Too much made of The Economist Intelligence Unit Report

by Kee Thuan Chye
MSN Malaysia
24 Feb 2013

Too much has been made of the recent report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which is part of the magazine The Economist.

The Malaysian news agency Bernama spun it to make it appear a forecast of the upcoming general election result. It claimed the EIU predicted the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government “will” win the upcoming general election while the Opposition Pakatan Rakyat, for making “costly promises”, appears “a distant second”. It also said the EIU’s conclusion was based on BN’s “successful track record, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s reform agenda, and his successful economic leadership”. On the other hand, it added, “Pakatan’s populism has remained to be simply hot air”.

Rafizi Ramli, chief of strategy for one of Pakatan’s component parties, PKR, has, however, dismissed Bernama’s spin as being filled with incorrect information. “The report in itself is very neutral,” he said, “but because of Bernama and the way they spin it, it looks like The Economist is giving us a real thrashing.”

It has to be said, after looking at the EIU’s report, that Bernama has indeed coloured its report with subjective interpretation. Nowhere does the EIU state that BN will win the general election. It merely says that BN is “likely” to win, but also that “it will probably fail to attain the two-thirds parliamentary majority that would enable it to make constitutional changes unchallenged”. Neither does the EIU intimate that BN’s likely victory would be due to its “successful” track record and Najib’s “successful” economic leadership. The use of “hot air” is also Bernama’s own editorialising.

In fact, the EIU report actually says that the BN government “has spent lavishly in two consecutive budgets in order to please voters”. And, essentially, it sees the general election as “likely to be a tight race”, and does “not expect the outcome to lead to a dramatic improvement in the public finances”.

What the report really centres on is the likely financial outlook for Malaysia in the aftermath of the general election, hence its title ‘A fiscal bidding war’. Its priority is not really about predicting which side would win.

Even so, a closer analysis of the language the report uses could indicate a slight bias. For instance, it points out that Pakatan “is making many costly promises to the electorate in its eagerness to gain power” but these have “attracted less attention than the generosity” of the BN government. There appears a fair measure of editorialising in the choice of words like “eagerness to gain power”, which throws a negative hue on Pakatan, and “generosity”, which engenders positive connotations for what is really disputable spending on the part of BN.

It also singles out the Pakatan-led Selangor state government for having been accused, mainly by BN, of breaking its promises, having implemented only 15 per cent of its election pledges made in 2008. Why does it pick on the Selangor state government on this particular aspect while it overlooks the positive fiscal achievements accomplished by it and the Penang state government, which is also Pakatan-led?

In any case, the report appears to have been made from an armchair position as it says nothing new that clued-in Malaysians don’t already know about. And for all its professional reputation as a reliable assessor, the EIU is not privy to the country’s hidden accounts and offers no reading of the Malaysian ground sentiment. Its report should therefore be given only a fair amount of serious consideration.

  1. #1 by sheriff singh on Wednesday, 27 February 2013 - 10:55 am

    First it doctors photographs. Now it doctors news reports. What will it do next?

    Is BERNAMA, our national news agency, a reputable and reliable news agency anymore? Can it be trusted?

  2. #2 by mauriyaII on Wednesday, 27 February 2013 - 11:08 am

    BERNAMA has slowly but surely morphed into the mouthpiece of the spin doctor of the APA NAMA fame. It has lost all credibility as a news agency given the rot in its ethical standards.

    What can be expected of any news agency or media if its editor of CEO is appointed by a political party. He or she is there to sing and dance to the tune set by the political party.

    BERNAMA is no exception. The Star, Utusan Malaysia, Berita Harian and the visual media in the country have been made the servile minions of the ruling regime. They have become the modern day version of the Nazi propaganda machine.

  3. #3 by SENGLANG on Wednesday, 27 February 2013 - 11:20 am

    never believe the national news. News on entertainments are ok.

  4. #4 by Winston on Wednesday, 27 February 2013 - 12:28 pm

    What can one do when one faces the very real possibility of being fried during the soon-to-be-held GE13?
    Given the in-your-face corruption, scams and scandals of decades, nothing but nothing that they do can really save them.
    Even right up to the eve of the GE, they are still doing what the Devil does best!
    Dishing out all sorts of lies and deceits that Malaysians have long, long ago dismissed as lies and deceits!
    They have done the Malaysian electorate a big favour this time.
    By constantly stirring the anger of the voters, they help to imprint the disgust they feel for their constant source of anger.
    And they will undoubtedly cast the Devils out without any hesitation in GE13.

  5. #5 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Wednesday, 27 February 2013 - 12:44 pm

    So umno’s gonna win big. I didnt say that. That’s what others said. Well, many in umno said so. And so did those who are under umno’s control. And and and also those blind umno supporters. They all said that as well.

    But those words quite clearly contradicted umno’s (well jibby’s) actions. You see, if umno’s gonna win BIG then surely jib would have dissolved parliament and set the GE going long ago. Why the heck is he holding back then?

    Hey, no worries mate, we were told. Election will be held when all parties are ready, jib said. Wooow. Just who are the “all parties” jib mentioned? In umno’s record, readiness of the opposition party was never a consideration. So the “all parties” he mentioned must be a reference to all the component parties in BN.

    And saying that election will be held only when all BN parties are ready means at the moment BN is not ready for election. What? Not ready for election despite the extremely positive/favourable survey result indicating BIG win for umno?

    Not ready for election, jib? Just like those penangites who told you recently that they were not ready for BN?

    My suspicion, umno and therefore BN will perform horribly; and that includes the possibility of defeat (never mind the margin of defeat). And everyone in umno suspects it too. Morale in umno is therefore very low. Confidence level, zero. So fighting spirit is weak, if there is any. This would effectively set umno into a melt-down. So to counter this, umno has to shore up its own confidence level with fake assurances of a BIG win in GE13.

    All those prediction of big win by umno are for show only. They are meant to bluff umno ppl and supporters, nothing more.

  6. #6 by cseng on Wednesday, 27 February 2013 - 8:45 pm

    I am waiting bn victory for the past 2 yrs…

    Are you ready najib?

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