Ordinary Malaysians, particularly the younger generation, should not be left to pick up the tab of spendthrift politicians helming government-linked companies for years to come, Mustafa K Anuar writes.
The red flag raised by former primary industries minister Teresa Kok over a plan to build a RM100m rubber technology centre in Jerantut is indeed a cause for concern.
Supported by newly minted Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB) chairman Ahmad Nazlan Idris, the project is said to have been approved at “warp speed”. This raises several questions, among them, whether a cost-benefit assessment was conducted.
Nazlan has denied that the mega-project was fast-tracked, saying it has not yet been approved by the authorities.
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That it will cost millions of ringgit in taxpayers’ money requires a thorough feasibility study, especially when the country is suffering an economic crunch. It begs the question of the prioritisation of policies and projects, given the government’s reduced resources amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Is the project needed now?
A justification is made even more necessary when the project is to be located in Jerantut, a parliamentary seat held by Umno man Nazlan. It prompts suspicion of the rubber technology centre being a political project.
It is also disturbing to be told by Kok about the wasteful projects of the past.
For instance, former MRB chairman Ahmad Hamzah, who is Jasin MP, insisted on a RM44m project for his constituency in 2010. The incomplete project, according to Kok, remains a white elephant, and MRB continues to pay millions for it.
Former Prime Minister Najib Razak waded into the controversy, alleging that M Kula Segaran had a RM500m rehabilitation centre planned for his Ipoh Barat parliamentary constituency.
Refuting the insinuation of hypocrisy, the former human resources minister pointed out that the project was planned for Tambun, the seat of Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu.
To be clear, Nazlan is one of the many Perikatan Nasional lawmakers given plum positions in government agencies and government-linked companies – a move critics have said is part of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s attempt to keep his parliamentary majority intact.
A flurry of such appointments happened soon after de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan announced that PN MPs will occupy top posts in government-linked companies.
This brings to the fore critics’ consistent contention that all government-linked companies and government agencies should be helmed by professionals and technocrats, who can take these institutions to greater heights, instead of reducing these posts to spoils of war distributed among government politicians.
It is feared that financial impropriety may arise with these political appointments, leading to a haemorrhaging of the national coffers as exemplified previously by Tabung Haji and Felda.
Not to forget the handsome remunerations – and accordingly, big chunks of the organisational budgets – that await these political appointees.
Efforts to address the issue were made by the previous Pakatan Harapan government, which appointed many professionals to such posts and limited political appointees to its lawmakers deemed fit for the job.
It is most unfortunate that following the formation of the PN government, this policy has been reversed, making it seem as if these positions are part of what government MPs are entitled to.
At a time when joblessness is rising, the economy is slowing and those from the bottom 40% of households are suffering from financial hardship, government funds ought to be handled in the most prudent manner possible.
This is one of the pressing issues that should be discussed in Parliament, and government politicians and agencies must be held to account.
Ordinary Malaysians, particularly the younger generation, should not be left to pick up the tab of spendthrift politicians for years to come. That would be simply immoral.