Latest subsidy cuts irrational, claims Anwar

By Clara Chooi, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, July 16 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today criticised the Najib administration’s rationale for the latest subsidy cuts, pointing out that the savings of RM750 million was a pittance compared to the billions spent for other “careless” expenditures.

The Pakatan Rakyat de facto leader accused the Barisan Nasional (BN) government of spending billions to bail out troubled government-linked companies and to foot exorbitant bills from foreign consultancies employed to help improve the prime minister’s international image.

He cited an example of how the government had spent RM700 million in taxpayers’ monies to help Sime Darby, which was facing losses amounting to RM946 million due to cost overruns in several projects including the controversial Bakun dam project.

“Burdening the people with the excuse of reducing fiscal deficits and using the savings to accommodate the government’s extravagance is not right and should be stopped immediately.

“Where is the dignity of a prime minister who takes the people’s money in the name of restructuring subsidies but using it to pay firms like APCO Worldwide up to RM77 million a year just to improve his image?

“This RM77 million to APCO is almost the same amount as the estimated savings from subsidy cuts on sugar, which is about RM126 million (as announced by Pemandu),” he said in a statement today.

Anwar, who is also the Parliamentary opposition leader, further pointed out that just yesterday, the House was informed that the PM’s Department’s operational expenditure had reached over RM3.8 billion last year and had been allocated a budget of RM3.9 billion for this year.

“This includes expenses for secretariats for former prime ministers and for Permata, which is handled by the prime minister’s wife,” he said, referring to Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.

In a written reply to DAP’s Taiping MP Nga Kor Ming yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz had explained that the escalated operational costs were due to the creation of new agencies in the department, including Pemandu (Implementation and Coordination Unit), and the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC), as well as an increase of manpower in some existing agencies.

Anwar claimed that cutting subsidies would not solve the country’s deficit problem but would instead exacerbate it similarly to 2008.

“In 2008, at the height of the fuel price rise, the country’s deficit escalated 4.8 per cent compared to 3.2 per cent in the previous year.