Sunday, February 7, 2016

Rahman Dahlan: Rafidah's comments on party loyalty 'strange'

Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan says he finds Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz’s comments regarding party loyalty “strange”, considering her past actions when serving as Wanita Umno chief. 

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Rafidah, a former Cabinet minister, said that loyalty should be given to the nation and the party, and not blindly to any individuals. 

Responding to this, Abdul Rahman, who is the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister, said that he found her comments odd since Rafidah herself, when serving as Wanita Umno chief, had never made a single remark about the party’s funds being in the hands of foreign proxies. 

He questioned Rafidah’s decision not to question the then Umno president on why funds were in the hands of proxies, or how it was being spent. 

He said Rafidah had never voiced any concern at that time concerning funds kept by proxies whom Umno members themselves did not know.  

“Did the ‘Iron Lady’ not support the nation and the party at the time? Or was she supporting individuals?” asked Abdul Rahman on his Twitter account on Sunday. 

Recently, Wanita Umno chief Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said that she was puzzled by Rafidah's posts on Facebook concerning Malaysia’s political situation. 

"I shake my head and am puzzled when reading her posts. For 22 years that Rafidah led Wanita, we were always reminded to be disciplined and loyal to the party leadership, especially to the president,” she was reported to have said. 

In response, Rafidah stressed that she was a loyal Umno member who “will die as Umno member”.

Dr Mahathir’s attacks against Najib seditious, says Annuar Musa

Former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad should know that his attacks against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak are of a seditious nature, says Tan Sri Annuar Musa.

The Umno information chief Tan Sri Annuar Musa in a press statement on Saturday alleged that Dr Mahathir was clearly trying to mobilise support for his cause to get the Prime Minister removed from office.

“Having known him for quite a long time, I don’t really know what his real intention was in writing such a post,” said Annuar, adding he was surprised to read Dr Mahathir’s blog posting entitled “AG to AG” dated Feb 3 as it contained words which were seditious.

“Having been prime minister for a very long time, Tun Dr Mahathir must have known that those words are seditious in nature, what more when the Federal Government under his stewardship used to frequently charge people for the same offence,” the Ketereh MP said.

Annuar added that it could also be that Tun Dr Mahathir thinks that being a former prime minister and a former Umno president may make him immune from prosecution.

“Whatever the case, no one cannot deny that Article 8(1) of the Federal Constitution clearly stipulates that all persons are equal before the law,” Annuar said.

As for Dr Mahathir’s allegations that former Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail was removed from office improperly, Annuar said that if there was any fault in the system, the former premier should blame himself.

“The problem with Dr Mahathir is that just because he acted in certain ways when he was in power, he thinks that others in power also act in those ways,” he said.

On Dr Mahathir’s allegations against current Attorney-General Tan Sri Apandi Ali with regard to the Swiss Attorney-General’s investigations, Annuar said the former prime minister had levelled accusations without providing any evidence.

A-G: Late Saudi king’s son donated RM2.6bil

 A son of the late Saudi king donated the RM2.6bil to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, says Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali (pic).

The Attorney-General, however, declined to provide the identity of the donor.

“We know his name. He is not the late Saudi king but the son of the king. He is still alive,” he said in an interview with Sin Chew Daily.

Mohamed Apandi added that Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission officers had recorded a statement from the donor and that he had read the report.

“Why are the people asking for the reason of the donation? This question has to be asked to the donor. He has billions. He wanted to give money to whoever, so what?

“This is his money. This is his personal matter. Our country does not have any laws to state that receiving political donations is illegal,” he said.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Ahmad Bashah can bring more progress to Kedah, says Najib

New Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah has the capability to bring more progress to the state, says Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The Prime Minister added that he believes Ahmad Bashah can carry out his duties effectively for the welfare and betterment of the people.

"My colleagues and I (in the Federal Government) extend our congratulations to Ahmad Bashah as the new Mentri Besar and wish him well in carrying out his duties," he said at the outset of his speech when opening SJK Tamil Paya Besar in Lunas, here, on Friday.

Ahmad Bashah, Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid, Health Minister and MIC president Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam and Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan were also present at the event.

Ahmad Bashah, 66, who is the state assemblyman for Bakar Bata, was sworn in on Thursday as the 12th Kedah Mentri Besar at Istana Anak Bukit in Alor Setar, replacing Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, who resigned a day earlier citing loss of majority support in the state legislative assembly.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Zahid: 100 days for Ahmad Bashah to prove himself

Let’s give Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah 100 days to prove his abilities, says Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. 

Commenting on criticisms against the new Kedah Mentri Besar, the Deputy Prime Minister said a politician should not be judged only on his qualifications.

“His other positive attributes have to be taken into consideration as well.

“Ahmad Bashah has served as a state executive councillor and a deputy minister, so he has experience at both state and federal levels. Don’t forget that he has been in politics for more than 35 years,” Dr Ahmad Zahid said Thursday during a four-day visit to Beijing. 

He said Ahmad Bashah should be given the chance to show his abilities in managing Kedah.

“Because of his good ties with the Federal Government, perhaps allocations that were not budgeted for can be given (to Kedah).

“I can also ask the Prime Minister to help develop Kedah,” Dr Ahmad Zahid added.

Tabung Haji announces dividends for depositors

Lembaga Tabung Haji will distribute RM3.23bil in bonuses to their depositors, according to Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom (pic). 

The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department announced that the 2015 dividend rate was 5% in addition to a further 3% for depositors who have yet to perform the haj. 

He said the combine 8% dividend would benefit 8.23 million Tabung Haji depositors who have yet to perform their pilgrimage.  

Jamil Khir said this at the Tabung Haji headquarters here Thursday. Also present were Tabung Haji chief executive officer Tan Sri Ismee Ismail and chairman Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim.

In 2014, depositors received an annual dividend of 6.25% in addition to 2% for those who had not performed their haj.

Rahman Dahlan: Mukhriz did not have the ‘numbers’

Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir had to step down as Kedah mentri besar because he did not have the “numbers”, said Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan.

"Politics is a game of numbers, when you don't have the numbers, your days are numbered," the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister said during a visit to the Bukit Tagar sanitary landfill here Thursday. 

Abdul Rahman, who is also the Barisan Nasional strategic communications director, said it was difficult for Mukhriz to work in conditions where he had lost support of majority of the state leaders. 

Asked if Umno's dominance would be affected by Mukhriz's departure, he said: "Barisan Nasional is not made up of one person. We still have to maintain our presence in Kedah."

He also said Mukhriz was a good friend and felt sad that he had to leave. 

Abdul Rahman, however, said Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah should be given a chance to prove his leadership as the new Kedah Mentri Besar.

How Malaysia will benefit from TPPA

Following are some of the benefits that Malaysia will derive from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), signed Thursday in Auckland, New Zealand. 

* Malaysia's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is projected to increase by US$107bil (RM444bil) to US$211bil (RM876bil) over 2018-2027, which would raise GDP growth between 0.6 and 1.15% in 2027 

* Investments projected to rise by US$136bil (RM565bil) to US$239bil (RM993bil) over 2018-2027 - attributable largely to higher investment growth in textiles, construction and distributive trade 

* More than 90% of the economic gains will be attributable to lower non-tariff measures 

* Hike in export growth is projected to be outpaced by increase in import growth - therefore trade surplus is projected to narrow between 4.3 and 5.2% of GDP in 2027 

* Sectors which contributed over 20% of Malaysia’s GDP in 2014 are now expected to register higher output growth, especially the manufacturing sub-sector 

* Export-oriented firms will benefit from greater market access, especially with countries that Malaysia is yet to have a trade pact namely Canada, Mexico, Peru and US 

* Firms to benefit from access to US government procurement, greater digital liberalisation and stronger enforcement of trade secret protection 

* Wage growth for unskilled labour is projected to increase between 0.45 and 0.91% and for skilled labour between 0.38 and 0.78% 

* Investor state dispute settlement may increase cost to the Malaysian government but safeguards are in place to mitigate nuisance suits and preserve policy space in setting decisions on health, security and environment. It will also increase protection for Malaysian firms investing abroad. 

* Bumiputra and SME policies will remain unchanged.

Zahid draws from own experience in advising Mukhriz

Drawing from his own experiences, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi advised outgoing Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir to engage in self-reflection and be istiqamah (steadfast).

The Deputy Prime Minister said he faced a similar crisis in 1998 but was re-elected as MP and then appointed Deputy Tourism Minister after the 2004 general elections.

“We shouldn’t make decisions when we are sad or angry because those are fuelled by emotions.

“We should remain calm and accept the qada dan qadar (predestination) and God willing, there will be a blessing for us,” he said.

Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is in Beijing on a four-day visit, said politicians should accept the reality of their situation instead of pointing fingers at others when their positions were taken away and given to someone else.

He said politicians should hold fast to their party’s principles while maintaining their credibility.

“We have to give priority to party unity and political stability for state and nation,” he said.

Dr Ahmad Zahid urged old and new leaders to set aside their differences for the sake of Umno and Barisan Nasional.

He congratulated Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah on his appointment as the new mentri besar.

In PUTRAJAYA, MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said Ahmad Bashah should work hard to strengthen the state Barisan Nasional now that the political crisis in the state has been resolved.

“People are concerned about their bread and butter. This is also an issue that the Barisan needs to address,” he said after attending his ministry’s post-Cabinet meeting yesterday.

He said although Mukhriz was no longer the mentri besar, he was still an assemblyman.

“He has the responsibility to look after the people in his state seat (Jerlun),” he said.

Dr Wee also said in a democracy, a mentri besar needed to have the support of half the total number of assemblymen in the state.

“Everyone knows that all Barisan assemblymen (in Kedah) did not support him,” he added.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Ahmad Bashah: I was not out to grab MB post

Newly-appointed mentri besar, Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah, will tender his resignation as senator and deputy minister.

"I'm thankful to the Sultan and the Regency Council for consenting to my appointment as Mentri Besar.

"l also wish to thank Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for recommending my name to the Sultan," Ahmad Bashah told a press conference hours after State Secretary Datuk Bakar Din announced that he would take over the state's top job from Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir.

Present were state exco member Datuk Tajuddin Abdullah and other Umno leaders.

Ahmad Bashah declined to comment on a reshuffle of the state executive council.

"Please wait as I have not been sworn in yet, " he said.

Earlier, Bakar said Ahmad Bashah, who is Bakar Batu assemblyman, would be sworn in at Istana Anak Bukit on Thursday.

Ahmad Bashah said he was "not eager" on "grabbing" the post of mentri besar.

"But Umno leaders and assemblymen want a change in the state leadership," he said.

He said Mukhriz was a good man whom he had worked with for many years.

"I hope Mukhriz and his supporters will extend their cooperation to me for the sake of the party and Kedah," he said.

Ahmad Bashah said he would talk about his future plans after the swearing in ceremony.

To a question that Mukhriz had cheekily said that he hoped Ahmad Bashah would not fall asleep during the swearing-in ceremony, Ahmad Bashah said: "Never mind, lah. I have nothing to comment."

Mukhriz resigns as mentri besar

Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir announced his resignation as the Kedah Mentri Besar on Wednesday.

At a packed press conference held at his office in Wisma Darul Aman, Mukhriz said the resignation will take effect immediately.

He said he made the decision to resign as he has lost the majority support of assemblymen in the state assembly.

Mukhriz said he informed the Kedah Regency Council of his resignation on Tuesday.

"I feel a heavy burden shifted off my shoulders," he said. He said he also rejected an offer to be a deputy minister.


Kedah state secretary to announce new MB today , Mukhriz to hold PC at 10am

State Secretary Datuk Bakar Din is scheduled to give a press conference on the new appointment of the Mentri Besar at 11am at Wisma Darul Aman.

Reporters received  a message at 8.30am Wednesday informing them that another press conference would be held "regarding the issue of appointing the menteri besar" immediately after Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir has his press conference over his position.

Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir is scheduled to give a press conference at his office at 10am Wednesday over his position as Mentri Besar.

It is believed that he would officially announce his resignation from the post after defending it over the last two weeks.

The announcement that the press conference would be held later today was sent to the media at about 11pm Tuesday, shortly after the Kedah Regency Council was believed to have adjourned.

It was learnt that the council had deliberated the issue of the mentri besar's position late into the night after meeting Opposition assemblymen on Tuesday afternoon.

The Star reported that Mukhriz had agreed to resign after a dramatic fortnight full of political twists and turns.

The pressure on Mukhriz reached a new level on Tuesday when he was asked for the third time in a week to sign the resignation letter.

Highly-placed sources indicated that Mukhriz was presented with the prepared resignation letter a little after 6pm.

The third attempt to have him sign the letter came after the three members of the Regency Council huddled in a closed-door discussion among themselves in the Regency Council office located at Wisma Darul Aman.

After that, the state secretary and the state legal adviser met with Mukhriz regarding the resignation letter.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Dr Asri says accusations in purported Johor ban proposal slanderous

Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Asri Zainul Abidin has threatened to sue those responsible over a purported proposal calling for several religious leaders to be banned from preaching in Johor.

The document, which is being circulated on social media, is said to have been submitted by the Johor religious department to the Johor Palace.

It proposes that the state ban 16 religious preachers who are deemed to have caused confusion through their deviant teachings.

Besides Dr Asri, the document names Umno Youth exco Fathul Bari Mat Jahya and several other preachers, such as Rasul Dahari, Fadhlan Othman and Dr Abu Anas Madani.

The proposal said that Dr Asri should be banned from preaching in the state for, among others, maligning the mufti’s institution and belittling the Shafie school of thought.

When contacted, Dr Asri described the accusations levelled against him as "slander" and challenged those responsible to prove the allegations.

"I think they should also be sued. In fact, everyone named (in the proposal) should take a legal action.

"People can judge my writings and talks. I don't think they can find that I have uttered such remarks," he said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Fathul Bari said that even if the proposal is proven to be authentic, there was still no reason to ban the 16 from preaching in the state.

"This is a huge lie. They cannot simply label us just because there are differing views on Islamic principles," he said when contacted.

"I recently brought an imam of Masjid Nabawi to see Johor Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar. I don't think I have any problem with the palace," he said.

Johor Mufti Datuk Tahrir Shamsuddin refused comment when asked to verify the authenticity of the document.

"I am really sorry I cannot give any comment on this matter," he said.

Kedah opposition reps call for assembly vote on MB's position

Kedah Opposition assemblymen want the state legislative assembly to meet to decide on the Mentri Besar's position.

Hours before they are to meet at the Kedah Regency Council, summoned by the latter, the 15 assemblymen issued a statement that the state's laws should respected and the top office be determined by the state assembly.

"We praise the palace for summoning us to get our views. The Council is upholding democratic principles and the people's rights," the assemblymen said.

On Monday, the Council, after a meeting with representatives from Barisan Nasional, summoned the assemblymen for a meeting at Wisma Darul Aman at 2pm today.

It is learnt that the meeting between the Council and Barisan assemblymen turned out to be inconclusive.

The Barisan assemblymen have been told to gather at a hotel while the opposition representatives meet at the Council on Tuesday.

The opposition comprised eight PAS assemblymen, four from PKR, two DAP and one Amanah.

PKR's four assemblymen said they would vote to retain Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir as mentri besar should there be a vote at the state assembly.

State chief Dr Azman Ismail said the party was opposed to any change in the state leadership as it was not done in the interest of the people.

State Amanah chairman Dr Ismail Salleh said the party's sole representative would abstain from voting.

"We agree that the problem must be solved in the assembly, but Amanah would not cast its vote because we neither support Mukhriz nor others from Umno."

In Penang, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said while the party supported the move to call for a vote, it was premature to speculate on what took place at the Council meeting.

Swiss A-G: Najib not a suspect in US$4bil probe

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is not a suspect in the US$4bil probe into 1Malaysia Development Bhd, said the Office of the Attorney-General in Switzerland.

"In the ongoing criminal proceeding of the OAG, Mr. Najib Razak is not one of the public officials under accusation," Andre Marty, the spokesman for OAG, told the Nikkei Asian Review.

Marty added that the phrase "persons unknown" in Swiss law refers to  criminal proceedings where there is a reasonable suspicion that an offence has been committed, but the accused is not known.

The OAG had opened criminal proceedings last August against two former 1MDB officials as well as "persons unknown."

Last week, Switzerland's chief prosecutor Attorney General Michael Lauber  said he had formally asked Malaysia for help with his probe into possible violations of Swiss law by 1MDB, saying suspected misappropriations amounted to about US$4bil.

Lauber said the request pertained to possible violations of Swiss laws related to bribery of foreign officials, misconduct in public office, money laundering and criminal mismanagement at 1MDB.

Lauber's statement came after A-G Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali absolved Najib of any criminal wrongdoing in the probe in SRC International Sdn Bhd and RM2.6bil political donation.

Apandi later responded to Lauber saying his office would take all possible steps to follow up and collaborate with Switzerland and we look forward to their investigations and materials through the normal channels.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Mukhriz likely to be sacked this evening

Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir may be sacked as Kedah Mentri Besar by Monday evening, according to highly-placed sources.

The Regency Council reportedly met him shortly after midday to ask him to resign.

However, the defiant Mentri Besar refused to sign the resignation letter that had been prepared by state officials.

It is learnt that this is the second time he had refused to step down.  The first instance was on Friday. 

The Regency Council is, at this moment, meeting the Barisan Nasional assemblymen individually to assess where they stand on the issue.

If the Regency Council is satisfied that at least 19 assemblymen are not with Mukhriz, then a termination notice is likely to be issued to remove him from office.

A simple majority of 19 assemblymen is required in the 36-seat state legislative assembly as a declaration that Mukhriz no longer has the support of the state assembly.

In a related development, Mukhriz's supporters have planted dozens of banners around the stadium area criticising those out to unseat him, and accusing them of disrespecting the monarch.

The banners are believed to have been placed to set the mood ahead of a football match scheduled for Monday night.

Kedah sources said they expect Mukhriz to make a political speech at the stadium to rally support for his dilemma.

The Kedah political crisis erupted after 14 state Umno division chiefs and the heads of the party's three wings launched a mutiny against Mukhriz, saying they had lost confidence in his leadership.

Ahmad Bashah: Kedah BN assemblymen stand by call for change of MB

All 19 Kedah Barisan Nasional assemblymen maintained their call for a change of Mentri Besar during a meeting with the Prime Minister in Kuala Lumpur, says Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah.

Ahmad Bashah, who is Kedah Umno deputy chairman, added, however, that the assemblymen would accept whatever decision is made by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

“All the 19 assemblymen who were at the meeting on Sunday afternoon maintained their stand.

“The speaker was also there, making the total 20 people present,” he told reporters after arriving at the Sultan Abdul Halim airport on Monday.

Asked on whether the stand of the14 Kedah Umno division chiefs would be conveyed to the Regency Council as well at the meeting later Monday, Ahmad Bashah said that it would, if requested.

He, however, declined to comment on the statement issued by embattled Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir on Sunday, calling for those plotting to oust him to apologise to Kedah Sultan Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, the reigning Yang di-Pertuan Agong, for marring the Ruler’s birthday celebrations.

“If possible, we wish for the issue to be resolved soon as it’s been going on for long,” Ahmad Bashah said.

It was reported that Najib had met the Barisan reps at his private residence in Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

Mukhriz, who is Ayer Hitam assemblyman, as well as Jitra assemblyman Datuk Aminuddin Omar were not present.

Sarawak polls: Announcement gives Adenan upper hand, says analyst

The decision by Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem to "announce in advance" the dates for the 11th state election has set the whole town talking.

Even tough he is no stranger to making bold decisions, Adenan, still managed to catch many by surprise when, at a function in Santubong late Friday night, he announced candidly that the state election is to be held on April 30 with April 18 set for nominations.

With the announcement, Adenan chose to move away from the norm of his contemporaries, who had preferred to keep the date a top secret until much later.

According to political scientist Assoc Prof Dr Jeniri Amir, the announcement indicated two things – one, that the 71-year-old 'supremo uno' was not only confident of winning the state election, but also of winning with a bigger majority. And secondly, that the state Barisan Nasional is already very well prepared to face the election.

This will be the first state election that Adenan leads as Chief Minister.

"What I can say is that he is confident. By choosing to reveal the proposed date a couple of months early, Adenan also intends to stop all speculation regarding the date," said the dean of the social science faculty of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).

Jeniri told Bernama that the announcement also provides a level playing field to political parties from all sides ample time to get into gear.

"This is unprecedented. I think this should be the way forward for a mature democracy," he said.

In an immediate response to the announcement, the Election Commission said only it has the power to decide on the dates for nomination and polling, after the State Assembly is dissolved.    

"However, it is worth to note the EC will decide based on the proposed date submitted by the Chief Minister," Jeniri said.

He added that the preferred date was also strategically timed with the second 'Senada Sejiwa' programme, a state government programme that aims to boost the people's support for the government.

The programme was launched in early January with the finale scheduled to be held in Mukah on March 20.

"That was the biggest indicator that the state election will be held in April. The programme is also used to gauge the people's support for the ruling government," he said.

'Senada Sejiwa' was held as a prelude to the 10th state election in April in 2011.

In the last election, Barisan Nasional won 55 out of 71 state seats contested. A total of 82 state seats will be contested this time.

Salleh: Rakyat’s interests given priority despite economic challenges

The Federal Government will continue to give priority to the interests and welfare of the people even though the country is faced with challenging economic conditions, says Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak.

The Communications and Multimedia Minister said this was evident in the revised Budget 2016 tabled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, which had taken into account the concerns of the people over current rising costs.

"Under any circumstances and situation, the interest of the people is top priority to the Government. In fact, this was emphasised by the Prime Minister when tabling the recalibrated Budget 2016.

"I believe a clear explanation must be given to the people, including to those in rural areas, so as to prevent them from being confused or misguided or diverted or deflected by those trying to fish in troubled waters," he said.

Salleh was speaking at a dinner in honour of Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob who was visiting the Kota Belud district, in Kampung Taun Gusi, here, on Sunday night.

Salleh said his ministry was ready to cooperate with all the relevant ministries, including the Rural and Regional Development Ministry, to explain to the people at grassroots level, about the revised Budget.

He said he believed that his ministry and the Rural and Regional Development Ministry had the responsibility to provide information to the people due to their extensive networks in rural areas.

Salleh added that he was confident the Rural and Regional Development Ministry could bring about major changes to rural communities through the transformation programmes such as “Membandarkan kawasan luar Bandar”, besides continuing efforts to defend Bumiputra interests.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Najib presents revised 2016 Budget - Lots of good news

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has announced a revised Budget 2016 to optimise the country's developmental and operational expenditures in the face of slower economic growth.

The revised budget will include precautionary and proactive measures in managing national revenue and expenditures, while ensuring that the well-being of the people remained a priority.

Najib said the recalibration is necessary due to a slump in global oil prices and a slower economic growth in the United States and China.

When Budget 2016 was unveiled in Parliament last October, the crude oil price was at US$48 (RM203) per barrel.

However, the current price per barrel stands at US$30 (RM127), a sharp fall since the Budget was presented.

Highlights

- The 2016 global economy expected to be more challenging and economic growth expected to fall from 3.6% to 3.4%.

- Malaysia not alone in facing global economic challenges. Current crude oil price stands at US$31 (RM131) per barrel.

- Latest developments indicate that the global economy is at a very volatile stage and requires a proactive move to revise Budget 2016.

- We are not in a recession, neither are we in a technical recession.

- Eleven recalibrated measures announced.

- 1. EPF contributions by employees to be reduced by 3%. This is expected to increase private sector spending by RM8bil.

- 2. Tax relief of up to RM2,000 to those with income RM8,000 a month or lower. Two million taxpayers to benefit.

- 3. To reduce cost of living, Govt to liberalise APs for agricultural products including coffee beans and meats.

- 4. Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry ordered to increase enforcement and action against unethical traders.

- 5. 30% of contributions to the human resource development fund to be utilised for skills training, including those who are unemployed.

- 6. MyBeras programme to be introduced until Dec 2016. Each hardcore poor family will be given 20kg of rice every month.

- 7. The Government will update the management system of foreign workers, with levies clustered into two categories, not including foreign maids.

- 8. Government will exercise prudent spending on supplies and services and to continue with grant rationalisation.

- 9. Development budget to focus on projects and programmes that place the people first, have high multiplier effect and reduce imports.

- 10. Development financial institutions and Government venture capital funds to increase allocations by RM6bil for benefit of start-ups and SMEs.

- 11. GLCs urged to implement initiatives to reduce the income gap between senior management and workers, to be monitored by the Economic Planning Unit.

Najib said Thursday's recalibrated budget was based on the approach of "shared responsibility" by certain segments of society.

He said lower-income groups will not be affected, and continue to benefit from measures such as the 1Malaysia People's Aid (BR1M).

"The present rate of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will also be retained at 6%. The Government has no plans to increase this," said Najib at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC).

He also said that Malaysia would not resort to imposing capital controls and pegging the Ringgit, such as was done during the 1997-1998 financial crisis.

"The Government remains committed to maintaining the fiscal consolidation measures for 2016, which is to achieve a GDP target of 3.1%.

"Our country's debt will be reduced and will not exceed 55% of the GDP. The Government also has no plans to impose capital controls and peg the Ringgit," he said.

Najib also made mention of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), which had been debated at a special Parliamentary sitting on Tuesday and Wednesday.

He provided assurances that with the signing of the free trade agreement, there would be no compromise on the country's sovereignty.

"The Bumiputera agenda remains intact. In fact, it is no longer a national agenda. With the TPPA, it has reached a global scale," he added.

Here is the full text of his speech:

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh and Salam 1Malaysia

YAB Datuk Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Deputy Prime Minister

YB Dato' Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, Finance Minister II

YBhg. Tan Sri Dr. Ali Hamsa, Chief Secretary to the Government of Malaysia

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I. Introduction

1. Alhamdulillahi Rabbil A'lamin wa biHi nastain. Blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad SAW.

2. I begin by reciting the translation by the ulama with reference to the words of Allah Ta'ala in Surah Al-Insyirah that with each difficulty surely there is ease or happiness.

3. We should place such confidence in ourselves as well as in the administration and management of the Government.

4. As the old Malay saying goes, the coast changes with the tide. Thus, I wish to make a special address today as the 2016 Budget is also subject to challenges in the global economic environment.

5. Today, I wish to highlight and share with you an explanation, comparison and clarification as well as measures undertaken to address various challenges that the nation has and is experiencing for the last two decades.

6. We are grateful to Allah SWT for among those present today are leaders and administrators, civil servants, captains of industry, corporate figures, representatives from foreign missions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and volunteers.

7. All are here today for this special address to understand the Government's action in recalibrating and restructuring several economic measures, particularly with regard to the 2016 Budget.

8. Of importance, the recalibration and restructuring of the Budget are centred on two main pillars. First, to ensure the economy remains on a strong growth trajectory, and second, to protect and safeguard the welfare and well-being of the rakyat.

9. In tandem with the People First concept, the measures that I will announce soon is a comprehensive summary after taking into account ideas and views that I have received.

10. This was complemented by several engagement sessions with various economic stakeholders including Government-linked companies (GLCs), economists as well as industry experts.

11. The Government has also received excellent ideas from various levels of NGOs, representing consumers, esteemed businessmen and directors of commercial banks.

12. The majority of them are here with us this afternoon. Thank you for your input.

Indeed, we are all doing this together for our nation.

II. Comparison of the Economic Scenario Since 1997/1998

13. First, let us reflect on the economic scenario during the Asian financial crisis from 1997 to 1998.

14. In 1997/1998, the country experienced an economic recession with GDP recording a negative growth of 7.4%.

15. We should not forget that among the significant effects of the recession were the sharp retrenchments; increase in inflation; reduction in international reserves to RM59 billion; and the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (KLSE) index plummeting to reach 260-point level.

16. Many companies went bust. Furthermore, some of our children including Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) school leavers and young graduates had their dreams and aspirations to continue their studies abroad crushed as the Government then could not afford to finance them.

17. Given the situation, the leadership of the Government then took drastic measures including implementing capital controls and currency pegging the ringgit at 3.80 to the US dollar.

18. Banking institutions were rationalised and private sector loans were restructured through the establishment of Danaharta and Danamodal. The Government also implemented a stimulus package of RM7 billion to revive the domestic economy.

19. The nation again faced an economic recession in 2008/2009 due to the subprime crisis in the US which impacted the global economy as well as the steep increase in global crude oil prices reaching USD130 per barrel compared with an average of USD70 per barrel in 2007.

20. The country's exports declined by more than 15%. This affected consumer and business sentiments.

21. During that time, I had just been appointed as the Minister of Finance and without hesitation took immediate measures by announcing the first economic stimulus package amounting to RM7 billion in November 2008.

22. A few months later, a second stimulus package of RM60 billion was undertaken in March 2009 to continue to stimulate domestic economic activity. The second stimulus package also involved initiatives and collaboration between the Government and the private sector.

23. In addition to the stimulus packages, upon assuming the nation's leadership and until today, the Government planned and implemented several initiatives under the National Transformation Policy (NTP).

24. The Government launched the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) to elevate Malaysia to a developed and high-income country by 2020.

25. Among the achievements of the transformation include strong GDP growth averaging 5.6%; reduction in Government fiscal deficit from 6.7% to 3.2% as well as manageable inflation rate.

26. We are grateful that hardcore poverty has almost been eradicated. In addition, 1.8 million job opportunities were created and rakyat 1Malaysia initiatives and programmes were introduced such as 1Malaysia People Assistance (Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia or BR1M), 1Malaysia Book Voucher (Baucar Buku 1Malaysia or BB1M), Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M), Klinik 1Malaysia and affordable housing.

27. Life is not always smooth sailing. Looking back at the scenario in 2015, Malaysia faced several daunting challenges that were unexpected and beyond our control.

28. Crude oil prices declined from USD100 in 2014 to USD48 per barrel in 2015. Crude oil prices have since continued to fall resulting in the recalibration of the 2015 Budget.

29. Last year, the country's oil-related revenue fell by almost RM14 billion. Thus, on 20 January 2015, on behalf of the Government, I presented the recalibration of the 2015 Budget by rationalising government expenditure as well as revising the fiscal deficit target from 3% to 3.2% to GDP.

30. I would like to emphasise that the recalibration of the 2015 Budget was supported by initiatives such as the rationalisation of fuel subsidy which was implemented earlier although it was an unpopular decision.

31. All praise is due to Allah, these measures have been successful in mitigating the impact from declining oil prices and global economic uncertainties.

32. Indeed, international rating agencies such as Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch remain confident in the nation's strong economic fundamentals and financial position by maintaining a good credit rating.

33. Based on these factors, I am confident that the economy will record a growth of 5% and the fiscal deficit at 3.2% of GDP as targeted for 2015. The GDP growth for 2015 will be announced next month.

III. Latest Economic Scenario

34. The global economy is expected to be more challenging in 2016. The latest data by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) indicates that the global economy will grow at a slower pace from 3.6% to 3.4%.

35. Meanwhile, world trade is anticipated to moderate from 4.1% to 3.4%. This is on account of several economies such as South Africa, the US, Brazil and China which are also expected to grow at a slower pace.

36. This trend proves that we are not alone in facing the global economic challenges. Other countries too are affected by the current economic uncertainties.

37. World crude oil prices have continued to plummet below USD30 per barrel. As of yesterday, Dated Brent crude oil prices dropped to USD31 per barrel, a reduction of 35% compared to the assumption of USD48 during the tabling of the 2016 Budget.

38. These developments have a significant effect on the nation's revenue. The economy of oil producing countries has also been adversely affected.

39. Furthermore, the US dollar continues to strengthen compared to other currencies. Among the currencies affected are the Brazil real (-23.2%), China renminbi (-5.7%), Canadian dollar (-11.3%), Russian ruble (-29.3%), and Singapore dollar (-5.6%).

40. Meanwhile, the ringgit too has depreciated by 11.3% against the US dollar from 3.77 in June 2015 to 4.25 on 27 January 2016.

41. In fact, the ringgit is undervalued and does not reflect the true economic fundamentals. However, the ringgit is expected to better reflect the strength of the economic fundamentals when global financial markets stabilise and oil prices recover to more reasonable levels.

IV. New Measures

42. These developments have increased uncertainties in the global economy and impacted the domestic economy as well as resulted in the rising cost of living of the rakyat.

43. Recognising this, and as a responsible Head of the Government together with the Deputy Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers, today, we are taking proactive action to announce the implementation of measures under the recalibrated 2016 Budget.

44. These initiatives are very important to ensure sustainable economic growth, and more importantly, to safeguard the wellbeing of the rakyat. I am confident that together we can overcome these difficult challenges again.

We have done it before, God willing, we can do it again.

45. Similar to the situation last year, I wish to reiterate that the nation is neither in economic nor technical recession.

46. In fact, with our efforts and prayers, the domestic economy continues to remain strong and resilient, capable of facing global economic uncertainties.

47. In addition to the measures in the 2016 Budget, I am pleased to announce 11 restructured and recalibrated measures to ensure the economy and financial position remain on the right trajectory.

48. Measure 1: The Government agrees to reduce the employees' contribution to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) by 3% beginning March 2016 to December 2017. However, the contribution by employers will remain. This measure is expected to increase private consumption expenditure by RM8 billion a year.

49. Measure 2: The Government will provide a special tax relief of RM2,000 to individual taxpayers with a monthly income of RM8,000 or below for the year of assessment 2015.

Through this measure, although the Government will forego revenue of RM350 million, it will provide individual tax savings of up to RM475 which will benefit two million taxpayers.

50. Measure 3: To reduce the cost of daily basic necessities for the rakyat, the Government will implement the following:

i. The Government will liberalise the control on import quotas or Approved Permits (APs) on eight agricultural produce for a temporary period to ensure consistent supply.

The produce includes raw coffee beans, buffalo meat, beef and mutton. At the same time, quality and safety requirements on imported goods will continue to be given priority;

ii. Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (FAMA) will establish markets or MyFarm Outlets that sell agricultural produce directly such as fish, poultry, meat, vegetables and fruits at prices between 5% and 20% below market prices. For a start, the first outlet will be opened in Precinct 7, Putrajaya in March and expanded nationwide to 10 other locations in town centres this year;

iii. To ensure that the rakyat enjoy fair prices of goods, I have directed the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism (MDTCC) to identify more fair price shops including foreign and local hypermarkets. Thus, fair price shops will be increased from 640 to 1,000 shops this year;

iv. At the same time, MDTCC will step up enforcement and take legal action on non-ethical businessmen who take the opportunity of profiteering;

v. To safeguard the paddy farmers as well as to increase paddy production, the Government will provide an additional cash of RM50 for every metric tonne of cleaned paddy as an input incentive for paddy production. At the same time, the Government will improve the implementation of paddy grading through a standard grading system; and

vi. The Government is very concerned for the rakyat who are affected by the increase in the cost of living, particularly the hardcore poor. Thus, MyBeras programme will be introduced where every registered hardcore poor household will be supplied with 20 kilogrammes of rice every month until December 2016 to reduce the burden of poor households.

51. Measure 4: With immediate effect, for all new housing projects, the Government mandates that all houses priced up to RM300,000 be limited to first-time house buyers only.

The Government will also organise Integrated House Ownership Expo Roadshows which offer houses under the National Housing Department (JPN), 1Malaysia People Housing Programme (PR1MA), Syarikat Perumahan Negara Berhad (SPNB), Perumahan Penjawat Awam 1Malaysia (PPA1M) and state agencies as well as the private sector. More than 100,000 housing units will be offered under the programme.

In addition, for houses priced at RM35,000 under the People's Housing Programme (Projek Perumahan Rakyat or PPR), I am pleased to announce that the Government through Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN) and Bank Rakyat will offer a financing package at 4% involving a fund totalling RM400 million. This initiative will benefit more than 10,000 house owners.

52. Measure 5: As announced in the 2016 Budget, 30% from the levy contribution to the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) amounting to RM200 million will be provided to enhance the competency and skills of employees through reskilling and upskilling, including retrenched workers.

53. Measure 6: To enhance the efficiency and amount of tax collection, the following measures will be implemented:

i. The Government will double compliance and auditing efforts on tax evaders;

ii. The Government to give special consideration on relaxation for penalty on taxpayers to encourage them to come forward and declare their past years' income. The tax arrears must be settled before 31 December 2016;

iii. For duty-free islands, to reduce leakages which resulted in revenue loss of nearly RM1 billion, the Government will restructure the selling channel of cigarettes and liquors limited to duty-free outlets licensed by the Royal Malaysian Customs Department (RMCD);

iv. The free duty treatment on imported vehicles in duty-free islands will be tightened.

However, the restructuring of sales on cigarettes, liquors and vehicles will not affect the tourists and locals who are residing in these duty-free islands;

v. The Government will optimise the revenue from the telecommunication spectrum through a redistribution and bidding process which will be implemented soon; and

vi. To invigorate economic activity, the Government will develop several strategic areas owned by the Government through a bidding process.

54. Measure 7: Under the initiative of the Deputy Prime Minister, as the Chair of the Foreign Workers Committee, the Government will streamline the management of the foreign workers system whereby the levy will be clustered into two categories only. This does not include the foreign domestic maid category.

In addition, the Government has agreed to implement the Rehiring Programme to provide opportunities for Foreign Workers Without Permits (PATI) in the country to be given valid work permits. The implementation of this programme is to fulfil industry demand as well as to enable the Government to ascertain the number of PATI in the country for the purpose of security monitoring.

55. Measure 8: The Government will be more prudent in spending, particularly on supplies and services; continue efforts to rationalise the provision of grants to Government Trust Funds, federal statutory bodies and GLCs; as well as rationalise and restructure entities, including Companies Limited By Guarantee (CLBG) and statutory bodies.

56. Measure 9: With regard to development expenditure, focus will be given to projects and programmes that are rakyat-centric, as well as with high multiplier effect and low import content.

Physical projects that will be prioritised include construction of affordable houses, hospitals, schools, roads and public transport as well as security. The implementation of non-physical projects and projects that are still under study will be rescheduled. This measure is expected to involve a reduction in cash flow commitments up to RM5 billion and does not affect the economy and the rakyat.

57. Measure 10: Development financial institutions (DFIs) and Government-owned venture capital funds (VCs) will increase their financing funds by RM6 billion to provide financing to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and startup companies.

58. Measure 11: I urge the GLCs to implement the initiative to narrow the income gap between higher management and employees gradually. The private sector is also urged to implement the same initiative. This will be monitored by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU).

59. More focus will be given to the tourism sector as the increase in tourist arrivals will stimulate domestic economic growth, particularly in the current economic scenario. The promotion of domestic tourism will be intensified through organising sales of integrated domestic holiday packages.

60. In addition, the Government will facilitate the entry of foreign tourists by expediting the implementation of eVisa to several countries which have been identified.

61. As an additional measure, I am pleased to announce that tourists from China do not require a visa to visit Malaysia or Visa Free, commencing from 1 March to 31 December 2016, subject to specific conditions for a period of stay not exceeding 15 days.

62. Although the global economic situation and the decline in crude oil prices have an impact on the nation's revenue which is estimated to fall by RM7 to RM9 billion compared to the estimated revenue with crude oil price at USD48 per barrel, the Government will not compromise on doing the right thing for the nation and the rakyat.

63. BR1M and welfare assistance programmes will continue to be implemented. I would also like to emphasise that the Government will maintain the current rate of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

64. The Government will continue to spend prudently by prioritising projects and programmes with high impact centred on the philosophy of the people economy.

65. This will not involve the emoluments of civil servants and pensions of retirees as well as not affect the delivery mechanism of the Government. In fact, the Government will not terminate the services of any civil servants, including those appointed on contract basis.

Furthermore, the Government will continue the implementation of one annual increment for civil servants on 1 July 2016, as promised in the 2016 Budget.

66. These prudent measures are expected to save RM9 billion in operating expenditure and development expenditure.

67. Regardless of what happens, the Government assures it is committed in the education and future of our children. In this regard, the Government agrees to continue four programmes under the sponsorship of the Public Service Department (PSD) for 2016 as follows:

First, the National Scholarship Programme for 20 top SPM students to pursue study at renowned universities globally.

Second, the Special Engineering Programme for 200 students to Japan, Korea, Germany and France.

Third, the Bursary Graduate Programme for 744 students to pursue undergraduate studies in public universities and private institutions of higher learning in the country; and

Fourth, the new intake of 8,000 students will be awarded scholarships to pursue undergraduate studies in the country.

68. Furthermore, the allocation for the National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) financing totalling RM5 billion will continue to be channelled to undergraduates.

69. To intensify investment in human capital, the MyBrain15, Academic Training Scheme for Bumiputera (SLAB) and Academic Training Scheme of Public Higher Education Institutions (SLAI) programmes will be continued.

70. Currently, 25,000 students are pursuing studies under these programmes. The Government has agreed to the increase of 15,000 new students for the MyMaster programme, 5,000 for MyPhD, and 300 for SLAI. These programmes will be given an additional allocation of RM300 million.

71. I wish to emphasise that:

First: After taking into consideration the current economic scenario, the Government has decided to revise the 2016 forecast of GDP growth to 4% – 4.5% and the assumption for average Dated Brent crude oil price at USD30 to 35 per barrel;

Second: The Government is committed to fiscal consolidation measures for 2016, that is, to achieve a fiscal deficit target of 3.1% to GDP;

Third: The national debt level will continue to be reduced and will not exceed the prudent level of 55% to GDP;

Fourth: The Government will neither impose capital control nor peg the ringgit;

Fifth: Maintain an accommodative monetary policy and interest rate at a level that supports domestic economic activity; and

Sixth: Ensure sufficient liquidity in the financial system. Recently, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) announced a reduction in statutory reserve requirement (SRR) from 4% to 3.5%.

72. Clearly, the Government will not waiver from its stance on fiscal and monetary policies to ensure the strength of the economy.

73. The Government is also concerned over the lifestyle of the rakyat who live beyond their means. In this regard, the Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK) under BNM will assist borrowers with difficulties in managing their debt obligations through restructuring their existing loans. The good news is that all these services are provided free.

74. For viable SMEs and companies that face financial problems due to the current environment, the Government provides a negotiation mechanism through the Small Debt Resolution Scheme and the Corporate Debt Restructuring Committee under BNM.

75. In terms of investment, I wish to emphasise that the Government remains committed to achieving the targeted private investment totalling RM215 billion this year.

76. For example, the implementation of major projects such as Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and Light Railway Transit (LRT), Pan-Borneo Highway, Malaysian Vision Valley, Cyber City Centre, RAPID Pengerang and High-Speed Rail will be continued.

77. To enhance strategic linkages between urban and rural areas, the Government will build another 10 Urban Transformation Centres (UTCs) in Labuan, Sungai Petani, Miri, Sibu, Kota Bharu, Kuala Terengganu, Tawau, Keningau, Seremban and Kangar.

78. In addition, four new Rural Transformation Centres (RTCs) are expected to be completed this year in Jawi, Pulau Pinang; Rembau, Negeri Sembilan; Sungai Rambai, Melaka; and Betong, Sarawak.

79. To penetrate international markets, MATRADE and SME Corp will intensify the mid-tier and Go-Export programmes. In addition, to enhance the credit guarantee facility for trade, EXIM Bank will increase its funds for financing by RM500 million.

80. As a trading nation with an open economy, the Government will expand exports to other markets. We have to explore new markets through participation in free trade agreements (FTAs) such as the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) as well as the upcoming Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

81. With regard to the TPPA which was passed by Dewan Rakyat late yesterday, the allegation by some quarters that we have compromised national sovereignty and were apologetic in defending the Bumiputera agenda during the negotiations with TPPA members were unfounded.

82. It is noteworthy that the Government's efforts and firmness during the negotiation process with the members of the TPPA have resulted in the acceptance of the Bumiputera policy as part of the terms of the Agreement at the international level.

83. Thus the Bumiputera Agenda is no longer a national agenda, but has now been elevated and recognised globally.

V. Conclusion

84. An advanced nation is not solely due to good and appropriate policies but also the contribution from all segments of society.

85. We all have a shared responsibility irrespective of the private sector, Government, NGO, youth and women, and regardless of whether one is a chief executive officer, director, support staff, worker or a small sundry shop owner.

86. Overall, the five key salient points are summarised as follows:

First: The recalibrated measures announced are proactive, transparent and realistic in tandem with the current global economic challenges;

Second: The economy remains resilient and continues to expand driven by domestic economic activity;

Third: The wellbeing of the rakyat will continue to be prioritised and Government service delivery will not be compromised;

Fourth: The Government is committed to implementing the fiscal consolidation measures; and

Fifth: The recalibration of the budget is centred on the principle of shared responsibility from all segments of society.

87. In brief, the restructuring and recalibration of the 2016 Budget is similar to last year. It is not a new budget. It is within the range of initiatives and allocation of the 2016 Budget approved by Parliament.

88. It is clear that matters related to the nation's economy and finance is not easy to digest and understood by all levels.

89. In fact, these issues are not solely the responsibility of the nation's administration at the highest level.

90. Borrowing the words of wisdom from the learned ones, in life and livelihood, in a country with a government, everyone must play his part, helping each other through thick and thin. That is our source of strength.

91. Hence, I hope that every segment plays its part in explaining the current economic situation and initiatives of the Government to further strengthen the economy as well as safeguard the wellbeing of the rakyat.

92. This means that all groups from the Government administration to the learned ones need to explain in greater detail the current situation and challenges to all parties from top to bottom, engaging in discussions in mamak stalls over teh tarik to the best of their abilities.

93. With that, we hope our great grandchildren will recognise all our achievements for Malaysia's continuity which is not our right but the right of the future generation.

94. We hold to the saying of the elders: it is better to be silent rather than speak empty words and to give voice to useful matters. Do not ask what the nation has done for you but ask what we have done for the nation.

95. In essence, the challenges confronting us currently are not due to the failure of the Government to plan, but are on account of the global economic crisis which is beyond our control.

96. Indeed, every decision that we make today is the best for the rakyat and will surely be recorded in history. Furthermore, Malaysia is neither a failed state nor a bankrupt nation as alleged.

97. In fact, the reality is the economy is stable with strong growth as well as resilient and competitive.

98. Let us together pray to the Almighty to overcome all problems and enjoy security, peace and harmony.

Thank you.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Shahrir Samad: TPPA my leap of faith

When I first heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), I, like most parties, felt very uncomfortable and anxious at the thought of Malaysia entering into negotiations for an agreement that was led and dominated by the United States of America (USA).

It is for the above reason in 2013, I supported the forming of the TPPA Parliamentary Caucus as was suggested by Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar.

Around 2014, I had the opportunity of highlighting my concern regarding the TPPA to Datuk Seri Mustapha Mohamed, the Minister of International Trade and Industry.

Would the USA be able to recognise and agree to all of our list of demands?                  

What about the carve outs and exceptions that we needed? I was inclined to believe that the TPPA would jeopardize our development policies since they did have a history of changing the negotiation goalposts in the past.

Initially, in the conversations that I had with Michael Froman (American Trade Representative), I was under the impression that he did not comprehend the importance of the Bumiputera agenda to us.

However, when I learnt that Japan had decided to join the TPPA, I perceived this as a positive development as it indicated that the TPPA was not entirely dominated by the USA.

In my capacity as Chairman of the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Council (BNBBC), I had attended various TPPA Parliamentary Caucus briefings. I was periodically appraised of Malaysia's standing throughout the TPPA negotiations.

Instead of blatantly getting emotional and rejecting the TPPA right from the very beginning, I had decided to keep an open mind. However, that had not meant that I supported the trade pact agreement. Nevertheless, after various engagements and briefings with the negotiators, I slowly started to warm up to the TPPA.

The way that the negotiators had carried themselves while describing, explaining and briefing us had indicated that they were all very capable and accomplished individuals. 

Through their clarification and justification of their stance on the individual chapters, I had managed to gauge the firmness and decisiveness of our negotiation team on facing disputable issues such as the Bumiputera Policy, Status of Islam, Capital Control, Halal Certification and Environment.

What a lot of people do not realise is the reason the Malaysia-USA Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 2007 had collapsed was because importance of the Bumiputera policy was flatly rejected by the US as being protectionist and discriminatory.

Undeniably, the TPPA negotiations were demanding. There were numerous instances where our representatives had left the negotiation table when they had failed to reach a consensus. Meanwhile, back home in Malaysia they were being faulted for trying to sell the country. I cannot imagine what that must have felt like!

After the TPPA negotiation text was released in December 2015, I was pleased to see that all twelve TPPA nations had come to the consensus to accept the Bumiputera policy. The TPPA enables our policy makers to empower the Bumiputera through its policies such as 30% allocation of Government Procurement.

The outcome of the TPPA negotiations proved to be in favour of Malaysia as we received a lot of exceptions, carve outs and flexibilities. The threshold in construction services given to Malaysian companies was the highest compared to the other TPPA nations. The 20 year transition period should be more than sufficient for them to embrace the new challenges faced.

The hike in medicinal drug prices is not an issue. The TPPA does not change our domestic policies on patents. Halal requirements are carved out from the trade requirements thus allowing us to continue implementing halal requirements related to importation and exportation of food products.

The much feared Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) tribunal issue was re-evaluated with great concern. The previous ISDS under the other FTAs seemed to be less just and fair to the Government. When there is a dispute, the government has the right to interprete matters related to investment through the TPPA Commission.

The burden of proof now lies with the investor and not the state to prove losses suffered. Investors cannot claim losses based on projected future profits. Instead, they can only claim losses based on initial investments made. Ultimately, we must remember that the TPPA does not restrict the government in enforcing administrative actions to regulate policies concerning public health, national security and matters of the environment.

To sum it up, the much maligned agreement is nothing like the actual TPPA text. For that, we have the MITI negotiation team to thank for.

What about the cost of joining the TPPA? Admittedly, new challenges are bound to exist with the formation of the TPPA. For example, SMEs and Malaysian GLCs will have to learn to adjust their business models and operations as they compete with companies from other TPPA countries.

However, let’s not forget that we are not changing for the sake of change. We change because these changes come with greater incentives. TPPA provides an avenue for market access, especially to four new markets (US, Peru, Mexico and Canada). Currently, 18% of our SMEs are already exporting their products and services to other countries. With the TPPA, the possibilities are endless!

The TPPA will give us a competitive edge as it requires us to discipline ourselves in trade and investment matters. This ensures conducive investment avenue, healthy competition and overall improving society through multi-products and the increased availability of high-paying jobs.

Remember, the TPPA is still going to be implemented with or without Malaysia.          Vietnam will overtake us if we are not part of the TPPA. We would have to say goodbye to high-value investments because countries such as Vietnam and Singapore will look more and more attractive to said investors. What is worse is that in order to be more competitive, our homegrown companies might even decide to relocate and invest in TPPA countries.

Should we decide to join the TPPA in the future, it would not be on our own terms as we were not part of the negotiations and therefore would have to accept the TPPA that had originally been agreed by the founding members. The changes we would then have to make to our laws would be more difficult and painful.

For some strange reason, there are those that are sceptical with the ability of Malaysia to compete with developed nations. They believe that Malaysian companies are not equipped with the expertise required and that Malaysians are inferior to the westerners. This view greatly saddens me.

Do they need to be reminded that a Malaysian consortium currently runs the best property development project in London? Malaysians are also the ones that had planned the Dawn Raid in 1981 which shocked the London capital market when we acquired Guthrie. Currently, three Malaysian scientists have been named as the world's most influential minds. To me, these examples (and there are many more) justify Malaysia’s standing as a globally acclaimed success.

If it was possible for ‘Malaysia Boleh’ back then, why would it be any different now?

Today, our young generation has become more inter connected. By utilising technology and its advancements on social media, they are now venturing into sharing economy model which has revolutionised the way business is conducted. More and more of these startup companies have been created and now some have become very lucrative.

Recently, two young Malaysians successfully reinvented the way we hire lorries via TheLorry.com. They have been so successful; a Singaporean company has decided to invest US$ 1.5 million (RM6.3mil) to expand their business in Southeast Asia.                                       

On another front, FashionValet.com has managed to secure a multi-million dollar investment deal from a San Francisco-based venture capitalist. Currently they operate in four different Asean countries (Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia)

These examples clearly illustrate young Malaysians are capable of keeping up with the times and embracing change. Not only are these young Malaysians able to compete in today’s global arena, they are triumphant in doing so.

Competition is not an alien concept to Malaysia. Ever since our independence, we have strived to be competitive. Nothing has changed as we will only continue to do so now and in the future.

Over the 25th and 26th of January 2016, the Malaysian Parliament will discuss, debate and vote on the merits of the TPPA. Some will say that the ruling party will bulldoze the TPPA through Parliament because we have the numbers.

I want to emphasize that the BNBBC will not blindly support the TPPA simply because we have to toe the party line but rather; we support it because we truly believe that the TPPA will benefit the country and its people.

I believe that Malaysia should be unafraid to take our place in the world. Change is a constant and it is a fact of life.

The TPPA is my leap of faith in Malaysia and in Malaysians.

RM2.08bil from Saudi royals, reports BBC

A Saudi Arabian source has confirmed with the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) that US$681mil (RM2.08bil) funds were channelled from the gulf nation into the personal bank account of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The unnamed source, whom the BBC claimed to be "well-placed", said that the payment was authorised by Saudi Arabia's late King Abdullah and sourced from his personal finances and state funds.

The BBC reported that the money was donated to help Barisan National win the 2013 General Election.

According to the BBC, the source said that the donation was made to thwart the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The BBC also explained that the founders of Opposition party PAS were inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood, but acknowledged that the Brotherhood did not appear to have much support in Malaysia.

The Sunni Islamist Muslim Brotherhood organisation was first established in Egypt but has grown to influence other political parties worldwide.

During a press conference on Tuesday, The Attorney-General's Chambers absolved Najib of any criminal offences.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohd Apandi Ali stated that the "personal donation" of US$681mil (RM2.08bil), originally said to be (US$700mil) RM2.6bil, was given by the Saudi royal family "without any consideration" in several wire transfers sometime between March to April, 2013 before GE13 on May 5.

The AG added that US$620mil (RM1.89bil) was returned to the Saudi royal family in August 2013 because "the sum was not utilised".

The remaining US$61mil (RM186mil) has not been accounted for, said the BBC.

Prince Turki bin Abdullah, a son of the king, is believed to have had "extensive business dealings in Malaysia", the report said.

The source claimed that the donation was to help Barisan win GE13, to employ a strategic communications team with international experience, to aid Sarawak and to fund social programmes through party campaigning.

Saudi Arabia considers the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, the BBC said, and the move was also in light of former Egypt President Mohammad Morsi strengthening the Muslim Brotherhood at the time.

The report explained that Saudi Arabia also financially backed the military-backed government which overthrew Morsi.

The source explained that it was "nothing unusual" for the Saudi royal family to give millions in "personal donations" as it had previously done so in Jordan, Morocco, Egypt and Sudan.

Apandi also cleared Najib of any wrongdoing in the matter of a RM4bil government loan in 2011 to SRC International, a former subsidiary of troubled strategic state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), which had submitted the investigation papers, was then directed to close the files.

However, MACC special operations director Datuk Bahri Mohd Zin (pic) said late Tuesday that it was "most likely" that the Commission would consider appealing the A-G to reconsider its decision in the "straightforward case."

Najib has consistently denied claims that the funds were from 1MDB.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

RM2.08bil given by Saudi royal family as personal donation

The Saudi royal family gave US$681mil (RM2.08bil) to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as a “personal donation”, the Attorney-General Chambers revealed.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali said that based on investigations by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the RM2.08bil sum – initially thought to be RM2.6bil – was transferred into Najib’s personal account between Mar 22, 2013 and April 10, 2013.

“It (the sum) is a personal donation from the Saudi royal family which was given to him without any consideration.

“There is no evidence to show that the donation was a form of gratification given corruptly,” said Apandi, at a press conference here Tuesday.

The AG added that US$620mil from the total sum was returned by Najib to the Saudi royal family in August 2013 “because the sum was not utilised”.

“Based on the evidence from witnesses and supporting documents submitted, I am satisfied that no criminal offence has been committed in relation to the said RM2.08bil donation,” he said, adding that the MACC had also interviewed and recorded a statement from the donor.

Tok Pa becomes the ultimate salesman in Parliament

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed became the ultimate salesman for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) when he tabled the motion at a special Parliament sitting on Tuesday.

Mustapa, fondly known as Tok Pa, physically showed the lawmakers some of the items which would benefit either from the lower, or zero taxes once the trade agreement comes into force.

He took the Dewan Rakyat by surprise as he held up spring coil, cable, long pants and gloves.

"This pair of pants currently has 20% tax imposed on it. Once the TPPA comes into force, there will not be any taxes imposed," said Mustapa.

He said three main industries, namely electrical and electronic, textile and automotive, will benefit from the TPPA.

He said the reason why Malaysia decided to join the TPPA was because the nation did not have any Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with the United States, Canada, Mexico and Peru.

Mustapa added the US is one of the biggest economy powerhouses and the TPPA would give an opportunity to local companies to penetrate its market.

"The import duty for electrical and electronic items from Malaysia to penetrate the US market is 5% on average.

"With the TPPA, the duty for 99.8% of electrical and electronic products will be lifted.

"This will benefit the local companies to increase investment. Through this investment, we expect job opportunities and export to also increase," he added.

For the textile industry, Mustapa said the import tax on products would reduce by 70% in the first year.

He added that local textile and garment companies predict that the TPPA will help increase export by 30%.

The Government also felt that Malaysia, despite not being a main player in the automotive industry, has potential under the TPPA.

"By abolishing the duty and rules of origin which require automotive makers to receive input from TPP countries, these (automotive) components can be exported to countries such as Canada, US, and Mexico, as well as increase job opportunities," he added.

Mustapa also dismissed allegations by some critics on the TPPA including those who said that some states will not be able to declare Friday as a weekly off day.

"There are some who say that the TPPA will force shops to be open from noon to 3pm on Fridays and businesses may be fined if they are closed during these times.

"Clearly these are allegations from individuals who do not understand TPPA at all," said Mustapa.

He explained that the TPPA involves 12 countries including Islamic countries such as Brunei.

Malaysia, said Mustapa, has also been given the green light to continue using the halal certification system that is acknowledged by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim).

Mustapa also took to task a writer from a local university who published a book on the TPPA using the picture of a pig on the front cover.

This, he said, was an irresponsible act by a learned person.

Motion on TPPA tabled in Parliament

The Government has tabled a motion to acknowledge Malaysia's participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

The motion was tabled by International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed  in the Dewan Rakyat Tuesday.

It is aimed at supporting the Government's decision to be a party to the TPPA by signing and ratifying the agreement.

The motion also seeks to acknowledge Malaysia's position as a country which practices open economy involving international trade, foreign investment, technology and tourism.

"In determining the participation of Malaysia in the TPPA, this House calls upon all parties to work together in achieving its goal," the motion noted.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Mukhriz ouster likely

It looks like the end of the road for Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir.

His detractors are confident that if their move to oust the mentri besar goes according to plan, Kedah may get a new head today.

The group that initiated the revolt against Mukhriz, which is headed by Kedah Umno deputy chief Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah, has managed to secure the support from the majority of the Barisan Nasional assemblymen in the state.

“As of late this evening, 19 have each signed a statutory declaration (SD) stating their support for the removal of the mentri besar.

“All of them have endorsed the SD saying that they have lost confidence in Mukhriz,” said a source yesterday.

Of the 19, 17 were from Umno while the other two were from MCA.

Among the last to ink the SD were Datuk Suraya Yaacob (Sungai Tiang), Datin Nor Sabrina Mohd Noor (Bandar Baharu) and Kota Siputeh assemblyman Datuk Hasan Sarif.

It is learnt that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had met several assemblymen in Langkawi yesterday.

Another source said the final hurdle for the group was to get the nod from the Kedah palace.

He said the swearing-in ceremony would take place the moment the palace gave its consent.

He said Ahmad Bashah was the leading candidate to replace Mukhriz but the palace had requested that more names be included in the proposal.

Other names that have cropped up as possible replacement for Mukhriz included Tanjung Dawai assemblyman Datuk Tajul Urus Mat Zain and Bukit Kayu Hitam assemblyman Datuk Zaini Japar.

It is learnt that the swearing-in ceremony is being rushed to resolve the mentri besar crisis immediately.

One of the Umno division heads who was present at Wednesday’s press conference urging Najib to replace Mukhriz said the group met late last night to discuss their next move.

The Member of Parliament, who declined to be quoted, said the meeting was held late as Ahmad Bashah was busy hosting his daughter’s engagement party in Alor Setar.

Hundreds of people, including many Barisan Nasional politicians, were present at the function.

There are 36 state seats in Kedah and Barisan holds 21 of them.

The only two Barisan assemblymen who did not sign the SD were Mukhriz (Jerlun) and Jitra assemblyman Datuk Aminuddin Omar.

DAP outshone by Adenan

The Sarawak DAP which often portrays itself as fierce is becoming increasingly frightened by the growing influence of Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem, said veteran Barisan Nasional leader Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing.

Tiong, who is Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) president, said that DAP state leaders were worried that Adenan was taking over the spotlight from them.

“Adenan has managed to secure 13 important points of mutual agreement with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for greater autonomy for Sarawak.

“This latest success by Adenan is making the Sarawak DAP leaders worried. That is why its chairman Chong Chien Jen has been launching all sorts of attacks to belittle Adenan,” he said.

He also claimed that Sarawak DAP leaders were no longer getting the public attention they craved for.

“They are being outshone by Adenan. So they are getting desperate and that is why they are resorting to claiming credit to what the CM is doing,” he said.

All these tactics, he said, reflected the insecurity within Sarawak DAP due to the chief minister’s growing influence.

Tiong, who is Bintulu MP and the Prime Minister’s special envoy to South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, said that DAP leaders would be stepping up their attacks against Adenan at every given opportunity as the state election draws near.

He urged Sarawakians to give a bigger mandate to Adenan so that the Sarawak state government would have added strength to fight for greater recognition of its rights within Malaysia.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Kedah Umno leaders to meet Najib today

Kedah Umno leaders who called for Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir's ouster as Kedah Mentri Besar are expected to meet Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Friday.

The state party leaders will meet Najib, who is also Umno president, at 4pm at the party headquarters at Menara Dato Onn in Kuala Lumpur, to discuss their loss of confidence in Mukhriz’s leadership.

Baling MP Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim confirmed this to The Star Online when contacted.

"Yes, I'll definitely attend the meeting," he said.

Kedah Umno deputy chairman Datuk Ahmad Bashah on Wednesday claimed that 14 out of 15 Umno divisions in the state had lost their trust and confidence in Mukhriz as mentri besar and Kedah Umno chief.

The other Umno division that did not take part was Jerlun, a division which Mukhriz leads.

Bashah had urged Najib to replace Mukhriz for failing to unite the party and machinery at all levels in the state and failing to bring development.

Mukhriz, in response, said his work is best judged by the people whom he has served, and that his position was determined with the consent of the Kedah Sultan Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah.

He had also said that he was not concerned about the 14 division chiefs who no longer supported him as he still had the majority support from the people of Kedah, and that he was only willing to step aside if there was a better and a more capable leader.