I had some interesting conversations on Twitter that inspired the following article on subsidies cuts. Thanks to everyone who commented on TMI!
(I’ve also included some facts and figures someone sent me on specifics of the proposed cuts below)
I wanted to make a quick mention of another misleading comment by Idris Jala:
“Imagine, even Somalis are paying much more for petrol than Malaysians,” he said
Sigh, another ‘gem’ the spin doctors figured they thought up.
I thought we’ve been through all this – what the hell is the point of comparing Malaysia to Somalia?!? That’s the yardstick to which we hold ourselves?? As Anwar is fond of saying, next we’ll be so proud of how our economy is doing better than Zimbabwe and Bangladesh :|
Anyway, the article:
Stop subsidising corruption first
Without eliminating corruption and leakage, how can the government expect the rakyat to bear the burden of cut subsidies?
In the play Caught in the Middle 4, Chandran asks simply, “And when are we going to stop subsidising the government?”
These simple questions strike at the heart of the current subsidies debate.
The government goes on about reduced coffers, debt and economic hardship, saying that is time for the rakyat to tighten their belts and throw away their crutches – to change their lifestyle, as BN has said before.
This is a lot to ask of Malaysians – the millions who run small food stalls, are low wage earners, or work in the local night market.
The better of amongst us will be protected from the worst effects of these policies, but for the rest of Malaysia, cuts in food subsidies will make the difference between a meal with meat, or just eggs; cuts in education subsidies will make the difference of whether a poor family’s youngest child will be able to attend school.
In times of crisis, it may be justified to ask the rakyat to bear such increased economic burdens.
The question though, are those in power carrying their share of the burden?
Can they honestly say that they’ve done enough to stop the horrendous and immense outflow of public funds due to corruption and inefficiency?
If not, is it morally right of them to be thinking of making the rakyat bear this cross, while so many continue to steal from Malaysia?
Some may think that detractors like me are exaggerating, but I think recent history provides us with ample examples.
Ramli and Muthu vs. Submarines and PKFZ
After all, is it right to ask Ramli’s family to stop including chicken for dinner, while Razak Baginda is taking half a BILLION in ‘commission’ for the purchase of submarines that don’t submerge?
Is it right that Muthu’s daughter can no longer go to school after textbook fees have become unbearable for the family, while RM 12 billion of our money that could have made those textbooks available for free is lost through the PKFZ scandal?
As an aside, it is sad that MCA has lost the president who did his best to uncover this scandal and bring the perpetrators to justice, only to have him replaced by a president whose ‘big plan’ is to go around begging for more funds from Umno – funds that will likely end up in the hands of ‘select’ contractors anyway.
The simple fact of the matter is that not only has the government not done enough to bring corrupt officials to book; the government is in fact led by the very worst of these offenders.
Having the same former Minister of Defence who was behind said submarine deal and his buddy’s commission now ask Malaysians to please tighten their belts is, I think, a little too much for us to bear.
Such a government completely lacks the moral authority or credibility to ask the rest of us to sacrifice, while top officials stay unaffected and continue to live comfortably off the fat they have accumulated at our expense over decades. To even consider doing so is to demonstrate the exact antithesis of what leadership should be.
If and when significant progress is made in fighting corruption and leakage, then we can perhaps discuss the economics of subsidies.
If not, all cutting subsidies will do is give the current pirates running our government more riches for them to loot.
Malaysia = Greece?
It has been disappointing to see Idris Jalla at the forefront of the campaign to cut subsidies. His former reputation has been reduced to one of a common BN spin doctor and hatchet man – sacrificed as a pawn to do BN’s dirty work.
I can just imagine their communications ‘think tank’ thinking that they struck gold when they came up with the Greek analogy.
I am in fact entirely inclined to agree that we are headed the way of Greece. What Idris and his boys aren’t telling you however, is summarised very well in Wikipedia:
“However, the Greek economy also faces significant problems, including rising unemployment levels, inefficient bureaucracy, tax evasion and corruption.
“In 2009, Greece had the EU’s second lowest Index of Economic Freedom (after Poland), ranking 81st in the world. The country suffers from high levels of political and economic corruption and low global competitiveness relative to its EU partners.”
In Greece, as in Malaysia, what is tearing the economy apart is not subsidies, but hopeless mismanagement, piratisation, and wholesale rape of the economy by the corrupt.
This tirade against subsidies has also not gone unnoticed by corporate watchers.
The hypocrisy bites hard when Malaysians remember Proton, MAS, UEM, DRB, Perwaja, YTL’s IPPs and most recently Sime Darby.
Who on earth do these people think they are, when they want to make Ramli and Muthu pay the price for the mishaps of Eric Tan or so that Francis Yeoh can get richer than he already is?
And why are we continuing to support industries in which we are not competitive – just because an old man got it into his head a long time ago that it would be ‘awesome’ for the country?
Let’s not even get started on multi-million New York Times ads to feature select ‘big’ personalities.
Leadership by example
Good governance is in no small part about leadership by example.
The rakyat may be able to accept some measure of subsidies reduction, if a government can in fact show truly genuine progress in combatting corruption and leakages, as well as maintaining impeccable standards of integrity and austerity amongst its top leaders.
Failing this – and I think failure is exactly what surrounds our current government – it falls to the rest of us to object to any more measures (added to the already neverending list) that will burden the rakyat while allowing the fat cats to roam free.
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