What change? A reply to Dr M

― Pak Sako
Jan 04, 2013

JAN 4 ― Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad published a piece called “Change” yesterday in his blog.

In it he asked why change governments.

He then criticised the socialist ideology. He strangely claimed that “Malaysia has no ideology”.

That is completely untrue.

When Dr Mahathir came into power in 1981, Malaysia was introduced to the neoliberal ideology.

This is an ideology that is biased in favour of corporations and capitalists.

It is the opposite of socialism, which aspires to put people first.

The neoliberal ideology was aggressively promoted around the world in the early 1980s by influential global networks of business interests and their supporters.

Their mantra?

Sell off public assets. Remove regulations, so big businesses can run free. Control workers’ wage demands. Cut public expenditure.

Dr Mahathir joined the bandwagon. This is well-documented in books and papers.

His economic advisors were businessman Daim Zainuddin and the well-known neoliberal strategist, Kenichi Ohmae.

It was Ohmae’s rejected mega-project to create a “Multimedia Supercity” in Tokyo that got recycled in Malaysia as the “Multimedia Super Corridor”. Read Dr Tim Bunnell’s book, “Malaysia, Modernity and the Multimedia Super Corridor” (2004).

Ohmae’s ideological influence was “extremely significant”. And what other ideology is that if not neoliberalism?

After becoming prime minister, Dr Mahathir quickly announced a privatisation policy in 1983 — in line with the standard neoliberal programme.

Publicly-held assets were sold off to private business interests, entrepreneurs and corporate “captains” to supposedly make the economy more ‘efficient’.

But efficient for whom?

The “massive privatisation strategy” carried out during Dr Mahathir’s tenure is said to be linked to “increased competition for resources within the ruling Malay party [Umno]”; it redistributed resources “in favour of emerging factions centred on key political leaders”.

That is what political economist Jeff Tan found out and wrote in his book, “Privatization in Malaysia: Regulation, Rent-Seeking and Policy Failure” (2008).

Indeed, many privatisations are improperly justified handouts for the capitalist elite from the public coffers.

Selling off the public’s holdings remains a favoured economic policy of the Malaysian government until today. Witness the recent sale of Penang’s port and other public-owned assets to well-connected tycoons.

The neoliberal ideology calls for weaker worker unions so that big businesses can have the “economic freedom” to exploit workers to maximise profits.

Again, the Malaysian government’s development agenda subordinated labour in favour of private business interests in the 1980s under Mahathir’s watch, according to economist KS Jomo and Patricia Todd in their book “Trade Unions and the state in Peninsular Malaysia” (1994).

Labour organisations in Malaysia are weak relative to business power. They have no bite to negotiate for better working hours, conditions and pay.

The neoliberalism ideology wants ‘free markets’ in labour, so that the ‘price’ of an employee (his wage) can be competed down if necessary. Fixing minimum wages is bad.

Dr Mahathir forcefully argued against minimum wages in Malaysia, claiming it might bankrupt Malaysia, without providing sufficient evidence (“Dr M: Minimum wage may bankrupt Malaysia”, The Malaysian Insider, March 2, 2012). Dr Mahathir did not bother at all to consider the positive aspects of minimum wages.

The neoliberal ideology is opposed to strong states that directly ensure the people’s welfare, but it supports a strong state to enable businesses and capitalists to flourish freely, to ensure corporate welfare.

This involves all kinds of hidden subsidies and supports for businesses, including overlooking environmental regulation and standards.

And so we have today Lynas and the threat of radiation. Our rivers are polluted by business activities, and yet the people must pay businesses to buy water filters for their homes and mineral water.

Dr Mahathir does not like the welfare state approach, which says “if we properly meet basic social needs and securities first, economic prosperity will come”. Dr Mahathir prefers the opposite, neoliberal approach, which says “support the corporate class, and enough wealth will ‘trickle down’ to the people”. Now Malaysia has one of the higher income inequalities amongst the Asean countries. The super-rich are sucking hundreds of billions of dollars out of the country in illegal outflows.

Dr Mahathir complains about an unjust neoliberal world order, but Dr Mahathir hypocritically follows the neoliberal ideology, says political science professor Johan Saravanamuttu in his book Malaysia’s Foreign Policy, The First Fifty Years (2010).

Even the Nobel economist whom Dr Mahathir is fond of quoting, Joseph Stiglitz, has rubbished this neoliberal ideology, calling it a “grab-bag of ideas” about markets supposedly serving the public interest by “privatisation, liberalization”, when in fact it is simply “a political doctrine serving certain interests”. Read Stiglitz’s article called, “The end of neo-liberalism?” (2008).

On debt, Dr Mahathir says Greece borrowed a lot of money and is bankrupt.

But Europe fears Italy has also borrowed too much and is going bankrupt.

Malaysia has been given a financial warning: a top debt ratings agency says our public finances are weak, and are at the same level as debt-struck Italy (“Fitch warns Malaysia of possible downgrade due to ‘deteriorating’ public debt ratios’, The Edge, 1 August 2012).

Malaysia’s debt is now more than half of the income Malaysia as a whole earns in a year. This debt is RM456 billion. This debt nearly doubled since 2007, or in just four years.

This is to say every Malaysian now owes about RM16,000. If you earn RM4,000 a month, then you need to give up four month’s pay to settle the debt.

Dr Mahathir says: “Look at [Barisan’s] record… compare it even with the developed West. They are in deep financial trouble…”

Dr Mahathir says: “Five years to give a trial as government is dangerous. Many things can be destroyed in five years.”

But which government doubled Malaysia’s debt in less than five years? Barisan Nasional, right? ― english.cpiasia.net

  1. #1 by sheriff singh on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 12:41 am

    Mahathir talks a lot of kok these days. Must be the age finally catching up with him. Or maybe he’s on the wrong medication.

    Whatever it is, a lot of his blind followers might do the wrong things.

  2. #2 by Noble House on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 1:46 am

    One of Mahathir’s greatest achievements is the producing of cronies and incompetent leaders who excel only in worshipping the dictator himself. What Badawi managed to do in 8 year, Najib doubled that in 4-year to leapfrog the nation to a new level – increases the federal debt to some RM502 billion this year, the highest in history and reaching 54% of GDP. That’s just 1% (percentage) point before hitting the legislated debt ceiling of 55%. It works out to RM17,000 for every Malaysian.

    If this is not moving the country towards bankruptcy, I do not know what else to call this.

  3. #3 by chengho on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 6:01 am

    The Japanese regretted when the voted DPJ , finally they came to their senses by putting back LDP . Do not gamble your future with Pakat Pakat , vote BN your trusted partner .

  4. #4 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 6:22 am

    chengho, you are admirable for licking BN’s boots. Oh, how you prostitute your intellect.

  5. #5 by monsterball on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 6:22 am

    Talk nonsense like chengho OK.
    F…U…C…K….. Mahathir cannot.

  6. #6 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 6:25 am

    Out of respect for the title (but not the man), Tun M….well, he had twenty two years as PM.

    Shih Huang Ti had mch less and he built one of the 7 wonders of the world that could be seen galaxies away.

    Tun M…well, what “sheet” did you leave behind!

  7. #7 by SENGLANG on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 8:20 am

    We have no doubt that this man was extra ordinary. He has a great mind but has been used for the wrong reason. He is a master in manipulating his arguments so much so it always look perfect on the face. It was not easy to really understand its implication with out in depth analysis on this man arguments. Majority has been foll by this man. After his so call retirement he still command a lot of believers and supporters. He is still very much politically alive and influence on the current BN leaders.

    This man has create much long term damages to this country with out many realised on it. We has cultivate the culture of corruptions. He also cultivate now non amendable culture of rent seeking in his party, so much so that it was impossible to make changes within his own party.

  8. #8 by Bigjoe on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 8:40 am

    Enough details have come out today that we now know that the root of the problem between Mahathir and Anwar is that Anwar prescription for IMF-type medicine in 1998 would have wiped out Mahathir family & closest cronies, that would enabled Anwar and his friends to take over. That chasm is still fundamentally the same..Anwar has locked himself into a commitment for his comeback that he must collide with Mahathir and Mahathir has too long a trail malice that losing would lose too much..

    Everything else said and everything else party to this fundamental fight is actually secondary. Ideology, the agenda of the parties, the people and country welfare, the players etc are actually secondary..

    But the real point is that Mahathir is SIMPLY WRONG – the same way Marcos, Mugabe, Mubarak etc are wrong. They don’t have a right to make the kind of decisions about their political interest or even their ideas without respect for rules, procedures and fair-gamemenship.

    There is no point discussing the merit of Mahathir’s idea or arguments. Its secondary. He is simply CANNOT BE RIGHT because the ends, his personal interest, don’t justify the means not when the means are broken judiciary, mediocre schools, crime, high inflation, potential financial armeggedon in a crises.

    Its not we cannot change, WE MUST because HE WON’T..

  9. #9 by monsterball on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 8:51 am

    Mahathir is all evil.

  10. #10 by monsterball on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 10:49 am

    In 22 years he destroyed unity…with his race and religion politics..destroyed judicial ..police and royalties systems.
    All the corruptions are encouraged by him….yet he said 5 years under PR govt. is dangerous….dangerous for whom???

  11. #11 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 11:12 am

    Bigjoe :
    But the real point is that Mahathir is SIMPLY WRONG – the same way Marcos, Mugabe, Mubarak etc are wrong.

    Mmmmmm, what’s wrong with dictators with names starting with M?

  12. #12 by chengho on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 12:22 pm

    U should read Deng Xiaoping the portrait of Chinese statesmen

  13. #13 by boh-liao on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 12:23 pm


  14. #14 by john on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 1:52 pm

    As he is fully away that he can’t even be considered a stateman in the local/gobal stage, he goes about ‘his own shiok ways’ , being recalcitrant oblivious to the failures and great damages he (one, Mad’tir) had created for the nation. No way he will admit his many, many, failures and hipocrisy as his world will come crushing down on him by then.

  15. #15 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 1:53 pm

    Change? Oh yes we have. From a malay umno to mamak umno. Both cintanegara and chengho are mamaks. That is why they are arguing so hard for umno.

  16. #16 by yhsiew on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 2:10 pm

    Do forget that Britain’s Iron Lady, Lady Margaret Thatcher, was renowned for her advocacy of privatization. Wonder how much she had influenced Dr. M. to go for privatization when she visited Malaysia in the 1980s.

  17. #17 by yhsiew on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 2:14 pm

    “Do forget” should be “Don’t forget”.

  18. #18 by monsterball on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 2:19 pm

    hi chengho…we are talking about Mahathir..not China’s Deng…and if you don’t have anything to say…just keep quiet and learn.

  19. #19 by Loh on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 3:07 pm

    ///Gerakan: Is 1M’sia Privilege Card really useful?
    1:04PM Jan 5, 2013 | 16
    Gerakan Youth deputy chief Oh Tong Keong questions the mechanisms and usefulness of the card targetted at 10 million recipients.///–Malaysiakini

    Holders of the card are entitled to 50% discount whereas others have to pay full price. It means that holders of the card will indirectly get government subsidies; how else can the discounts be financed. Card holders want the same discount to continue, and to do that they will have to keep the same government in power. It is then with government finance, they will vote for BN. That is vote buying. The cards may even be given only to selected race, and possibly members of the parties which sells their souls to be with Barisan Nasional.

  20. #20 by St Peter on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 3:11 pm

    Sterilize rather than change! It is already a cancerous virus in their blood, how much we can sterilize, we will sterilize and we will….
    Chengho, St Peter said you are now punished to hell together wiz mamak

  21. #21 by chengho on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 3:42 pm

    Tun M is the best brand came out from Mslaysia , just like Deng , a father of modern Malaysia , taking the country to modern era . Everywhere u go in the world when u say u are from Malaysia , Tun M name will mentioned side by side with great leader achievement .
    Dapter still learning how to use spreadsheet , no wonder mistake when u half knowledge , don’t know head or tail , the easiest way out blame it programmer .

  22. #22 by boh-liao on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 5:05 pm

    Wa lau eh, WHAT a CHANGE! LohSiMah cleaned a flood-victim house in east coast
    Truly leadership by example! Sure will get erected in GE13 1, u know

  23. #23 by monsterball on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 5:48 pm

    Useless to teach chengho.
    The fact that he can compare China’s Deng to Mahathir is clear enough….this chengho is getting from bad to worst.

  24. #24 by Bunch of Suckers on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 6:55 pm

    Suck the old fox! I’m tired of you in many ways!!!! Praying this old ugly fox would RIP soon!!!! The sooner; the better!

    Once again! Suck this old fox who often fox and fart around with bunch of craps!!! Old fox, SUCK!!!!!

  25. #25 by cseng on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 9:08 pm

    Tales from 2 kingdoms;

    Chairman Deng, of 1 kingdom once said : “It does not matter white cat or black cat, cat that catches mouse is good cat.” So their kingdom has less mouse with strong cat.

    Chairman Ma, of another Kingdom, said : “It does not matter cat catches mouse, those with me are elites, shall food for large and free, on catches of other mouse.” In their kingdom, you can’t differentiate cat from mouse.

    Chengho… you can compare now.

  26. #26 by waterfrontcoolie on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 10:06 pm

    yhsiew, please don’t insult Magaret Thatcher with that comparison! Those who privatized the British assets took calculated business risks; here the only similarity is the word privatization and the rest of the processes a were indeed Piratization of Malaysian Assets!

  27. #27 by Ray9393 on Sunday, 6 January 2013 - 7:25 am

    A god fearing leader is supposed to be god fearing. For some, judgement days are near. Focus on the facts and work on them. Work harder now, facts are now very real every where. People are not only aware now but they are changing. This behaviour is norm and will be for any human society.

  28. #28 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Sunday, 6 January 2013 - 9:15 am

    chengho :
    Tun M is the best brand came out from Mslaysia , just like Deng , a father of modern Malaysia , taking the country to modern era .

    Just like Mao – another M dictator.

    If Toon M is the best brand of Malaysia – god save Malaysia. Taking Malaysia to the modern era of corruption, white elephants, tin manipulation and forex speculation

  29. #29 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Sunday, 6 January 2013 - 10:10 am

    Yes wrathofgrapes. How true. Actually we are still suffering from monsterOmamak’s destructive 22yrs. Worse. It is as if he is still the PM even as we blog here and now.

  30. #30 by monsterball on Sunday, 6 January 2013 - 11:04 am

    The entire China country population…. comprising of 1.4 million go to the Red Square in Peking…one day or another….. plus millions of tourists pay respect to Mao Tze Tung…sincerely.
    Only an idiot like chengho dares to compare Mahathir to Chairman Mao.

  31. #31 by monsterball on Sunday, 6 January 2013 - 11:04 am

    I mean 1.4 billion…..not million.

  32. #32 by monsterball on Sunday, 6 January 2013 - 11:07 am

    I wonder does chengho knows what is the population of Malaysia?
    Can he imagine how Malaysians will celebrate and react over Mamak’s demise?

  33. #33 by chengho on Sunday, 6 January 2013 - 11:15 am

    Tun M still get the respect from majority of Malaysian and mind u , the world too . If u travel abroad if they know u are from Malaysia , they will say Dr M one of the best leader came out from Asia .

  34. #34 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Sunday, 6 January 2013 - 11:30 am

    chengho :
    Tun M still get the respect from majority of Malaysian and mind u , the world too . If u travel abroad if they know u are from Malaysia , they will say Dr M one of the best leader came out from Asia .

    Came out from Malay-Asia — you forgot the Malay prefix.

  35. #35 by chengho on Sunday, 6 January 2013 - 12:29 pm

    TheWrath, u sound racist , go back to school . We can agreed to disagreed but not on the color of the skin .
    U cannot deny the world looking at him as one of the greatest leader from Asia .

  36. #36 by good coolie on Sunday, 6 January 2013 - 10:24 pm

    We consider Dr. Mahatir a forceful leader but he may not be so. It is more accurate to say that we were a bunch of eunuchs to allow him to exercise so much power. If a fellow like him were to come on stage now, he would be tarred and feathered. This is a warning to our next PM (from Pakatan). Don’t try the old tactics, even if you come from the same “acuan” as the good doctor!

  37. #37 by monsterball on Sunday, 6 January 2013 - 11:43 pm

    World looking at M as the greatest leader of Asia?
    What’s in chengho’s brain….mud?

  38. #38 by chengho on Monday, 7 January 2013 - 7:14 am

    All of u dreaming of 2008 nightmare . Once BN secure 2/3 majority , even some people here will kiss Najib hand .

  39. #39 by monsterball on Monday, 7 January 2013 - 6:06 pm

    Chengho writes what he has done or wish to do…..meeting Najib.
    Why 2/3 majority…why not 95%….. like what Dollah got????
    You said Najib is sooooooooo popular….sickening hypocrite.

  40. #40 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Monday, 7 January 2013 - 9:59 pm

    chengho :
    TheWrath, u sound racist , go back to school . We can agreed to disagreed but not on the color of the skin .
    U cannot deny the world looking at him as one of the greatest leader from Asia .

    Racist? That’s the truth – Toon M is the greatest among the Malay world (and even this is in doubt).

    But the whole of Asia? You are making my toes laugh. M can’t even smell LKY’s toes.

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