Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Angpows are not cheap, maa!

I refer to your news report (May 23, 2007) entitled ‘PM denies pay rise linked to election.’ My question is: Why would the PM want to admit that it is linked to the general election? No rational political leader would admit to such a naïve intention. The fact that the election must be held before March 21, 2009, and that signs are showing that it could be held much earlier, makes the denial seem so fragile that it can be likened to the act of the robber who buried his loot and put up a sign that says ‘There is no money buried here.’

Whether the pay rise is linked or not to the upcoming general election is not important. The PM can go on denying it until the cows come home. However, its timing tends to suggest that the BN government is enticing the government servants with goodies sufficient to induce them to give their votes to the BN in the general elections. Who have not heard of ‘election year goodies’ which are almost always given out by elected incumbent governments in an election year? It happens not only here, but all over the world. Besides pay increase for government servants, other goodies may include tax cuts or higher personal and dependant relief for tax payers. So, why are voters’ memories so short-lived? Or are they so gullible? Can’t they see that it is a way to obtain support in the election?

Of course, we should all hail this announcement by the government as it will definitely help many people, especially those in the lower strata of society, to face the rising inflationary pressures brought about by the hiked fuel and toll prices. The Cabinet has had their pay rise much earlier to the tune of 10%. Many trade unions cried foul over the move, which they saw as unjustifiable and indefensible. At that time it was not opportune enough for government servants to be given salary increases because the 12th General Election was still too far away. It is better to let them “suffer” the price hike a little bit, so that they will appreciate the delayed pay rise better! Now, even the pensioners will not be left out. It is reported that a rise of 7 1/2 percent is being planned for this group.

While Malaysians welcome the latest move by the government, they should also be aware that things are not that good in the country. We have been having too many ‘scandals’ which involve government assets such as leaking roofs in parliament building (notoriously known as the ‘bocor’ episode), bursting pipes in newly completed court complex in Jalan Duta (NST, May 24, 2007), etc. The poor workmanship in these works tends to suggest that there is some hanky-panky in the award of contracts in the public sector. It also suggests that corruption may be at the core of these dealings. Of course it is difficult to prove conclusively the occurrence of bribery or ‘close one eye’ accords. The cons are very pros at their jobs that they are able to cover their tracts, like wearing gloves to hide their finger prints, not leaving footprints, and the like.

Corruption is a difficult foe to fight, let alone eradicate. It is especially so when the winning political party in the land is perceived to have a high tolerance for this scourge. Otherwise, how did the term ‘money politics’ crop up? It is practiced in party elections as attested by the sacking of a few UMNO people by the party. Many corruption cases just fizzled away without further action. Then in by-elections (perceived as ‘buy elections’ among cynics) and in general elections people report that they are being paid to vote for the ruling party. I am told that General Elections are not held until UMNO has RM500 million to spare as ‘angpows’. Yes, elections are expensive affairs every where. They are linked to the rising cost of living! Angpows are not cheap anymore.

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