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Monday, June 20, 2011

Too much power in the hands of the PM, warns Ku Li

Sulaiman Kamal | 2:00 AM | | | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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Too much power in the hands of the PM, warns Ku Li
Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who was once close to being prime minister, has blamed the centralisation of power in the office of the prime minister for what he called abuses of power and a decline in democracy.
The former finance minister said that this has led to a loss of faith in the national economy, as seen from the reported RM880 billion in capital flight since the 1980s.
“It would not have happened in those days. But with the centralisation of power in the office of the prime Minister who had the party under his absolute control, anything was possible!” he said in a speech in Taiping last night, referring to the 1960s when Tunku Abdul Rahman served as Malaysia’s first prime minister.
The Umno veteran, who has challenged for the ruling party’s presidency three times but failed, said there was a “deliberate plan to centralise power in the leadership in a surreptitious manner. Unfortunately the nature of racial politics blinded us of the reality behind certain policies and conduct of leaders at that time.”
“The decline of democracy, the abuse of power, the mismanagement of our economy and the nation’s finances... led to the flight of capital in the region of RM880 billion over the years from the 1980s... the centralisation of power in the office of the Prime Minister and the Attorney General had a major role in this state of affairs,” the Kelantan prince said.
The Gua Musang MP called on Malaysians to reassert “the concept of social obligation and public service in those who seek political office. Power is duty, not a prize.”
The Najib administration allocated RM18.14 billion for the Prime Minister’s Department for the year 2011, almost double the RM10.2 billion for last year.
The allocation amounted to 8.55 percent out of the RM212 billion Budget 2011.
Income gap between rich and poor widening
Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah believes Putrajaya should rethink its economic polices as the income inequality has widened in Malaysia and is now a problem across all races despite Barisan Nasional’s (BN) claim of promoting a welfare state.
The former finance minister also called for a review of affirmative action policies, saying last night the view that “if ownership was de-racialised or balanced at the top, economic justice would follow is no longer a valid premise for the future.”
“Income inequality in Malaysia has widened (and) is no longer a problem between races; it crosses the racial divide and it is a problem of the majority of Malaysians who feel the pressure of inflation in almost every essential aspects of their lives. This is the most serious challenge we face,” the Gua Musang MP said in a speech in Taiping last night.
Barisan Nasional leaders including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had insisted that the ruling coalition has already implemented a welfare state in response to PAS’s recent shift from an Islamic to a welfare state agenda which aims to redistribute profits earned by GLCs and crony companies to the general public .
However, the Kelantan prince questioned the management of state finances, stating that if the current administration’s struggles with the budget deficit was a “result of wastage, corruption and extravagance in the use of public funds, then the solution to the problem should not be passed on to the public.”
“What is needed is a re-examination of the management of the country’s finances before... any change in the policy of subsidies be implemented, as the consequences would have a life-changing impact on the livelihood of the people,” said the veteran politician popularly known as Ku Li.
Even staple rice is privatised to a crony
Putrajaya has committed itself to slashing a budget deficit that hit a two-decade peak of 7 per cent in 2009 to 5.4 per cent this year and has made cuts to a subsidy bill that would otherwise double to RM21 billion this year.
The hikes in prices of items such as fuel, electricity and sugar come despite surging inflation which hit a two-year high of 3.2 per cent in April, fuelling public anger ahead of a general election expected within the year.
Opposition politicians have called for a review of the subsidy cuts and want a bi-partisan panel to look into Tenaga Nasional Berhad’s (TNB) power purchase agreements which are said to favour independent power producers (IPPs).
Tengku Razaleigh also picked out “the moral inconsistency” of how national oil company Petronas has recorded “mind-boggling” profits over the years including a RM90.5 billion pre-tax profit this year but yet “the greatest poverty is found in the petroleum producing states of Kelantan, Terengganu, Sarawak, and Sabah.”
“Petronas was set up with the objective of serving the nation’s interest as a priority. The aim of making Petronas a multinational cooperation at the expense of national interest is contrary to the Petroleum Development Act,” said the Kelantan prince, who was instrumental in the founding of Petronas.
He also criticised Malaysia for being the only rice producing country that has privatised rice production and given it to politically-linked Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary’s company, Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas), a monopoly over the market.
“The reality today is Thailand and Indonesia are self sufficient in rice and we are 30 per cent dependent on imported rice. But because it is a monopoly, imported rice is cheaper in Singapore than Malaysia.
“Privatisation for the benefit of private individuals to profit from such an essential commodity is a clear abuse of power,” Tengku Razaleigh added.

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