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Saturday, July 30, 2011

When BN MPs turn to Muhyiddin for extra funding, it bodes ill for Najib

When BN MPs turn to Muhyiddin for extra funding, it bodes ill for Najib

When it came out in the press that 100 Barisan Nasional MPs had gone to see Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin for funding for their constituencies, there were many who wondered why didn't they approach Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is also BN chairman. Najib is also the Finance minister and the all-powerful UMNO president. So why not him, why Muhyiddin?

Some of Najib's supporters say if the request was made to him, it might be 'controversial' especially if he dishes out money to the Barisan Nasional MPs, he might be accused of using national money to fund BN campaigns. But surely, everyone knows this has been happening all the while, so why the sudden coyness?

Then there were those who claimed the Prime Minister was too busy finding ways to shore up the country's battered economy while keeping his political minders in UMNO happy. The nation’s coffers are drying up fast and income generation is slow and lagging behind other countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia. And as the US wrangles with its own debt problems, analyst expect the ripples from this fiasco to hit world economies hard. So Najib has no time for BN MPs. Does that make sense?

Of course there were also the Muhyiddin supporters who see this as a thumbs-up for their man, a signal of his growing popularity and clout as Najib's star sinks.

So of the 3 scenarios, which is the most likely, reasonable and accurate? As always, the truth is somewhere in between.

It is hard to dispute that Muhyiddin is on the rise. His future is rosy and even the clothes he wears these days are tight-fitting to make him look younger and modish, unlike the huge baggy shirts he used to favour.

As for Najib, he is weighed down by wife Rosmah Mansor, whose shopping sprees are legendary. And to be fair, Najib has more than his own fair share of scandals, including the controversial Scopene and Altanuya cases. To an extent, Najib's incompetence as a Finance minister has been masked by these scandals, but it is obvious given the macro signals of plunging FDI and skyrocketing prices that he has failed to arrest let alone reverse Malaysia's seriously downtrending economy.

Keep some money for us

Indeed, Malaysia is heading for hard economic times and the government is ill-prepared to face it.

The BN lawmakers argue that if Putrajaya could set aside funds for the big projects like the MRT project, why not a similar amount be given to generate economic benefits in more constituencies. They are arguing for more even distribution of funding by Barisan Nasional, rather than concentrating the hub of the funding only in Kuala Lumpur, which many see as a hotbed of the opposition while the bulk of support for BN to form government comes from rural votes.

While the BN representatives said they “understood” the purpose of the MRT project, some of them felt that development projects within “rural” constituencies should be given top priority. This is especially true for constituencies in the interior of Sarawak and Sabah, where funding is inadequate and seems lower on the priority list for Putrajaya.

Najib has failed to sustain the momentum the Malaysian economy achieved during the Mahathir era, when Malaysia saw massive expansion. Food and fuel prices have risen steadily since Najib took office in 2009 and the complains from BN MPs reflect concerns that the economy is set to be a major issue in elections. And when Najib does attempts to mimic the kind of expansion plans Mahathir set in place during his tenure, some form of controversy follows slightly behind him.

There is controversy over the estimated cost of the MRT project, which some reports have pegged to be as high as RM50 billion, although the authorities have said the cost cannot be finalised until the MRT alignment is confirmed. Which only means that, costs may escalate even more as the project gets under-way.


Yet, as the cost of the MRT project escalate, how does the MRT project help the poor fisherman living in Tawau, Sabah or the Penan villager; roaming the Baram basin in Sarawak?

This is the crux of the issue the lawmakers are putting forward to their leaders in Putrajaya. As Finance Minister, Najib Razak should channel economic initiatives across the board, initiatives that benefit the nation as a whole and not a select few.

Yet, the best advice Najib could give to Malaysians in these trying economic times, is for us to tighten our belts. And while the rest of the nation tightens its belt; Najib continues to pass out goodies to his friends.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Railwaymen Union of Malaya (RUM) warned him of protest votes against the Barisan Nasional in the next polls. The letter penned by union secretary-general Jaafar Alias in his capacity as the Tampin Umno information chief also panned the Najib admnistration’s tagline.

“They (KTMB staff) said the slogan of ‘people first, performance now’ does not seem to be relevant… where the views of union members and KTMB employees have been ignored,” he said.


The letter complained about the inaction against Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad president Aminuddin Adnan, whom RUM blamed for massive financial losses. According to the union, nearly RM200 million in cash reserves and a RM100 million overdraft belonging to the national train company have disappeared.

“Not one achievement can be seen through Aminuddin’s leadership and the RM200 million cash reserves and RM100 million overdraft have been spent in less than than two years,” read the letter.

Allegations also surfaced that the KTMB president was connected to the RM1.8 billion contract involving China-made Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) trains. The deal was alleged to be RM500 million more expensive than intended, prompting a report to be lodged with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and has since refused to divulge information concerning the deal. This did not stop the government from going ahead with the deal.

RUM has taken up the case with the Prime Minister, only to receive more fatherly adviceto remain patient and to give the KTMB president time to fit into his role.

This matter would have slip pass most people’s radar as just a bunch of railway men angry at their management until you take into account that KTMB is overseen by the Finance Ministry and the Finance Minister is Najib Razak.


Eyebrows were again raised when little known local company PanelPoint Sdn Bhd announced it would form a consortium to develop an 8000km gas pipeline linking Asean countries, including Malaysia, with China, in a deal it claimed was worth US$100 billion.

Skeptical reporters pressed on but received little information about how the company intended to fund what it called the Trans-Asian Oil and Gas (TOAG) Pipeline. The company also said it had received the “blessing” of the Prime Minister in black-and-white, but did not show any document to back up their claim.

See the pattern?

Big-budget projects that benefit only an elite few

So, it is not surprising that the BN lawmakers have turned to Muhyiddin for extra money to fund their constituencies, issuing their “protest” at the government’s penchant for big budget projects that benefit only an elite few at the expense of the masses.

In an immediate response, either to silence the dissent or curry favor, Muhyiddin pledged RM100,000 to the BN constituencies, a tenth of what some BN lawmakers were asking for.

Muhyiddin as paymaster, is slowly building his power-base among the rural BN lawmakers. And as all these things are going on, Najib remains silent and seemingly oblivious to his political fate.

- Malaysia Chronicle

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