WSJ: Malaysia’s abuse of public entities must end


But incompetence and greed will remain unless Malaysia evolves into a true multi-party system


KUALA LUMPUR: The abuse of public entities for private gain is “politics as usual in Malaysia”, the WSJ opines, calling the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) debacle a “case study in the effects of one-party rule by Umno on the country’s institutions.”

It cites several instances of “abuse”:

  • The taking on by 1MDB of mammoth debt to purchase assets in energy and real estate. “After a plan to sell shares in an energy subsidiary fell through, the fund has had difficulty servicing its debt,” the report reads.
  • Overpaying for the purchase of assets. In one case, the report alleges, the overpayment allowed the recipient to donate vast sums to “a charity that spent heavily ahead of the 2013 general election.”
  • Purportedly underpaying for public assets such as land, while overpaying for assets bought from “influential politicians.”
  • Allegedly selling off assets to other public entities at “suspiciously high prices.”

However, the report says that in recent times Malaysia’s economic difficulties have given rise to “internal strife” because falling oil prices have “drained the trough of public money out of which the politically well-connected are used to feeding.”

That strife has resulted in a battle pitting Prime Minister Najib Razak’s accusers, led by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, against loyalists who fear that if Najib goes “the whole system could come crashing down.”

“Umno has ruled Malaysia for a half century by keeping the Malay majority loyal with racial preferences and patronage,” the report reads, but a growing middle-class has become increasingly aware of “the true cost of the system”.

Despite this, WSJ opines that until unless and until Malaysia’s democracy evolves into a true multi-party system, “incompetence and greed” will remain.



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