Friday, August 1, 2008

Najib: Permatang Pauh tough for BN

DPM Najib was being realistic when he made the statement that Barisan Nasional expects a tough time in its bid to defeat Anwar Ibrahim in the forthcoming Permatang Pauh by-election as reported in Malaysiakini
Malaysians are being feted or inundated (take your pick) with almost minute-by-minute developments involving investigations, leaked evidence, statutory declarations, fresh allegations, re-statements of old allegations, press conferences, disappearing witnesses and so on.
The good thing about these sensational and, often tawdry and near-lurid news, is that Malaysians have become very comfortable with giving voice to their views in this larger democratic space. And, we are constantly being educated about the law involving matters such as the legal effects of statutory declarations, the need for corroborative evidence, hearsay, provisions in the Penal Code, Police Act and many other legislation. Let's not forget detailed run-downs on previously arcane Parliamentary Standing Orders and Question Time etiquette.
Well, it may be time to dust off the Parliamentary Standing Orders again because Anwar is proposing to test the no-confidence motion again in 6 weeks' time apparently. Read The Malaysian Insider on Anwar to push another no-confidence motion in 6 weeks.
And, showing his deft touch with general public sentiment, Anwar was quoted as saying, "Instead of addressing pressing economic problems like soaring inflation, the government is trying to divert public attention with this filthy sodomy charade". Then he added that, "Our ministers waste their time in political intrigue instead of trying to help make the country more competitive."
I don't know about you, but that statement resonates with me. It hits the nail on the head, on the absolute first priority for the government. It is timely to invite you to my previous harangue on this important issue of placing the economy first, in previous entries namely, It's the economy stupid! and The Role of a Loyal Opposition.
Anwar's remarks come at a time when the government is setting up an economic advisory panel. The Malaysian Insider has put some perspective and context to the establishment of this blue ribbon panel in its report Advisory panel’s tough task to dispel economic gloom.
According to The Malaysian Insider some members of the council will be corporate captains, ministers and representatives of the private sector. This seems to suggest that the same bunch of people with deep vested interests and a long history of rent-seeking government contracts in banking, power generation, oil and gas, and telecommunications will be seated together with Cabinet ministers who move in the same cocktail or air bandung social circuit in this panel. This is the polyarchy that I keep writing about! What about giving some seats to NGOs? The NGOs will balance the fat cats' views on vested business interests and raise important issues like minimum wages, foreign workers, public transportation, food subsidies and other important issues that matter to ordinary Malaysians.
The irony of all ironies is that while the advisory panel is being formed, Malaysian taxpayers are still funding the NEAC (remember that agency?) and, what does the formation of such a panel say about the EPU? or MOF? or Bank Negara?
I normally try to be circumspect, but this time around I wish to suggest that if a semi-formal advisory panel is necessary to deal with Malaysia's economic problems, then, the Minister for NEAC and EPU has become redundant and, he must resign (also because he advised civil servants to do moonlighting second jobs).
Likewise, the paranoid 2nd Minister of Finance who is supposed to manage fiscal policies must also resign (also because he uttered paranoid and irrational remarks that Malaysia's economy is attacked every 10 years!).

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