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Monday, December 23, 2013

When silence is inelegant

| December 18, 2013

Our People-First PM must speak up on the various issues affecting the welfare of citizens

PETALING JAYA: When citizens are writhing under the weight of high prices and worried to death that things will only get worse, it is no longer adequate for the government to try to reassure them with abstractions and platitudes.

How, for instance, will “more funds for development” bring down the price of food so that our children do not go to school hungry? How long will this “development” take? When will it result in a reduction of the inflation rate? We need to be convinced that our children will not suffer prolonged malnutrition, and we do not want them to endure for too long the aggravation of having to do their homework by candle light as we scrimp on electricity.

Silence is elegant only when the provocation to break it is frivolous or malicious. As a prime minister who has pledged a “People First” policy, Najib must address these genuine concerns of the people—and address them with concrete explanation.

Our PM has been inelegantly silent on a lot of issues since BN scraped through the 13th general election and his administration started to pile onto hapless Malaysians a shocking series of so-called subsidy-saving measures that look more like crony-enrichment strategies and/or desperate attempts to make up for profligate spending in his first term to ensure his survival for a second term.

To mention only the very latest of these issues, where is our People-First PM now that the people of KL have been slapped with a notice of increased assessment rates and they and their fellow citizens in Selangor will be scrambling for water for nearly a week?

“Is the water cut done to punish the KL and Selangor voters for voting Pakatan?” Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad pointedly asked in a conversation with this columnist on Monday during a protest gathering outside City Hall.

That protest was over the rising cost of living, which is especially burdensome for the urban poor. Khalid noted that KL and Selangor folk had had to endure a lot of suffering since GE13. It would be stretch to say that it was all coincidental, he added.

As for the ghastly assessment hike, Najib has left it entirely to the bumbling Federal Territories Minister to explain.

Yes, we understand that a rate increase is overdue, but a people-first governent would have done it with more sensitivity and perhaps insructed City Hall to limit the property re-evaluation to, say, 20% of the previous value and maintain the assessment rate at the current level.

Even when he breaks his silence on a certain issue, Najib is seldom convincing or at least elegantly mindful that Malaysians are not all stupid.

In defending the impending introduction of the Goods and Services Tax two months sgo, he said the 160 countries that had implemented the GST could not all be wrong.

He omitted saying that Greece had gone bust despite the GST and Hong Kong, with no GST, was doing well.

The lesson to be learnt from Greece is that GST does not guarantee national wellbeing if the government mismanages the economy and politicians in power continue with their corrupt ways. Without the political will to curb cronyism and all the other forms of corruption, GST is just another means for the government to dig into the rakyat’s pockets to service the national debt.

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