Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders used dire forecasts of a gloomy future if there are no subsidy cuts to warn that voting for Barisan Nasional (BN) in the next general election would lead the country to bankruptcy.
A government minister this week had predicted Malaysia could be bankrupt by 2019 if it does not begin to cut subsidies for petrol, electricity, food and other staples, which cost RM74 billion last year. But the Najib administration is waiting for public feedback before deciding on actual cuts.
DAP leader Lim Kit Siang said it was not subsidies but BN’s corruption and abuse of power that has led the country to current financial crisis.
“I cannot imagine if DAP, PKR or PAS had made the announcement that country will be bankrupt by 2019. If we did, Umno would have labelled us as anti-nationalist and traitors. We probably would have been locked up in ISA and given free food.
“Remember Vision 2020? We were supposed to become a developed nation by 2020 but unfortunately one year before 2020, we are already bankrupt,” he told a crowd last night in Tanah Merah, a two-hour drive from the Kelantan state capital.
Lim was one of many PR leaders in the state speaking at ceramahs ahead of the PKR convention this weekend.
Thousands of people had slowly filled the football field in Tanah Merah to hear the PR leaders, with supporters of all ages coming with families and straw mats sitting in between the two goal posts across the field.
Surrounding the field were stalls bustling with people buying goods, from traditional medicine to perfume. There were also children zigzagging through the crowd selling peanuts and refreshments.
The bustling night bazaar proved to be an ironic backdrop to arguments that the country’s economy is broken and needs reforms.
Lim declared that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s New Economic Model (NEM) is an admission that the country has been in an economic stagnation for the past 10 years.
“Yes, we do believe that we must gradually reduce the country’s subsidies but how can we be certain that the proposed formula will solve the problem because these are only the symptoms. The core problem is the years of corruption practised by the Barsian Nasional government.
“Therefore, the first step is not to abolish subsidies but abolish all forms of corruption!” he said.
The government also announced that slashing subsidies for petrol, diesel, gas, electricity, sugar and flour, among other staples, would save the government RM103 billion over the next five years.
Lim also dared Najib to a “dollar to dollar” challenge.
“I challenge the prime minister and BN government that the country can save RM103 billion if the government abolishes all forms of corruption and misuse of powers. This is because a study has shown that the country has been losing RM10 billion to RM28 billion every year through corruption. So does Najib have the political will?” asked Lim.
PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said Umno’s misuse of state funds has forced the government to legalise gambling.
“Back then, they said that they cannot legalise gambling because it was against but today they are legalising because Umno has no money. Their excuse is that they need to legalise betting to help curb illegal gambling. Something must be wrong with their heads.
“The world today is upside down, we have a Muslim government that wants to legalise betting but we have Chinese who are against it. They don’t understand that the poor people will suffer. This is why we are against Barisan Nasional. They have no principles,” he said.
Anwar also ridiculed Najib, saying that his political foe is misleading the public.
“Now they want to take back our subsidies because the country is heading towards bankruptcy. The prime minister had earlier announced that the economy was making a strong recovery but now our country is near bankrupt?
“They should fight against corruption but not take away the subsidies. They only know how to take. They take away land and seize oil away from Kelantan. They are just thieves,” he said.
He said the government must remove commissions and not subsidies.
“Every year the country loses RM20 billion from what? From commissions made from building houses, stadiums and buying submarines. Whose money is this? That is our money! We should eliminate commissions and not subsidies because subsidies affect the poor and not the rich,” he said.
PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat condemned the government for sanctioning betting because it was against Islam.
“They say that they want to legalise betting so they can monitor gambling. How you can expect a man to supervise another man? It is like asking a cow to supervise another cow. Who can control man? Only Allah,” said the Kelantan mentri besar.
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