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.

live streaming click here.

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.

Dr Wee: Do not make assumptions on scholarships

Do not assume that the Public Service Department (PSD) has stopped disbursing funds to scholarship holders, said Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.

“When news of PSD stopping scholarships was spread, it caused a panic,” he said after chairing the Malaysia Chinese Education Consultative Council at Wisma MCA yesterday.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department reiterated that right now, only those who received the national bursary in 2014 were affected.

Dr Wee added the PSD had yet to make announcements on the matter.

“Don’t pull other schemes into the picture,” he warned. “First, you have no proof. Next, I have not received any such complaint. I can only attend to those I have received.”

It was earlier reported that Dr Wee brought the matter to Cabinet on Wednesday after bursary recipients who are set to start university soon complained that they had yet to receive financial affidavits from PSD.

Responding to calls by the Opposition to cut the Prime Minister’s Department budget to foot the affected scholars’ university fees, Dr Wee replied saying those who made such demands “were not wearing their brains”.

“Cutting PMO’s spending is equivalent to cutting PSD’s budget, because PSD falls under the PMO,” he said.

The education council was formed to promote the sharing of resources and to address issues in Chinese education.

It was formally formed yesterday by 10 organisations, including two Sarawak parties – SUPP and SPBT. It will be chaired by Dr Wee, who is also the MCA deputy president.

“To have other political parties (in the council) is unprecedented. We hope to coordinate the work of all NGOs and streamline the industry, making sure there is no overlapping of responsibilities and to maximise our resources,” he said.

Dr Wee welcomed Gerakan as well as Sara­wak’s Liberal Democratic Party in the council. Among the issues to be discussed in its meeting were the lack of teachers in schools and the setting up of an online portal for schools to apply for funds from the Education Ministry.

Meanwhile, Deputy Education Minister Chong Sin Woon said the Government should continue to give scholarships to Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia top scorers who were scheduled to study abroad this year.

If the Government were to stop giving the scholarships, it should be done after this year, he said, after launching the WeChat’s WeFans Day yesterday.

At another function, Dr Wee said that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) would not be severely affected by the “recalibration” of the national budget.

He added that the Government was aware that SMEs are a catalyst of economic growth and “must be encouraged to expand”.

He was speaking at the SAME Business Proposal Seminar 2016 in Putrajaya yesterday.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

PM wants GLCs to invest in strategic sectors

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has urged government-linked companies (GLCs) to take more prudent steps to invest in Malaysia’s strategic sectors.

The Prime Minister said on his blog on Thursday that he had instructed the GLCs to step up their invesments in these sectors to generate economic growth.

He said he was confident Malaysia could meet the economic challenges and the government would ensure the country's economic growth remained solid and people-centric.

Najib, who is also the Finance Minister, said the fall in crude oil prices, which are now below US$30 a barrel, and the decline in commodity prices, reflected the challenges ahead for the global economy.

These factors, he said, had forced many countries to revise their growth forecasts.

He said Malaysia was not excluded from these economic challenges which had impacted the country’s revenue, saying "I will announce the revised Budget 2016 on Jan 28”.

Earlier on Thursday, he and the Finance Ministry held discussions with representatives of consumer associations and GLCs.

He added that he and the ministry would consider the proposals put forward at the meeting.

All eyes on Mukhriz as he goes about his day

Eyes will be trained on Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir Thursday as he faces pressure from his fellow Kedah Umno leaders calling for his ouster.

The Kedah Mentri Besar was conspicuously missing at a Northern Corridor Economic Region (Koridor Utara) meeting and document exchange ceremony at the Prime Minister's Office.

All the other heads of the northern states, including Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, were present at the meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

He was represented by Kedah executive chairman of industry and investment Datuk Ku Abd Rahman Ku Ismail.

His schedule for the rest of Thursday also appears to have been disrupted.

His made an appearance in the morning in conjunction with an award ceremony on the occasion of the Kedah Sultan's birthday at Istana Bukit at 9.25am, accompanied by his wife Datin Nurzietah Zakaria.

However, his subsequent meetings on the Japan External Trade Organisation (Jetro) studies and his programme with Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai were cancelled.

Although no reasons were given for the cancellation, it is believed that Mukhriz would be making time for his supporters from Jerlun division, which he leads.

He is said to be making an appearance at 3pm at Wisma Umno Jerlun.

Messages have also been spread social media platforms, calling for Mukhriz supporters to gather at Dataran Pekan Rabu in Pekan Kuah, Langkawi at 6pm.

However, it is not known if Mukhriz will show up.

On Wednesday, 14 Umno division leaders, except for Jerlun which Mukhriz heads, have cited lost of confidence in Mukhriz as the state party chief and Mentri Besar.

The reasons, among others, include that Mukhriz had failed to unite the state leadership and party machinery at all levels and there is no strategic plan for the party ahead of the next general election.

The rebellion came just about a month after Mukhriz hit out at the national party leadership by defending Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, who were removed from the cabinet for questioning the handling of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MBD) by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Mukhriz, in response to the latest attack, 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.

"My position as Menteri Besar is based on the mandate and trust given by the rakyat and also on the consent of his highness, the Sultan of Kedah, on the proposal of the Prime Minister," he reportedly said.

Kedah MB faces uphill battle as Umno leaders make joint call for his ouster

Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir is facing the battle of his life as all but one of the state’s 15 Umno division leaders have turned against him.

With grim and resolute faces, the 14 division leaders gathered yesterday to deliver a joint statement saying that they had lost confidence in Mukhriz as the state party chief and Mentri Besar.

Deputy state chief Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah, who is likely to take over if Mukhriz is ousted, read out the one-page statement. The state Wanita and youth leadership were also in the room.

Only the Jerlun division, where Mukhriz is chief, was not represented at the Grand Alora Hotel where over 150 Umno leaders and their supporters gathered at 3pm yesterday for a closed-door meeting.

Urging Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to change the state leadership, Ahmad Bashah listed four reasons.

“He (Mukhriz) failed to unite the state leadership and party machinery at all levels; there is no strategic plan for the party ahead of the next general election; he has failed to take the lead and activate the party leadership after taking over; and as Mentri Besar, he has not managed the state well,” he said.

Among the bigwigs present were Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom (Jerai MP), Najib’s political secretary Datuk Paduka Ghazali Ibrahim (Terap MP), Kubang Pasu MP Datuk Mohd Johari Bahrom and Baling MP Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim.

The Mentri Besar’s political secretary Datuk Azimi Daim was there but only to observe the situation.

Ahmad Bashah, who is Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumer­ism deputy minister, and all the others would not answer questions from the press. Mukhriz, when met at another function in the afternoon, was equally tight-lipped.

However, he issued a statement last night, saying that the public should be the one to judge his accomplishments.

“My post as Mentri Besar is based on the mandate and trust given by the rakyat and also on the consent of His Highness on the proposal of the Prime Minister,” he said.

Mukhriz added that he held the mandate to serve the people as best he could.

At about 9pm, a large crowd turned up at the Bangunan Tunku building, which houses the Umno headquarters in Kedah, to show their support for him.

Mukhriz himself arrived at the rally at around 9.30pm.

The rebellion yesterday came just about a month after Mukhriz hit out at the national party leadership.

At a dinner on Dec 11, Mukhriz said that denying the party deputy president and vice-president the right to speak at the Umno general assembly was against the party’s inclusive policy.

It was seen as the first time Mukhriz had publicly broken his silence and defended deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and vice-president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.

His father, former prime minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad, has been on the warpath against Najib.

Signs of dissatisfaction became evident last April when Bukit Lada assemblyman Datuk Ahmad Lebai Sudin openly challenged Mukhriz to resign as MB if he could not declare his loyalty to Najib.

Two days later, the Kedah Wanita Umno, Youth and Puteri wings called a press conference to declare their support for Mukhriz as Mentri Besar and Najib as Prime Minister.

A few Barisan Nasional state leaders expressed surprise over the open revolt.

“I did not expect this. But since all the division leaders have made a request to Najib, we will wait for him to make a decision.

“We see this as an Umno matter,” said deputy state MCA chairman Datuk Dr Leong Yong Kong, who is also Gurun assemblyman.

Gerakan state chairman Datuk Dr Cheah Soon Hai hoped the row would not affect development in the state.

“We hope this internal problem will be settled soon,” he said.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Kedah Umno wants Mukhriz out

Kedah Umno leaders say they have lost confidence in Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir .
 
State Umno chairman Datuk Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah said all 15 party division leaders, as well as wing heads, were appealing to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to make an immediate change to the state leadership.

Mukhriz has been Kedah Mentri Besar since 2013.

MAHB beefs up security at airports

Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd has announced it has stepped up security at airports in the country in the wake of the recent militant attacks in several cities abroad.

MAHB managing director Datuk Badlisham Ghazali said the company had adopted both 'visible' and 'invisible' measures.

"We have close rapport with the police," he told Bernama Wednesday.

Badlisham said MAHB had appointed a general manager for aviation security who started work with the company four months ago.

He named the individual as SAC Rosli Mohd Isa who had been seconded from the police.

"Security at airports is a priority for MAHB. Security personnel will be more visible for passengers, especially at the international gateways.

"It is needless for passengers to be unduly concerned about this. We have established collaboration among the airports, police and intelligence authorities.

"Insyallah (God willing), we will handle it (security)," said Badlisham when asked to comment on the additional security measures implemented following the recent militant attacks in several cities in other countries.

The latest and closest incident to Malaysia was an attack on a mall in the heart of Jakarta on Jan 14.

So easy to gear up as a cop

It doesn’t cost too much to pass off as a police outrider. Nor is it too difficult to dress up and pose as a cop.

If you have a white Honda CBX 750 or a Honda VFR 800 or Honda ST 1300 – what the men in blue use – then you’re just about RM2,000 away from looking like one.

The sum can cover everything from police outrider jackets, helmets, riding boots, sirens and blue beacon to strobe lights for the motorcycle.

Other accessories such as vests and batons are surprisingly easy to source from uniform and tailor shops.

Two bogus traffic policemen presumably outfitted themselves in this way when they posed as outriders escorting a “VIP convoy” of vehicles two weeks ago.

The duo were blaring sirens and flashing their strobe lights to cut their way through the rush hour traffic in Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, when real policemen stopped and arrested them.

Several shops visited by The Star here and in Kuala Lumpur revealed that walk-in customers did not even need to produce police ID to buy apparel and paraphernalia thought to be exclusive to the police force.



The checks also revealed that there were dealers happy to take orders for strobe lights.

The ease of buying police uniforms and equipment has raised concerns over the possibilities for abuse.

If in doubt over a policeman, Kuala Lumpur police chief Comm Datuk Tajuddin Md Isa advises the public to ask for his authority card.

“Everyone has the right to ask a policeman to show his authority card. Call us immediately if you don’t get it,” he said.

He said if a policeman refuses to produce his authority card, the public should note his badge number, name or vehicle licence plate number and contact a police station.

Bukit Aman is also calling for new legislation to ban the sale of strobe lights to civilians.

Federal traffic police chief Senior Asst Comm Mahamad Akhir Darus said he had held a discussion with traffic chiefs of all states who all felt this was necessary.

“Currently there is no law to bar civilians from buying strobe lights although there are rules against the use of these devices.” 







He said that the agencies allowed to use strobe lights on their vehicles were police, Immigration Department, Customs Department, Civil Defence Department, Fire and Rescue Department, Prisons Department and ambulances.

“We hope new laws will be in place to only allow shops to sell these devices to personnel who have authorisation, such as a police authority card,” he said.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Najib chairs National Security Council meeting

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak chaired the National Security Council meeting on Tuesday at Perdana Putra here.

The two-hour meeting was also attended by Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) chief General Tan Sri Zulkifeli Md Zin, former IGP Tun Hanif Omar and former MAF chief General (Rtd) Tan Sri Mohamed Hashim Mohd Ali, among others.

On Monday, Najib said in a statement that the meeting was being held to discuss security measures that had been taken as well as latest developments, including the terror attack in Jakarta, Indonesia last week.

He had also urged Malaysians not to speculate or spread false information, which could cause public fear on the security level in the country.

He said the country's security agencies had been instructed to step up efforts to counter possible terrorist threats in following the terror attacks that occurred in some of the world's big cities.

Monday, January 18, 2016

IGP: Police to use full force of law to counter terrorism

The police will use all laws available in the country to counter terrorism, says Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar.

The Inspector General of Police these include the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma), Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca) and Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (Pota) as well as the yet to be gazetted National Security Council (NSC) Bill 2015.

"Yes, of course, we use all laws available in the country to foil these activities.

"We have enough laws at the moment – we have Sosma, Poca and Pota.

"The NSC has not been gazetted nor used yet, but it will help, I believe," he said at a press conference in Bukit Aman on Monday.

Khalid said that Bukit Aman would continue being on the highest-level security alert following several terrorist-related incidents in the last few months, with the latest attack occurring in Jakarta.

"We will be on highest security alert. This gives the public confidence that the situation is under control.

"The public can play a role by taking necessary measures and reporting suspicious and terror-linked activities to us," he advised.

Commenting on Indonesia's decision to shut down at least 11 radical websites and several social media accounts on Saturday, Khalid said police would work closely with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to action as deemed necessary.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Najib: No GST rate increase on the cards

An increase in the Goods and Services Tax rate is not "on board" as the Government looks for measures to sustain the economy following the drop in oil prices, says Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The Prime Minister said this was not being considered as the Government felt that the people would not be able to absorb further increases and did want to burden the people further.

‎"We are not envisaging an increase in GST. I don't think the people have the capacity to absorb any increase in GST.

"It is not on the table," he told a media conference on Friday.

‎Najib, who is also Finance Minister was asked if the Government would consider increasing the GST rate to sustain revenue should oil prices drop further.

He had earlier met with captains of industry, economists and analysts to seek their views and feedback on the plan to recalibrate the 2016 Budget.

Najib will present adjustments to the Budget on Jan 28.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

IGP: We are on highest security alert

Bukit Aman is in a state of highest security alert following several terrorist related incidents in the last few months, with the latest occurring in Jakarta, said Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar.

The IGP said police have been stepping up preventive measures to pre-empt such atrocities from happening in Malaysia.

“We also increased security measures at public places, including shopping malls and tourist spots.

“Extra precautionary actions will also be implemented in border areas to prevent possible infiltration by terrorist elements,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

Those suspected of being involved in terrorist activities will be closely monitored, added the country’s top cop.

“Police personnel nationwide are on constant vigilance.

“We are closely monitoring the latest developments to ensure the safety and security of the people,” he said.

Proton likely to increase car prices after Chinese New Year

National carmaker Proton Holdings Bhd says it may have to increase its car prices after Chinese New Year (CNY) in February with the rising costs of imported parts due to the depreciating ringgit.

"The ringgit level now is lower compared with a year ago, which has affected prices for imported parts," chief executive officer Datuk Harith Abdullah said after a ceremony marking the appointment of new dealers.

At 9am Thursday, the local unit was traded at 4.3930/4000 against the greenback, a far cry from the 3.57 level it was trading the same time last year.

Harith said Proton was trying its best to hold back the increase until CNY to enable its customers to enjoy a brand new car at current prices.

According to Proton, 20-30% of the parts in its vehicles are imported.

Honda Malaysia has increased its car prices by 2-3% this year, while UMW Toyota Motor says it too will hike the prices of its products by 4-16% from this month.

Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia has also hinted at a similar move.

Najib pays emotional tribute to late father

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak shed tears as he expressed how proud he was to be the son of one of Malaysia’s most celebrated leaders, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.
 
Najib was about to end his speech at a Special Commemorative Seminar on Tun Razak here and was talking about his father’s legacy as the country’s Father of Development, when he became emotional.
Struggling to hold back his tears and in a voice choking with emotion, Najib said:

“He gave his life for this country. Today, 40 years after his passing, I stand before you and say that I am proud to be his son, and that everyday I work to live up to that lineage.

“He is an example for me, and an inspiration for all Malaysians.”

After he regained his composure, Najib ended his speech by saying that Tun Razak was an example not just for him personally, but for all Malaysians, drawing applause from the audience.

Tun Razak, who succeeded Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra as Prime Minister, died in office at the age of 54 on Jan 14, 1976.

During his tenure as the country’s leader, Tun Razak left behind many lasting policies and set up numerous institutions that lay the foundations for modern day Malaysia.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Najib inherits 'workaholic pace’ from his father

Since becoming Prime Minister in 2009, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's work pace can only be described as punishing because there's so much on his plate as he goes about tackling the nation's woes especially during this period of weakening world economy.

Observers can't help but liken his "workaholic" disposition to that of his father, second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein who died exactly 40 years ago at age 53.

Just on Saturday, Najib underwent a minor surgery for a benign growth on his right hand at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital.

The hospital in a statement said Najib went through the operation as an outpatient and had gone home.

While ordinary Malaysian workers might very well have taken a medical leave or popularly known as MC, Najib did not.

Malaysians and other well-wishers who were anxious to know of his health got this tweet from him: "I'm recovering well, thank you for the kind thoughts".

His tweet was also directed at his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong for wishing him a speedy recovery.

Singaporeans at large showed concern and they, too, wished him a speedy recovery on Facebook, while describing him as the "friendliest person in Malaysia to Singapore".

Lee broke the news to his 934,996 Facebook likers of Najib's operation by saying he was glad that it went well, adding that : "Look forward to seeing him soon".

Both prime ministers enjoy a relationship unique among current world leaders and the outcome of this has been that bilateral as well as people-to-people ties between the two neighbouring nations are on their strongest footing ever.

It's unique because both their fathers, Tun Abdul Razak and Lee Kuan Yew were also contemporary prime ministers in the past, something no other current leaders of two countries had gone through.

Singaporeans, in wishing Najib a speedy recovery, also advised him not to worry too much and to concentrate on getting Malaysia onto the right footing while expressing their hopes for relations between the two countries to be strengthened and going forward.

A glowing tribute to Najib came from another Singaporean, Joseph Tan, who wrote: "In my assessment, he is by far the best PM for Malaysia to build on a win-win relationship with her closest neighbour, Singapore.

"May he will be able to manage and overcome the intense challenges of his office in the years ahead".

These expressions from our neighbours actually are genuine for they have seen how former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's unfriendly posture towards Singapore caused relations to be on a patchy path while the Malaysian leader was not one to give Singapore the credit that it deserved which most other world leaders acknowledged.

Najib's nose for hard work again showed when on Monday itself, he turned up to address the monthly outdoor morning gathering of ministers, deputy ministers and senior officials of the PM's Department under a scorching sun.

The message was clear - he wants ministers and civil servants to work harder and be more accountable, as the nation faces some of the most challenging times both economically and well as the security threat posed by the self-styled Daesh militant group.

Najib is also the prime minister who has visited Sabah and Sarawak the most, not only to the state capitals but to the remote longhouses as well.

Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem described Najib as the most caring prime minister to his state, and by the same token to Sabah.

To get a glimpse of the workaholic pace set by Tun Razak that Najib inherits as the nation observes the 40th anniversary of his passing, Bernama spoke to former senior civil servant Tan Sri Arshad Ayub.

Arshad, now 87, who worked for 10 years under Tun Razak both as the pioneer Director of Institut Teknologi Mara (ITM and now renamed Universiti Teknologi Mara or UiTM), and later as Deputy Governor of Bank Negara, began the interview by saying: "To me and fellow senior civil servants then, Tun Razak worked virtually 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year".

Relevant with Malaysia's fledgling years, Tun Razak's priority then was rural development and poverty eradication, punctuated by his brainchild, the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda), which has since become the most successful such agency in the Third World and highly credited for breaking the backbone of rural poverty.

Felda has since become the world's biggest plantation owner with oil palm cultivation and palm oil production as the mainstay providing steady income to tens of thousands of rural folks who would otherwise have to fend for themselves in meagre subsistence.

Against this backdrop, Felda is something closest to Najib's heart and the welfare of Felda settlers in newly created towns and growth centres across the country has always been given his personal attention and priority.

Lots of incentives and goodies have come Felda's way since he took over as PM and many more are in the pipeline in the coming years once the current low price of palm oil recovers.

Arshad, who among a string of degrees also graduated from the then Agriculture College in Serdang said: "Tell me which pond or lake in the country that Tun Razak did not release fish fry into?

"Which oil palm tree that he had not seen, which road that he had never visited or which university that he had not built (during his time)?" he said.

Another of Tun Razak's forte was to urbanise the rural areas and Arshad mentioned townships carved out of jungles such as Bandar Penawar in Terengganu, Tenggara in Johor, Jengka in Pahang and Bandar Ketengah in Kelantan.

And Tun Razak was a firm believer in giving the Bumiputeras a firm base in education as one sure way to overcome poverty and getting higher income and for this, created ITM which is the only higher learning institution having campuses throughout the country.

"For 10 years that I headed ITM and he was PM, not once did he pass negative remarks about ITM or the way I ran it," said Arshad, who is credited as the architect of the success story of this institution now known as UiTM.

Arshad said Tun Razak placed a high premium on professional education, which saw the focus on accountancy, insurance, marketing among others which other universities did not offer and this enabled the graduates to be highly employable.

But it's his knack for choosing the right people to execute the tasks he had for them that impressed Arshad the most.

"He picked the right leader to run the various agencies because in this way they would work and go all out to make a success of his programmes, not for Tun Razak but for nation and the rakyat," said Arshad.

Among the names he mentioned were Raja Tan Sri Alias Muhammad Alias Raja Muhammad Ali, who for 35 years headed Felda and towering personalities like Raja Tun Mohar Badiozaman, Tan Sri Ishak Tadin, Tan Sri Taib Andak and Tan Sri Aziz Yassin.

Non-Malays like Tan Sri Thong Yaw Hong, Tan Sri Chong Hon Nyan, Tan Sri Michael Chen and Tan Sri Rama Iyer also featured prominently in Tun Razak's team.

"Civil servants entrusted by him were imbued with the absolute sense of responsibility to see through his plans. Our motto then was let's work for him and let's make his programmes a success. Perhaps we were prepared to die for it".

Arshad hoped such spirit would be revived under Najib his son.

"I have very fond memories of Tun Razak. As the Malay proverb says, 'A tiger dies leaving his stripes, a man dies leaving his name'. This is absolutely true of Tun Razak.

"He made such a great impact on all us and the nation for he which he worked till his last breath".

Tun Razak left strong foundation for nation's future

Forty years ago, on Jan 14, 1976, Malaysia lost a statesman who played a key role in shaping the country's economic development and national unity.

He was Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, Malaysia's second prime minister who served from 1970 to 1976.

Known as 'Bapa Pembangunan' (Father of Development), Razak was the one who introduced the New Economic Policy, which charted the country's economic direction and had a profound impact on the people, even until today.

Looking back at history, Razak's contributions can be seen even before Malaya's independence was declared when he was among the key individuals, along with Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, who fought for the country's independence from the British.

In 1955, Razak was appointed as Education Minister under the country's first cabinet, which was helmed by Tunku Abdul Rahman, who then became the first Malaysian prime minister.

As the first Education Minister, Razak was instrumental in forming the basic fundamental of the country's education system, that was seen to be essential, to replace the colonial education system.

Through his persistent efforts, the Razak Report was established in 1956. It was aimed at building a united country through education system, using Bahasa Melayu as the national language and the language of instruction.

The Razak Report was later enshrined as the Education Ordinance 1957.

During the May 13, 1969, racial riots, Razak, then the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, was one of the important individuals who managed to curb the incident from getting worse.

After the government declared a state of emergency following the incident, a caretaker government, the National Operations Council (NOC), was formed and chaired by Razak.

The NOC managed to restore peace, thus forming the National Principles, a philosophy and national ideology established to foster unity among the people.

Taking over as prime minister in 1970, Razak did not take a long time to introduce the New Economic Policy, which had a two-pronged strategy, namely to eradicate poverty and restructure society in order to create harmony and unity in the country.

However, Razak was unable to draw up more plans for the country's development when he died of leukemia on Jan 14, 1976, at the age of 53.

Although Razak served as prime minister in a relatively short period, his contributions and sacrifice to the country could not be measured or replaced, and will be remembered forever.

The Father of Development title was given to him for his contributions in laying the basis for the national development system, especially for rural economy, which has enabled Malaysia to be where it is today.

He has left a strong foundation to ensure the future of this country through various measures and policies as well as emphasising the Bumiputras' involvement in the economic sector.

Agencies such as the Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Felcra), the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda), Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara), the National Corporation, Bumiputra Bank, Tabung Haji, Petronas and the Agricultural Bank have been established as a result of his efforts, along with former leaders who had devoted their time for the sake of the country.

Described as a wise leader who has much foresight, he had left us forever, leaving behind a successor who continues his struggle to defend the religion, race and nation's sovereignty.

Now his legacy has been inherited by his son, the sixth and current Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.