Sunday, March 04, 2007

Credibility Gap I


In Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak's keynote address at the Jeddah Economic Forum (JEF 2007) on 27th February, Najib outlined the lessons Malaysia has gained from the privatisation exercises since the 1980s.

Judge for yourself if our Deputy Prime Minister, as well as the Barisan Nasional government has a 'credibility gap' like Mr Bush on the left.
  • Firstly, whenever and wherever possible, Government should allow for competitive bidding for privatised assets or concessions and ensure that the process is transparent and fair.

    Even when there is a national agenda of preferential treatment in favour of disadvantaged economic groups, there must be enough competition within this group to ensure that only those with the necessary skills, capabilities and resources are selected, he added.

    Sufficient safeguards must also be in place to ensure that when there is default or non-compliance, the Government can reclaim privatised assets and concessions without disadvantaging the taxpayer.

  • Secondly, avoid a "first come first serve" approach. The deputy prime minister admitted that “our experience has also shown that by providing exclusivity to one party, this approach has the real potential to escalate the eventual costs and burden to consumers and the taxpayer.”

  • Thirdly, make sure the Government and private sector are on equal footing at the negotiation table, to protect taxpayers' and national interests.

  • Fourthly, be mindful of public concerns over tariff rates and tariff increases. He said that “in designing contracts, we must avoid in-built automatic escalation of tariffs that are not linked to performance and quality of services provided.”

  • Fifthly, he said that the “onus is on Government to ensure on one hand, the viability and sustainability of projects, and on the other hand, prevent the private sector from making excessive profits at the public's expense.”
The speech writer should certainly deserve a pay-rise. First or all, its an admission that our Malaysian privatisation policy since the 1980s is a failure in many aspects. It is certainly the first time I've ever heard a Malaysian governing party leader expressing such an opinion.

But secondly and more incredulously, it is amazing how our Deputy Prime Minister is able to deliver the above speech to an international audience with a straight face. Out of the five points raised, I'm certainly hard-pressed to find any examples of Pak Lah's administration practising what it apparently preaches. Check out "Open Tenders", for example.

It is plausibly forgivable if the Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak is pursuing the current misguided economic policies for Malaysia out of sheer ignorance. But as the above statement indicates, he, as a leader of this country, is knowingly pursuing policies antithetical to good governance, at the expense of ordinary Malaysians.

Is this the future Prime Minister of Malaysia? We should be worried.
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