Mahathir Mohamadâ€™s claim that he did not go crawling to the World Bank in 1997-1998 for aid appears to be the result of a deliberate confusion, on his part, about the separate and distinct roles of this great institution and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The former Malaysian Prime Minister will probably claim another temporary bout of amnesia, as he once did in Court, in mistaking one for the other. Being already 86 since Dec 20, he will soon be able to claim not only amnesia but dementia and Alzheimerâ€™s disease besides his usual paranoia.
When Mahathir was denying about having anything to do with the World Bank, he was actually talking about the IMF. No one seems to have noticed this so far.
Itâ€™s no big secret that in publicly rejecting IMF aid in 1998, the papers also quietly reported then that the rejection did not extend to the World Bank. Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim was not saying anything new but highlighting the facts when he mentioned World Bank aid to Malaysia.
The Mother of All Lies
So, thereâ€™s really no need for Mahathir to swear on the Quran and defile the Holy Book with his lies. It seems Mahathir will swear to anything to save his skin. Each time he swears, it will be just to cover up another big lie. A proverb in Malayalam from Kerala, from where Mahathir’s roots can be traced, goes as follows: â€œOne will have to tell a thousand lies to cover up the first lie.â€
To his critics, Mahathirâ€™s entire life has been one big lie lived shamelessly and without a tinge of conscience or humanitarian considerations for others. Mahathirâ€™s reason for rejecting IMF aid – the return of colonialism as he claimed – was another great self-serving lie.
Mahathir was thereby able to dip into our EPF monies among others to bail out his family, nominees, and cronies without instituting real reforms. He should be charged with abuse of power, corruption, economic sabotage and treason. The IMF would have never stood for aid packages merely designed to bail out a small group of his people at the expense of an entire nation.
Ruthless coup d’etat and blatant cheating
This is not the first time that Mahathir has made a mess of the economy. Put it down to his inexperience in public administration and economic and financial management. This did not prevent him anyway from easing out his predecessor, Hussein Onn, from office and seizing the reins of power in what has turned out to be a coup dâ€™ etat in hindsight.
Mahathir was also single-handedly responsible for the 1986-1987 recession in Malaysia which ended in Umno being declared unlawful by a Judge, who obviously favoured him. Judge Harun Hashim could have ruled that the votes from the 30 illegal branches should not be taken into consideration and, accordingly, handed the 1987 Umno presidency to Tengku Razaleigh. The rest is history.
Gambling without compunction, losing billions of the people’s money
The recession of 1986-1987, one entirely of Mahathirâ€™s own making within five years of him becoming Prime Minister, was driven by two of his policies viz austerity drive; and bersih, cekap and amanah â€“ clean, efficient, trustworthy â€“ administration. The clean, efficient and trustworthy theme threw up the explosive BMF Scandal in Hong Kong. Those familiar with the case know it is linked to Mahathir as Bank Bumiputra reported to the Prime Ministerâ€™s Department and not the Finance Minister or Bank Negara.
Bank Negara lost RM15 billion playing with fire in the foreign exchange market until warned by the US Government to pull out. Mahathir directed this attempt to make free money in the foreign exchange market and the Bank Negara underling who carried out his hare-brained directive is today a Federal Cabinet Minister in the Najib Government. His name is Nor Mohamed Yakcop.
Not content with big-time forex gambling, Mahathir the incorrigible casino king also attempted to corner the International Tin Market in London, losing billions of EPF money in the 1985 Maminco scandal.
The dip in Government spending, thanks to the hare-brained austerity drive, coupled with a dip in foreign investments following the Buy British Last Policy, and the racist anti-Malaysian Chinese Look East Policy were all enough to drive the last nail into Mahathirâ€™s coffin until Harun Hashim saved him.
Mahathirâ€™s economic mismanagement was the theme of the 1987 campaign that Razaleigh and Musa Hitam, Deputy Prime Minister, ran to oust him from power.
Mahathir came close to being trounced. But during the break for Friday prayers and a break in the counting of votes for the Umno presidency, legend has it that RM 4.5 million was withdrawn from the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank to buy up the votes of the remaining delegates. In addition, people posing as Special Branch officers allegedly â€œkidnappedâ€ Najib and held him hostage until he gave the signal to his fatherâ€™s and uncleâ€™s supporters to vote for Mahathir instead of Razaleigh as he had earlier pledged.
Mahathirâ€™s two closest economic advisors during the dark economic days of 1987 were former MIC President S Samy Vellu and Daim Zainuddin who went on to replace Razaleigh as Umno Treasurer and Finance Minister.
Samy advised savings through the downsizing of the government workforce, and increase in revenues, through the corporatisation and privatization of various government departments. The result was that the government workforce fell from one million to below 800,000. But today, the civil service has topped the 1.2 million mark, a 50 per cent jump on the 800,000, and still bloating.
Daimâ€™s contribution was an accounting of the old Umno assets and to supervise the implementation of the creation of as many Malay paper millionaires as possible to keep company with the number of Chinese millionaires in the country. In the end, it was easy come, easy go. All these so-called Daim’s Boys have gone bankrupt and those that survived were bailed out in 1998 by Danaharta and other Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs).
Carnage and lies continue
Today, the state and federal GLC â€“ government-linked companies â€“ are being shamelessly touted to the masses as Malay companies and not state-owned vehicles which is what they are in reality. This is another legacy of Mahathirâ€™s hare-brained economic policies. If you donâ€™t achieve anything, just lie and keep lying until people believe you.
Daim could never give Mahathir a proper accounting of the old Umno assets and was soon bundled out of the Federal Cabinet. Some reports suggest that Daim was unceremoniously â€œsackedâ€ after being threatened with detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and also being under â€œhouse arrestâ€.
Mahathir became Finance Minister, a practice followed by his successors Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib.
The economic carnage continues. The lying continues.
One proof: Neighbouring Thailand could afford to announce a minimum wage of RM 1,500.00 per month recently for all sectors of the economy.
Human Resources Minister S Subramaniam, always so full of himself, earlier this month announced that Malaysiaâ€™s minimum wage would be between RM 700 per month and RM 1,200.00 per month implemented on a sector by sector basis. In short some sectors would get RM 700.00 per month while other sectors would, at the same time get RM 1,200.00 per month. He made no reference to other countries.
This is a result of Mahathirâ€™s economic legacies based on the theory â€œdonâ€™t share the cakeâ€, â€œbeggar thy neighbourâ€, â€œheads I win, tails you loseâ€.
Publicly, Mahathir always talked about win-win partnerships, smart partnerships, and prosper thy neighbour. Mahathir, ignoramus in economics, has never learnt lessons.