Prime Minister-cum-Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 2016 Budget made history as the first Malaysian budget which could not generate any budget euphoria as it was snuffed out within seconds of delivery by the phalanx of Opposition MPs standing up and displaying the “Mana RM2.6 billion” placard.
Normally, the budget presented by a Finance Minister in Parliament on a Friday would be able to generate a budget euphoria for weeks, or at least for the immediate weekend, with glowing economic reports and superlative accounts of the government’s budgetary plans, but Najib’s 2016 Budget failed dismally on this account, with the country overcast with hazy sky and noxious air which for weeks had closed schools, disrupted the economy and created havoc in the life of Malaysians.
In fact, events in the 24 hours after Najib’s delivery of the 2016 Budget had continued to be relentless in stamping out any ember for any post-budget euphoria, for instance:
1. the report by The Australian yesterday that a sixth foreign government, Australia, has joined five other countries, namely Switzerland, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Singapore and United States in the ever-widening international inquiry into Malaysia’s biggest scandal in history, the RM50 billion 1MDB (well exceeding the RM42 billion normally associated with the scandal, according to Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in his last speech as Deputy Prime Minister to the UMNO Cheras Division on July 26);
2. The demand by thirteen Umno branch chiefs from Telok Kemang in Negri Sembilan who declared they had lost confidence in Najib’s leadership and urged him to step down as party president in order to restore Umno’s credibility before the next general election.
3. The continuing revelations of the hanky-panky in the two mega scandals of RM50 billion 1MDB and RM2.6 billion “donation” in Najib’s personal banking accounts, all to way up to Cabinet level, by UMNO Deputy President and former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin in Johor Baru at a Bicara Minda dialogue session organized by Karangkraf and Sinar Harian.
4. The statement by UMNO Vice President and former Rural and Regional Development Minister, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal in Semporna that the 2016 Budget failed to address investor confidence in government.
Actually, Najib’s 2016 Budget made double history, not only was it unable to generate any budget euphoria after its delivery, it was unable to garner any positive pre-budget vibration as enjoyed by other budgets.
In the very week of the 2016 budget presentation, any positive vibration for it was destroyed by the four-day parliamentary proceedings, which had been soured and bedeviled by the 1MDB “Monster”, with Ministers running helter-skelter to avoid answering questions about the twin mega-scandals, the two-day suspension of two DAP MPs, Lim Lip Eng (Segambut) and Gobind Singh Deo (Puchong) and my six-month suspension from Parliament.
On the very day of the Budget presentation, former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir in an interview with the British daily, The Guardian described Najib as the most corrupt leader of the nation who would cling on to power at all cost.
Looming in the background were other developments which happened in the past weeks which were inimical to any positive outlook for the 2016 Budget, particularly the unprecedented statement by the Malay Rulers of Oct. 6 calling for 1MDB investigations to be completed “as soon as possible” and to take “appropriate stern action” against all found to be implicated; the inability of the government for over a month to contradict or clarify media reports about United States Department of Justice investigating Najib under its Kleptocrtacy Assets Recovery Initiative 2010 and raising the question whether Malaysia has a kleptocrat as a Prime Minister; and the coming of the “perfect storm” of combined political, economic, good governance and nation-building crises hitting Malaysia.
This is why 2016 Budget was such a great let-down, for it failed to deal with the most critical issues affecting the confidence and trust deficit of Malaysians and foreign investors – the twin mega scandals of the RM50 billion 1MDB and RM2.6 billion “donation” in Najib’s personal banking accounts.
In the process, Najib has disappointed 30 million Malaysians, including the three million UMNO members, as well as the Malay Rulers.
In the 2016 Budget, Najib has concentrated further powers in himself, with the Prime Minister’s Department getting a record budget allocation of RM20.3 billion or 7.6 per cent of total budget, the highest ever for the Prime Minister’s Department under six Prime Ministers since 1957.
In fact, the Prime Minister’s budget for 2016 is about 25 times the full Federal Government budget in 1957 when the country achieved Merdeka 58 years ago, which was around RM800 million.
In 1957, the Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman had a Cabinet of 10 Ministers, but Najib now has 10 Ministers parked in the Prime Minister’s Department.
Is the Malaysian Cabinet today, with a jumbo size of 37 Ministers, as effective and productive as the 10-Minister Merdeka Cabinet of Tunku Abdul Rahman?
Instead of further aggrandizement, Najib should have set an example of budget down-sizing by reducing the 2016 budget for the Prime Minister’s Department to below RM10 billion and slashing the 10 Ministers in the PM”s Office by at least half, instead of cutting down on essential expenditures on education, health and welfare.