Malaysia: Isolated and Bankrupt (well,
by Ahmad Mahboob <email@example.com>
Friday: 20 November 1998
Malaysia is on the brink of bankruptcy. Its central bank will be forced to print
money to bail out the countrys financial system. When it does, the Ringgit will be
debased. And the regime of Mahathir Mohammad will be deposed - This is what
Independent Strategy, an investment advisory service based in London, is saying to their
clients in its latest report
- Malaysia - The arithmetic of bankruptcy.
Easy credits and huge overhang of domestic debt would leave our country with a huge
resource gap to fill up to the year 2000, as much as RM50bn according to one estimate. And
Bank Negara would have no choice but to start the printing presses.
Banks are now caught between the rock and a very hard place: Mahathirs regime
is now demanding a Soviet-style resurgence of bank lending Independent Strategy
said. However, to the dismay of bankers, these new credits are mainly going to bankrupt
creditors and not to productive sectors such as manufacturing and utilities. And judging
by the eagerness of our judiciary system to protect these bankrupt creditors, it would
take years for the banks and even Danaharta to recover the bad debts- if they were lucky!.
It is now high time for us to acknowledge the severity of our banking problems. The amount
of bad debt in the system is actually much higher than what Bank Negara is willing to
admit, probably as much as 40% of total loans outstanding!. The recently released NPL
figure is grossly misleading. So is the conclusion by Bank Negara that it needs only
RM15bn to buy up bad loans. The Bank Negaras announcement is nothing
but an act of sugar coating a stale donut - if you eat it, you would still end up with a
bad diarrhea. Or in this case, the ordinary citizens will be the ones to end up with the
stomach cramps from having to subsidize the banks. How many times do we have to bail out
Bank Bumiputera? Enough is enough!
But, lo and behold, it appears that our new Governor is not finished yet. Today (Friday),
he reduces the minimum credit card repayment from 15% to just 5% - more money to punt the
stock market, right Governor? What else does he have up his sleeves? Well, to be fair to
him, perhaps I shouldnt be asking the puppet and instead go straight to the
Tok Dalang. So, what else do you have in mind, Tun Daim?
Mahathirs policy of isolationism, for what used to be Asias most
internationalized manufacturing economy, represents nothing short of disaster
Independent Strategy said. It will eventually destroy living standards in a country
that has no means of financing a current deficit and so must eliminate it by shrinking
domestic purchasing power. And
inflation will debase the Ringgit. Capital will flee despite the governments
control. Obviously, our beloved Trade Minister, Rafidah Aziz, would
vehemently disagree with this and pro-Mahathir camp would also argue that so far, no big
multinational has pulled out of the country (yet). But then again, the capital controls
are only 2 months old...
Is there a happy ending to this so far, doom and gloom predicament? Well, yes and no....
Luckily, unlike in Indonesia, there is an alternative leadership in the wings, or to
be more exact, languishing in jail. Malaysia will rejoin the world under a new, more
leadership. But sadly, not before Malaysias people and the economy suffer
As a nation, we have progressed by leaps and bounds since our independence some 40 years
ago primarily by opening up our economy and embracing new technology and ideas. For the
Malays like myself, we have shed our katak dibawah tempurung mentality and
adopted the Malaysia Boleh attitude with new found pride and confidence. In
the age of globalization and the internet, the stupidest thing for us to do now is to
isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. LETS VOTE PROGRESS,
The Silent Majority
by Ahmad Mahboob
Friday: 20 November 1998
For quite sometimes now, Mahathir and his cabinet ministers have been trumpeting the
notion that the silent majority is solidly behind the government. They even go
one step further to put words in the mouth of this so-called silent majority
by announcing that the majority also denounce the reform movement. For Mahathir and his
definition of silent majority is simple. In fact, as simple as Forest Gumps
definition of life - a box of chocolate. According to the ministers, those who dont
participate in the Reformasi demonstrations must be the silent majority. And through
illogical deduction, conclude that since the majority of rakyat dont oppose the
then they must be 110% behind the government.
Really? I have never been to any of the Reformasi rallies but I totally disagree with the
PM on his economic policy and his leadership (or should I say, dictatorship?) in UMNO. Am
I part of the silent majority? Or take my dad, for example. He has been an UMNO member for
over 30 years and now the treasurer for his division - he believes that the whole Anwar
trial is nothing but a conspiracy to silence the ex-TPM. My dad now reads Harakah and
contemplating for the first time in his life about the possibility of voting for PAS in
the coming general election. Does he fall under the silent majority category? Or how about
a few of my friends who have never voted before in their lives but are now eagerly waiting
for the next election so that they can vote the opposition. Are they the silent majority?
To hastily generalize that the majority of the rakyat is behind the government is not only
a major miscalculation but also a display of extreme arrogance by Barisan Nasional. The
general election is probably just a few months away and for the first time since the
scandal broke out, the real silent majority will be heard.
Recently, MCA conducted survey in Penang (please refer to the latest Far Eastern Economic
Reviews intelligence column) and concluded that if the general election were held
now, BN would have lost the state to the oppositions. I dont know how many people
were polled for the survey but I can assure you this - they are definitely not part of the
governments silent majority.