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‘A vote for Pakatan would be a vote for indecision and chaos’

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The year 2012 has been a landmark year for the Malaysian economy. It began with dire predictions from Pakatan Rakyat that our export-driven economy would somehow falter this year. But as we near the end of 2012, the Opposition’s claims have been proven false, with the government successfully managing the economy at a time of growing global uncertainty.

Along the way, Malaysia has attracted international recognition for our impressive growth of 5.2 per cent. Compare this with the paltry growth of 1.5 per cent seen in neighbouring Singapore, and you can see why the IMF praised Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s prudent fiscal management and economic leadership.

Malaysia has also been labelled a global ‘IPO powerhouse’ this year, with KL becoming the world’s fourth largest centre for initial public offerings (IPOs), overtaking financial hubs such as London, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Three of Asia’s four biggest IPOs this year have come from Malaysia, as proceeds more than trebled from 2011 to RM21.1 billion.

While IPOs in the rest of the world have been shrunk or cancelled, demand for shares exceeded supply in KL with the mega-listings of Felda Global Ventures Holdings, IHH Healthcare, and Astro Malaysia Holdings.

These IPOs are part of a larger plan by Najib to privatise government-linked companies that are not deemed strategic.

Investors have drawn partly on optimism that our economy will continue to weather the effects of Europe’s continuing debt crisis. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth is forecast to expand by as much as 5.5 per cent next year from an estimated 5 per cent in 2012, according to the finance ministry.

The government’s impressive performance on the economic front has left the Opposition grappling with an existential problem.

There are no issues left for Pakatan leaders to raise, so they have been clutching at straws for most of this year. Their attempts at populism – promising cheaper cars and abolishing tolls and PTPTN loans – could leave the country with a huge fiscal hole in our federal budget. According to estimates, the nation could face a shortfall of RM200 billion if Pakatan’s policies were ever implemented.

The coalition’s populism may be a blatant attempt to attract short-term votes, but it will not add to economic growth or to job creation in the long-term.

Neither will the bickering among Pakatan ‘allies’ convince anyone that the coalition is ready to take economic decisions.

Even if it wanted to, there is little likelihood that the Opposition coalition could take the tough decisions needed to keep an economy in good shape, let alone plan ahead for the next decade.

So it is clear that a vote for Pakatan would be a vote for indecision and policy-making chaos.

Add to that the anti-business stance taken by such Pakatan stalwarts as Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, with his irrational campaign against the Lynas rare earths refinery, and it’s no wonder that foreign investors would be worried if Pakatan ever takes over Putrajaya.

If foreign companies do decide to head for the exits, that would not only hit our growth, but they would take many jobs with them – a huge loss for young Malaysians.

While Pakatan tries to play politics over the economy, the Barisan Nasional government has focused on powering ahead. Najib’s ambitious Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) has succeeded in channeling mostly private investments to high-growth areas, in a concerted effort to break Malaysia out of the ‘middle-income’ trap that affects other emerging economies.

The programme includes structural reforms aimed at boosting competitiveness and government efficiency, while reducing the state’s involvement in the economy by divesting stakes in 33 companies.

At the same time, our growth corridors like Iskandar Malaysia are continuing to draw in investors. Iskandar crossed the landmark RM100 billion milestone in committed investments this month. As much as 42 per cent of these investments have already been realised, split primarily between manufacturing and property.

This year has therefore made it clearer than ever before that the nation faces a stark choice on the economy: between BN’s roadmap to high-income status and global competitiveness, and Pakatan’s haphazard path to a far less certain future.  -thechoice