Rebuking Idris show Umno’s distaste for subsidy cuts

By Debra Chong
Malaysian Insider
June 03, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR, June 3 — Datuk Seri Idris Jala’s plan to save Malaysia from going broke appears to be stillborn, as Umno’s constant attacks on the minister show that the Najib administration has no appetite for subsidy cuts.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak also appears to have distanced himself from Idris’ proposal, after he told the Perkasa-led Malay Consultative Council meeting last week that proposals to save RM103 billion in subsidies were not yet finalised.

“Idris’ proposal is stillborn. I don’t think the Najib administration has the courage to carry out the cuts… not across the board and not as Idris planned it,” DAP publicity chief Tony Pua said.

Analysts contacted by The Malaysian Insider agreed.

Ibrahim Suffian, from the independent Merdeka Center, observed that a lot of politicians were resisting the proposal because they know it is an unfavourable measure and will impact the way the public will vote at the next elections.

“The biggest impediment to Idris’ proposal is that the move is unpopular. People are getting upset. Why should they have to pay for someone else’s expenditure?” Ibrahim said.

“My sense is that given the unpopularity of this move, I think it will be shunted to one side,” he added.

The Barisan Nasional (BN), which has ruled the country since Independence 53 years ago, lost its traditional two-thirds control of Parliament in 2008 following a series of price hikes for petrol and other consumables announced by the Abdullah administration prior to the general elections.

The ruling coalition has yet to recover despite the number of opposition MPs crossing the floor and the spate of by-elections for federal seats in the last two years.

“It’s trying to commit suicide, politically,” said Dr Sivamurugan Pandian from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), repeating what politicians from both BN and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) told The Malaysian Insider previously.

The senior lecturer in social sciences added that Najib would not make any moves on the subsidy system unless he knows he has a strong mandate in the elections.

Najib, who is also the MP for Pekan, suffered a scare in the general election a decade ago and nearly lost the seat he inherited from his late father and Malaysia’s second prime minister, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Dr Agus Yusoff doubted the Najib administration had the political willpower to pull it off, noting the prime minister appeared to be distancing himself from Pemandu’s laundry list of proposed cuts

“It’s certainly not the right time… unless the government can come clean and take measures not to spend unnecessarily,” he said.
“Rakyat akan menolak (The people will reject it). There will be a public outcry bigger than the one in 2008,” Agus highlighted, referring to the shift in voting patterns in Election 2008.

“People can understand the economy and know we have to go for cuts, but they are not clear why… they can see from the by-elections [that the] government spends as if there is no problem with the economy, but after, they are told differently,” the academic related, referring to Idris’ sell on why the public has to bear the burden of increased prices after subsidies are cut.

The minister handpicked by Najib to head the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) has come under heavy fire lately since stating last week that Malaysia would be a bankrupt nation by 2019 unless Putrajaya slashed spending on subsidies soon.

The opposition bloc has been gunning at the ruling BN government over Idris’ pitch to the public on why they should shoulder Putrajaya’s increased spending.

But Umno politicians also appear bent on hanging Idris out to dry over his doomsday prophecy.

BN backbenchers say the Sarawakian minister’s prediction is “far-fetched”, Bernama reported yesterday, citing Umno MPs Datuk Seri Utama Shahrir Samad and Khairy Jamaluddin.

Former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad also entered the fray, saying Idris was “exaggerating” the country’s financial position even as he admitted the need for subsidies to be cut.

“Any cuts this year would be done piece-meal and involve only the ‘man-on-the-street subsidies,’” Pua said, describing the subsidies on petrol, sugar and flour, which are spread across a wider group of consumers.

“They’ll probably stagger the subsidy cuts, one every three to four months, as long as there is no by-election,” he predicted.

  1. #1 by k1980 on Thursday, 3 June 2010 - 7:56 am

    Idris Jala’s advice to the poor— “If you have no bread, eat roti jala” ( To paraphrase Marie Antoinette )

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 3 June 2010 - 8:12 am

    There will never be a good enough time to do it if they don’t fix the corruption, police, crime and the education system first. Bottom line is Najib’s gameplan is falling apart and he need to rethink his entire plan and team.

    He need a revolutionary plan, not a marginal one. But he has lost too much political capital to pull it off. So in the end, the writing is already on the wall for him. If UMNO warlords can think of a way to drop him without creating groups to sabotage the party, they would get aggressive now. They do not have confidence in him, but afriad they will lose the crown jewel if they drop him.

  3. #3 by dagen on Thursday, 3 June 2010 - 9:06 am

    I say good luck to umno. And it is all thanks to the good dr mamak. You see. The good dr mamak tied umno up and round and round, arms and legs, necks, heads, tongues and dicks too, eyes and ears as well. Yes like a mummy – an egyptian mummy – umno is now nicely and tightly bound. There’s no way out for you umno. Reduce subsidies to save the country you cant. The people esp the poor will revolt. Fight corruption to save the country you cant either. Umnoputras esp ibrahim bin perkasa and gang will revolt. So save the country you wont! In the end the country, the people and umnoputras will all perish. Well maybe no the umnoputras for they by now have tonnes of their wealth parked outside the country in places like australia and even israel.

  4. #4 by johnnypok on Thursday, 3 June 2010 - 9:28 am

    “Malaysia-Stuck” … Cut also cannot, don’t cut also cannot … dead-road one way.
    # Investigation by France causing headache
    # MIC kalang kabut
    # MCA also goyang-goyang
    # Sarawakians already rejected BN
    # Sabahans getting ready to kick BN out
    # PR all set to take over
    # 2019 Malaysia Bankrupt

  5. #5 by steven chan on Thursday, 3 June 2010 - 9:37 am

    The Mamaktahir is still calling the shots from the back scene. Only when PR takes over Putrajaya will he disappear as he said. Only then will this fiasco stop and the plundering of the ppl after decades will definitely lead to the bankrupcy of the country if this scenario keeps going on.

  6. #6 by monsterball on Thursday, 3 June 2010 - 10:27 am

    Najib will not dare to cut subsidies before 13th GE.
    If he makes life difficult for Malaysians…how is he going to eat all his good news he announced before?
    He will loose lots of votes…and expose himself.
    Furthermore….country’s wealth are sucked up by these robbers and thieves.
    How can thieves dare to do the right thing to expose themselves?
    See….he dare not sue French government insulting his government.
    Crooks actually dare not sue anyone…just bully anyone they can with backings from police officers. Then the appear to be brave…with the ulterior motives to create fear and divert attentions..or frighten Malaysians.
    These tricks worked in the more now.
    Cow heads and burning of churches…..all condemned by respected Malaysians.
    What’s next Najib?

  7. #7 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 3 June 2010 - 11:09 am

    Well Idris has backed his statements with facts and reasonings. See today’s Sun and his presentation recently.

    He did not go on stage and on record with nothing to substantiate his views. He merely spoke honestly what his figures told him.

    Sometimes the truth is difficult to swallow, just like bitter medicine. Some people are just deluding themselves by disagreeing with him.

    Idris spoke from his heart, what he thought the public should know and be prepared for.

    If you disagree with him, well show us your studies and conclusions to rebut him. But don’t put him down just because you don’t like what he said and you just want to score some political points.

    The people have been forewarned. If what Idris said has truth and is reliable, we should all rally around him and plan to face the challenges. Not pretend it will not happen and hope that the problems will all go away.

    Certainly what Idris said need to be closely looked into and not simply brushed away as ‘far-fetched’ and ‘exaggerations’.

  8. #8 by Cinapek on Thursday, 3 June 2010 - 12:01 pm

    There is no way that UMNO can agree with Idris’s statement because to do so would be UMNO admitting that it had mis-managed this country over the last five decades it was in power.

    But the people are no fools. They can compare for themselves how an immensely resource rich country like Malaysia (read Petronas) could be facing bankruptcy while the tiny little red dot down south whom Malaysia kicked out and whose only resource are its people could be doing so well.

    In a nutshell, the answer is the NEP.

  9. #9 by lopez on Friday, 4 June 2010 - 11:49 pm

    technically we are broke…FACE it and we are doomed too, technically….look at the education system….still wishful thinking and denial syndrome leading the nation to full time discontinuity and extinction but distinction in sheer arrogance …..pumi….sudah

    you want to go holland , pls go yourself

  10. #10 by siamo on Saturday, 5 June 2010 - 2:01 pm

    These people are not interested in the future of the country. In 9 years time, they would have filled their pockets and living in Australia or UK. It is the people who will suffer. Of course, they will deny it. It is good that Idris Jala has the courage to even say it. He deserves the highest bravery awards.

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