By Salleh Said Keruak
Deputy Umno Sabah Chief
Tun Daim Zainuddin’s interview as reported by Malaysiakini and The Malaysian Insider makes interesting reading. I would like to touch on just two issues mentioned in that interview. The first is Tun Daim’s comment regarding inflation.
In 1981, when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad took over as Prime Minister, Malaysia’s inflation rate was more than 10%.
In 1984, when Tun Daim Zainuddin became the Finance Minister, the inflation rate was 4%. It dropped to 1% during the 1985 recession but then so did the economy, the stock market, property prices, and so on. In fact, Malaysia actually saw deflation for a short period, which triggered many bankruptcies.
Hence zero inflation or deflation may not actually be good for the people, especially for investors.
In 1991, when Anwar Ibrahim took over as the Finance Minister, the inflation rate went up to 5%.
In 1998, when Anwar was sacked and Tun Daim took over again, the inflation rate went up to 6%.
When Najib Tun Razak took over as Prime Minister, the inflation rate was almost 9%. Today, the inflation rate is 3%.
The voters complain about increasing prices. And this is the bone of contention for Tun Daim as well. There are, of course, remedies to this. Price control would be one. Subsidies would be another. However, in the effort to keep prices low, someone would have to pay. And if the consumer does not pay then the taxpayers, who are also the consumers, would still have to pay although indirectly.
Take one example, toll prices. The government will have to pay hundreds of millions every year to compensate the toll concessionaires if we want to keep the prices down. Hence people from East Malaysia who do not drive on the highways would be paying a lot of money for the benefit of people in the Kelang Valley. While this may make the people in the big cities happy, is this fair to those who live in places that do not even have proper roads let alone super-highways?
Tun Daim’s second bone of contention was about the worrying race and religion politics perpetuated by both sides of the political divide. Yes, both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat are guilty of this and Tun Daim puts the blame squarely on Najib.
What is happening in Malaysia today is reminiscent of what happened in 1987 during the time when Tun Dr Mahathir was the Prime Minister. And the government took strong and decisive action and nipped it in the bud by detaining all the troublemakers under the Internal Security Act (Operasi Lalang).
On the one hand the people are crying out for more liberalism, democracy, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and so on. On the other hand they are accusing Najib of not being tough enough.
No doubt things appear to be out of control and people are abusing these new freedoms that they have won. And that was why Tun Dr Mahathir said Malaysia must not be allowed too much democracy, as people tend to abuse freedom if too much freedom is given.
The people want detention without trial removed. Then the same people scream that Najib is not tough enough. The people need to decide what type of country they would like to live in because they cannot have it both ways.
The people are not happy when they are not allowed free speech. But when the speech is too free and out of control to the point of racism and religious extremism, the people are also not happy.
Are the people saying we should return to the days of Dr Mahathir when peace and stability were maintained through an iron fist?