Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim took a swipe at the government’s opaque operations, which he claims, are crippling the economy and discouraging investment.
He said the opposition was concerned that public-sector spending had risen to RM200 billion annually from RM160 billion in 2004.
“That of course doesn't include the slush funds in excess of RM30 billion used at the discretion of the Prime Minister,” Anwar said in his address at the CLSA Investor Forum in Hong Kong today.
He was also concerned that the national debt has gone up by another RM100 billion and the fiscal deficit has risen to 4.8 per cent of GDP this year.
“With capital flight at a record high since the 1997 crisis, RM125 million in 2008 already, Malaysian investment abroad now exceeds inward foreign investment. We are facing a double barrel onslaught of our own doing with the ringgit hitting all-time lows since 2005 and inflation a record high of 8.5 per cent, the worst in 27 years.”
The de facto leader of the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition said issues of governance and corruption in the country had yet to be resolved.
“The latest corruption perception index from Transparency International speaks for itself. In almost a decade Malaysia has hardly improved its position in the ranking while our would-be peers are making substantial improvements.”
Anwar claimed that the opposition had a clear agenda for Malaysia.
• Revive the lagging economy by adopting market friendly policies.
• Take decisive action to cure the festering sore of corruption and cronyism that has decimated the judiciary, rendered anti-corruption efforts impotent and leeched billions of dollars from the state coffers
• Restore faith in the institutions of governance both domestically and internationally so that investors will once again find the country an attractive destination for their long-term investments.
• Strict adherence to the rule of law and an immediate end to draconian statutes that would allow the powers that be to detain their adversaries willy-nilly and without due process.
He said a change in government was central to the current political scenario. “The ability to handle a transition is a measure of the strength of the country's democratic institutions.”
However, he said it should be done peacefully and orderly as stability could not be sacrificed no matter how intense the desire for change has become.
Anwar said Pakatan Rakyat would introduce structural reforms in public procurement programmes and the management of state companies while ensuring that adequate social safety nets are in place.
“With the political will to combat corruption, wastage and mismanagement, an 8 per cent per annum growth rate is not unrealistic.
“Petronas should be made accountable to Parliament and not remain the private piggy bank of the Executive branch. We will remove restrictions on foreign capital inflows and outflows and revamp government protection of monopolies in industries like telecommunications and banking.”
In an apparent hit at Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the opposition leader said if markets are strong and unfettered, and if laws are transparent and enforced by impartial judges, “we will not need special development corridors or regions to attract investment”.
“A stable and clean business environment is far more important than special tax breaks and quotas handed out by a corrupt and opaque government,” said Anwar.
He said when the Asian crisis struck 10 years ago, the decisions he made as Finance Minister were not populist nor were they popular.
But he added that on principle, he felt they were the right moves even though they were at the expense of his personal freedom.
“Yet in my darkest hours of solitary confinement I had never given up hope that something good was to come of the ordeal. And now after more than a decade of struggle and profound challenges we are on the threshold of a new beginning.”
- The Malaysian Insider