Is the 11th Malaysia Plan as irrelevant as the 10th Malaysia Plan?

Speech by DAP Johor Chairman and MP for Kluang Liew Chin Tong at the 11th Malaysia Plan Forum jointly organised by DAP Johor and Johor Indian Business Council on 19th April 2015

(I thank Sdr. Dr. S. Ramakrishnan, DAP Johor Deputy Chairman, and Sdr. P. Sivakumar, Johor Indian Business Association Chairman, for jointly organising this forum on the 11th Malaysia Plan. I would also like to recognise the presence of Johor State Assembly Opposition Leader Sdr. Dr. Boo Cheng Hau.)

Prime Minsiter Datuk Seri Najib Razak will be presenting the 11th Malaysia Plan to the Federal Parliament on 21st May 2015. This is the last five-year plan before Malaysia supposedly reaches so-called “developed” status.

The presentation of five-year plans used to generate a lot of interest in the media and among concerned citizens because it was the document of the nation. But no one seems to be bothered with the presentation of the 11th Malaysia Plan.

While many highly-charged issues like 1MDB, GST, hudud etc. may have distracted the attention of the public, the most plausible reason for the lack of interest in the 11th Malaysia Plan was because the 10th Plan was simply irrelevant.

There are five reasons why both the 10th and 11th Malaysia Plans are irrelevant.

Firstly, it contains no new approach of thinking.

The 10th Malaysia Plan that was presented in Parliament in June 2010 came three months after the announcement of the now defunct New Economic Model. These two documents are contradictory in their intent. The 10th Malaysia Plan was to maintain the old framework whereas the New Economic Model was to move the nation forward with new thinking.

The 10th Malaysia Plan should have adopted the thinking of the New Economic Model document for consistency and coherence. No wonder the New Economic Model was dead while the 10th Plan was irrelevant.

Second, Najibnomics means many newly-created agencies with conflicting objectives and very little else.

Up till the 9th Malaysia Plan, the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) was visibly the lead agency responsble for the execution of the Plans. Not that it was a good idea to concentrate powers in the hands of the EPU. But the alternatives under Najib’s tenure in the 10th Plan period is disasterous.

Najib has Pemandu, Talent Corp, Teraju, UKAS (Public-Private Partnership Unit), and many other new agencies which compete for influence with EPU. In particular, Pemandu has an unjustifiably huge budget to implement the various alphabat soups like NKRAs, NKEAs.

Third, the undemocratic outsourcing of thinking to private consultants.

With so many competing agencies, one would think that the Government with its in-house talents should produce a more meaningful document with plenty of opportunities for ministers, civil servants, state governments, the opposition, and the people to contribute ideas. Sadly it is not the case. The government just refuses to think.

Government documents, like the Malaysia Plans, are now produced by big international consultancies plucking ideas from the air, with very little consultation across the ministries or with the state governments. Input from the opposition and the people at large are ignored altogether.

Fourth, concentration of discretionary allocation in the Prime Minister’s Department.

Since a decade ago, the porportion of development allocation in the annual budget has been on the slide vis-à-vis the administrative budget. In the 2015 budget, 81 percent of the RM 264 billion goes to administration with only 19 percent or RM 50 billion for development.

The five-year plans are implemented through the annual development allocations.

What is shocking is that in the 2015 budget, while the development allocation was already so meagre, a quarter of the RM50 billion actually goes to the Prime Minister’s Department as discretionary allocation to be used at the whims and fancies of the Prime Minister. I call these funds “slush funds to be”.

Fifth, five-year plans are relics from the past, anyway.

Five-year plans was first started by Stalin’s USSR in 1930s. It was a common planning tool in the 1960s when central planning or its varients pretty much ruled the world.

But five-year plans are not relevant in such volatile global economy anymore. For instance, just a year ago, oil price was at its peak but since October 2014 the prices have halved.

In the 10th Plan, there was an attempt to address this with a method called “rolling plan”. But rolling plan seems like just another name to circumvent scrunity by parliament as an important convention of the Malaysia Plans, the Mid-Term Review, was abolished. Information about development allocation to the states was also withheld in the 10th Plan in the name of “rolling plan”.

The real reason was that there were too many Pakatan Rakyat state since 2008 that the Federal Government would not like to devote resources to, hence not supplying the state information would conceal the inequality among states.

To conclude, Malaysians want the Federal Government to respect our democratic rights in development planning to shape a better economic future for all. I would like to reiterate the call by DAP Parliamentary Leader Lim Kit Siang that the 11th Malaysia Plan document should be released now for at least a one-month period for Malaysian public to debate and deliberate.

I am also of the view that there is no need to rush through the Plan in the parliament. A bi-partisan select committee should be established to listen to the views of Malaysians via a national hearing tour to deal with the defects of the 10th Plan so that such flaws would not recur in the 11th Plan.

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