..signs of how worried Najib’s National Front coalition is of losing power for the first time since 1957. They speak to the desperation of a government that has come to serve itself, not Malaysia’s 29 million people. And they are emblematic of a leader whose talk of bold change hasn’t been matched by action…
When he’s not trying to frighten voters, Najib is touting Malaysia’s 6.4 percent growth as proof he is a radical-change agent. In fact, much of Southeast Asia also is booming, and the government is helping to artificially fuel growth with populist handouts. Even more than the $444 billion of private sector-led projects ranging from oil storage to a mass-transit railway that Najib has championed, the country needs reforms that will revitalize the system as a whole.The government should be encouraging more startup companies, widening the tax base and hacking away at subsidies that institutionalize complacency.
All too often, rapid gross-domestic-product growth is used as a smoke screen to hide underlying cracks in an economy’s long-run potential. In Malaysia’s case, the numbers mask a government too focused on staying in power to do its job. If anything should be scaring Malaysian voters, it’s that.