Thursday, September 6, 2012

Malaysia's Fiscal Threats

Last month Fitch Ratings said in a separate report that Malaysia had yet to present a convincing plan to tackle the twin fiscal threats of its federal budget deficit and federal debt.

Now, Standard and Poor’s (S&P) has said the same thing in its latest report on the country – it is warning us about the strains on the country’s credit profile. Malaysia’s sovereign credit rating may be cut if the government does not deliver promised reforms to cut spending to reduce its fiscal deficits.

Well, we all know that is not going to happen until after GE13 and only if, BN wins! Whoever takes over the reins of government will find the country in a big financial mess – thanks to Najib Razak with his devil-may-care spending ways! [Have you noticed that the ‘devil’ word kept popping up? So, Mahathir is right – the devil is UMNO].

Figures from the Federal Treasury’s Economic Reports already illustrate that the federal government’s domestic debt almost doubled in the space of less than five years – from RM247 billion in 2007 to an estimated RM421 billion in 2011 – far outpacing its revenues which only grew 31 percent, or from RM140 billion to RM183 billion, during the same period.

While the Najib administration has vowed not to let federal government obligations exceed 55 per cent of the country’s GDP, there is increasing worry that when government-backed loans or “contingent liabilities” are taken into account, the government’s total debt exposure has already risen to about 65 per cent of GDP last year.

Last evening, I was at Level 13 in Uptown 1 to attend the Deloitte Malaysia Toastmasters meeting. To be honest, I was not keen but Nahela, the Vice President Education persisted and I finally agreed. I was the General Evaluator and I was glad to note that there were fifteen of us gracing this meeting yesterday – which was indeed a very nice change from their sparsely-attended meetings of the past. On top of that, the speeches and evaluations were fair-to-good and I know the members can become good communicators if given the time, the right guidance and support. On the other hand, the agenda was untidy and carelessly-prepared. And members themselves were not very disciplined; they were too laidback.

Anyhow, I made sure I told them the many ways they can improve their meetings. If they take the suggestions to heart, I am confident that they can have quality meetings and quality members. Overall, I would give this meeting a 4.5 out of a 10 – a decent score and only because members demonstrated their willingness to learn and improve.

It is not just this club. Too many Toastmasters clubs don’t pay enough attention to the above matters and as such, the meetings ended up being dull, drab and dreary. Over time, members themselves get disillusioned and they leave.

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