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Same old dilemma

  • The government cannot afford to keep spoon-feeding the people. It must change their work culture and encourage them to work harder in order to stay out of poverty. Photo courtesy: Bernama

Sin Chew Daily

Responding to the complaints of the rakyat over rising living and operating costs, the Pakatan Harapan government recently announced several measures meant to alleviate the burden of the people, including RM100 Bantuan Sara Hidup Rakyat for singles and students studying at tertiary institutions, living allowances for students at teaching colleges, lower levy for skilled foreign workers, and acquisition of four expressways in Klang Valley.

The RM100 assistance will have very limited effects given the skyrocketing goods prices. However, the number of people benefiting from this measure is huge, for example we have around three million singles in the nation and RM100 each will sum up to RM300 million. So, we cannot expect the government to be more generous than that.

Lowering the RM1,500-RM4,000 levy for skilled foreign workers may help lessen the burden of employers despite the fact the government's position on this was rather tough previously. Nevertheless, given the trend of escalating production cost, it is imperative that the government provide incentives to encourage local businesses to transform themselves and reduce their dependence on foreign workforce.

As for the acquisition of four highways, it is now time for the PH government to honor its election pledge of allowing the public to enjoy toll-free rides. Unfortunately the new mechanism comes with a congestion charge, and highways are only toll-free during "non-peak" hours from 11pm to 5am the following morning.

According to PH leaders' explanation, congestion charge has been implemented in many countries, and has been proven to be effective in altering the driving habits of motorists and reducing congestion.

While the idea is good, PH promised before GE14 to completely abolish tolls.

The announcement of a series of people-friendly measures during the Semenyih by-election campaign has raised the question that these measures have been introduced to buy votes.

Is it because PPBM, which will contest the seat for PH and which has all the powers in its hands, has to come up with the goodies because it cannot afford to lose the battle?

Worryingly, increasing assistance fund will not fix our problems but will make the rakyat more reliant on the government.

It is highly likely that the PH government will go down the same old populist road of the previous BN administration, sinking the country further into financial difficulty.

PM Mahathir announced last August that the PH government had decided to gradually reduce the distribution of assistance money with the objective of eventually abolishing the handout program.

The PM even told the rakyat to abandon their crutches and stand on their own feet. Unfortunately we see yet another notorious policy U-turn today.

Tun Mahathir has the obligation to address the many issues he left behind in the 1990s yet still plaguing the country today, including the many unreasonable highway concessions, overlooked agricultural industry giving rise to low food output and exorbitant food prices.

Even though the CPI contracted by 0.7% in January, prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages were rising across the board in KL and 13 states.

We need to have a comprehensive reform agenda in order to prevent ourselves from falling into the same old dilemma of the previous administration.

Unfortunately, I worry that reform is not in the heads of PPBM leaders. For instance, the party's youth chairman Syed Saddiq has said PH could lose the next general elections if it pushes the reform too far and too fast.

Nevertheless, without reform, PH will continue to think and act like BN and will become BN 2.0 very soon.

Tun Mahathir is well aware of the country's problems. He said several days ago that the country's 1.7 million-strong civil workforce is too big and must be reduced further.

Of the RM314.6 billion expenditure allocated in Budget 2019, RM259.9 billion or a whopping 82.6% of total has been set aside for operating expenditure, with remunerations and pensions for civil servants making up 31.6% and 10.2% of it respectively.

If we do not cut civil workforce, the government will not have enough money for human resources development.

Human resources development is a major challenge to the nation. The government cannot afford to keep spoon-feeding the people. It must change their work culture and encourage them to work harder in order to stay out of poverty.

The third national car project will not make Malaysia an "Asian Tiger" once again. The prime minister must think of ways to fix the many problems of this country and reverse the destiny of its citizens.


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