than the Malay, based on humane criteria.

This is best reflected in the housing allocation by a senior Malay govt servants – if there r equally poor Malay & DLL asking for low cost housing, the Malay will get it, period. Such arrogance! What about sharing for a better solution? This is not a zero sum game!

Such glaring govt operational biasness can be seen recently in the advertisement by Sime properties. Just compare the monthly installment for Bumi/non-bumi buyers for this high-end properties. R the rich Malays still need discount to buy a bungalow as compare with the rich DLLs? R these rich Malays r still be handicapped in buying high-end properties?

Suci Dalam Debu mentioned – ‘It is not a hidden secret that the quality of our ministers and civil servants has declined a lot in one generation.’

I would venture that this poor quality has permeated throughout the govt – policies, economics, judiciaries & educations. The worst is in the field of education, because this is the guiding light of the nationhood. Once u mess with the educational policies, like what we have now, all things go hay-wired & hp6-ed

We need to have a good honest Malaysian government & smart honest guys in the govt doing the right things, regardless of race, religion.

It's not the politics that's remained the stumbling block. Rather, it's those greedy politicians riding on the crest of their power wanting more and more in corrupt fashions at the expense of the country and her people.

‘And if the govt is serious in getting value for money procurement...there's billions that they can save by adopting proper ,transparent tenders which in reality should fund the thousands of smaller entrepreneurs rather than a few privileged ppl.And the scheme can be for all races cos we're 1 Malaysia.’

See - there r intelligent M’sians who can see through the racial mist & cut through the political chase!

What’s lacking is the courage to do the right things & do them right, no matter how many obstacles r along the way.

Just like our fore-fathers, when facing the unknown & yet survival they must.


Cruzeiro 1 June 2009 at 13:32  

Good to Know That There Malays who realize that The NEP is nothing but a giant Ponzi Scam.
We cannot absolve Razak just becos od his "noble ideals", as being such such a "visionary", he should've/must've known what it would have led to without the relevant safeguards. In fact it might just have been the whole idea of NEP all along ... and who's to say otherwise?

An NEP "Ponzi" Scam?

Anonymous,  1 June 2009 at 16:09  

Dear Dato Sak,

Not to worry about that 2 comments in MT (raven1958 & fairminded). We are quite use to it by now. But I can tell your readers of what we were quite shocked of, and that was finding the name of our alma mater included in the HINDRAF Memorandum to the Queen of England, no less. Well, it's water under the bridge now. For most of us, we "forgive & forget" and Move On !

Looking forward to your Part 2 Sir!.

best regards,
Asst.Hon.Sec.(Special Functions)


"We are made wise not by the recollection of our past but by the responsibility for our future"
by George Bernard Shaw.

Suci Dalam Debu 1 June 2009 at 21:14  

If the NEP has been used to teach Malays how to fish instead of giving them fishes, Malaysia would be a very strong & healthy nation by now.

Utusan Malaysia/Melayu are good examples of the new breed of Malays created by the NEP. Shame shame.

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