Hornbill Unleashed

November 14, 2012

Ultra-extravagant lifestyles of the Umno elite: PERCEPTION OR REAL?

Filed under: Human rights,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
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Moaz Nair

Ultra-extravagant lifestyles of the Umno elite: PERCEPTION OR REAL?

Ask at random any voter on UMNO and Barisan leaders, the response would likely be that the leaders are highly extravagant, arrogant, corrupt, abusive, repressive and oppressive.

Voters are not oblivious to that fact that the government has wasted millions upon millions of public funds through lavishness, inefficiency and corruption, including the award of inflated contracts to cronies. UMNO-controlled Barisan has earned this infamous repute since Najib Abdul Razak took over as Prime Minister in April 2009.

Revelling in luxury

Blame not the rakyat for this impression and discernment. But could this sensation be due to mere perception or reality? To most voters, the government’s poor record under Najib’s administration is no more a matter of opinion but a reality.

The rakyat for sure are not going to be happy with pittance given to them before a general election.

RM500 given under BR1M, “artificial” discounts for low quality goods for some governmentally selected groups, low-quality goods found in 1Malaysia shop outlets, RM200 book vouchers for students and other paltry sums given to the rakyat are all but eyewash on the part of UMNO-led administration to lure votes from the innocent rakyat.

The rakyat however are aware of the over-the-top lifestyle enjoyed by some top leaders in UMNO and Barisan. Not only the leaders but also their family members are found to be revelling in luxury.

The rakyat are keen to know why so much money should be spent to upkeep UMNO and Barisan leaders and how their children and family could enjoy a posh lifestyle when the ordinary rakyat are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

High maintenance costs

It was reported that the government spent RM48.7 million of taxpayers’ money on the official residences of the Prime Minister and his Deputy from 2006 to 2010.

The amount spent on the residences for the four years can be used to build 1 000 low-cost houses for the poor at RM50 000 each. There are over 30 percent Malaysians who do not even own a decent home of their own. Many are still living as squatters in urban peripheries and in decrepit huts in most of the interior zones of the Peninsular, Sabah and Sarawak.

A huge chunk of the amount, totalling close to RM33 million, was spent on rental fees. Both Seri Perdana and Sri Satria in Putrajaya are owned by the local authority, Putrajaya Holdings.

Besides that, as much as RM10.2 million was spent on electricity bills while RM3.5 million went to maintenance and RM1.96 million for water. Both the top leaders in UMNO spend an average of RM171 000 a month just on electricity when an average middle class family spend about RM80 to RM120 monthly.

The rakyat thus have their rights to chide the government for wasting public funds when they have to struggle to cope with the high costs of living and subsidy cuts.

Four years of opulent living

The government spent more than RM12 million to maintain the official residences of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister between 2008 and 2011 – sating their four years of opulent living.

The highest yearly maintenance costs for Seri Perdana was recorded in 2008, at RM1 896 616.80. For Sri Satria, it was in 2011, and the amount was RM1 455 804. UMNO top leaders have become ostentatious living in luxurious residences at the taxpayers’ expense.

Kelantan Menteri Besar, Nik Aziz Nik Mat, could give a wide berth to the flamboyance associated with UMNO leaders and lives a simple lifestyle.  Nik Aziz has been living in the same modest kampong home for more than 20 years and this has not affected his efficacy as Menteri Besar.

There are thousands in the country who cannot afford a decent shelter, thousands in Sabah and Sarawak and interior Peninsular Malaysia who have no supply of water and electricity.  And yet under UMNO administration they could afford to spend a fortune for their top leaders to stay in posh palaces at the expense of taxpayer’s money.

To the rakyat it boils down to UMNO leaders having a wastrel image and these leaders cannot hide this glitziness from the rakyat anymore.

Big spenders

Beyond that there were many other allegations against the leaders that the people find hard not to believe, or to forgive and forget. There are among them and their spouses and children big spenders. There were also persistent allegations on the high spending lifestyle of the Prime Minister’s wife, which has critically affected UMNO’s image.

It was revealed that RM409 767 was spent for the engagement reception for Najib’s daughter Nooryana Najwa’s to Kazakh national Daniar Nazarbayev in June 2011. Leaders seem to have an expensive taste splurging their wealth but the rakyat cannot keep on paying for the leaders’ savour.

It was also alleged that RM79 053 was spent on the Najib’s birthday party on July 24 last year. The event took place at Sri Perdana, Putrajaya with around 100 guests. Najib claimed that he personally foot the bills for both the events.

Far west of Kuala Lumpur, RM600 000 was luxuriated on an UMNO  chief minister son’s wedding reception that many observers claimed could have cost the minister around RM1.3 million.

An ordinary Malay wedding would cost 60 times lower than this figure. Many could not even afford a wedding that would cost them more than RM 10 000.

Spending in dribs and drabs and showiness has become the trademark of some UMNO leaders and this does not bode well with the ordinary rakyat who have lesser resources to survive. Of course there are some ministers and their family members who have become too boastful and morphed into the “untouchables” living like maharajas in “kingdoms” of their own.

They are the filthy rich living in huge mansions, driving expensive cars and spending wastefully on overseas trips while staying in star-studded hotels, shopping and bashing at high-end joints which are appealing to sophisticated and discerning customers.  This is in fact an open secret.

Asking the rakyat to be economical in spending does not make sense when leaders live an extravagant lifestyle and spend wastefully.

Costly official visits

It was reported that the government spent RM17 million and RM8 million the Prime Minister’s and his Deputy’s travel expenses respectively since 2008.

It was reported in November 2011 that the total expenses for the Prime Minister and his wife  and his deputy and wife for official  visits from 2008 to 2011 amounted to more than RM20 million.

The Prime Minister and wife spent RM 1 739 332.85 (2008), RM4 811 837.48 (2009) RM5 140 307.99 (2010) and RM 5 427 172.26 until Jun 2011. And the overall costs for the deputy and wife for travelling expenses within the same period was RM8 020 328.07.

Can this be abuse of taxpayers’ money? A leader cannot claim to be “berjiwa rakyat” (people centric) when such an amount was spent just within a few years in office when majority Malaysians are facing tough times facing the escalating living costs.

The Prime Minister has spent RM10.1 million for his overseas visits for the past three years.  The short visit to Kazakhstan with a big contingent to attend the World Economic Forum in June last year cost the taxpayers RM1.2 million.

The two-day Prime Minister’s visit to Turkmenistan 11 and 12 July last year came to RM323 268.19. It was reported that RM9.1 million was spent on rent payment of a private jet for their travels. It was also alleged that the jet was used for his private visit to Perth, Australia on 31 August to 3 September last year.

Nation has debts

Of course leaders can claim that they deserve all these treats and privileges as they suppose the nation has the wealth to sustain their spending sprees.

The country’s external debt last year stood at RM257.2 billion. The debt comprised loans that the government had obtained from the private sectors outside the country. The national debt that encompasses the Federal Government external debt, Non-Financial Public Enterprise and private sector was 30.2 per cent from the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The government’s total debt that included external and internal sources was RM456.1 billion or 53.5 per cent from the GDP, as end of last year.  A large portion of the government’s debt was made up of internal debt of RM438 billion while the remainder, of external, at RM18.1 billion.

The country has been experiencing a deficit budget for the past 14 continuous years and the majority rakyat are burdened with high costs of living and low standard of living.   Many ordinary poor rakyat may not be aware of this.

No mechanisms on how to bring down prices of essentials have come out from the many high-sounding acronyms coined by the government. Pay increase for some sectors has only exacerbated inflation that has burdened the poor.

As a consequence, the rich are enjoying life and the poor are pushed to the corner to recline in the drought of dust and dearth.

Defence procurement

Extravagance will lead to more borrowing and also higher costs of living that will affect the ordinary people most. The government bought two refurbished submarines that were initially not equipped with war weaponries at a whopping RM3.4 billion.

It was reported that the costs to maintain the Scorpene submarines named KD Tunku Abdul Rahman and KD Tun Razak was RM500 – this comes to 10 times more than the anticipated initial costs of RM50 million a year.

A local company and Boustead DCNS Naval Corporation Sdn Bhd were appointed to do the maintenance work.

The government now claims that they are capable of carrying out operations to maintain national security after the submarines were being docked in deep water in Sabah for long and were initially found to be unable to sink.

Being second-hand machines the lifespan of these submarines could never be long and they are bound to incur more expenses in maintenance.

The dressing-down by a Royalty on the acquisition of Rapid Intervention Vehicles (RIVs) at exorbitant prices highlights the malady in the Ministry of Defence procurement exercises.

In September 2012, the Royalty reprimanded that “nobody should take advantage of the situation for personal gains when acquiring equipment for the Special Forces,” adding that recently four Rapid Intervention Vehicles (RIV) were purchased for RM2.76mil or RM690 000 each by the Ministry of Defence.

The Royalty then exhibited one of the RIV vehicles and another personal vehicle that he purchased for RM150 000.

Self-seeking leaders

The rakyat can obviously see the spending excessiveness by the country’s top leaders which at times border on elements of “corrupt” practices. Ironically, at a time when they tell the rakyat that they should adapt to harder economic times, self-seeking leaders are using huge amount of taxpayers’ money to live in style and spend unwisely to procure defence equipment at inflated prices.

A high cost of living has immensely affected the rakyat in the past four years. Nothing real or substantial has been done by the government to alleviate this problem other than coming up with some short-term measures to increase the salaries of some groups of workers.

Because of having incompetent leaders in the government they have no long-term ideas on how to reduce the inflationary trend that is going on uninhibited.

The country’s top leaders in calling for fiscal austerity are not leading by example by cutting on their own expenses and that of the government. Instead the government is forced to cut spending by slicing down on its subsidy bills. But, the spiralling global food prices are making life more difficult for the rakyat who are struggling to cope with low income amid inflationary enormity.

The cosy amount spent on top leaders’ expenses and the procurement of defence equipment alone make the government’s call for rakyat to adapt to harder times a farce.

Principles of good governance

Looking at all these “prodigious” figures involving taxpayer’s money the rakyat are not really happy with the present leadership.

It cannot be a matter of perception that UMNO and the government have a wastrel image since most of these figures were disclosed in Parliament and provided by the government of the day when requested and questioned by the lawmakers.

Relatively judicious spending has nonetheless been observed in the four states under Pakatan in spite of their freshness in governance. These states have indubitably shown exemplariness in their financial management.  This has been endorsed by the country’s Auditor General Reports for the past three years.

Perception or reality on UMNO’s extravagancy the rakyat can now make a wise choice in choosing a government in the 13th general election – either to stay with Barisan or vote for Pakatan.

Whatever the choice, let it be a government that will remain guided by the principles of prudence, good governance, accountability, transparency and competency.

1 Comment »

  1. You don’t actually have to ask the voters about unbelievably wealthy Umno/Bn politicians, one of them idiots have admitted on camera to be very,very rich, this I just can’t believe,how on earth such a stupid lawyer turn politician like Nazri can be so rich????Huuh3…Oouch!!

    Comment by Lok1 — November 14, 2012 @ 3:33 AM | Reply

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