When you look at global risks for doing business, we can go through the checklist and see that uncertainty is ticking up down the line: failure of global leadership (check), energy price volatility (check), fiscal crises, cyber-attacks, social instability, financial institutions, infrastructure, good governance, terrorism (check, check, check), and widespread unemployment of unskilled workers.
The biggest clandestine threat is the evaporation of the middle class across the developed world. In the past the very definition of a banana republic has been the subjugation of society by a select and corrupt elite. This no longer applies only to the so-called 3rd world but also to global economic giants.
This is not the result of chance or free market forces, but rather the consequence of assertive policies designed to keep benefitting the super-rich so that the disparity between haves and have-nots has increased to the point where we have, today, two vastly different human experiences on the planet – that of the cocooned bubble of wealth, and the day-to-day grind of the rest of society.
Fully half of Malaysians live on less than RM2,000 a month, with rural Malaysians earning up to 40% less than that. Compare this to the billions squandered by BN /UMNO leaders and their lackeys in the 1MDB scandal alone. To make matters worse, food and fuel price increases, GST, and a 40% hit to the Ringgit over the last 5 years have all contributed to cost of living increases affecting the middle class.
From the day of the election, we highlighted that the first priority of the new PH government must be to support the Ringgit Malaysia by increasing investors confidence while concurrently reducing our debt. We have aggressively pursued this policy with allies like Japan in particular, even securing a RM7.6 billion, 10 year Samurai bond at an attractive 0.65% interest rate to pay down our sovereign debt that has higher interest rates.
The smooth transition of power and immediate action to call to account of corrupt actors from the previous administration right up to the former Prime Minister, should be confident boosters to investors domestic and foreign alike. And the recall of our capital home from outbound investments in Manhattan, Mayfair and Beverly Hills, should help stem the tide of pressure on the ringgit.
Still, while the rest of the world frets about a free-fall in 2019, we have reason for hope. Malaysians score high on comparative quality of life indices, taking into account factors such as purchasing power, safety, health care, pollution and climate. While the G7 struggles with economic and social challenges, we can “look east” to trading with ASEAN – 550 million people growing at 5% annually.
And although Mainland Chinese investment in mega infrastructure projects may take a breather, countries such as Japan and Germany are eager to step in to offer us world-beating technology combined with efficient capital and reliable execution, to help us achieve the targets of Vision 2025.
In many ways we have a lucky country “problem” – large land mass but low population, rich in natural resources such as oil & gas and palm oil, hard currency-earning sectors such as tourism, harmonious diversity amongst communities and a working democracy. All we had to do was govern the country honestly, administrate justice fairly, and legislate for the good of all citizens. Though we have failed on these counts in the past, it is PH’s intention to work to now rectify these deficiencies.
I started my journey in politics on the day Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was sacked for speaking the truth against corruption, malfeasance and massive abuse of power. I fought a valiant battle, fearlessly against the kleptomaniacs, was arrested, interrogated (albeit a friendly one ) and out on police bail. I was involved deeply in the formation of PPBM and worked tirelessly with many to form PH against all odds. I was never a politician not even a reluctant one. I took this challenge as I honoured and respected immensely the sacrifice done by many especially Tan Sri Muhyddin Yassin, at his pedestal of power. Every beginning has its rightful ending. I would like to wish all Malaysians a big thank you for allowing the latitude for PH a chance to govern and resuscitate Malaysia. May the new year be a different and better year for all. Happy New Year!
* Datuk Wira Dr Rais Hussin is Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chief strategist.
** When he is not occupied strategising to strengthen the political party, he writes for Astro AWANI.
*** The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of Astro AWANI.