Archive for the ‘Najib Tun Razak’ Category


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By DATUK SERI MUSA AMAN 

SABAH recorded its highest number of tourist arrivals last year. There were 3.427 million visitors, who spent an estimated RM7.25 billion based on receipts generated.

The amount was money paid for flights, rooms, transport, food, services and souvenirs they brought home to remind them of their trip to the “Land Below the Wind”. This contributed an extra 10 per cent to the state’s economy.

For this, I applaud the state Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry, as well as industry stakeholders. Kudos to the minister in charge, Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.

The remarkable achievement was made possible with hard work and perseverance, as well as the belief that we have what it takes to be a world-class destination.

Hard work — through the aggressive promotional activities carried out by the ministry via its “engine room”, the Sabah Tourism Board under the stewardship of Datuk Joniston Bangkuai.

Hard work — by working hand in hand with the related government agencies, private sector, service providers, retailers and communities that depend on tourist arrivals.

Perseverance — by believing that despite the challenges we face, Sabah is gifted with a natural setting that attracts many to its shores, mountains, rivers and jungles.

Perseverance — that despite all the brickbats, we have strived harder to present our charms, host our guests and do our best to serve them while they are here.

Another key factor is how the ministry, along with the board and other agencies, has strategically embraced digital marketing to promote the state. We have come a long way and put in a lot of effort to become a destination of choice.

The state has also received a lot of help from the federal leadership under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who has always been in awe of Sabah’s natural beauty.

Infrastructure development and the injection of funds have helped put in place the roads, airport runways, hotels, and electricity and water supply needed to play host to visitors.

To be on a par with world-class destinations, the state has embarked on endeavours, such as the Tanjung Aru Eco Development plan, to rejuvenate the iconic beach in Kota Kinabalu.

Federal approvals for flight arrivals have helped tremendously in boosting tourist arrivals, too.

Last year, four airlines commenced direct flights to Kota Kinabalu International Airport, where today, 13 foreign airlines have direct connections from 16 international locations.

There was a threefold increase in chartered flight arrivals, from 76 in 2015 to 210 last year, bringing in 25,627 passengers.

On our shores, there were 37 cruise and naval ships that called to port in Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Tawau, bringing in more than 33,000 visitors.

Our international relations with foreign countries have helped encourage tourist arrivals.

Friendly ties with China resulted in a double-digit growth in arrivals from the country, with 374,939 visitors. There was also an increase in arrivals from South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Brunei.

Domestic tourist arrivals are another important factor, with nearly 2.3 million people from other states having made Sabah their holiday destination.

All these will require better roads, communication lines and security. With greater development in the pipeline under the Barisan Nasional government, we can expect better connectivity that will allow more of Sabah to be explored.

We have anchor attractions, such as the majestic Mount Kinabalu; the islands in the Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Sakaran and Tun Mustapha marine parks in Kota Kinabalu, Semporna and Kudat, respectively; and, wildlife, such as orangutans at the Sepilok sanctuary in Sandakan and proboscis monkeys in Sukau and Bilit, Kinabatangan.

Other prime destinations include the Maliau Basin, Danum Valley and Imbak Canyon conservation areas.

We have seen new interest developing in adventure hiking trails in Kiulu, Tambunan and Penampang; the food industry, with visitors trying out fresh seafood and local delicacies; tamu grounds; and, cultural events.

Visit Tambunan Year 2017, for example, was envisioned by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan to promote the interior district as a tourist destination. The initiative is commendable.

It is our duty and responsibility, as the host, to provide the best we can so that every visitor leaves with pleasant memories and experiences from their trip to Sabah — and return.

**The writer is Sabah chief minister



To claim that things are getting better in their tenure and because of them is an old Prime Ministerial habit. A PM is undoubtedly a very important person in our dispensation. The office is vested with great authority and there is an aura about the incumbent that often fools even the cameras whose lights seem to caress rather than expose the object of their focus. Our system of government, with so much power of patronage concentrated in one person, ensures that mostly fawning and obsequious people who constantly whip up a lather of simulated adulation surround the Prime Minister. PM’s consequently confuse the power of patronage with the power that ensures compliance. It is small wonder when our supreme leaders start thinking of themselves as King Canute’s who can order the waves about.

The reality is that like the ocean’s waves, economic waves too are cosmically controlled and PM’s are like King Canute’s who futilely wave their hands about. Happily most PM’s realize this and make sure they are seen waving their hands appropriately with the tides of growth and the ebbs of inflation. But once in a while we get a leader who actually believes that the waves are obeying him. That is when we enter dangerous waters.

I recently attended an event that Prime Minister Najib Razak addressed. Unlike most other PM’s with the exception of Tun Dr Mahathir, he came promptly at almost the appointed minute and walked briskly to his place on the dais. He listened as the host, with a wry sense of humor, exclaimed how fortunate Malaysia is to be united as never before under one charismatic man. The Prime Minister looked on expectantly and the audience was suitably primed to roar its approval.

The Prime Minister then spoke and without much ado took the fight straight to the critics, a few of who like me were seated in the back row. He said: “For Malaysia to be at the top of the growth tables is an unusual situation. Obviously, there are some who find that difficult to digest and come up with imaginative and fanciful ideas to belittle that achievement.” This is unfair. But it is churlish to say that his critics do so because his government is perceived unable to resolve the debt-ridden government strategic investment arm, 1MDB’s RM46 billion debt or address the falling value of the Ringgit. To be truthful based on facts as perceived does not mean a person takes pride in belittling one’s own country? Is the next litmus test of patriotism going to be supporting the PM’s extravagant flights of fancy?

The Prime Minister’s case is that “Malaysia’s economic success is the hard-won result of prudence, sound policy and effective management.” He repeated: “Malaysia’s growth rate is acknowledged as the highest among major economies.” With evident sarcasm he added that his critics are confused when they say, “the growth rate does not feel right” and generously offered to alleviate the confusion with “facts in place of feelings.” The point here is no critic of any consequence ever argued that the growth rate “does not feel right.” They have just said that his government’s interpretation of the facts is not right.

Take GDP growth for instance. Few argue that the “real’ GDP growth is 4.97% as his government is claiming though there have been serious misgivings on how the GDP calculations were tweaked to jump growth a further 1%. The problem here is the use of the term “real.” In the real world the number that matters is the “nominal” GDP growth rate, which is a measure of current market prices.

For much of the past decade Malaysia’s nominal GDP growth was in the 4% range and corporate profitability growth was also in that range. Since inflation used to be in the 0.5% to 1.5% range, real GDP was in the 5% range. The present nominal GDP growth is 4.2%.

But the popular mood is determined by actual accruals and not by economic sleight of hand. In the real world it is the nominal GDP that matters. Corporate sales and profitability are calculated in nominal terms. Everyday commerce and business takes place in nominal terms. Government revenues are collected in nominal terms and levied on nominal incomes or sales. It is not a matter of feeling but the reality of life.

The fact is that 2015-16 has been a bad year for the Malaysian economy. In the budget for 2015-16 the government set a nominal GDP growth target of 5% . The nominal GDP growth turned out to be just 4.2%, which is below target. The real GDP growth of 4.97% is because of the collapse of world commodity prices and has little to do with the so-called “prudent policies.” Comparing apples with oranges can only fool some people for some of the time, and not all the people for all the time.

While on apples and oranges, food inflation is the inflation that matters to most people in this country where the average family expends over 60% of its income on food. This inflation has been well over 5% even though the government projected in the 2016 federal budget at 2% – 3%. Since the introduction of GST, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is used to measure inflation, has been on the increase. By the end of April 2015, the first month when GST was implemented, CPI increased 1.8 percent when seasonally compared to April 2014. In July 2015, four months after GST, CPI index was 3.3 percent higher than the same month a year earlier.

In his speech the PM also specifically referred to The Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysia (BR1M) monetary aid which will be increased to RM1,200 next year from RM 1,000 under the 2017 federal budget. The BR1M allocation will cost the government RM6.8 billion, to be delivered to 7 million households. The PM then goes into Tun Dr Mahathir bashing and says that BR1M is not “dedak”, but rather, it is a sincere assistance from the government to prioritise the rakyat’s needs.

Look at theses figures, Goods and Services Tax (GST) to rake in RM39 billion in 2016 (3.1 percent of GDP) (2015: estimated RM27 billion from April). Malaysia’s fiscal deficit is projected to decline to RM38.8 billion or 3.1 percent of GDP in 2016 (2015: 3.2 percent). Oil-related revenue to drop 14.1 percent in 2016 due to lower global crude oil prices (2015: 19.7 percent). The federal government expenditure to increase 1.7 percent to RM265.2 billion in 2016 (2015: RM260.7 billion). Nominal GNI (gross national income) per capita to increase 5.6 percent to RM38,438 next year from 4.2 percent anticipated growth to RM36,397 this year.

One is tempted to dismiss this as just fanciful claims, but in these times when ones patriotism and professional integrity is apt to challenged for lesser lese majeste, it will be prudent to just say: It’s time to get real!

Meanwhile honest heart-centered Malaysians continue to struggle to make ends meet, their ideas, talents finding little or no nourishing context in which to flourish.


The Pan Borneo Highway has become a reality only under the leadership of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said in the past, no Prime Minister “had the guts” to implement the mega project.

“We had asked for the Pan Borneo (highway) in the past, but no PM was brave enough to give it to us. I am not trying to talk bad (about others), but only PM Najib dared to give this to us.

“Barisan Nasional has a good track record and the Pan Borneo Highway is not the only example of their commitment.

“Based on (his track) record, our current PM is the most concerned over our welfare. He has given (Sabah) the most allocation, with thousands of millions, this is not a lie. Thank you sir,” Musa said during the launch of the Sabah Pan Borneo Highway Lahad Datu Bypass package here by Najib.

Musa said the support shown includes providing security assets, especially at the Eastern Sabah Safety Zone (Esszone).

“So, like the (Bahasa Melayu) term, we should not be ‘kacang lupakan kulit’. We should return the favour with our loyalty and support to the government,” stressed Musa.

Meanwhile this morning, launching the Sabah Pan Borneo Highway in Lahad Datu, Najib said he wants the Pan Borneo Highway project to become his legacy and something the Sabah folks will remember him by.

“Because I want to be remembered during my tenure as PM, that I gave this to Sabah. That this project is an effort under my administration for the people of this state,” he said at SMK Sepagaya here.

Chief Minister Musa Aman welcomed the decision by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to allow Malaysian vessels to enter the republic’s waters in hot pursuit of kidnappers.

“This is a positive development towards curbing kidnapping incidents in Sabah,” he said in a statement.

He said granting Malaysian security forces the permission to pursue kidnappers in Philippine waters would increase the chances of nabbing them.

The decision was announced after Duterte’s meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in Putrajaya yesterday.

Musa said Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo’s decision to allow a similar move was a step in the right direction towards curbing cross border crimes.

The chief minister said he was also pleased to note that Duterte has agreed to the gradual repatriation of Filipinos who are staying illegally in Sabah.

“We hope for continued cooperation with both our neighbours, the Philippines and Indonesia, to maintain the peace and security and good bilateral and trade relations,” he added.

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The Sabah Government has its own ways, which have proven to work, in claiming its rights from the Federal Government as provided for in the Federal Constitution, said Chief Minister Musa Aman.

He said what was important now was that the way the state government had approached the matter all this while had borne fruit, compared with the “making noise” approach or publicity stunts that might not work.

“When we act on something, we don’t have to tell the whole world how we do it.

“We find that it is better to discuss when proposing something,” said Musa, who was responding to a question by Wilfred M. Bumburing (Independent-Tamparuli) during the Sabah Legislative Assembly here today.

Citing an example, Musa said the state managed to obtain 30% equity in on-shore oil exploration in Sabah through its negotiations with the Federal Government and oil companies.

“From zero (stake), we now own 30% equity regarding on-shore exploration. This has never happened before. This is what I mean by no need to make noise.”

Meanwhile, the state assembly was also told that main and technical committees were set up to review devolution of powers for the Sabah and Sarawak governments.

In responding to a question by Wilfred, Sabah’s Special Functions Minister Teo Chee Kang said both the national-level main committees would be jointly led by Foreign Minister Anifah Aman (for Sabah) and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri (for Sarawak).

He also said Anifah would lead the technical committee for Sabah.

Among the things to be discussed were to allow officers for Federal Government agencies in Sabah to make their own decisions without referring to Putrajaya and to give a bigger role to the state governments to decide its own projects, especially concerning location and priorities, he said.

The committee will also discuss holding interviews for civil service positions to be held in rural areas; reducing the public prosecutor’s powers under the Criminal Procedure Code to the State Attorney to prosecute offences under any ordinance or state enactment; and to allow Sabah and Sarawak to approve and to issue deep sea fishing permits, he said.


After the United States Department of Justice filing of two lawsuits to seize more than US$1 billion of assets which it alleged were purchased using funds siphoned from 1MDB, here is a very interesting piece written by a Malaysian-born Dr Bakri Musa, a surgeon practicing medicine in the Silicon Valley, California.

 

The Malay Shame and Tragedy That Is 1MDB

M. Bakri Musa

http://www.bakrimusa.com

Imagine had Prime Minister Najib Razak responded differently to the US Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture lawsuit and said instead, “I have instructed my Foreign Minister to seek clarification to determine who this “Malaysian Official 1” so we could investigate him. I have also directed the Attorney General to review the evidence in the DOJ complaint.”

As for 1MDB, imagine if its spokesman had responded, “We view with deep concern allegations that assets meant for our company, a public trust, had been corruptly diverted. We seek clarification on who 1MDB Officials 1 and 2 are to make sure that they are no longer in our employ. We will review our policies to ensure that such pilferages as alleged by DOJ if they did occur will not recur. Additionally, we are engaging legal counsel to protect our interests in the American trial.”

Instead, what Malaysians and the world heard last Wednesday were irrelevant and meaningless statements to the effect that neither Najib nor 1MDB are the defendants in the suit. True and obvious, needing no response or clarification. The defendants are the owners of those seized assets which are alleged to have been acquired with funds corruptly siphoned from 1MDB, a GLC of which Najib is the Chairman.

The responses from Najib, his ministers, and 1MDB only brought shame to themselves, to Malays, and to Malaysia.

As for the defendants, their options are either not to contest the suit and thus forfeit those assets, or fight it. Negotiated settlement is unlikely. This is the biggest asset forfeiture in US history; Attorney-General Lynch is out to make a point to corrupt kleptocrats everywhere in these days of complex cross-border money laundering.

Before this, the biggest forfeiture involved the giant telecom company, Amsterdam-based Vimpel.com, and individuals close to the president of Uzbekistan. The Uzbeks ignored the suit while the company pleaded guilty to the criminal charges. Rest assured that those defendant Uzbeks won’t be visiting Disneyland or Las Vegas any time soon!

This 1MDB corruption may be a legal case but politics is never far off the radar in Putrajaya and Washington, DC, as well as in the potentially more volatile international arena.

No-Contest Option

Not contesting would save substantial legal fees and other costs, as well as the not insignificant personal hassle factor. Those aside, the biggest advantage would be not further exposing the defendants and others, legally as well as in many other ways, during the pretrial discovery and trial. Spared a trial the identity of “Malaysian Official 1” will never be known, at least not officially, a crucial consideration in Putrajaya.

The loss of those assets, even though in the hundreds of millions (in US dollars, not worthless ringgit), is at least quantifiable. However, even the Sultan of Brunei could not shrug off a loss of that magnitude.

Choose this option and Reza Aziz, one of the defendants who according to court documents is also related to Malaysian Official 1, would be well advised to pack up and find a country that does not have extradition or tax treaty with the US. He also had better get used to a much less luxurious lifestyle.

Were Reza to pursue this course, at least in his old age he could regale his grandchildren with stories that he once owned a glittering condo in Manhattan and shared drinks with Hollywood stars in Las Vegas.

That would also be a very Malay story. At Kampung Baru today there are many elders who look with nostalgic gaze at the skyscrapers in the Golden Triangle and lament, “Ah, itu cerita dulu!” (Those are old stories!)

The US Government would recoup its considerable costs from those assets. Rest assured there would be itemized bills for every paper clip and DOJ lawyers would be charging senior partners’ rates. Even after factoring that there will still be substantial loot left. By statute, that belongs to the people of Malaysia.

If Najib is still Prime Minister, do you think those Americans would be dumb enough to return those millions to the same scoundrels? America could not disburse them to Malaysian NGOs either as most are not sympathetic to UMNO. That would present a delicate diplomatic problem. On the hand it could prove to be the most sophisticated and effective exercise of “soft power,” more powerful than “boots on the ground” in effecting regime change.

At any rate don’t expect those Monet paintings to hang on the walls of kampung huts any time soon.

Contesting the Forfeiture

Contesting would be no walk in the park. It would be expensive, protracted, and risk uncovering details that could trigger criminal charges. American lawyers are not cheap and potential defense attorneys would want their substantial fees paid upfront and from “clean” sources. With those assets tied, Reza better have other fat bank accounts. Even if he were to receive help from his “Malaysian Official 1” relative, Reza’s defense attorneys would insist, and need unchallenged documentation, that the money is legitimate and not siphoned public funds.

The earliest a trial could begin would be a year or two hence, in time for the UMNO Leadership Convention or worse, the next Malaysian election. A trial would also risk exposing the identity of “Malaysian Official 1, a consideration for Putrajaya.

Being a civil case the burden of proof for the prosecution is lower, merely the preponderance of evidence, not the much higher “beyond a reasonable doubt” of a criminal trial. The burden also shifts to the defendants to prove that those assets were acquired with untainted funds.

In court documents Reza Aziz claimed that the millions he received from some unknown Arab was a gift. An incredulous assertion that even his accountant did not believe him; hence the attestation from his “donor.” If this be a trial by jury, it would be tricky to convince an American juror, as with Reza’s accountant, that receiving millions from a stranger is a “gift.” Besides, the image of an Arab in America these days is far from pristine.

With a trial the testimonies of those professionals who had advised the defendants would be scrutinized. The Watergate Hearings of the 1970s exposed the unsavory activities of the various advisors. Many prominent lawyers ended being disbarred, including the President’s Counsel as well as a former Attorney-General.

A trial would highlight an ugly truth that could prove explosive in race-sensitive Malaysia. That is, Reza Aziz excepted, those corrupt Malays got only the crumbs while the gravy flowed to that Wharton-trained Chinaman. That won’t sit well with UMNO Youth’s “Red Shirts” or PERKASA boys.

A trial would also showcase the professionalism and meticulousness of American prosecutors and investigators. That would not make the former failed UMNO operative and now Malaysia’s Attorney-General look good. The Malay image is already battered by the amateurs at 1MDB.

From the perspective of international politics, it may be shrewd not to identify “Malaysian Official 1.” This forfeiture however, is not the only game. After all, Obama did not tee off with Najib that Christmas in Hawaii because he (Najib) was a Tiger Woods. It was part of Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” show, with Najib the prop.

There are other actors in this new shadow play. China is asserting itself, most visibly through military exercises in the South China Sea but more effectively elsewhere. Note the abrupt change of face at the recent ASEAN conference that had initially condemned China, and ASEAN’s collective silence on the International Court’s decision on the South China Sea dispute.

China too could play the Obama game, not on the green of Hawaii’s golf course but FELDA’s oil palm oil plantation. China could buy palm oil from Africa, and not offer inflated prices for those rusty 1MDB assets.

Najib now has to balance the interests of his stepson and former Beverly Hills real estate tycoon Reza Aziz versus that of FELDA settlers and their wooden huts. Not an easy choice!

The kampung boy in me longs to see a good fight by our modern-day Hang Tuah. Thus I challenge Reza to be jantan (man) enough to fight this US forfeiture.

Back to reality, the winners in this 1MDB shadow play are many and obvious. Reza is one, though not as big as he was before the forfeiture; so too Malaysian Official 1 as well as IMDB Officials 1 and 2. As for that Wharton MBA character, he could still savor his shark’s fin soup in Taiwan. The US DOJ too is a winner, and a very big one.

As for the losers, 1MDB is the obvious. Its current management should sue the previous board and management for incompetence as well as breach of fiduciary duties to recover some of the losses. Current management owes the company and Malaysians that much.

The other victims are less obvious. They include FELDA settlers now deprived of better schools, smart young Malays who excelled on their IB tests but now cannot go abroad, and those dedicated GLC Malay executives whose reputations are now tainted because of the shenanigans of those monkeys at 1MDB.

Those Malaysian officials who responded last Wednesday to the DOJ’s lawsuit and those Malays who still strenuously defend Malaysian Official 1 have yet to recognize these victims. That’s the terrible shame and great Malay tragedy.

http://bakrimusa.blogspot.my/2016/07/the-malay-shame-and-tragedy-that-is-1mdb.html


Before concluding that the Panama papers are the Holy Grail of global corruption, certain facts must be viewed in perspective – one that the journalists involved in the expose have been careful to articulate but readers may have overlook due to the seductive conclusions big names tend to offer.

The papers are essentially records maintained by a law firm in a tax haven showing how several individuals used its services to set up entities and investment vehicles. Independently, this may not be a crime in several jurisdictions as the journalists have pointed out. But if properly investigated, they may reveal how some of those named might have used the route to evade rather than avoid taxes.

Beyond the fact that the records of one law firm are now out in the open, their disclosure, a remarkable journalistic feat by any measure, must be obvious that neither the presence nor the role of overseas tax havens are exactly a secret. They exist, as they have for a long time, and are used as much for avoidance as they are for straightforward evasion. While the Malaysian government has not been quick to announce a probe, it must view these disclosures in the backdrop of its avowed and largely unfulfilled objective of rooting out black money, especially money salted away overseas. In this context, the response of the Bank Negara Governor has been disappointing.

The ways of Malaysia’s rich and famous are increasingly becoming public knowledge. Prominent Malaysians’s, including one of the prime minister’s sons, Mohd Nazifuddin Mohd Najib, former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir’s son Mirzan Mahathir, even Kamaluddin Abdullah son of another former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, owning offshore companies in Panama is just the latest of the unraveling, and adding them to the likes of Vladimir Putin, David Cameron, Xi Jinping and Nawaz Sharif among others.

Insofar as Malaysia is concerned, the onus is on tax and enforcement authorities to probe the names and information that have come into the public domain and evaluate these against declarations and filings made by the named individuals before reaching definite conclusions. This exercise must be concluded with urgent despatch, as any delay would in the event of a default deprive the exchequer of revenue. Equally, if the transactions are kosher, a delay would prolong an infamy. The suspicion here is that because of the nebulous nature of tax laws and the frequent amendments made by governments, many of these transactions will fall in the large grey space that almost by design exists between the black and white of the legal framework. In jurisdictions outside Malaysia, especially those where public persons must maintain the highest standards of probity, the revelations are bound to cause upheavals, as indeed they already have in Iceland. They are unlikely though to cause more than momentary discomfort to political figures like Russian President Vladimir Putin or Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, individuals who have in the past brushed aside such charges with disdain.

Panama is a small sliver of a country in Central America joining North and South America. Its immediate geographical neighbors are Costa Rica in the north and Colombia in the south. It is the narrow isthmus that separates the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. A 77 kilometers long manmade canal capable of accommodating large ships joins the two oceans. The revenues from this were for long the nations biggest source of income since the canal opened in 1914.

Panama soon found that becoming a tax haven that assured investors of their privacy provided a more lucrative income. The proximity to the Americas, and the balmy Caribbean islands, and countries like Colombia with its huge cocaine production and export business, and Latin America’s many kleptomaniac tin pot dictators made Panama even more attractive. Till not long ago after the overthrow of Panama’s General Manuel Noriega the Canal Zone was under the protection of US troops and that too served as an incentive for Americans seeking an offshore tax haven.

Panama as a tax haven offers foreign individuals and businesses little or no tax liability in a fairly politically and economically stable environment. Tax havens also provide little or no financial information to foreign tax authorities. This in short is the reason Panama is so important to our moneyed people who have good reason to hide their real wealth.

This leaves us to ask: Why do the rich want to hide their wealth? Well, simply because they are not as wealthy as they appear to be. And if they honestly declared their true wealth they would not only be liable to pay more income tax but could also open many of them to various charges of corporate fraud and malfeasances that could earn them hefty prison terms. So the income they cannot declare gets hidden in a tax haven. The big bucks are made and salted away.

A good part of this money is round tripped back to Malaysia via nearby Singapore. Not surprisingly in 2015 the top FDI investing countries was Singapore. Singapore is the home of hundreds of corporate entities that act as a pass through for funds being held overseas for Malaysians or Malaysian entities. Singapore is little more than cutouts for monies held in other more distant tax havens like Panama, Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Lichtenstein. The smaller the country the more pliable the officials.

According to Global Financial Integrity, a Washington DC based think-tank; Malaysians were estimated to have illicitly sent out $73 billion in 2015. Where does this money go? Countries like Switzerland that offer banking secrecy usually do not pay any interest on such deposits. So money goes to corporations in tax havens from where they are invested in businesses world over. Ever wondered how many local successful businessmen managed to get so big overseas, so soon?

This is where the Panama’s of the world come in. There was a time when Panama in Malaysia was synonymous with a man’s wide-brimmed straw hat made from the leaves of the Toquilla tropical palm tree. That Panama is long forgotten. Today’s Panama is synonymous with offshore corporations and assured secrecy. The times have changed.



The Sabah State Cabinet wants the relevant authorities to take drastic action to resolve once and for all the issue of illegal immigrants in the state, after the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) blamed “corrupt officials” and illegal syndicates for the state’s burgeoning foreigner population.

Chief Minister Musa Aman said the State Cabinet, with consensus, welcomed the release of the findings of the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the issue of illegal immigrants in Sabah and supported the recommendations made to resolve the issue.

“THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT UNDER PRIME MINISTER DATO SRI NAJIB TUN RAZAK HAS FULFILLED ITS PROMISE ON THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE RCI AND TO RELEASE ITS FINDINGS,” he said after being briefed on the RCI findings and recommendations at the weekly State Cabinet meeting today.

He said these findings have been released by an independent panel that has heard and scrutinised the testimonies of multiple witnesses.

Musa said based on these findings, it was discovered that there were wrongdoings committed by individuals for monetary gain.

“These grievous acts were committed by irresponsible individuals who were greedy and they have been brought before the law for their crimes,” he said.

In moving forward post-RCI, he said it was important for concrete measures to be taken to ensure that these acts do not recur and any efforts by any syndicates that could undermine the sovereignty of this nation must be dismantled and face the long arm of the law.

He said the State Cabinet therefore welcomed the recommendations to set up a PERMANENT COMMITTEE on Foreigners to be co chaired by Home Affairs Minister, Datuk Zahid Hamidi and himself as well as a Working Committee on Foreigners to be chaired by Deputy Chief Minister, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan.

“We also call on relevant Departments and agencies to overcome any weaknesses and tighten any loopholes within their respective structures to maintain the integrity of their respective governmental functions and the ultimate objective, which is serving the people,” he said.

In the meantime, he said the State Government would continue to work hand in hand with the Federal Government to overcome issues dealing with illegal immigrants in the state.

He said the relevant authorities such as Police, National Registration department and the Immigration Department are working closely through statewide operations such as Ops Bersepadu to flush out illegal immigrants in the state.

“It is also my hope that our counterparts in our neighboring countries will assist us in this effort by facilitating the return of their citizens to their respective countries,” he said.


Chief Minister Musa Aman, also holding the finance portfolio, presented the annual Sabah State Budget for 2015 at an estimated revenue collection of RM 3.862 billion, a revenue surplus of RM 49 million. For the first time since 2008, the Sabah State Government has projected a surplus.

Presenting the annual budget in the State Legislative Assembly yesterday, for a record 12th time as Chief Minister, Musa said that for 2015 the state government proposed to spend RM3.813 billion and the budget rolls out its growth and human development trajectory focusing on poverty eradication, enhancing quality of life and development of youth and women.

This budget has provided considerable emphasis on infrastructure development and investment without losing sight of welfare and social protection. In other words, his attempt is to put economic growth on an even keel with human development.

The budget also has hyperboles and ambitious targets; however they are reasonably well matched by appropriate allocations and policy thrusts.That Musa wants to benchmark the state against the best in Asia, although a bit hyperbolic, is vivid in the budget document. Therefore, substantial focus is on sustainable development. Some RM234.6 million will be channelled to various agencies in developing human capital involving the youth.

The government’s aspiration and pledge is to continue with the development and to provide a solid foundation for the people’s well-being and State’s prosperity for the benefit of future generations. And to ensure continued development for the State, the 2015 budget objectives are dedicated to upgrading basic infrastructures and public utilities, developing youth ‎and human capital, eradication of poverty and enhancement of the people’s quality life, as well as balancing regional development.

To achieve these objectives, Musa stressed the State government would implement:

‎ (i) Strengthening of revenue collection and broadening of revenue sources;

(ii) Planning expenditure in an optimal way (that is spending with the greatest impact);

(iii) Focusing on sectoral and sustainable development, and

(iv) Improving delivery systems towards achieving targets.

‎Musa even said that in previous years, Sabah’s resources and expenditures were managed in a prudent, effective and efficient manner in accordance with the financial regulations. And for the year 2013, 20 ministries, departments, statutory bodies and state agencies have managed to achieve a 4-star rating. This has made Sabah being recognised as having the best record of financial management in Malaysia for two consecutive years.

Although RM98.63 million has been allocated to Department of Irrigation and Drainage for flood mitigation programmes its hardly enough after seeing the floods this last October and the losses and inconvenience suffered by the residents in the affected areas. As a geologist, I know Sabah is, geologically speaking, very young, causing huge soil movements in which landslides and flooding becomes the norm after much rain. Highly dynamic physical processes dominate the mountainous terrain and therefore, implementing infrastructure development projects is a challenge and the cost to built and maintain is more costlier than other states.

In fact, the Federal Government should take note of this and should provide Special Funds to the Sabah State Government. Although a total of RM1.250 billion has been allocated for the provision of public infrastructure and utilities in this budget, of this RM180 million is allocated for the construction and maintenance programmes of urban and rural roads; slope repair, construction and replacement of old bridges, but this is hardly enough.

On information and communication technology (ICT) development, Musa has allocated RM71.36 million. Musa knows that our generation is the generation of “digital natives”, very much dependent on ICT and technology is a necessity in daily life. This allocation will be used to fully support the development of ICT in the state. Again this is an attempt to mobilize the youth in Sabah for a stronger future generation.

For tourism, Musa has allocated RM143.13 million which will be provided to promote and enhance the tourism sector in Sabah as the State Government has set a target of 3.7 million tourist arrivals with an expected tourism receipts amounting to RM 7.382 billion. Eventhough the tourism industry is getting a beating due to the kidnappings by Abu Sayaff and the MH370 mysterious disappearance, Sabah still recorded 1,889,301 tourist as at July 2014, an increase of 2.8% compared to the same period last year.

Lastly, agriculture, the main source of Sabah’s socio economic stability, was allocated a total of RM336.50 million. And for cultivating a better reading habit Musa has given RM39.28 million to the Sabah State Library.

All people-oriented schemes started during the 12-year tenure of Musa Aman would continue, many of them receiving higher allocations and grants. This was the best budget Musa could present in the present turbulent times.Sitting at his desk in the Chief Minister’s Office, Musa said that when he first took charge of the state’s economy, he thought that the sky was the limit. A similar ambition today after 12-year tenure would most definitely serve Sabah well.


The tragic and outrageous shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 on its journey from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur over Ukrainian airspace on Thursday is a direct consequence of the ongoing war in Ukraine. Even while offering solace to the family of the dead, the international community needs to fix the responsibility for the firing of the missile that brought down MH17 that was flying at 33,000 feet above sea level, with 298 people on board.

The blame game has already started among the Ukrainian government, the pro-Russian rebel forces fighting the separatist war in the eastern part of the country, and Russia itself. There have been previous instances of Ukraine’s military aircraft getting shot down in the same region. It is surprising that MAS and some other international carriers have been sticking to this dangerous airspace all these weeks and months and only now have decided to steer clear of the zone. The Ukrainian rebels, the prime suspects, were perhaps targeting another Ukrainian military aircraft expected at that time; they even claimed they were in possession of missiles and had shot down a military aircraft.

Big powers playing proxy, aiding rebels to defeat the incumbent is not new and the US did the very same thing through her CIA in funding and arming the Taliban – including anti aircraft Stinger missiles -to oust the Russians in Afghanistan. As an aftermath, the Taliban has arms and deadly Stinger missiles even till to day. Now it seems it is the Russian’s turn to suffer a similar odium. Russia should put an end to separatist rebels group. We should not forget that history is full of examples where countries have created groups for their benefits but later on these groups have created problems for these countries. Even Malaysia helped the Moro separatist in Southern Philippines at one time and now the same group is creating trouble in Sabah and things have back fired big time for Malaysia, while I’m writing this piece there is even a curfew being declared in the east-coast of Sabah. What goes around sure comes around…

This ghastly tragedy could not have come at a worse time for us in Malaysia. Hardly four months ago, MH370 mysteriously went missing while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Even debris has not been found till to date and there is no clue on what happened to it.

The fallout of the war in Ukraine, in which Russia has played a controversial role, has now become an even bigger international issue with the shooting down of our MAS aircraft. Some countries have already called for the United Nations to play a more decisive role in ending this conflict and also taking charge of the investigation. There were a couple of other aircraft quite close to the site where MAS flight MH17 was shot down. Russian President Vladimir Putin was reportedly in the air at the same time. An Air India aircraft carrying Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a diversion to avoid this zone. Tragedies such as this only revive the demand for international aviation organisations to take a more active and dynamic role in tracking or monitoring flights in the interests of the safety of passengers. Airlines will have to accept such a monitoring mechanism sooner rather than later. The Ukrainian authorities have already begun a probe and have taken note of some Twitter posts purportedly put out by the separatists who they say are to blame. The immediate need is to order a full-fledged international investigation into this tragedy, as demanded by our Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, perhaps headed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Unfortunately, no remedy is available to Malaysia or to MAS whose plane has been shot. Further, one wonders whether there is any remedy available to crew and passengers’ relatives. What can be done by the United Nations to avoid such attacks in future? It appears that United Nation is simply a helpless watcher, just as it is in case of Israeli attack on Palestine’s Gaza residents.

In this tragedy, we all must stand together as Malaysians. But again I say, what goes around sure comes around…