Questions for 2015

Tan Siok Choo
The Sun Daily
29 December 2014

WITH 2014 drawing to a close, I have several questions about issues that arose this year but could impact Malaysia’s future.

Question 1: Why does Putrajaya persist in maintaining Malaysia’s growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015 won’t be affected by plummeting prices of oil, a commodity that contributes significantly to federal government revenue?

Budget 2015 was prepared when Brent oil – the benchmark for Petronas’s Tapis blend – was in triple digits. Analysts estimate federal government revenue next year is based on an oil price of US$105 per barrel.

Last Friday, amid thin trade, Brent oil for February settlement closed at US$59.45 a barrel.

Labelling the World Bank’s revised forecast of 4.7% GDP growth next year as “too conservative”, top Malaysian policymakers announced the 5% to 6% economic growth target for 2015 will be maintained.

Admittedly, plummeting oil prices could be beneficial – it could stimulate global economic growth and reduce fuel costs for motorists and for sectors like airlines and truckers. Even so, shouldn’t Putrajaya prepare for the worst rather than adopt a wait-and-see attitude?

Question 2: Will there be an investigation on why and how taxpayer-funded Perwaja Steel’s audited net loss for the 18-month period ending June 30, 2014 ballooned to RM1.217 billion?

Perwaja will soon shut its doors after 32 years of operation, causing some 1,500 employees to lose their jobs while suppliers are also likely to be adversely affected.

Even more worrying, newspapers report legal action is being taken against Perwaja for failing to pay to the Employees Provident Fund contributions totalling RM9.17 million from August 2013 and September 2014.

Shouldn’t EPF have a shorter time frame and a lower threshold of arrears before pursuing errant employers?

Question 3: Instead of regarding Indonesia as a purveyor of cheap, low-skill labour, when will Malaysian policymakers realise the archipelago is an excellent role model in several instances?

These include running state-owned enterprises like oil company Pertamina and Garuda airline, fighting corruption as well as heading off religious extremism.

Earlier this month, Pertamina’s entire board of directors was replaced – a move by new President Joko Widodo to reform the graft-tainted oil company and to ensure it has the people skills to meet Indonesia’s changing energy demand.

While Khazanah’s decision to look overseas for a person to helm the problematic Malaysia Airlines – whose losses could double to RM2 billion by end-2014 – is undoubtedly correct, was Emirsyah Satar, the outgoing chief executive officer of Garuda considered?

In 2005, when Emirsyah took over the helm, the Indonesian airline was close to bankruptcy and had a dubious safety record.

Under Emirsyah’s stewardship, Garuda was removed from the EU’s aviation black list in July 2009 and was voted World’s Best Regional Airline 2012 and World’s Best Economy Class 2013.

Recently, Skytrax awarded Garuda five stars, elevating it among an elite group of seven similarly rated airlines that include Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

While Garuda has returned to profitability, the publicly listed airline has suffered skyrocketing losses totalling US$206.4 million in the first nine months of the year.

One Indonesian exemplar is the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). Apart from winning the Magsaysay award for its anti-corruption work, the KPK’s roll-call of political leviathans that it has prosecuted successfully is stunning.

Those jailed include Banten Governor Ratu Atut, Constitutional Court Chief Akil Mochtar, former Sports Minister Andi Mallarangeng and ex-Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbainingrun.

Recently, KPK investigated former energy minister Jero Wacik for alleged abuse of ministerial power – a novel concept across the Straits of Malacca.

Another role model is the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI). Last week, MUI stated Muslims are allowed to greet their fellow Christians “Merry Christmas”.

“Wishing a greeting as a form of our friendship to other faithfuls won’t damage our faith. Islam is not a narrow-minded religion,” MUI chairman Din Syamsuddin said unequivocally.

Question 4: Were architectural firms bidding to design klia2 asked to conceptualise a budget terminal or a shopping mall? As countless letters of complaint to newspapers attest, the needs of travellers appear to have been accorded low priority.

Why weren’t walkators installed from inception instead of being introduced progressively? Three walkators are expected to be in place by year-end and another 16 by 2015.

Furthermore, the profusion of shops and their distracting signage makes it difficult for travellers to find various services. Unlike KLIA1, there isn’t a visible sign in klia2 to indicate the bag strapping kiosk’s location. A foreign friend got lost searching for this outlet.

Question 5: Despite unprecedented mudslides and floods in recent months, will Malaysians emulate the psychological resilience of Scarlett O’Hara, a pivotal figure in the film/novel Gone With The Wind?

In the closing scene, after her husband Rhett Butler abandons her, Scarlett memorably said: “After all … tomorrow is another day!”

Opinions expressed in this article are the personal views of the writer and should not be attributed to any organisation she is connected with. She can be contacted at [email protected]

  1. #1 by waterfrontcoolie on Tuesday, 30 December 2014 - 2:30 pm

    When one takes the trouble to compare the costs of any projects undertaken by the BN Government, one shouldn’t be surprised by the high costs involved. It is well known that all these projects must undergo layers and layers of contractors; of course the saddest part is no one is responsible for any subsequent fall-outs. And the innocent Creator is normally held accountable! All said and done, I foresee Indonesia and Thailand in spite of their current short-comings will out run us by 2025. Malaysia was supposed to be the number 2 in the ASEAN Parade; in the 80s! By now we have had drifted down the parade to compete with both Thailand, Indonesia and maybe Vietnam. The main issue has been our national education progress, down from the 70s when we were as good if not better than the LITTLE down South but today, even Thailand has left us behind! By any yard-stick, with the current scenario, it mat take us another generation to recover i.e. provided we started to pull up our socks. But looking at the way, half-past six NGOs grabbing the headlines and swaying a boneless national leadership, one can hardly be inspired. Today, when one compares the standard and quality of ministerial leadership within ASEAN, one can close one’s eye and pin-point which country’s minister is talking. That is how bad we have fallen down the slope. Without doubt, Malaysians will have to bear this burden for their indifference to reality of today’s world preferring to accept rhetoric from medicine men!!!

You must be logged in to post a comment.