Najib Razak demonstrated once again that breaking out of Mahathir’s paradigm is impossible for UMNO. Despite the results of the March 2008 General Elections, despite the recommendations to transform the economy, despite his own pledge to be more people centred, Najib went back to what UMNO knows best — Ketuanan Melayu, money for the big boys, and then some for the Rakyat.

Najib argued that this is the first Budget Rakyat (Citizens’ Budget) as it sought inputs directly from the Rakyat through his 1Malaysia website (read here). To his detractors, it was a disingenuous way of legitimising UMNO’s return to Mahathirism big time.

The Malaysian Insider had this to say in its analysis titled ‘2011 Budget: Big Malaysia is back’ (here):

Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s Budget 2011 speech today confirmed the return of big Malaysia, with a slew of announcements headlined by the construction of a 100-storey tower in the heart of Kuala Lumpur and the widely-expected Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system for the city.

The prime minister appeared today to reach for the old mega-project playbook, particularly through real estate plays, in his bid to lift the economy towards high-income status.

This would disappoint Malaysians hoping for more radical reforms in terms of upgrading the nation’s productive and innovative capacities.

Dr. Lim Teck Ghee from the Centre of Policy Initiatives (CPI), had this to say in his analysis titled ‘Budget 2011 for the big boys and civil servants’ (here):

From the listed projects, it appears that we are returning to the era of mega high-status, expensive projects which will provide little value-added to the Malaysian economy. Projects such as the proposed RM5 billion tower should be scrapped, and the resources spent instead on the expansion of public housing, transport, health and other badly needed amenities and services that can truly benefit the ordinary people.

There were of course supporters for the Budget too (such as here). For the highlights of Malaysia’s Budget 2011, read here and Mega Projects in the budget (here).

Back to Mahathirism

But what is worrying is that Najib Razak followed the budget announcement by chastising civil servants for not supporting UMNO stating that should the opposition take over, Malays would lose their power (read here and here). This is new. All along, Najib had at least publicly promoted the concept of 1Malaysia although he did nothing when it was rubbished by his administration and his party. Now, he himself has taken the Malay supremacist stance. He must have decided that this is the best option.

Mahathir who has been spewing Malay supremacy since Najib announced his 1Malaysia — has won the day again, just as he rubbished the previous administration of Badawi’s efforts to return UMNO to the middle ground.

Read Mahathir justifying Malay Supremacy here — he essentially blames Malaysian Chinese and Indians:

Question: It is now more than 50 years since independence. For how long do the Malays expect to be treated as special and different from the other citizens?

Answer: For as long as the Chinese and Indians prefer to be identified with their countries of origins. For as long as they want to keep their home languages and their schools.

[This is a blatant lie or classic Mahathirism — blaming others. Non-Malays in Malaysia see no other country as their homeland. Even when they migrate, which is never to China or India, they speak of Malaysia fondly. Furthermore, Malaysia’s Constitution assures the rights of all citizens to practise their religion, language and culture freely.]

The 13th General Election is expected to be called in the first half of 2011 and it appears that Najib has decided to go for Malay supremacy, buying off the elite and the poor as Pakatan Rakyat becomes increasingly formidable (for details see here). Will it work ? Expect the dirtiest election ever!

Update 1: In Budget, questions over reform commitments (Read here)