REFSA Rojak: Crisps of the Week (25-31 Jan)

In our Selected Exhortations category, we republish interesting stuff such as must-read articles and essays not originally written exclusively for the blawg, and which have come to our attention. Please feel free to email [email protected] if you would like to reproduce your writing, but first follow our Writer’s Guide here.

Sandra Rajoo brings you another edition of REFSA Rojak – a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA). REFSA Rojak – “trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.”


Source: wallet - [email protected]

We are “flushed with funds” and our financial situation is sound as the Inland Revenue Board collected RM125 billion last year. So said Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin at a function in Sarikei, Sarawak. But this is only a half-truth bordering on a lie. Yes, that seemingly large amount was indeed collected but DPM Muhyiddin failed to mention that his federal government spent double that amount! A failing of the mind, or a deliberate omission?

The truth is, in 2012 we overspent by nearly RM45 billion. Actual spending projected in the Economic Report 2012/2013 was about RM252 billion whilst revenue collected was estimated at about RM207 billion.

In fact, we have been running on a budget deficit for 15 years. Our national debt stood at a massive RM456 billion in 2011! So the RM125 billion collection Muhyiddin is so proud of means little if government spending is double that. He has shrugged off the threat of “bankruptcy” as unlikely to happen, but the figures tell us it is looming. We are on shaky ground.

Our DPM also patronisingly proclaims that Malaysians are rather privileged as no one has “died of starvation”. But ponder over why 4.1 million households applied for and received the RM500 government welfare handout (BR1M) last year and 7 million are expected this year. It is disgraceful to have almost two thirds of our total population ‘on welfare’. The numbers are alarming; it shows that, despite our rich resources and more than 55 years of ‘progress’,  people are still struggling to earn a reasonable living.

Muhyiddin also promises Sabah and Sarawak more “development programmes” now that votes are required to win an election. If such programmes had been carried out decades ago, these states would not now be among the poorest in Malaysia.

The people in power tend to spew out data that don’t tell the whole story, in the hope that the man on the street can be placated by their manipulation. They should learn to speak the language we all appreciate – the language of truth. Read REFSA’s analysis to know the truth about our financial situation and our latest book, UMNOnomics on what we could be doing to put things right.

Only a matter of time: press freedom ranked 145 globally

We are all aware of the status of press freedom in our country, and now we know how the world perceives it too. Global watchdog Reporters without Borders ranks Malaysia at number 145 out of 179 countries on the latest World Press Freedom Index. This abysmal position should be making our leaders hang their heads in shame. Our highest ranking was in 2006, at number 92.

Credibility in the government-controlled mainstream media has sunk as we witnessed in the Bersih 3.0 rally last year how journalists were attacked simply for doing their job. And more recently, the cowed mainstream media, in the face of glaring evidence to the contrary, parroted the official line that just 35,000 people turned up for the Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat Gathering. The  filled-to-the-brim Stadium Merdeka alone would have accommodated at least 60,000!

How did we reach this sad state of affairs?  Said Zahari, editor-in-chief of the then very independent Utusan Melayu has some compelling stories. Syed paid a heavy price for his principles, Read more in his interview with the The Nut Graph.

The true spirit of journalism has dissipated over the years. If editors and journalists no longer value the integrity of their profession, then, ranking or no ranking, they have destroyed the tenets of democracy and crucified a nation’s honour.

Singing the blues over blueprint

The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB) is making headlines yet again. Parent groups are demanding that an embargo be imposed on the blueprint until after the election so that it would not be politicised. Concerned Parents of Selangor (CPS), Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE), Malacca Action Group for Parents in Education (MAGPIE), and Herald of Penang for Education (HOPE) charge that despite having made “significant representation” of their case in 14 dialogue sessions with the ministry, their demands were mentioned only “in passing in one sentence”.

The government has “squandered” the opportunity to address the “ills and shortcomings” of our education system, they said.  A rally will be held on February 19 in front of the Ministry of Education (MoE) to drive home their point.  They also want the Cabinet to study and “deliberate” on its contents further before finalising it.

Regrettably, the Cabinet paid no heed to their request. It approved the final report on the blueprint on Wednesday 30 Jan, sending the message that nobody in government is really interested in what educationist or parent groups have to say. The die is cast, so to speak.

It looks like the blueprint is mere eyewash. The preliminary report has shown that many of the proposals in the 11 ‘shifts’ mentioned in the blueprint are only building on previous botched policies and are far from transformational. Neither have the real problems of our education system been openly and honestly investigated.

The MoE had probably pre-decided on the contents to go into the blueprint the minute they said there was going to be one. A serious matter like education is being treated shabbily; this means we are going to be stuck where we are, or perhaps decline even further. The prospects for education look bleak indeed.

The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” (Abraham Lincoln)

Why ‘Rojak’? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.

It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique ‘sauce’ that is Malaysia. Let’s take pride in the ‘rojakness’ of our nation!

Click here for previous issues of REFSA Rojak.

Visit us at http://refsa.org | Like us on our Facebook page | Follow our tweets @inforefsa

(Featured image accompanying article on main page courtesy of Asian Development Bank, source: http://bit.ly/VyYcil)


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REFSA is an independent, not-for-profit research institute providing relevant and reliable information on social, economic and political issues affecting Malaysians with the aim of promoting open and constructive discussions that result in effective policies to address those issues. Visit us at www.refsa.org

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