More “Goodies” in 2014


Probably my last post for the year, hope to be more “regular” next year…

kain rentang pasang di pagar bengang bn

(To be fair, one’s voting rights cannot be questioned by anyone but there must be a break point somewhere on how much of the abuse and wastage that a Government that has been in power for so long can be allowed to continue. And seeing on how all that sweet talk and endless promises of cost reduction during the election campaign simply disappeared within months from the election, hopefully people had wise up and will take things with a pinch of salt in the next election? Image source: Omak Kau)

Just as expected, here’s another news that will leave the die-hard BN supporters getting down on their knees and say the grace for voting in the Barang Naik politicians into power for another 5 years (damn, I can even see the grateful smile on their face right now as they get ready to dig deeper into their pockets):-

Prices of stationery items are expected to go up by 20% to 30% within the first quarter of next year. Industry players claimed that they were revising the prices, partly due to the increasing costs from the implementation of minimum wages and transport costs.

Other factors include the new electricity tariff rate, higher fuel price and the currency exchange rate between the ringgit and China renminbi, as most of the imported stationery items are from China. The speculated increase in toll rates and rentals are also expected to contribute to the increase.

(Source)

Look closely at the reasons for the price hike of the stationery items – implementation of minimum wages, the new electricity tariff rate, higher fuel price, increase in toll rates (which is yet to be finalized by the Government but already having rippling effect) and rentals. It sounds all too familiar, don’t they? If these are the reasons for the proposed increase (the edible ice suppliers used the same excuse), then what’s stopping everyone else from using the same excuse and raising the price of goods and services?

Didn’t one Barang Naik Minister came out in the open and said that the price hike unlikely to have any bearing on the production cost? If we had believed that, we would have been one of the dumbest people around. Of course, the stationers and booksellers are now being threatened with action under the Competition Act 2010. But if the Minister claims cartel activity and monopoly of market, then what about Astro and TNB huh? Doesn’t the same market monopoly argument applies the same?

And as more goods and services falls into the price hike category, one may need to wonder where it will end. And whether the hike is justified in the first place? Have the people in the Government had done their homework before they press on the “Hike Up” button? Have they even consider things from the business and consumer point of view? Just asking the business to “understand and share the burden” does not really the solution that anyone with brains is looking for.

Onyourtoes: You are telling only half of the story. How can you reduce fuel subsidy when government spending has remained extravagant? How can you reduce sugar subsidy when importation and distribution of sugar is still in the hands of private monopolies?

How can you justify high price of cars when issuance of Approved Permits (APs) is for specific cronies to become billionaires. Which country on earth makes billionaires out of the largesse of public policy? How can you hike the electricity tariff when lopsided Independent Power Producers (IPP) agreements have remained unresolved?

How can you continue to raise tolls when the profit of most concessionaires achieved is far beyond their wildest expectation? How can you impose Goods and Services Tax (GST) when our accounting and retailing are so rudimentary? Read my lips, it will end up with consumers paying but the money not reaching the government.

(Source)

This is in response to the recent hikes by the Government and it just shows that Government had not thought of curtailing expenses and rationalize the reduction of subsidies thoroughly. It has remained a small patch here and a small patch there but at the end, does nothing to stop the leakages. Don’t get us wrong – the consumers will definitely pay more for goods and services provided it is justified and means a substantial improvement of quality in goods & services. Unfortunately in this “tidak apa” country, that not likely to happen – if you pay more for the toll for example, does the insane traffic jam goes away?

But the question remained is whether the Government will be seeing the increase of income at their end. They always ask the people to tighten their belts but are they doing the same themselves? The purported news of 2 BN ministers going to London for their winter shopping certainly did not look good when there are only bad news wherever you look. Who is paying for the trip and the shopping expenses?

So don’t be surprised if, with so many leakages, lack of enforcement, rampant corruption, the Government does not know the meaning of austerity and lopsided agreements, whatever the increase of price is simply going to go “into the wrong pockets” and wrong purpose. And because of this, the Government can rest assured to find itself still short of money to cover its spiraling expenses and in the end, they will be forced to push for another cut in subsidies (with the same excuses) and the vicious cycles starts all over again.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed questioned the wisdom behind the government’s decision to increase the prices of goods and services at a time when people were suffering a financial pinch. In his blog Chedet, the former prime minister of 22 years acknowledged that the government needs more money but questioned if all the increases should come at the same time.

Mahathir said the government should follow in the footsteps of businesses by “costing down” where it could either increase prices or reduce cost when there is competition or when its cost of production reduces its profits. “All its cost can be examined to determine which are truly necessary, which cost can be reduced, which service can be curtailed or modified,” he said.

He said the Government often wasted money because it was not too concerned about the returns on its expenditure, citing the Auditor General’s reports that highlight the excesses every year.

(Source)

It has come to a point where even the retired old man seemed restless now. Never mind the fact that that he should take some of the blame on laying the seeds of wastage and abuse but at least he is restless now for the right reasons (and not on the same and tired racial reasons). Hmm, perhaps he can foresee the downfall of the very system that he had nurtured when he was the PM.

Any way, there are just a few more days to go before we say goodbye to 2013 and welcome a truly Barang Naik year in 2014 (some had dubbed it as the New Year of Suffering). I just hope that even so 2014 will bring a better year for all of us in other ways and exposed to less insanity all around and reinforce the notion that a real change will only change with a change of Government in the next general elections.

Happy holidays and I will see you all next year.

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Another Petrol Price Hike…


2011-04-20-chronicle-cartoon

(What we see whenever the Government increase the price and ask the taxpayers to change their lifestyle – a burden that we are  willing to share provided the Government does the same. Image source: http://patriotpost.us)

I have been quite busy with work this week and the recent news from tanah air did not sound that good too. From the massive water disruption in the Klang Valley on Merdeka Day (have they burned those who polluted the river and the council officers who closed one eye on the factory activities at the stake?) to the petrol hike from the BN Government and to my son have a bad cough for the last few days.

I read with interest on the various reactions on the Facebook and that included one that got angry when the petrol station “ran out” of petrol. And that reminded me of the 2 posts that I wrote sometime ago on the petrol hike:-

In short, subsidies of any nature have to go and so do any give away of public money to causes that do not generate real economy such as BRIM, smartphone rebates, etc. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Instead of giving people the cash which does not really elevate them from the line poverty in the long run, it is better to create more opportunities with employment opportunities, cheaper housing schema and increase the minimum wages to an extent where people can manage the ever increasing expensive.

It is also important to have more accountability and prudence in managing the money saved from these subsidies. Najib is saying that the Government will save RM1.1 billion this year and about RM3.3 billion annually. All fine and good with the money saved but seriously, it does nothing to improve our confidence of the Government in managing the money saved.

The Prime Minister can only convince the public of his sincerity and necessity of raising RON 95 petrol prices by 20 cents to save annual subsidy costs of RM 3.3 billion by also implementing open competitive tenders and fighting corruption which would save RM 51 billion annually.

Without accompanying measures that demonstrates the Federal government’s commitment against corruption, the public would easily see through such fake sincerity and counterfeit necessity to cut costs.

Why should the people, especially lower-income groups, bear the pain of paying RM3.3 billion annually in increased petrol prices if no action is taken against those political bandits who steal the nation of RM 51 billion annually?

(Source)

It’s obvious that in general sense, there is a feeling that the Government is not doing enough to curtail corruption and mismanagement of public fund. Why not stop the bigger leakage of public funds misuse instead of the easy way out by cutting down on the fuel subsidies?

There is already trouble brewing on the millions being paid to Najib’s consultants – some claimed to be inexperienced and continue to be overpaid. What about the millions that was pledged before the last general elections? Still remember the rather blatant  “I help you, you help me” election bribe? Najib could have been mistaken for the Santa Claus and Christmas did come early for some people. It was something I knew will come back to bite us after the election when Najib have to make good of his pre-election promises but does not have the dough to do so.

Seasoned analyst of Malaysian politics Bridget Welsh today said that BN chairman Najib Razak had so far spent a whopping RM58 billion or RM4,363 per voter to shore up support at the coming polls.

Welsh an associate professor of political science at the Singapore Management University, said the figure was reached after studying over 4,000 news reports since 2009 – the year Najib replaced Abdullah Badawi as prime minister – as well as the three budgets including supplemental budgets under Najib between 2010-2013.

“I conservatively estimate that his administration has spent a total of RM57.7 billion from after he took over as PM to just before the dissolution of parliament on election-related incentives,” said Welsh, writing in Malaysiakini.

She said some RM46.7 billion was spent on development targeted pledges and RM11.0 billion on ‘1Malaysia’ programmes.

“The two main components of this largess are politically targeted distributions and 1Malaysia spending. These measures are inherently political as not only are they framed as political tools, they are being openly been touted as a reason to support the BN at the voting booth,” she said.

(Source)

After all, the basis of spending is pretty simply – the income must be enough to cover the expenses. If the current income does not cover the expenses, either increase the income (one way would be by borrowing from someone else which is a bad thing) or reduce the expenses (still remember Najib’s famed advice to the common man – change your lifestyle?). So whilst reducing the petrol subsidies is one good way to reduce the expenses, replacing it with another wasteful one is not. And speaking about reducing wasteful expenses, how about this idea for a change?

All Cabinet members including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak should now pay for their own fuel since the government claimed underserving parties were enjoying the benefits of a blanket subsidy that it reduced today, said PKR’s Rafizi Ramli.

The PKR strategy director also questioned why Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak chose not to do away with hefty subsidies given to private companies such as independent power producers, which is estimated to be around RM13 billion, and instead “took the easy way out” by slashing public fuel subsidies.

“The fuel price hike burdens most of the average people and it is used as an excuse by Datuk Seri Najib Razak to hide his own weaknesses in managing the country’s economy,” Rafizi told reporters, and pointed to the country’s recent credit rating downgrade by global agency Fitch Ratings and the ringgit’s lowered value against the US dollar.

(Source)

That is a very sound advice indeed. Will the Government change its lifestyle too? We may not save the billions by doing that but it will show the sincerity and the commitment of the Government in ensuring that whatever money that the Government manages to collect is spent with greater prudence, accountability and transparency. We do not need overpaid consultants (Ministers and GLC management included), expensive overseas trips for politicians and their wives (kids and their servants tagging along), overrated mega projects that does not bring good returns and only benefits a small group of people and other nonsense like BRIM, etc.

If this is done and if coupled with a long term plan to increase the buying power of the consumers (and not just giving away taxpayers money), another petrol hike would not be treated with such hostility.