MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku



Saturday, September 29, 2012

No need to state the obvious

The opposition is screaming that yesterday’s budget was merely an election budget. And the government, in turn, denies this. Of course it is an election budget. Everyone can see it is an election budget. So why is the opposition stating the obvious? You do not have to tell us that. We can see that for ourselves, so give us some credit. And why does the government need to deny it as well? In fact, the government might as well just shut up and not say anything rather than insult us.
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Did you follow Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s budget speech on TV last night? I did, but I bet most of you did not because you are boycotting the government-owned and government-controlled TV stations. I think that is a mistake because we need to know what others or the other side is saying so that we know how to counter what they spin.
If all I wanted was to know what the budget is about I need not have followed it on TV. I could have picked up those facts from the Internet. In fact, there are so many Blogs and websites that are talking about it. What I wanted to see was what the Prime Minister was going to say and how he was going to say it. Hence, it is not so much the ‘strength’ of the budget that concerns me but the manner in how it is being presented to the nation.
We have to remember that most people in the rural areas watch TV. They sit in the coffee shops in the kampongs to sip their tea and watch the news and entertainment programs on TV. And in between this, various people in the coffee shops would interject with their comments and views for all and sundry and for no one in particular.
It would be an understatement to say that the kampong folks would be swayed by what is on TV plus by the comments uttered by fellow patrons in the coffee shop. Hence it would make sense to send ‘operatives’ to spread out all over the country and ‘infiltrate’ these coffee shops so that comments can be made and views uttered alongside what is on TV.
This is also a good way to study public reaction. Their body language, the nods of their heads, the added comments they make to support or rebut comments made by other ‘patrons’, etc., would be a good measurement as to whether the message is getting through. Then the following night’s news can be amended, improved or repeated depending on the feedback from the operatives on the ground.
This is what Umno does and is a most effective propaganda exercise, which the opposition is not doing due to lack of resources such as manpower and funding. And that is how Umno keeps its fingers on the pulse of the nation, in particular the most important segment of the population as far as Umno is concerned -- the rural voters, in particular the Bumiputeras of both Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (who are not necessarily Malays).
Hence, if you had followed the TV news last night, you would have realised that Najib’s budget speech had been tailored for a certain audience in mind. That audience is not you who read Malaysia Today. It is not you ABU-screamers who just want Umno kicked out at all costs, never mind what you get as a replacement. It is not you the middleclass and thinking population. The audience is those who can be easily swayed by a good ‘show’ on TV and who make up the voters for 80% of the seats in Parliament.
The opposition is screaming that yesterday’s budget was merely an election budget. And the government, in turn, denies this. Of course it is an election budget. Everyone can see it is an election budget. So why is the opposition stating the obvious? You do not have to tell us that. We can see that for ourselves, so give us some credit. And why does the government need to deny it as well? In fact, the government might as well just shut up and not say anything rather than insult us.
It is insulting for the opposition to tell us that it is an election budget and also insulting for the government to deny it. It is an election budget and nothing short of that. So no need to mention that or deny it. We feel insulted when both sides speak as if we are too stupid to see what this budget is all about, an election budget.
The more important point is whether the voters buy what was presented. Are the voters impressed and happy with what the government is giving them as an inducement for them to vote for the government? Has Najib’s budget done the trick? Clearly the government is throwing money the people’s way. But will this result in the people voting for the government or will the people just take all that money and still vote opposition?
The opposition is arguing that Malaysia could be better run and that if Umno had not mismanaged the country then we could have been like Singapore. Singapore is so successful. Look at Singapore Airlines (SIA) compared to Malaysian Airlines (MAS) they will quote as an example.
We have to be careful with these ‘comparative studies’. Those voters in the kampongs do not understand such comparative studies. And those who can think know that it is not comparing apples to apples.
For example, the fare for flights from Malaysia to the UK or from the UK to Malaysia is almost the same. It is about 600 pounds or roughly RM3,000 for most airlines. Domestic flights in the UK, however, is about RM800-1,000 while domestic flights in Malaysia is about RM250-300.
Now, SIA does not have any domestic flights so every flight is an international flight. MAS, however, has to cater for domestic flights. But while the fares for international flights from both ends is about the same, the fares for domestic flights in the UK is four times that of domestic flights in Malaysia.
Now, if MAS was allowed to follow the ‘proper’ cost of fares for domestic flights (meaning a flight from KL to Terengganu cost RM800 instead of RM260 and to Kota Kinabalu costs RM1,000 instead of RM300-350) then MAS would be able to show as much profit as SIA.
Though I do not deny that part of MAS’s problem is mismanagement, we cannot just argue that this is the sole problem facing MAS. We are arguing that if MAS were better run just like SIA, then MAS would be as profitable as SIA. That would be true only if MAS was allowed to charge ‘normal’ fares and the domestic fares are not ‘subsidised’ by the international fares.
And this is where the opposition is not being entirely honest with the voters. They argue that Malaysia is badly run and if it were better run then all our problems would go away and Malaysia would be as great as Singapore. Some of our problems would certainly go away, of course. There would be some improvement. But don’t expect Malaysia to be as great as Singapore just because we have a superb government. There are some things that Singapore does not face and which Malaysia does, and which are not that easy to address.
Singapore is a city. It does not have a rural population or land settlers, famers and fishermen. Imagine that Malaysia was just Kuala Lumpur and there is no population outside Kuala Lumpur. That would mean every Malaysian lives in the city and there are no kampongs and no Malaysian living in the kampongs.
We can then compare Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. Kuala Lumpur can be fully developed. All the money earned would be earned in Kuala Lumpur and all the money spent is spent just in Kuala Lumpur.
But that is not the case with Malaysia. Malaysia is not just Kuala Lumpur. Singapore’s population is 5.2 million with about 3.2 citizens and 2 million foreigners who work in Singapore. Kuala Lumpur’s population is only about 1.5 million while 7.2 million live in the Kelang Valley, a large percentage of that in the rural areas.
Hence while 100% of Singaporeans live in the capital city, there are only 5% of Malaysians living in Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur. So how can the Malaysian government just develop Kuala Lumpur the way that the Singapore government develops just Singapore?
We should not give Malaysians false hope. Yes, we can tell them that a better government is required. Yes, we can tell them that a better government translates to a better deal for the voters. But we must not tell them that a better government can turn Malaysia into a Singapore or that MAS would be as profitable as SIA. That would be lying to the voters.
Malaysians must be made aware that the country is not just one large city. And the country must be made aware that 80% of the population live outside the main cities (with only 5% in the capital city). And in such a system, the haves would end up paying for the haves-not. And in such a system where we rob Peter to pay Paul, some people end up receiving more than they pay and some people end up receiving less than they pay.
If we want Kuala Lumpur so be just like Singapore then we would need to pour all the money into Kuala Lumpur and neglect those people who live outside Kuala Lumpur. Since all the tax (or at least 90% of the personal income tax, according to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad) is paid by the Chinese and hence would mean the city dwellers, then 90% of the this money should be used to develop Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, George Town, Johor Bharu, etc.
And that is what Najib’s election budget is all about. Najib is the new Malaysian Robin Hood. Najib is taking money from the rich to give to the poor -- at least this is the impression he is giving the rural voters who vote in 80% of the seats. So, ultimately, are the rural voters who are voting in 80% of the seats happy with yesterday’s budget?
You and I may not be happy. Yes, those of use who vote in 20% of the seats may not be happy. But then we are already not happy anyway. So would a great budget have changed our view of the government?
I doubt it. Never mind whatever Najib could have said yesterday, it would not have changed our view of the government. So why waste time in trying to make us happy? Najib had better just make the voters in 80% of the seats happy. And did he succeed? Well, we will know in about six months time. And, over the next six months, more goodies are going to be thrown their way.
Yes, he is using our money to make them happy. And as we get even unhappier about it, Najib is hoping that some of those 80% voters are going to be so happy that they swing to Barisan Nasional. And all Najib needs is another 5-10% of these voters to do the trick. If 5-10% of the voters swing to Barisan Nasional then he is going to remain the Prime Minister for another term at least.
That is the bottom line. And that was what the TV news last night was all about. And most of you did not watch the news on TV last night. The rural voters who will be voting in 80% of the seats did, though. And that is what matters. What you think does not matter. Anyhow, you are already anti-government anyway. So what does it matter what you think?

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