Friday, September 01, 2006

The PAS Budget - Comme Si Comme Ca?

Prior to the government announcement of its budget, PAS has announced its alternative budget, though it isn’t the main Opposition Party in federal politics. Maybe it just wants to upstage the BN and makes PM AAB look bad?

But still, let’s have a quick look.

Firstly, it is proposing to channel profits from national petroleum company Petronas into subsidies for fuel as well as reverting petrol prices that existed before the 30 sen hike in February this year.

There are two parts to this plan. I don’t believe people would argue about the first part, where Petronas earnings should be more visible and its expenditure transparent and accountable. However, I am not too supportive of subsidies, because subsidies always lead to corrupt practice and smuggling.

Then PAS wants to restore the people’s spending power by a series of financial policies such as (1) suspending water and electric tariff hikes, (2) two months bonus for civil servants capped at RM15,000, (3) RM250 tax rebate for schoolchildren-related items, (4) suspending increase in toll rates and reevaluating concession agreements which allows PLUS (which manages the North-South Highway) from increasing toll rates annually up to the year 2018, and (5) reducing personal taxes from 28 to 25 percent from the 2007 financial year.

Certainly these would be popular but are they good management? Can their effect be costed to see whether with such a programme we won’t be in the red in a year or two? Personally I don’t believe in bonuses for civil servants. Rather, if we can afford it, I want to see that RM 15,000 become part of their basic salary.

I hope PAS is into good management practice instead of grandstanding with popular policies that opposition parties, without the responsibility of managing the nation’s ledger book, usually indulges in. Someone ought to cost its policies to see whether it’s realistic or nonsense.

It also came up with policies for promoting business activities, bemoaning that Malaysia has been lagging in this aspect behind neighbours Singapore and Thailand, and Hongkong too, because there are far too many regulations and regulatory agencies that overlap in functions until it stalls business activities.

Hey, everyone wants to … er … participate. It’s the Boleh spirit! But I agree with PAS in this respect.

The best proposal by PAS was its proposed policy to place the Anti-Corruption Agency and Petronas under the jurisdiction of Parliament as an oversight body.

Now we come to the crux of its Islamic credentials.

When asked about affrimative action for Malays, PAS youth chief Salahuddin Ayub who was present at the press conference said the party agreed to a 30 percent bumiputera equity requirement for foreign direct investment, but he qualified that only deserving entrepreneurs are chosen.

He said: “They (the foreign investors) don’t want a sleeping partner, who just does nothing and takes a monthly salary.”

We know that a couple of days ago, PAS was wooing the Chinese sector by its acknowledgement of the contributions of Chin Peng and his Communist Party of Malaya’s fight against the Japanese invaders and the British colonialists. I blogged on that in PAS: "Chin Peng a brave freedom fighter".

Now, it obviously wants to look after its main constituencies, the Malay heartland, by supporting the 30% bumiputra equity. Mind you, PAS qualifies it by averring that ‘only deserving entrepreneurs’ would be chosen.

I wonder whether this would fall under its Islamic equality claim?

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