APRIL 12 — I told you about my sister and her kids, but not her husband. He really relies on me to make sense of the copy of The Star he reads at his office. He’s not Malaysian, you see. He is fairly sceptical of the government of the day without hearing my input, but still, some of the developments bewilder him.
He’d say, “They can’t possibly get away with that.”
Actually they do, Paul, they do. They do all the time. Which is why we continue with the second part of 10 things about our political circus (Part 1).
Yoda protect my country.
It’s the economy, stupid
Spoiler alert: Nothing below will surprise you.
It is only good and great news when it comes to the Malaysian economy. It’s been like that for decades. Apparently political analysts claim when there is an election during a recession the incumbent party loses. So in vintage style, to show these analysts how it’s done, the Malaysian government turns things on its head. They’ve outlawed recessions. (A recession occurs when over two consecutive quarters, the economy dips.)
They’ve decided that when it comes to the economy, there is only good news.
There are so many ways to do that.
Repeat the same projects over and over. Calculate potential not actual. Work the stats. Promise what you can, and milk the promise as much as you can. Put together fabulous memorandum of understanding (MoU) events. Undermine contrary reports.
But there have been recessions and economic downturns, they’ll concede retrospectively. Of course. But they are in the past. All the bad things have only happened in the past.
To illustrate the point, replace recession with STD. If you have STD do you really want to know while you have it? Would it not be better if they tell you after you’ve healed, thanks to good medicines? It only is gonorrhoea, if you know you have gonorrhoea.
Gross domestic product (GDP) numbers are cried from all building tops when they exceed seven per cent. Non-flattering stats for example distribution of wealth and wage increase for the bottom 20 per cent of the population are not discussed. And when critics point that out, the government then points to the GDP.
Truth is Malaysia’s natural resource rich. There’s no going around it. There is money literally coming out of the ground and its forests. Oil, gas, timber, palm oil and then some.
Just because there is money in the country does not mean there is enough money in all its people’s pockets. You see, there are pipelines everywhere, but most people aren’t allocated taps.
The government aligns trust around jobs, almost everyone has one. But Barisan Nasional (BN) completely stuffs it when it comes to ensuring the jobs pay commensurate to the richness of the country.
One reason is the obvious centralisation of economic power. Government owns too much of business, its politicians sit on too many boards; their party minor leaders own too many all-can-do companies living-off concessions, contracts and exclusive rights to procurement and selling from the government; their wealthy friends get first dibs on all opportunities and when the opportunities dry up, then new ones will mysteriously emerge.
Government and big business work hand in hand.
But the real questions, the ones that determine the success of modern economies are ignored largely. What is Malaysia’s value proposition other than raw resources? The service industry is about providing value, but Malaysia only competes on price. Overdependence on unskilled foreign workers, disconnected under-trained graduates, infrastructure which is expensive but rarely optimal and skilled workers leaving the country for more conducive countries has now made Malaysia completely supported by natural resources, mostly oil. Is that good management of the country’s economy?
Corruption must die... will you die already?
Someone important from BN is always in court answering why something bad involving money happened. Former mentri besar Khir Toyo, former minister and MCA president Ling Liong Sik, ex-minister’s husband Mohamad Salleh Ismail and even a minister’s aide.
Someone from the BN side is always in court, but no one goes to jail.
There is a pattern. First, the matter is unravelled and predictably all in BN deny it. There are myriads of explanations; the story was misunderstood, the people don’t know the whole story, it is not really as big as you all think it is, someone else did it, it was an honest mistake and my favourite — others have done worse.
Then they go on the attack. Those who brought this matter up don’t like the government. They are doing a personal attack. The whistleblower is investigated. The revealed documents were under the Official Secrets Acts, so those disclosing the facts are also law-breakers, they remind the public.
They meander between step one and two, while the various authorities play pass-the-parcel. The prime minister has not got a report, or would not respond to a mere media report. The deputy prime minister is not going to speak until those in a position to speak, speak. The attorney-general understands that the matter has been raised, but the police have not investigated the matter. The police can’t investigate because no one has filed a police report.
There is a police report, but there are police reports filed by other people telling the police they should not investigate. All the police reports are asking the police to investigate, but there is the issue of jurisdiction.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission folks — those sworn to detect, apprehend, torture and kill corruption (hopefully in that order) — can’t start cause they have to make sure that there are fresh tapes in their state of the art interrogation rooms in Putrajaya. Plus the police have had a meeting with the attorney-general, so they should wait till those in the said meeting agree to agree that there are reasons to agree, before letting others into the action. Something about too many cooks at the home ministry makes the lunch menu hard to read even after using Google translate.
By then, your then UPSR taking daughter is already applying for university.
What you hear, but not quite... education-healthcare-decent jobs
Primary and secondary education is free, almost anyone can go to university with a loan, there are government hospitals, there are health insurance policies and jobs aplenty, according to the powers that be.
But you don’t hear ministers talk about these. Why private and semi-private vernacular school options are preferred by Malaysian parents. That a number of local graduates are now clerks and cashiers; and they join the chorus with millions who are repeatedly rejected by businesses because they can’t converse in English or show little traits suggesting they can cope.
The insidious commercialisation of healthcare, even till government hospitals have private practices within them — the same doctor splits his time with paying and non-paying patients. Guess which patient gets the better treatment and attention? Or that the average modest-income family when there is a need for a medical procedure or emergency for any family-member will go through a financial maelstrom.
As said earlier, there are jobs, they are just not well-paying ones, even when employed by the government. The neutering of worker unions has left most Malaysians hoping rather than planning for a decent wage.
These the ministers will refuse to talk about.
Hate? Yes, hate someone.
Malaysia is filled with hate news. There are few governments who are willing to sow more hate so that its people are constantly upset with other citizens.
The first-past-the-post parliamentary elections together with a win-at-all-cost incumbent government render a poll victory for the opposition akin to bringing down the Death Star. Only if everyone can set aside their petty differences can they join up with the Ewoks and defeat the Empire.
Truth is not an issue. The possibility of these things worries people.
Good thing is that Malaysians are slowly becoming desensitised about them. The bad part is despite being so passé, hate can always do damage.
Media me this, media me that
The ads in the national section of Utusan Malaysia, and during ad-breaks during TV3/RTM news are credible. The rest is fairly gripping fiction. But you have to give them some credit, like the newsreaders, none of them look puzzled or nauseated when they read sheer unadulterated propaganda.
Until there is a change of government, trust none of the newspapers, TV/radio stations and other media belonging to the BN parties and their friends.
And to those who knowingly produce the content contaminating Malaysia, they cannot hide behind the tale, that they are just trying to pay the rent and put children through school. To those who actually believe the propaganda, I suppose life and the drugs they take are punishing them enough already.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.