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Monday, December 31, 2012

And Malaysia’s 2012 Word of the Year is ...


 Perception.
That is what a Malaysian is told this year when reporting a robbery or a snatch theft and believing that this means crime is on the rise in what has been one of the safest countries in Southeast Asia.
Corruption has taken a dip, so it is people’s perception that it has increased in society. — Picture courtesy of worldmeets.us
That is what a Malaysian is told this year when complaining about rising graft or rising cost of living and thinking that the country is sinking through global indices in what is supposedly an Asian tiger of a nation.
Perception. The reality, according to the authorities, is that statistics this year show that crime in Malaysia has dipped. Graft in Malaysia has also dipped and the authorities are going after those in the private sector now.
And the economy is rising, so that means more money in the pocket. Not only that, the government has been dishing one-off cash handouts of RM500 to households earning up to RM3,000 a month.
Yet, how many cases of robberies and snatch theft have we heard that occur in urban areas, especially near traffic lights. Is it a case of being more aware because of social media, as some authorities claim, despite official statistics showing a drop in crime? 
How about living costs outstripping wages? How do you try to fathom a nation with an annual five per cent economic expansion and a policy of subsidising food and fuel that still needs to give cash handouts?
And the cheek to tell someone who has been robbed, or having to pay a bribe or pay more for groceries that it is just their perception that it is getting worse is just putting salt to the wound.
It is too easy to blame social media for such tales to turn viral. It is too easy to tell people to be more careful and take steps to be more vigilant and complain about corrupt practices and profiteering.
Also too easy to just announce policies and initiatives without ensuring they are implemented to the letter. Putting more boots on the ground, going after the big fish in corruption cases and targeting subsidies to specific demographics rather than an elephant gun spray of goodies for news headlines.
To be fair, Putrajaya has been taking action. There is a raft of policies and laws in place to cut crime, reduce graft and living costs. But the efforts do not seem to bear fruit as fast as they have been promised or implemented.
And this is where the word “perception” can bite the authorities or the government of the day.
The perception that it isn’t doing enough or doing things fast enough to make a difference. 
There are a slew of projects under various abbreviations but the change isn’t being felt because it takes time for housing projects to finish or industries to rise and people to get better paying jobs.
Therein lies the irony, that nothing is as instant as perception.

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