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Friday, November 1, 2013

A failed budget by large

| November 1, 2013

Budget 2014 failed with flying colours in addressing core issues bugging the nation.

The Budget 2014 dust has indeed settled rather in a jiffy this year despite the brouhaha surrounding certain contentious issues, in particular the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and subsidy rationalisation. In definite terms, Budget 2014 was not as exciting as it should have been.

Ground checks with the rakyat gave mixed reactions about the GST as some were clearly against the idea while others were more supportive. The third group seem to be oblivious about the entire GST fiasco citing ignorance as being ill-informed about the new tax system.

The Barisan Nasional government has moral and social obligation to educate the rakyat on GST, especially its mechanism and implications on our daily life. Using the supply chain scenario of a carbonated drink in the August house is just too simplistic and unrealistic to the laymen.

What and how will the 6% rate be imposed in a far more complicated supply chain especially for intangible services? In the haste to announce the new consumption tax, the Prime Minister has taken for granted that by default, systems will fall in place, and as usual life goes on as majority of the rakyat will forget and move on.

The Opposition front has been Najib’s severest critic when it comes to GST, followed by a splinter of non-governmental organisations; but both have fallen flat in barricading the much hyped tax. Their argument is rather straight to the bulls eye. Why is Najib not addressing issues pertaining to corruption and leakages or wastages but far more enthusiastic in drilling the GST through?

Malaysia has earned accolades and international applauds as being one of the most corrupted nations but the ‘play dead’ game by the government seems to be well architectured. Umno, the big boys and godfather of BN, has assimilated, integrated and digested the corrupt culture as a way of life and no amount of bickering is ever going to shatter or rock their well defined culture. That seem to be the background canvas of our ruling government. The fight against corruption is for sure on the losing trend; as evident from the tone, body language and arrogance shown by the Prime Minister during the Budget 2014 tabling.

Jumping on to the sugar subsidy removal, it was a joke of the century that the core reason is because nearly 10% of Malaysians are diabetic. How ridiculous? A justification that falls short of any acceptable argument made by even the most brain dead Prime Minister. Where are the relevant and significant statistics globally and locally to direct us into the rationality of making such a decision?

On the same lines, why is cigarette smoking not banned in totality as it is clinically proven to cause various types of cancer? Is not cancer far more dreaded and costly in treatment. Am sure we can save more in subsidising smoke related cancers treatments than sugar subsidies per se.

In annoyance, Deputy PM Muhyiddin Yassin was more idiotic in his rationalisation of sugar subsidy removal. He actually justified his boss’ argument by making the late Kedah Menteri Besar’s leg amputation as an example as to why sugar is a bitter poison.

It was disgusting to the highest degree on his part. No amount of apology can forgive Muhyiddin here or in afterlife for hitting below the belt even on a dead man!

It was Najib’s budget

2014 Budget is more of Najib’s budget rather than nation’s. Hypocrisy was the order of the day.

The pre-budget feedback or input amounted to nil as he clearly ignored calls for more aggressive transformations in the economy.

He seems to be more preoccupied and enthusiastic in dishing out dole to the lower and now even the middle class groups rather than formulating long term solutions in alleviating their woes; especially the ever escalating cost of living.

The Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia or BR1IM has and will definitely be a perfect modus operandi executed in Malaysian history as the “designer drug” to hook the younger generation in depending to easy handouts.

A paralytic policy can only drive us further into an unproductive economy. We can boast of low unemployment rate but have conveniently ignored relative and absolute productivity indexes in projecting a financial policy.

The philosophy of a responsible budget is to spur economy to greater heights, and the spin-offs must be sustainable, measurable and dependable in meeting the various objectives, short to long term.

What lacks in the budget is the foundation towards responsible spending. Provisions and allocations made can only reflect into accountable outcomes if there are firm, concrete and principled tracking or monitoring systems.

The Auditor General’s (AG) reports for years have unearthed the nauseating and fermenting rot under the carpets of Putrajaya but Najib and his predecessors have perfumed it well with practice of cronyism, nepotism and turning all bodily senses off.

Rattling off a written budget text in parliament is no brain twister, but ensuring the funneling of monies in a correct and timely manner demands far more effort and thrusts. Academic oriented thrusts is as good as coining cub-topics in writing a composition piece by a PMR student.

Endless possibilities

We are more keen to see the intricacies in meeting the five thrusts outlined. Let us not be shrouded by crumbs thrown into a turmoiled circus, but as voters insist Najib’s government to reveal even punitive actions taken against his trusted men who fumble in managing the peoples’ money.

In self-exciting himself, Najib got elated in announcing that Malaysia is a shopping haven after cities like London and New York; but his memory lapsed that we also have the worst education system and our crime rate has gone over the roof.

We are no an insulted country and definitely not immune to economic downturns. Achieving a developed nation status has become an obsession of BN but we are still in the dark ages when it comes to political maturity.

Selective persecution and draconian laws still persist to-date.

Najib has scored an A+++ in rolling out a failed policy oriented budget; that’s for certain in definite terms.

In another 12 months he will purge another puking looking policy and as Malaysians we keep on voting sick policies and sit in mamak stalls complaining. All that in the spirit of Endless Possibilities.

Narinder Singh is a FMT team member.

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