Badawi: 'Headache doing last minute jobs, you know.'
Year 2008 has come and gone....just like that. It was a year of major ups and downs where paradoxically 'up' did not necessarily mean a good thing. Inflation was up at its record highest (8.5%) ever in the span of 26 years; the last time it ever hit the level of 8.5% was somewhere back in 1981. Raised electricity tariffs and transport costs as a result of a Cabinet decision to increase the retail petrol price in May 2008 drove consumer prices to its peak in August 2008. Yes. it's true that global oil prices affected everyone, especially ASEAN countries. Vietnam reached peak inflation at 29%; Indonesia 12+%; Thailand 6+%; Singapore 6+%. Malaysia hit that high simply because the Cabinet decided to increase the petrol price at a single go. Malaysia could have planned better, done better.
The General Elections
2008 was also the year where BN was beaten to the pulp in the March general elections. This 'correction' is direct result the Malaysian citizens' pent-up frustration of the BN-government's racist practices, display of corruption and ill-management of the country.
Great show, Bank Negara
With Bank Negara's steady hand at the wheel, a housing loan crisis was avoided by simply, erm, doing nothing, to increase the Overnight Policy Rate; which otherwise would increase interest rates. If Bank Negara had followed the conventional way of controlling inflation by increasing interest rates (the OPR, in this case) like its ASEAN neighbors, home-owners with home loans would have been done for. The highest ever Malaysia had for BLR was 12.27% (1998) and 12.25% (1985).
Banks in Malaysia maintained a steady BLR plus minus 6.5% throughout 2008. Thank goodness Zeti ran her outfit better than the reckless Abdullah Badawi. Ok, for 2009, can we drop that tiered pricing structure for credit card users in order to stimulate some consumer spending.
2008 was the year of human rights abuse. Anwar Ibrahim's arrest in July over the Saiful-sodomy case drew international condemnation; strong press statements particularly from US Secretary of State Rice Condelezza, former Canadian PM Paul Martin, ex-World Bank chief James Wolfensohn, and Michel Camdessus, the former head of the International Monetary Fund. A few months later in September, Raja Petra, Teresa Kok and Tan Hoon Cheng was arrested under ISA, an act originally formulated to curb communist insurgents in the 1950's.
What's in store for 2009
More job losses. A receeding economy. Higher crime rates. More time-wasting internal PR bickering while BN strengthens at the helm. Probably the implementation of Goods Services Tax.
On a personal level, 2008 was a turning point for me- for the first time in my life blogging socio-politically; witnessing the GE2008 'first-hand', and thankfully going through the high-inflation unscathed. I'm also glad for making new blogger friends- they helped me a lot in my informal socio-political education. Also thanks for my family members standing thick and thin with me.
Now on with 2009...
Mahathir: 'You just need two jokers to spoil the show...'