MARCH 10 - Let's face it. The RM60 billion stimulus package for now until 2010 won't save us from the looming recession.
We are still staring at, and at a stretch, a possible one per cent GDP growth from the rather optimistic 3.5 per cent forecast earlier.
Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak also had to admit that GDP growth could shrink to -1 per cent.
Go through every line of the 84-paragraph speech and you will note that it's about saving jobs. Our jobs, your jobs, even his job as the Prime Minister and Finance Minister.
Job loss leads to confidence loss.
Najib disclosed in his speech that since October 2008, 25,000 workers have been retrenched while another 30,900 were temporarily laid-off and 23,900 took pay cuts.
Some 100,000 others have also not been given overtime during the period, leading to income loss.
Factories in Penang have shuttered down, some ostensibly for repairs and renovations. Others have just brought forward their plans to close plants at a time when their products are not moving off the shelves at all.
So, Najib's mini-Budget is going to create 163,000 training and employment opportunities, of which 100,000 are training and job placements.
Of the RM60 billion, he is allocating RM700 million for this purpose.
He has also proposed to recruit 63,000 people to fill vacancies or serve as contract officers with the 1.2 million-strong civil service. Of the figure, 4,500 will be census enumerators, something already factored in every decade or so.
Of course, all these measures to save and create jobs will not stop the jobless rate rising to 4.5 per cent in 2009 from 3.7 per cent in 2008.
But the pledge to protect jobs will go down well with the people after the mauling Barisan Nasional received in Election 2008.
Najib confidently believes that the ruling coalition's experience in past recessions in 1982 and 1998 will ensure it can continue to manage the economy this time.
It is something which even Pakatan Rakyat have taken to heart with Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng spending the past few months seeking federal funds for infrastructure projects and to keep the retrenched in training to tide the bad times.
Otherwise, both know that they will join the jobless in the next general elections.
So, apart from jobs, the mini-Budget really does not address the structural ailments of the national economy.
It does not redress or overhaul the inequities of the system or move us away from a heavily-subsidised economy.
It is RM60 billion - a mix of some real money and just guarantees - to throw for the next two years to keep jobs and confidence for those in the danger of losing one or both, particularly the politicians.
In short, Malaysia blew the chance of doing something better for the future with the money.
It decided to stick a finger in a collapsing dike instead of building a brand new dam.