Malaysia is close to bankruptcy.
The government has no more money. 2009 must have been a horrible year with little corporate taxes collected (and expected to be collected) due to the economic slowdown. Foreign investments have also slowed to a halt.
And yet Najib's government is trying to spend their way out of the economy. Honestly, if carried out well, government spending is a key component in driving the economy up. But not in Malaysia. The leakages are too large. As a result, the expected multiplier effects do not maximise. The money disbursed end up in the pockets of those who least deserve it instead.
2009 must go on record as the year with the largest amount of government bonds issued. Amanah Saham this and Amanah Saham that. I don't have the statistics but I doubt 2009 will be too far off the numero uno spot even if it does not take the top spot. All sorts of bond were raised and for the first time, take-up quotas drawn along the usual racial lines have been removed.
What does that mean? The government is simply desperate for money. The amount that they could raise from the protected and preferred Malay race have simply maxed up. That left Najib with no choice but to loan from the desperate Chinese and Indians on the pretext of equality and sharing of wealth with all in the country. And at lower rates of returns too.
Malaysians are not well read people. And I bet you that most people do not understand what a bond is apart from it being an investment opportunity that generates interest income higher than that offered by FDs. Bonds are actually IOUs. It is a loan. When you buy a bond, you are actually lending money to the bond issuer and you get paid back upon maturity.
Upon maturity, paying back of bond money is an issue should the bond issuer (in this case the government of Malaysia) has no money to pay. But as the government, this can be solved via a few simple strategies at the expense of the rakyat.
The government may raise new bonds to pay-off the earlier bonds. And this can be done over and over again. The bet by the government is that the government's income will improve in the future and one day, these loans from the public can be paid off. Theoretically, this sounds ideal. But do you genuinely accept that from the government of a nation whose corruption index ranking have been consistently falling to an embarrassing 57 now? Regardless of how much of the nations resources are depleted (our oil is running out by the way; palm oil isn't that popular in the world market unless you are a sucker who believes in Utusan Malaysia; we do not have much rubber; we ran out of tin decades ago), the profit do not go back to the rakyat but the Swiss private bank accounts of our politicians.
So, the bonds will never get to be paid from the ideal profits. New bonds will be issued to pay off earlier bonds. And this will go on and on and on. Over time, with larger amount of bonds raised every time to cover for additional 'nation building and development', government debts will only continue to rise. This is what we call a Ponzi scheme. Read Bernie Madoff. Read cheat. Read con.
The present government is passing it's current problem to the future generation. An irresponsible government indeed. In developed nations, the people are able to appreciate this problem. Parliaments debate after debate on bond issuances. In Malaysia, the Prime Minister approves new bonds while he gobbles down his nasi lemak with ayam rendang and sotong sambal. The future is not his problem anyways. He has his hot seat to protect; lose it or he will get nagged to his death by the thing who sleeps next to him.
Has anyone actually thought that Najib knows that his days are numbered and he is maximising his personal dough collection? Think about it. Whatever he takes from the bonds will have to be paid back by the next government. If he is not going to be the next government, paying back will not be his problem.
But whatever he does now will still be a problem for the rakyat in the future. If BN continues, it will be BN's repayment problem. If PR takes over, it will be PR who is faced with the same repayment headache. The only permanent fixture is that the rakyat is at the losing end.
Some may argue that all the government has to do is to print more money. Yes, that is true. A learned friend of mine once said that the government will never run out of money because it can just print more. That is a brilliant statement. But of course it has it consequences. The amount of paper money in circulation must correspond to the amount of gold held in reserves. If paper money exceeds the value of gold - which is what the US is facing right now - then the said currency's value falls. Purchasing power declines. Inflation rises. And a whole lot of other negative economic terminologies.
So you see, printing money to repay government loans solves the loan issue but it brings the country to a whole new level of economic problems.
And yes, you got the message, the rakyat loses.
If you are lucky to live short enough, the problem will not be yours. But your kids? You better leave them enough money to buy bananas at RM1 million per comb.
Additional note by author: Najib has pledged more and more spending. But with limited funds available, other government disbursements will have to be reduced. Hence, the proposed (rumoured) removal of subsidies for petrol, sugar and flour are very real. Expect electricity tariffs to go up too. Rakyat will suffer like never before. Is he not interested in getting re-elected? Does sound like Najib is taking all he can and abandoning ship.
Warga Marhaen | harakahdaily