FOR the week of 9 to 15 March 2009, the Chinese press was concerned with issues related to money. In particular, the press focused on the announcement of the second stimulus package, and the declaration of executive councillors’ assets by the Selangor government.
(sxc.hu) Kwong Wah Yit Poh‘s editorial on 11 March titled The unfriendly “mini budget” noted that the allocation for the second stimulus package announced on 10 March was the largest in the country’s history and also ranked among the world’s 10 largest stimulus plans.
“The sheer amount of allocation shows that our economy is in bad shape. The allocation also increased the government deficit from 4.8% to 7.6%,” said the daily.
Among others, the stimulus package allocated RM6.74bil in subsidies to ensure prices of food items such as sugar, bread and flour were kept low. Another measure to lessen the burden of the person on the street was tax relief on interest paid on housing loans of up to RM10,000 a year for three years.
“The planning and efficiency of implementation by the relevant authorities will very much determine the results of the second stimulus package. Prime Minister (Datuk Seri) Abdullah (Ahmad Badawi) once slammed inefficient officials for their inability to bring out the desired results of the first stimulus package. We hope history does not repeat itself,” the editorial concluded.
On 11 March, a commentary by Yang Ming Wan in Nanyang Siang Pau titled The not-so-mini and unusual budget remarked that although the current package was much stronger than the previous RM7bil stimulus package, its measures seemed disorganised and out of focus.
“Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib (Razak) has his eye on addressing unemployment, lessening people’s burden, assisting the private sector and building future economic strength. However, the flaw in the otherwise perfect plan is a lack of thorough consideration,” said Yang.
“For instance, the plan provides 163,000 training opportunities and jobs to tackle unemployment among blue collar workers and graduates, but has not focused on joblessness among white collar workers.
“Besides the huge amount allocated, the stimulus package does not bring any surprises,” Yang said.
On 11 March, Sin Chew Daily‘s editorial titled Comprehensive planning needed to assist national automobiles commented that among the many measures introduced in the second stimulus package, the discount for an auto-scrapping scheme was the most controversial.
“The discount of RM5,000 for car owners who trade in their cars which are at least 10 years old benefits those who want to purchase new cars, and increases sales of national automobiles. It is, however, a blow to the already dampened second-hand car market.
“Furthermore, the government has not mentioned what is to be done with the old cars. If these cars are not scrapped but are resold at a cheaper price, it is adding insult to the injury of second-hand car dealers. Adversely effecting the development of other industries in order to save the national car is a shortcoming of the stimulus package,” the editorial said.
(Pic by Malin Arnell / sxc.hu)
On 14 March, Guang Ming Daily in its editorial welcomed the public declaration of assets by Selangor state excos, including the menteri besar. The editorial titled Declaring assets helps in fighting graft noted that the Selangor government had set a precedent in Malaysia, despite not revealing more private information.
“All this while, Malaysian officials never declared their assets. Although Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah has talked about implementing a similar policy, it never materialised.
“To a certain extent, declaring assets provides checks and balance, preventing corruption and power abuse. For the past few years, the government has been resolute in fighting corruption, and anti-graft efforts have also yielded some results. If the policy of declaring assets can be implemented, the effort to fight corruption would be more effective.
“In short, Malaysia should institutionalise such a policy. Other states and the federal government should emulate what the Selangor government is doing,” concluded Sin Chew.
Kwong Wah Yit Poh on 13 March also praised the Selangor government for declaring its exco’s assets.
“The declaration of assets by the Selangor exco is only the beginning because the excos are still holding back. They have not bared it all like the [two] elected reps and [three party] leaders from Parti Sosialis Malaysia; nor have they declared the assets owned by their family members, a standard procedure in other countries.
“However, their effort is praiseworthy.”
The paper noted that having harsh laws did not prevent corruption from happening. “Many countries have strict anti-graft laws and their leaders consider themselves to be clean. Ironically, when leaders gain power, they become avaricious, swallowing anything they can get their hands on.”
Judging from this, we not only need a rigorous set of anti-corruption laws and authoritative enforcers; politicians and officials must also uphold the virtues of honesty in shaping a government and society that is less corrupt, the paper said.