Now that the dust has settled somewhat and the conditions are now more conducive for rational discussion, I would like to discuss about the nature of the debt and liabilities of the Malaysian government. This an non-accountant view, so pardon the terminology.

I know the current government’s approach in the matter has diverged from the norm. So unorthodox that it has caused some complications in various calculations enough that there are parties out there unconvinced with the appropriateness of the new approach.

Yet, there is sound logic behind the government’s approach and is backed by an actual standard maintained by the IMF. But to understand that, we require comprehension in traditional definitions of debt, government guarantees, the nature of liability and weaknesses relating to the various definitions.

Traditional definitions

First, we will talk about the definition of debt, which is the easiest part to grasp. This is the case of the government borrowing money from the market, and what is borrowed has to be repaid. The ownership of the debt and the party responsible in servicing the debt are clear: the government. The instruments used to raise these debt are the typical ones found in the market, namely the Malaysian Government Securities (MGS, the bonds) and its Islamic counterpart, the Government Investment Issues (GII, the sukuks). There are other novel instruments which can be read at a page maintained by the central bank, Bank Negara Malaysia.[1] These government debt are used to finance the government’s fiscal deficit and the government’s development (capital) spending like the building of schools and hospitals.

The second definition we need to understand is government guarantee. GGs as it is called and easier to type, is exactly what it is: the government guarantees a non-government debt (like that of a company). In case of default, the government would come in to take over the debt and start servicing it. So, the ownership and the burden of servicing the debt belong to the company but in case of default, both factors will be transferred to the government. In Malaysia, GGs are generally given to government-linked companies for various large infrastructure projects like airports, highways and railways. There are also cases of bailouts but the bottom line is, a guarantee is provided by the government to a company to lower the latter’s cost of borrowing and increase the financial viability of the company (for the uninitiated, under normal times, government debt has the lowest interest rates in the market and any other kinds of debt almost always have interest rates higher than the ones enjoyed by the government proper).

For the whole of 2018, total government debt stood at MYR741 billion, or 52% of the GDP.

For 2018 government guarantees, its value were RM266 billion, or 19% of the GDP.

Both government debt and government guarantees as far as its definitions go are not controversial and well-established in the mainstream understanding of public finance.

Weaknesses with the definitions

And so, there are two important factors to consider: the ownership of debt, and on who exactly the liability of that debt falls onto. In the traditional case, both belong to one party.

Human ingenuity has created instruments and financing methods circumventing limits set by these definitions by playing around questions relating to ownership and the servicing responsibility of the debt. These innovations make the traditional definition deficient in the literal sense, defeating the spirit of the definition of debt while obeying strictly to the letter. What this means is that with use of these innovations, the financial burden of the government can be actually heavier than what the official debt tell us.

And indeed that is the case for Malaysia and that is the prime mover behind the current government’s unorthodox reporting of debt and liabilities, which is an attempt to refocus attention away from the letter, towards the spirit of debt.

Abuses relating to GGs

It is simplest to start with abuses relating to GGs. Now, in spirit and in theory, as long as the beneficiaries of the GGs do not default on their debt obligations, then the government does not bear the burden of the debt. Therefore, that kind of GGs do not count as part of the government debt and liabilities. It may be contingent liabilities, but it is only that, contingent.

But in reality, that description does not describe all of the GGs. Many GGs are designed in such a way that the one servicing the company’s debt is the government. This is because the company in truth has no resources at all to service the debt and without direct funding from the government allocated in the government budget, the company would default in no time.

This is not a matter of the government providing temporary support waiting for the company or the project to breakeven and achieve profitability some time in the future, which would allow the company to pay back the government later. To the contrary, this is largely a case of the company or the project will never be able to service its debt through its internal operations.

But government’s full support ensures the company will not default, and so avoiding the guaranteed debt from becoming government debt. To put it simply, the ownership of the debt belongs to the company, but the burden of servicing the debt falls on the government regardless of default.

Since that is the case, it begs two questions:

  • First, is such GGs merely a way for the government not to classify a debt as government debt?
  • Second, is such GGs in the spirit of government debt?

If one holds to the view that only ownership of the debt matters, then the answer would be no. This is a strict adherence to the letter of the definition.

If one appeals to the spirit of the definition by considering both the ownership and the actual responsibility over the liability, then the answers would be in the affirmative instead. From this perspective, the use of GGs in such a way is a paper shifting exercise designed to make the reporting pretty, while the actual liability falls on the government regardless of the owner of the debt.

In my opinion, the latter view is a more holistic approach to government finance, and more robust in terms of reporting compared to the former, which is a narrow model to use.

Further discussion on committed GGs

One criticism about the inclusion of GGs as part of the MYR1 trillion figure is that these GGs are not new. As the criticism goes, all the GGs have always been listed and publicly acknowledged by the previous government. And so, the revelation by the government is not really a revelation but only a repackaging exercise for political consumption.

This criticism misses the nuance about where the liability of these guaranteed debt falls.

The nuance is that the current government classifies the GGs into two classes:

  • One, non-government debt guaranteed by the government which are not currently serviced by the government. This class is called uncommitted GGs (more simply, both the ownership and the responsibility of servicing the debt do not fall to the government). Examples are debt owned by Khazanah Nasional or Tenaga Nasional that are guaranteed by the government but are fully serviced by the companies with their own revenue.
  • Two, non-government debt guaranteed by the government which are currently serviced by the government. This class is called committed GGs, committed in the sense that the company has not defaulted but the government carries the burden of the debt anyway (ownership belongs to the a company but the liability explicitly falls on the government). Examples are 1MDB and Prasarana Negara (if I remember correctly).

It is the latter class that is being included into the MYR1 trillion calculation, and not all GGs. Although those who track GGs religiously could make accurate guess about which GGs fall under the second class, the nature of the debt servicing of these GGs had not been explicitly and systematically disclosed to the public previously.

This government has done so, explicitly and systematically, for the first time.

Abuses relating to lease payments

GGs were the favorite way to circumvent the definition of debt. That was until it became too big to escape notice. After a while, rating agencies which are fiscal hawks when it comes to debt, began questioning the ballooning GGs even when the size of government debt itself relative to the GDP remained largely stable. This partly fueled the needs to find other ways to circumvent the definition of debt. Here is where lease payments come in.

Lease payments under cash accounting system the government currently runs on is a creative method used to avoid classifying certain liabilities as debt. How it happens is that a company borrows a large sum of money to fund a project that the government wanted built. The government then supports the project by signing a lease contract with the company in a way that lease payments from the government match the interest payments the company needs to pay, as well as other items like construction cost. So in the government’s books, it is recorded as lease payment when in fact in spirit, the government is servicing the interest payment of a debt (and in fact the interest to the whole project cost plus margin) held by the leasor. Or again, to put it simply, the government does not own the debt but the liability is completely transferred to the government by way of lease. Example for this is Pembinaan BLT.

Summary government debt and government guarantees

As you can see, both GGs and lease payments have been abused in a way to place the debt outside of the government proper, but with the government still services the interest payments of the debt. Even if the owner of the debt is not the government, the liability of the debt falls on the government.

It is in this recognition that the government has decided to account for the relevant GGs and lease payments as part of the MYR1 trillion government debt and liabilities.

The reform that is accrual accounting

Another factor making the orthodox accounting used by the government at the moment prone to abuse is that the government runs on cash accounting, which only records a transaction only when it happens, while ignoring the full liability effects relating to the transaction. This makes circumventing the definition of debt doubly easy.

The current government is preparing to adopt accrual accounting by 2021, which would provide the public a full view of the government’s total liabilities beyond increasingly deficient definition of debt that is dependent only on the question of ownership. Under the new basis, all transactions including those committed in the future but have not been paid yet would systematically be included as the government’s liability list. This is unlike currently where calculation of such committed GGs and lease have to be done manually, which is a painful process.

Upgrading from IMF Government Finance Statistics Manual 1986 to 2014

Finally, the current government calculation is not unorthodox as much as it is old. More than 30 years old in fact. I am not an expert in standardization but I have been informed that the Malaysian government runs on cash account based on a IMF standard from 1986.

But such standard has been updated several times and the latest one came in 2014. Surprise surprise, it is an accrual standard. You can read more about this at the IMF website.[2]

This has bearing on how Malaysia reports its debt officially to international bodies like the IMF and the World Bank. As long as Malaysia is still under the GFSM 1986, Malaysia will always officially report its government debt to the IMF database as it is. When smart alecks smiling feeling smugly highlighting seemingly inconsistencies between the MYR1 trillion with international reporting, this is the side that they do not know. Once accrual accounting under GFSM 2014 is adopted, suffice to say, there will be a massive break in the series.

And there are countries that run on GFSM 2014. The UK is an example of a country that uses the standard that Malaysia is migrating towards.[3]

So, Malaysia is not that special when it comes to wanting to have a more holistic view on debt.

Is the government lying?

No.

The opposition likes to claim the government is lying about its debt position. The truth is that, the opposition is overly focused on definitional issues without carrying for the spirit of the definition, and ignorant of the implications relating to accrual accounting.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reservedMohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reservedMohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved

[1] — For conventional instruments, see here. For Islamic instruments, please click here.

[2] — The Government Finance Statistics Manual 2014 (GFSM 2014),1 and it predecessors are the internationally recognized statistical reporting framework, aimed at helping national authorities to strengthen their capacity to formulate fiscal policy and monitor fiscal developments. The GFSM 2014 supports the balance sheet approach to analyzing economic policy by bringing together stocks and flows in a transparent and consistent framework. The GFS framework provides a basis for analyzing public investment while providing a “common language” that fiscal analysts can use to develop a consistent approach to handling new, and often complex, government operations that create challenges in fiscal reporting and analysis. Also, the GFSM 2014 is better suited for inclusion in a quantitative macroeconomic framework because it yields source data for the measures of government saving, investment, and consumption; these measures have been harmonized with the national accounts framework. Equally important, the framework forms an integral part of the IMF’s effort to promote international standards for transparency in fiscal reporting. [About Government Finance Statistics. IMF. Accessed March 15 2019]

[3] — If a country adheres to Special Data Dissemination Standards Plus (SDDS Plus), it is required to publish data for the General Government Operations (see Annex table 3.1) using the Government Financial Statistics Manual 2014 framework (GFSM 2014), as set out by the International Monetary Fund. Data should be compiled on a quarterly basis for all components and should be disseminated within 12 months of the end of the reference period. [Economic Statistics Transformation Programme: Enhanced financial accounts (UK flow of funds) Government tables for the special data dissemination standards plus (SDDS Plus). Official of National Statistics. Accessed March 15 2019]

The Department of Statistics will be releasing the 2018 fourth quarter GDP statistics tomorrow.

I was wrong about expecting the 2018 third quarter GDP growth to quicken based on the faster consumption growth. Consumption growth did rise spectacularly and as stated earlier, there was no austerity. But external pressures prevented overall GDP growth from going off.

But I will repeat myself. I think we have hit the trough in the third quarter and so, we should see a rebound. Trade balance in the fourth quarter expanded slightly unlike in the previous quarter when it contracted. At the same time, consumption should grow healthily (in fact, stronger versus historical standard) albeit at a slightly slower pace. Meanwhile, pressures faced by the agriculture and the mining sectors should moderate.

But enough of me quacking.

How fast do you think did the Malaysian economy expand in 4Q18 from a year ago?

  • Below 3% (4%, 1 Votes)
  • 3.0%-3.9% (22%, 6 Votes)
  • 4.0%-4.5% (37%, 10 Votes)
  • 4.6%-5.0% (33%, 9 Votes)
  • 5.1%-5.5% (4%, 1 Votes)
  • 5.6%-6.0% (0%, 0 Votes)
  • More than 6.0% (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 27

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I rarely use plastic straws for my drinks. I am not religious about it but if I could help it, I would avoid it. I think I started doing so since at least 2010-2011, partly to allay my guilt for breaking a rule I made up when I was in college: use less paper. That is not something easy to do out there in the working world.

But reduce plastic straws is way easier than reducing paper use.

But in the past year or so, I have noticed that it is becoming a trend in Malaysia to reduce straw usage, at least in the greenwashing corporate social responsibility kind of way (don’t get me started on CSR and the tax system).

I figure it might have something to do with a video of a poor turtle having a tough straw stuck in its nostril. The footage showed volunteers struggled to pull the straw out, bleeding the turtle in the process. The turtle seemed healthy afterwards. I would, if I had a piece elongated plastic stuck up my… erm… nose. Wouldn’t you?

While the internet is a powerful tool to spread lies and conspiracy theories of no sense (like how the Ministry of Finance for somehow is banning private companies from handling haj, which is patently untrue), I suppose there are times when it is a tool to do good. Like the no-straw fad.

At McDonald’s several months back, the fast food chain ran a campaign to reduce straw use. When I first noticed it, I gave it a thumb up. But after a while after understanding the new way they give out the straws, I suspect its campaign is utterly counterproductive. Why? Because instead of reducing use, it has the potential to increase its usage instead.

Previously before McDonald’s ran its campaign, straw dispensers were placed in the dining area where customers could take the straws freely. Freely, but usually the number of straws taken would match the number of drinks. Those who would not use straw would simply not take it.

Now, I have noticed McDonald’s have removed the dispensers. What happens now instead is that the persons behind the counter preparing, serving or delivery the meals would automatically place straws into the meal tray regardless whether the consumers would want it. No question asked.

As a result of this change in method, my use of straws at McDonald’s has increased from none to at least one.

I could say no and ask the person behind to counter to take it back, but the whole procedure adds a process that makes the default position as having a straw. Ironically, the previous default position (as in the presence of straw in the tray) before the no-straw campaign began was not straw. The nudge economics here is messed up that it goes against the campaign: it encourages straw use instead by setting up a new barrier to having no straw.

One of those nights when I got off work late, with weary eyes and empty stomach at KL Sentral, I would have no mood to say, “Oh hello, sorry, I do not need the plastic straw.” I would like to just eat and go as quickly as possible. Damn the straws. I would not use it, but it would in the tray and it would go to the trash regardless of use. And this is a person who default position was no-straw: I am now encouraged to use the straw.

Now, imagine those who do not even think of not using the straws. The default yes-straw position just discourages them from not using straws. Or in other words, the default position encourages them to keep the status quo of keeping on using straws.

The economist in me wonders, how much straws are being used now versus before the campaign started. My hypothesis is, ironically, probably more just because of the change in the default position.

In absence of data, I would think to make the no-straw campaign credible, I feel McDonald’s should probably revert to a no-straw default position. That is, do not give the customers straws, unless requested.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reservedMohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reservedMohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved

p/s — I have received several feedbacks stating one of two cases: they agree with me about yes-straw default position being practiced, or that they contradict me by stating they would have to request for straws at the counter. Quite possible that some branches are tighter than others with its straw-dispensing default procedure. My personal experience at 3 branches (2 in KL and one elsewhere) is that of the former case.

Development in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe where racist and fascist sentiments are hogging the headlines is worrying. It has been going on for some years now and it is proving to be a long-term trend rather than just an election-cycle blip.

One of many reasons why it is a concern worldwide is that major countries that used to be associated strongly with liberalism now are more reluctant in defending liberal values globally as they struggle to contain domestic problems at home. Some are even uninterested in doing so because, arguably, they no longer believe in liberal values. For instance, it is quite fanciful to think that Donald Trump believes in liberal values.

But it is not all bad news. Difference circumstances exist throughout the world. Indonesian and Malaysian societies for instance, exist in a context that is different from the one in the US and the UK.

Liberals in places like Malaysia from time to time get accused as being Western puppets or having their minds colonized by the West. When the Western world was the leader of the free world so-to-speak, the accusation had been used by local conservatives to mean that liberalism was alien to the local society and served foreign interest. When Bersih was busy protesting, the BN machinery was quick to link the movement to outside interest like George Soros. To be fair, Malaysian liberals do look abroad for help and inspiration while living in an environment that might be unfriendly to them.

I do not think such accusation is a uniquely Malaysian experience. When a large Iranian protest partly fueled by Iranian liberals erupted in 2009, one of the most popular opinions out there was for the US then led by Barack Obama to not be too vocal in their support of the protest and instead let the locals do their thing, out of fear the Iranian religious establishment would run the propaganda that the protest was fueled by outsiders, and ignore the legitimacy of the protest.

However, today, I think that accusation is starting to lose its traction.

I believe so because liberalism in the Western world – I use the West here in the general popular sense referring to the North America and Europe while keeping in mind the problematic definition as well as the fact there are places where liberal values are still held closely, like in Canada – is in trouble and as a result, the West is losing its role as the prime example of a liberal society.

As the West loses its role, liberals elsewhere get a chance to prove that they are liberals not because they look up to the West, but because they believe in principle that transcends geography and culture. And more importantly, the West does not control the local liberals. With the West in trouble and even local liberals starting to condemn the illiberalness of the West, the accusation that local liberals are Western puppets are becoming less and less relevant.

In other words, illiberal troubles besetting the West liberate liberals elsewhere.

This is the first significant protest the current government faces. And this is yet another opportunity for this government to demonstrate that it is different from the previous corrupt racist, fascist regime.

That can be shown by accommodating the protest as much as possible with a view of not being explicitly hostile to it either through speech or action, but by guaranteeing the safety of the protest participants and others while they exercise their rights to freedom of assembly and speech.

I participated in all of the Bersih protests and each time, there was always a dread feeling inside of me expecting the worst to happen. Such feeling was warranted.

Previously, government-controlled media always delivered threatening messages to the masses ahead of any large protest. May 13 without fail was the boogeyman.

My first taste of tear gas happened while I was standing amid a large crowd near the Maybank tower.

I have been chased by the police before. At one time, an officer pulled a gun near Jalan Raja Laut after chaos erupted. There was a time when I walked by a security personnel during a protest, and he verbally abused me.

And the laying out of barbwire and other actions like the conspicuous rolling out of anti-riot assets with security personnel all equipped with armor always threatened the atmosphere of the protest.

Furthermore, it was common knowledge that the party in power then sent provocateurs to create chaos, and create a reason for the security personnel to come in and break the protest.

All this should be avoided by this government. The police should hold back and not purposefully threaten the crowd. No provocateur should be sent by anybody associated with the ruling parties and the government.

It is by backing off from these provocative tactics that we can show to the world that the government is self-assured and strong.

The function of a government within the context of its citizens exercising their rights is to protect those rights and the people who are practicing it peacefully.

We can disagree with the agenda of the protest participants, however racists they are, but we should also respect their right to assemble peacefully.

We can be different and we must be different. We can show to them that there is another way. We do not need to beat our chest to show our confidence and strength.

That is the best way to blunt their message: that we are different and better.

I did not follow the ICERD debate closely until recently. I felt like the issue rose to national prominence out of nowhere, and then it died a spectacular death before I properly understood what it was all about. If you had asked me what ICERD was, I would be able to mutter some keywords like anti-discrimination before I would exhaust my time trying to be intelligent and having to google Wikipedia to understand it.

Nevertheless, as a layperson with liberal bias, I would gravitate automatically towards supporting ICERD ratification. I consider myself as a liberal, even if these days, some of those who claimed to be liberals in the past feel some kind of political reluctance to wear the label anymore, lest they become superliberals and attract the wrath of their political idols.

And so, I do feel slight disappointment how the ICERD debate has played out. Slight, because I do not think ICERD is one of the most important things in the to do list.

To be honest, while I do not believe in the eye-rolling allegations by its opponents that ICERD would require amending Article 153 of the Constitution, it is unclear to me — and even to other liberals who I have talked to and are more invested in the issues than me — what would entail after its ratification. That makes me feel that a ratification is more of a signalling exercise than anything else. The whole ICERD debate generates more heat than light, partly because the so-what questions have not been addressed, and so giving space to red herring counterargument like “Israel signed ICERD.”

In the end, I think there are many reforms that are more important and urgent that liberals should push first, like electoral reforms including local council elections, instead of ICERD.

But for liberals out that who invested more on the ICERD issue, please do not feel too discouraged. I am reluctant to use this argument but perhaps it is not the right time for it. Perhaps we should continue to do what liberals have been doing: conversations, fora, awareness, understanding, empathy on the ground on values like equality.

That kind of activism would prepare the grounds for a more liberal societal attitude than a sudden ratification of ICERD would do. After all, for changes like these to happen, it usually needs to come from the bottom-up, not from the top-down.

The Department of Statistics will release the third quarter GDP figures on November 17. To celebrate…

How fast do you think did the Malaysian economy expand in 3Q18 from a year ago?

  • Below 3% (11%, 1 Votes)
  • 3.0%-3.9% (22%, 2 Votes)
  • 4.0%-4.5% (22%, 2 Votes)
  • 4.6%-5.0% (33%, 3 Votes)
  • 5.1%-5.5% (11%, 1 Votes)
  • 5.6%-6.0% (0%, 0 Votes)
  • More than 6.0% (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 9

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Before you play the game yet again, here is some background.

The 2Q2018 GDP grew slowly at 4.5% YoY, largely due to an unexpected major gas supply disruption in west Malaysia. The relatively weak growth was enough for many economists to lower their expectations for Malaysia’s 2018 growth rate. The necessary repairs will take time and supply disruption will likely last until early next year. This can be seen from the industrial production index, where the mining component has been declining since May, diverging away from the other components.

And then of course, there was a change in government, which had affected public procurement policy, with major cleaning-up exercise relating to overpriced megaprojects. There had been some public spending slowdown due to the need to recalibrate everything towards a more transparent system, which means the use of open tender throughout the government system. But things are picking up again. More importantly, there had not been any austerity despite loose talks to the contrary. The recent budget should be proof enough.

Meanwhile, strong consumption expansion had hit the trade balance by a bit: for the third quarter, trade surplus did shrink by 4.1% YoY. But with the sales & service tax back online in September, the surplus ballooned RM15.3 billion as imports dropped amid rising exports.

But the unexpected economic stimulus the economy received in the form of 3-month tax holiday from June until August should more than balance out the supply shocks. Consumption should be expanding stronger than it did in it did in the second quarter, which was already growing at an above average rate of 8.0% YoY.

The term austerity is gaining currency in some Malaysian circles. The press and several brokers have mentioned it to describe what they think the Malaysian government is doing in light of various renegotiation or cancellation of megaprojects.

Austerity is a sexy term to pull in some eyeballs but really, I think the term has been used rather loosely to a point that it is inaccurate enough and starts to lose its meaning.

So what is austerity? How do we define austerity?

The first pass-definition should be an overall cut in absolute government spending. In other words, austerity happens when the government runs contractionary fiscal policy. A slowdown in government spending growth itself is insufficient to qualify as austerity. It has to be a cut in spending itself.

The refining factor to work with the first-pass definition is a significant tax hike that discourages spending and contributes to economic contraction. For those with knowledge in macroeconomics, I am thinking of a simple shift to the left in the IS curve in the IS-LM framework, which results in economic contraction.

Yet another refining definition is if these two contractionary policies – reduced government spending, higher tax or both – happen during a period of economic contraction. In tighter language, austerity is when fiscal policy works pro-cyclically during a downturn.

In Malaysia so far, that has not happened. Neither fiscal policy and the economy are in contractionary mode. Public data shows January-August government spending increased by 6.1% this year versus the same period last year. For the May-August period, government spending rose 1.1% YoY. From GDP perspective, public investment and spending rose in the first half of 2018 versus the first half of 2017. Meanwhile, the economy expanded 5.8% and 4.9% in both nominal and real terms in the first half of 2018 versus the same period last year.

And we must not forget, Malaysians received a significant tax cut in the form of 3-month tax holiday and the replacement of value-added consumption tax GST with the less burdensome production tax SST.

Meanwhile, the government has made public statements that Malaysia is not embarking on any austerity program, although it has committed itself to cleaning up its accounts due to years of off-budget abuses and opaque dealings.

Under this situation of continuing economic growth, public spending expansion and the absence of a tax hike, I think it is clear there is no austerity in place.

The truth is, many of the renegotiation and cancellation do not lead to absolute cuts. Rather, the changes are there to make way for other spending that are aimed to be more productive than, for instance, merely servicing overpriced debt for financially and economically unsustainable megaprojects negotiated incompetently by the previous corrupt government.

What is happening is a reallocation of resources. Not absolute cuts. Definitely not austerity.

Critics rushed to assign the new Pakatan Harapan government grades for its 100-day performance. MCA had the cheek to give the government a D grade. Others gave a B. If Pakatan Harapan had its own Pemandu, I am certain grade A+++ would have been announced in a pompous self-congratulatory parade.

I am unsure what grade I would give the government because of the subjective nature of the whole business. One could make it more objective by having a sheet tallying the weighted score, but I just won’t do that. Looking at my desk, I have many other things to do.

As I take a breather, all I can say is that I have my share of disappointment. Government action with respect to the recent child marriage case has been so underwhelming that I feel it is best for me not to think of it. Meanwhile, the official attitude taken against the LGBT community is not something I could defend. There are other problematic decisions, but all that points to the fact change does not happen overnight. It takes time, especially when it comes to culture.

In a democracy, changing the government alone is not enough. What is required is a change in the attitude of the people. At this moment, we need a leader who can make that happen without worrying too much about his or her approval ratings. But as I have been told, that is easy for me to say because I do not have to face the voters.

Yet, all those disappointments do not at all make me regret for doing what I did on May 9. In the days after it became clear there would be a Pakatan Harapan government, I think I understood early on how difficult it would be for change to happen and disappointment was something to be expected. Larger change needs time to happen.

And at the end of the day, before we rush to judge this government on its 101st day, I think it would be good to remind ourselves that at the very least, this government has a 5-year mandate. I would reserve my judgment until close to the end of that mandate.

This however does not mean the government should be free of criticism. Criticism is important to remind this government what is important, and to me, the most important agenda is the promised institutional reforms that will make sure the likelihood of past abuses repeating itself is low. The rest of the promises are secondary.

If we managed to set our institutions straight, then we would have a great foundation to build on in years to come beyond the 5-year period, regardless whichever side may come to power later. For me, that will be the true test of this Pakatan Harapan government.

I have been extremely busy and I have just realized the last time I updated this blog was just slightly more than 3 months ago.

I still want to keep this going, except this time, no real commentary. But the second quarter was quite a quarter, externally and especially domestically. These events had added significant short-term uncertainty that might have affected growth.

How fast do you think did the Malaysian economy expand in 2Q18 from a year ago?

  • Below 3% (8%, 1 Votes)
  • 3.0%-3.9% (8%, 1 Votes)
  • 4.0%-4.5% (23%, 3 Votes)
  • 4.6%-5.0% (38%, 5 Votes)
  • 5.1%-5.5% (15%, 2 Votes)
  • 5.6%-6.0% (8%, 1 Votes)
  • More than 6.0% (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 13

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