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4:07pm 01/09/2022
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New expectations for Merdeka
By:Sin Chew Daily

 In conjunction with our 65th Merdeka celebration, we have a few proposals for the prime minister with the hope this country will get better and better.

Wednesday was the 65th anniversary of the country’s independence, and let us take the opportunity to wish everyone here Happy Merdeka!

The theme for this year’s Merdeka celebration is “Keluarga Malaysia Teguh Bersama,” which is largely identical in meaning to the country’s first ever National Day theme in 1970: “Muhibbah dan Perpaduan.”

As a matter of fact, other than Tun Mahathir’s “Wawasan 2020” theme in 1991, most of our Merdeka themes have evolved around the values of equality, unity, solidarity and progress.

Indeed, this is what Malaysians have been yearning for in the Malaysian Family!

For the past 65 years, people living in this multicultural society have been able to live together in relative peace and harmony, as we are bound together by a powerful sense of identity towards this beloved country of ours. We have been working very hard in unison in building a society that is peaceful and harmony.

Isn’t that so? When Negaraku was played and Jalur Gemilang was raised at the podium after Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik won the Badminton World Championships men’s doubles finals, everyone in front of TV sets were emotionally overwhelmed as we fought hard to hold back our tears. That was one way for grassroots Malaysians to show their genuine identification with this country.

Who don’t have friends around them from a different ethnic background? For years we have learned to respect and celebrate one another’s differences. Save for irresponsible politicians who are eager to fan inter-community hatred for their own selfish gains and to consolidate their electoral support within a particular community, we can safely say that Malaysia is among countries if this world where racial discrimination is practically non-existent.

We all take pride in this, and our most civilized manifestation of mutual respect makes us a veritable role model for Western countries perennially plagued by racism. If not for the rogue politicians who have bogged down the country’s progress at various stages of our nationhood over the past six and a half decades, our country could have been much better than what it is now!

61 years into our nationhood, Malaysia witnessed its first ever change of federal administration in history. But for a little more than four years after 2018, we have experienced several government changes and the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, which thankfully we have managed to weather.

All that we want couldn’t have been simpler: we only want political stability so that we can all live here happily, and that our leaders will put the people’s interest above their own for the country to forge ahead steadily. The least we want to see is for the country to still fumble along after 65 years.

Since prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob took office last August, we have managed to somewhat contain the spread of the coronavirus, suppress the inflation (July CPI 4.4% within expectation), grow the economy (good chances of chalking 6% GDP growth this year), adopt the much anticipated anti-hopping bill and send Najib to jail (non-intervention in judiciary), among others. These are all visible hallmarks of progress.

On the eve of Merdeka, the prime minister announced some good news for the rakyat, including RM100 monthly salary increment for 1.28 million civil servants (involving an additional RM1.536 billion from the national coffers), cash award in lieu of leave (GCR), 15 days of annual leave for senior teachers, broader scope for civil servants’ compassionate leave, increase in the original 3% increment rate for civil servants, RM700 aid for civil servants of Grade 56 and below (another RM900 million in public expenditure), RM350 cash assistance for retired civil servants and veterans (also another astronomical amount summing up to the tune of hundreds of millions).

We are not here to question the prime minister’s Merdeka gift for the civil servants. Indeed, if their salaries are too low, they deserve a pay rise. What we query is the country’s severely bloated civil service, with more than 1.7 million civil servants drawing over RM120 billion in remunerations and pensions annually, and the budget is increasing by the year!

Actually many public service jobs could have been taken over by computers in this information age. But the thing is, we have an unrealistically high civil servant ratio of 1:19.2, far higher than Singapore’s 1:91.4. If we were to go by their hiring ratio, we would only need 358,000 civil servants, and the surplus of 1.34 million public servants if are absorbed by the private sector should help us do away with so many foreign workers, besides relieving the financial stress of the Treasury.

We would like to make the following proposals to the prime minister with the hope this country will get better and better!

Firstly, we urgently require a public service slimming program harnessing automation in the place of human workforce with the objective of trimming the strength of civil service to a million within a decade.

Secondly, short-, medium- and long-term flood mitigation plans. As Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan has said, December is not a good time for election as there are bound to be floods in east coast states. But the reality is, anywhere in the country can be submerged in floodwaters if it pours, not just certain states! Flood mitigation allocations must therefore not be left out in the coming 2023 Budget.

Thirdly, any public investment must benefit all Malaysians. The money should be spent prudently and wisely; projects in the pipeline should be reviewed for their feasibility and non-urgent projects must be halted. Although the finance ministry has urged government departments to cut back on unnecessary expenditure, but all of a sudden our prime minister has come up with the outlandish idea of building racing circuits in every state. The PM should know which between racing circuit and flood mitigation is more vital!

Fourthly, enact strict laws to stop corruption and abuse of power among civil servants. We have no idea how much has been siphoned out of the Treasury over the past 65 years. Even the government cannot accurately estimate the loss incurred by 1MDB although we know it had a cumulative debt in excess of RM42 billion.

Finally, review the existing tax rates to supplement the government’s tax revenue, including imposing reasonable new taxes, increase the tax rates for the country’s super rich, higher company tax and reintroduce GST, among others.

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