Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tighten Your Belts, Please!


Star Newspaper Headline

Tighten your belts, please. And I don't mean your safety belts, I mean your waist belts.

 Because of abuses and mismanagement and anything but stellar government policies, prices of consumer goods and services are soaring and in order to prepare the rakyat for FURTHER impending price increases, the government has asked Malaysians to further tighten their belts.

Although I am not smart, I know that our belts are already stretched to breaking point and that our waists are even the envy of the hourglass. Any further tightening of the belt would mean that we can't breathe and we may have to succumb......

The government says that subsidies will double from some Rm10 billion to some Rm20 billion if it continues to subsidise consumer goods especially on fuel. This, it says, is something the government cannot do anymore.

Because I am not smart, I don't understand what subsidies mean. And the more the government tries to explain, the more the meaning eludes me.

Some say that there is no need for subsidies in the first place. A netizen had suggested, for example, that where fuel is concerned, the government could just set aside certain reserve for the rakyats' use at cost or slightly above cost price and sell the reminder at market price  like what some oil-producing countries like Brunei do, since Malaysia is a net exporter of oil.

So, whenever the price of oil rises, the government would be earning more anyway, and so what is the fuss about increasing subsidies every time the price of oil rises?

Others say that subsidies allegedly benefiting the average Malaysian is a fiction anyway, and only the rich actually benefit. I obviously do not qualify to debate on this, but I, like my fellow long-suffering Malaysians, know that whenever the government says any savings from subsidy reduction or removal will be used to benefit the rakyat, we will have to take it with a pinch of the salt, for there is no way for us to know whether or in fact this will be so.

For example, following an increase in fuel price, former Prime Minsiter Abdullah Badawi had said that savings from the reduction of petrol subsidy of some Rm4-7 billion would be used to improve public transport. However, Malaysians did not see any noticeable improvement of public transport despite the promise.

Now, even the Umno Youth Chief and son-in-law of the former Prime Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, is against the government slashing fuel and tariff subsidies which will inevitably lead to spiralling price increases of consumer goods and services . Khairy has instead called on the government to be frugal in its spending.

I am not sure whether Khairy would have had the guts to tell the government off if he was still part of the administration today, but I do support his call.

And why shouldn't the government watch how it spends our money? For a start, why not scrape off or revise the national service scheme which is of dubious benefit since it involves not all youths but only selected ones unlike the one in Singapore, for example, and it only involves a short 3 months stint of paramilitary training  and costs the rakyat some Rm500 milion annually.

Khairy had undergone the training and he should know best.

But I believe some quarters benefit financially from the scheme, and so I do not foresee the national service being scrapped or revised any time soon.

Also the government's current plan to build a Rm500 million one-stop Islamic centre, which even some Malays and Muslims think is not the right time, with the impending price increases and high costs of living already burdening the average rakyat.

And the way government projects, especially the big ones, are awarded without open tenders and transparency is worrying to say the least, and certainly susceptible to abuses and excesses.

We bought two submarines for example which could not dive! and which cost the rakyat some Rm2 billion and Rm50 million in annual maintenance alone!
And planes that had non existent or functioning engines!

Malaysia must be the laughing stock of the world! But it is no laughing matter for Malaysians who are experiencing the result of all this folly. And now we are expected to understand the government who is telling us that it can't afford to subsidise the people anymore.

Our MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) project which is in the preliminary stage, was initially projected to cost some Rm 35 billion but many fear that the the final cost will far exceed that to maybe double? Can Malaysia afford it?

Many more instances of such lack of wisdom and arrogance in the management of the country's finances and abuses of power can be cited, not to mention corruption.

And what about the annals horribilis reports coming out of the Auditor-General's office every year? For example, government departments paying Rm5,000.00 for a car-jack that costs only Rm50.00, Rm40,000.00 for a computer that costs only Rm4,000.00 or Rm200.00 for a screwdriver that would ordinarily cost only Rm10.00 to Rm15.00?

What actions has the government taken to ensure that government departments are accountable for their spending? Nothing.

1 comment:

  1. Correction. Malaysia bought three submarines for some Rm6.7billion not Rm2billion.

    ReplyDelete

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