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REFSA Team brings you another edition of REFSA Rojak – a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA). REFSA Rojak – “trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.”
Handouts, or inducements?
Amidst debates on the best solution to raise incomes, the Barisan Nasional is keen to keep the nation permanently hooked on handouts from the federal government. Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin promised that the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) handouts will be doubled to RM 1,000 if national income and tax revenue exceed RM 125 billion. He further claimed that the handouts can possibly be given “forever”, if BN wins the 13th General Elections.
Three things come to mind here. First, it is true that handouts could be far, far bigger. As REFSA has pointed out, our RM42 billion subsidy bill is sufficient to give the bottom 1/3rd of Malaysian households RM1,560 per month. That is equivalent to RM550 every 10 days as opposed to theoccasional BR1M payment.
Second, widespread subsidies are a sign of failure. Would we need massive subsidies if the economy is vibrant, if our people are skilled and well-educated, if our businesses have a conducive environment to prosper and grow and if the economic pie is fairly shared by all?
And thirdly, we wonder if our good deputy prime minister sees the incongruity of increasing handouts even while PEMANDU claims Malaysia will achieve high-income status within seven years.
Hats of to Pakatan for being responsible
In this respect, we recognise the leadership shown by Pakatan Rakyat in not taking the bait offered by the Malaysian Workers Networks (MWN). MWN promised to back any political party that endorses its election manifesto, calling for a RM1,500 minumum wage, emphasising that workers make up at least 60% of voters.
With elections just around the corner; and with the mass media against you, the easiest approach is to be populist. Yet, PKR director of strategy Rafizi Ramli cited authoritative studies that our country could afford only RM 1,100 – the same amount proposed by PR in its alternative budget.
Good, responsible leaders must tell hard truths; and we must sometimes take medicine when we are ill. Fortunately for us in Malaysia, the medicine might be a little unpalatable, but does not have to be bitter. REFSA concurs fair wages are essential, and a RM 1,100 minimum wage is a very good start for the millions of workers currently earning a fraction of that. A minimum wage is not the panacea. It is a start, and has to be implemented with a holistic economic package including reducing cheap foreign labour and uplifting the skills of our workers. Read more in our vibrant infographic.
Selangor seeing red over water disruption
Residents in parts of the Klang Valley might be left high and dry during the Chinese New Year festive season. The water disruption, especially in Ampang and Cheras, is due to faulty and over-worked pumps, according to Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas).
Syabas pinned the blame on the Selangor government, saying its delay in building an additional pumping system in Wangsa Maju resulted in existing pumps being over-worked. The company went on to root for the construction of the controversial Langat 2 Water Treatment Plant, calling it a “long-term solution”.
Selangor chief minister Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim has, however, debunked Syabas’ ‘pump-overload’ claims. He pointed out that the system connected to the pumps requires regular maintenance, but Syabas does not even have any maintenance contract with the supplier of the system. This only further cements Selangor’s resolve to end Syabas’ lucrative water supply concession.
Fewer credible eyes on elections
Transparency-International Malaysia (TI-M) is the third group to pull out as an election observer for the upcoming general elections. Association for Human Rights (Proham) and Malaysian Youth Council and National Institute for Electoral Integrity (NIE) have also declined the Election Commission’s (EC) invitation to monitor the elections.
TI-M disagreed with certain restrictions imposed by EC, and questioned why relevant organisations such as Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel) were not chosen despite having the requisite expertise, experience and credibility.
Police-issued tags to ensure protection?
Is another crack-down imminent in the People’s Uprising Rally organised by Pakatan Rakyat in Stadium Merdeka tomorrow (12 Jan)? The ‘signs’ are there, literally. Media personnel covering the rally are to wear special police-issued tags to protect them from any “untoward incident”. An outcry has ensued – why is there a need for the press to be singled out? Aren’t the cops responsible for protecting everyone in the rally?
The fact is, accredited media personnel are already issued media tags by the Home Ministry – which, by the way, is also in charge of the police force. Are the police saying the Home Ministry-issued media tags are insufficient? If so, why? Get to the bottom of the issue and create a media tag acceptable to all government agencies rather than issue yet another tag. On the other hand, cynical us can’t help but wonder who has the contract to print the new police-certified tags.
Suaram urged the police to ensure that their own personnel wear name tags instead. Cops not wearing their identification tags had been a major issue in Bersih 3.0 last year, whereby victims of police brutality could not identify the culprits.
Malaysiakini said it would not submit the names of its journalists covering the rally for the issuance of the tags, insisting that “any external influence on journalistic decisions, no matter how subtle, must be avoided at all costs.”
REFSA tips its hat to Malaysiakini for upholding its reputation for resisting pressure and patronisation. We wish all fair-minded media personnel well in carrying out their press duties tomorrow. Here’s a heartfelt thank you for consistently telling it as it is.
Why ‘Rojak’? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.
It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique ‘sauce’ that is Malaysia. Let’s take pride in the ‘rojakness’ of our nation!
Click here for previous issues of REFSA Rojak.