Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Cost of living No. 1 issue at GE14, says Singapore panel

NAJIB Razak will survive the 14th general election (GE14) if Barisan Nasional tackles the issue of high cost of living, the Straits Times reports today.

None of the scandal surrounding 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) or sale of assets to China will make enough dent at GE14 to unseat the prime minister and Umno president, panellists at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum said yesterday.

Instead, voters care more about bread-and-butter issues – jobs, housing and pensions.

The panellists included Ibrahim Suffian, director of opinion polling firm Merdeka Center; Ong Keng Yong, Singapore’s ambassador-at-large and former high commissioner to Malaysia; and Selena Ling, head of Treasury Research and Strategy at OCBC Bank.

“Many Malaysians have actually gone beyond the issue (1MDB), and this has been bundled together in what they perceive to be leadership weaknesses,” Ibrahim was quoted as saying.

1MDB has racked up losses of RM42 billion and is now the subject of a global investigation for money laundering with the United States seeking to seize more than US$1 billion (RM4.3 billion) assets bought with funds allegedly stolen from 1MDB.

Ong said while the 1MDB scandal has tarnished Putrajaya’s image, it was not enough to topple Najib or Umno.

This is despite former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s efforts, criss-crossing the nation, raising the issue of 1MDB and sale of a 49.9% stake in Proton to Chinese billionaire Li Shufu’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group.

Yesterday’s forum, titled Malaysia’s next GE: the perils and prospects, heard that the opposition is too fractured to unseat Najib and BN.

The panellists said Najib’s biggest challenge at GE14 remains the cost of living.

Even an opposition-sponsored poll last year supports this. In a Bersatu’s Bureau of Policy and Strategy survey, nine out of 10 Malaysians listed the rising costs of daily essentials and the price of houses as the most worrying issues of the day.

In February, Malaysia’s inflation rate hit an eight-year high of 4.5% with many blaming the 6% goods and services tax introduced in April 2015 and a weaker ringgit for pushing up the cost of imports

Ling said: “When it comes to elections, people are going to vote on bread-and- butter issues. It is not going to be because growth is 5% or less than 5%”.

GE14 must be held by August 2018. – June 14, 2017.

~ The Malaysian Insight

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