Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Don't Underestimate the Waste

Written by johnleemk on 2:13:21 pm Jun 23, 2007.
Categories: ,

What continually amazes me is the ability of Malaysians to downplay problems with our country. One particular thing that often gets short shrift is the amount of economic wastage arising from government intervention in the economy.

When I point out that the country may very well die because of our extreme reliance on government intervention, which is in turn predicated hugely on oil money, a common response has been an argument that our government spending cannot be that profligate.

The statistics however can be misleading. As I have pointed out before, the government often acts to prop up its cronies in ways that don't show up in the statistics; for instance, if the government awards a monopoly over television cable services to one company, no money is officially spent, but the country's economy suffers.

This is a form of wastage I have written about before. But another form of wastage is the explicit one, and its blatancy is so pungent, I am amazed anyone can still breathe after mountains upon mountains of such cases. I suppose Malaysians have become acclimatised to Ministers who nonchalantly proclaim we should not compare ourselves to Singapore because it has no opportunities for corruption.

The most recent example of such blatant wastage I can think of is an RM23.9 billion contract to construct an oil pipeline being awarded (via closed tender) to a company with paid-up capital of RM150,000. Our government spends a substantial amount, but so much of it is obviously nothing more than disguised transfer payments to cronies.

There is so much wastage everywhere you look in the country when the government is involved. Visit Putrajaya. Did we really need an administrative centre with such obscene waste everywhere you look? Do civil servants need the furniture of CEOs?

Underestimating the waste that arises because of our government is a very imprudent thing to do. Our government's wastage costs us money, because every sen spent on some crony is a sen not spent on your child's education, a sen not spent on the roads you drive on, a sen not spent on running the country like it should be.

The next general election may be coming very soon. If it does, hopefully Malaysian voters will vote reasonably and vote in support of the right party.

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