Who’s off the rails, Bernama?

John Malott | Feb 20, 11

Bernama news agency recently commented that I have “gone off the rails” because of my article in the Asian Wall Street Journal.

Because Bernama is owned by the Malaysian government, it is no surprise that they would feel obliged to say something critical.

But who really is off the rails? It is too bad that Bernama went into attack mode before it did its homework. Indeed, the article reads like it was written by a PR firm, trying to spin the truth.

So let’s take a look at what Bernama said.

It cites two alleged errors. First, Bernama said I was wrong about how fast Malaysia’s economy needs to grow in the coming decade to achieve Wawasan 2020.

Second, it appears my crystal ball is out of order, because I did not know that one week after my article appeared, Prime Minister Najib Razak would suddenly attend a meeting of the Malaysia Inter-Faith Council (which, by the way, was a good thing to do).

Let me deal with the economic issues today, and save the Inter-Faith Council issue for Part 2 tomorrow.

Bernama says that I took a potshot when I said that Malaysia, once one of the developing world’s stars, has underperformed over the past decade. I said that reforms are necessary and that foreign investors would shun Malaysia unless they are undertaken.

Who else has said that? Answer: The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In its report on the 2010 Annual Article IV Consultations with Malaysia, the IMF said that there is “a stark choice for Malaysians and their political leadership, a choice between muddling through in a business-as-usual mode – or going for an historic transformation of the economy”. The report also says that “rolling back affirmative action” and improving human capital are “necessary to revive the business climate and double Malaysia’s per capita income by 2020.”

For its part, the World Bank has said in their report, “Until solid implementation of reforms is seen, there is unlikely to be a groundswell of positive sentiment of foreign investors towards Malaysia.”

From the horse’s mouth

Bernama also says that I had “claimed that Malaysia needs to grow by 8 percent annually if it hopes to attain developed status by 2020, contrary to what has been projected by the government, which is a modest 6 percent annually for the rest of this decade.”

So who told me that Malaysia needs to grow by 8 percent over the coming decade to achieve 2020 and not 6 percent?

The answer is Prime Minister Najib Razak. Check out the big chart on page 47 of the government’s official report, ‘Challenges to Realising Vision 2020’, issued last year. It clearly shows that the required growth rate is 8 percent.

At the bottom of the chart, it says that the source of the information is the World Bank – and an August 2009 speech by Najib. So I Googled for that speech, and here is what the PM said:

“For Malaysia to qualify and meet our goals, we must grow at an annual growth rate of 8 percent over the next ten years. Anything less will delay our goal.”

What about the 6 percent growth rate that Bernama claims is correct? Najib said, “Annual growth of 6 percent means reaching high income status would be delayed by ten years – to 2030 rather than 2020.”

It’s all on the Prime Minister’s official website. Check out paragraph 6.

The whole issue of economic growth rates can get very boring, very quickly. That’s why they call economics the dismal science. But for certain, Bernama’s attempt to play “gotcha journalism” also was a dismal failure.

JOHN MALOTT is former US ambassador to Malaysia.

  1. #1 by Godfather on Monday, 21 February 2011 - 1:46 am

    Hahaha….caught with their pants down, these government spinners. 6 pct growth rate ? Who measures them ? The spinners again….

    Nazri wants Malott banned from Bolehland, but don’t worry, John, you can take a car from the Thai border and RM 100 can buy you entry without having your passport chopped.

  2. #2 by boh-liao on Monday, 21 February 2011 - 2:52 am

    He, he, he, now John M feels d heat of d entire national lie machines of NR n UmnoB
    Twisting facts in2 fictions, black in2 white, fictions in2 facts, white in2 black
    Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on
    Lagi, H Clinton praised NR n FLOM sky high, belum kena mah

  3. #3 by Taxidriver on Monday, 21 February 2011 - 6:25 am

    Nak jadi hero harus buat homework dulu. Tengok apa dah terjadi sekarang? BODOH!

  4. #4 by Taxidriver on Monday, 21 February 2011 - 6:59 am

    John benar benar hero. Bernama dah busukan namanya sendiri.

  5. #5 by undertaker888 on Monday, 21 February 2011 - 7:56 am

    Bernama=berita nasional malaise. what do we expect from half past six goons filling all the government agencies from the PM to the little Napoleon.

    all they can write is crap learnt from btn without needing their brains to think. no research, no supportive data no nothing. sometimes I wonder all these people have any maruah left in them. at least prostitutes can be saved, but these Pharisees and Sadducees type hypocrites shall burn.

  6. #6 by k1980 on Monday, 21 February 2011 - 7:59 am

    ‘if the ruling government loses in the general election there will be ‘crushed bodies, lost lives and ethnic cleansing’.

    Some people will do anything including killing hundreds to hang on to power


  7. #7 by yhsiew on Monday, 21 February 2011 - 8:56 am

    UMNO/BN denial syndrome is not new. They know what went wrong with the economy but they are not going to admit it.

    A responsible government is one which accepts criticism and takes action to rectify the situation.

  8. #8 by k1980 on Monday, 21 February 2011 - 8:59 am


    See? These fools support me even though I call them mata sepets and kaki bottoys……I have to think of something worse to call them

  9. #9 by dagen on Monday, 21 February 2011 - 9:02 am

    What is this 6% 8% thing to double our economy in 10 yrs. Well. Whatever. Lets not bother with what will double. Just look at the number. And work out the arithmathics.

    Starting with 1 (using this as base unit for yr 1). If our target is to double whatever after 10 yrs that means by the 10th yr the initial base unit of 1 must turn to 2. Simple. So what sort of increase (year on year – yoy) is required so that the target 2 is reached after 10 yrs.

    Lets use 6%.
    Yr 1: 1 (base)
    Yr 2: 1×1.06=1.06
    Yr 3: 1.06×1.06=1.1236
    Yr 4: 1.1236×1.06=1.1910
    Yr 5: 1.1910×1.06=1.2625
    Yr 6: 1.2625×1.06=1.3382
    Yr 7: 1.3382×1.06=1.4185
    Yr 8: 1.4185×1.06=1.5040
    Yr 9: 1.5040×1.06=1.5938

    There. After 10yrs of 6% yoy growth we would enjoy a growth of 1.69 times. Not 2.

    Lets try 8% now.
    Yr 1: 1 (base)
    Yr 2: 1×1.08=1.08
    Yr 3: 1.08×1.08=1.1664
    Yr 4: 1.1664×1.08=1.2597
    Yr 5: 1.2597×1.08=1.3604
    Yr 6: 1.3604×1.08=1.4693
    Yr 7: 1.4693×1.08=1.5869
    Yr 8: 1.5869×1.08=1.7138
    Yr 9: 1.7138×1.08=1.8509

    Almost there. Nearly double. Only a whisker short. But that should be acceptable.

    Anything less than sustained (min) 8% yoy growth will see us missing our target.

    Anyway, that is just pure number game, i.e. doubling our income to 15,000us by 2020. In real terms, US$15,000 in 2020 will be worth less than the same amount today. That I am sure everyone knows. Inflation. That is what it is all about. Our RM5 fried kuey teow today could well be RM10 then (just my speculation). In which case the doubling of our income in 2020 would be cancelled our by price increase. So status quo.

    So folks dont expect to feel twice richer in 2020. You people will hv more money to spend. Whether 6% yoy increase of 8. No doubt about that. But you will have to pay more because things will be more expansive then.

    My comments do not apply to rambutans and cintanegara. He has his rambutans free or at least heavily subsidised in any event.

    ps. feel free to correct any calculation error.

  10. #10 by artemisios on Monday, 21 February 2011 - 10:00 am

    well john, this is how it’s done in M’sia. The govt owned media don’t have to be responsible to anything they say. To argue with our govt is like arguing with a very, very spoilt brat.

    They just want what they want. Facts mean nothing to them. They’ll just shoot back with their own “facts” plucked out of thin air.

    They’ll simply refuse to print this John Malott’s response, then follow up a few days later with a heading that sounds something like “Malott Silenced” or “Ex Ambassador Slammed” or “Former Ambassador Rapped”

    Any further response from Malott will continue to be ignored, & the paper will continue to take cheap potshots at Malott.

    It’ll be completely ONE-SIDED.

  11. #11 by yhsiew on Monday, 21 February 2011 - 10:20 am

    This is an example of unethical journalism where the publisher (presumably to safeguard their publication licence) could stoop so low as to use disinformation to fish votes for the ruling party.

  12. #12 by k1980 on Monday, 21 February 2011 - 10:34 am

    A question for Old Hatir—-

    Only 0.25% of the world population is Jewish, but Jews make up 20–30% of all Nobel prize winners in physics, chemistry, and medicine. Why aren’t the jews clamouring for ketuanan jahudi?

  13. #13 by tak tahan on Monday, 21 February 2011 - 11:21 am

    Umnob members are rotten beyond recognizable.Feeling dejected from constant exposed criticism and revelation of their ill gotten loot,they just put on elephant skin on their cheek against hue and cry from public to loot as much as anybody cares to bribe in the GE later or worst scoot off to foreign land just like Mubarak.Bloody low class ministers!

  14. #14 by monsterball on Monday, 21 February 2011 - 11:28 am

    You can expect insults to anyone who put out facts and figures to remind the gloomy position on our country.
    The funny thing is…John Mallot was just quoting what was said by Najib and IMF.
    It was a slap ..back into the face or Bernama.
    It is an excellent slap.
    Well done John Mallot.

  15. #15 by jus legitimum on Monday, 21 February 2011 - 12:31 pm

    Obviously Bernama and Utusan,Perkasa and Nazri are victims of the policy of ethnocentricity and mediocrity.They all lacked brain as indicated by their criticism again John Mallot.That silly minister even suggested to bar J.Mallot from coming to Malaysia.Real shame to all these half past six.

  16. #16 by undertaker888 on Monday, 21 February 2011 - 1:16 pm


    when u need to calculate for this people who need crutches like i-bela-him, you need to add 30% quota and crutches.

    so 1.6895 X 30% + 1.6895 = 2.196. Hey, they exceed the goal. Even at 2020, you need to add this 30% crutches, if not the rambutans won’t get ripen.

    just that john malott and the rest of world don’t give a d@mn about the 30% crutches to these lazy lot.

  17. #17 by Loh on Monday, 21 February 2011 - 4:48 pm

    The vision 2020 as developed country is just like the vision of NEP, which should have been achieved by 1990. The talk was after Malaysia has become developed in 2020, there is a hope of equality. Now, Najib is happy at 6% growth and so officially the vision is pushed back for another 10 years. He certainly hopes to be around in 2030, though mamakthir said that he should go in 2017, after 8 years as PM.

  18. #18 by cemerlang on Monday, 21 February 2011 - 5:00 pm

    The national newspaper has to give the world a good image of her own country. Is it a good idea to wave our dirty linen in full view of everyone ? Not everyone can bear the feeling of malu.

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