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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Does Najib care?

Although there are rumblings of the rakyat asking whether the PM cares about them due to all the price hikes, Umno fortresses in the rural areas still remain unperturbed and loyal to Umno.
SEREMBAN – During the GE 13, dubbed as ‘the mother of all elections’ in Malaysia both BN and Pakatan pledged a list of promises should they be voted into Putrajaya.
Now seven months after the general elections, BN rules as the government and the rakyat are waiting for all election promises to be fulfilled.
On Sept 2 , prime minister Najib Tun Razak announced a petrol price increase and to appease the rakyat he called it a subsidy reduction .
In truth, the RON95 and diesel price was increased by 20 sen.
RON95 increased from RM1.70 to RM1.90 per litre and diesel increased from RM1.60 to RM1.80 per litre.
The chain reaction was felt almost immediately with the price of goods increasing over the following months.
On Oct 25, Najib announced another ‘surprise gift’.
Terming it as rationalisation, (Najib is given full credit for popularising this term amongst Malaysians), he abolished the remaining 34 sen sugar subsidy.
Sugar price was increased from RM2.50 to RM2.84 per kilo (round-up to RM2.85).
On Dec 2, the Energy, Technology and Water minister Dr Maximus Ongkili announced another rationalisation, informing all that the electric tariff will be increased by 14.89 percent or 4.99 sen kilowatt per hour.
Beginning Jan 1, 2014, electricity will be priced at 38.53 sen per kilowatt per hour.
The term ‘rationalisation’ may look ‘sweet’ but in reality it is ‘bitter’ as the end results are actually price increases.
Next on the cards are road toll hikes expected to be rolled out any time next year.
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Abdul Wahid Omar who is an economist and banker told expressway users that they are free to use roads without tolls if they are unhappy with the proposed toll hike. His statement angered the rakyat, further.
There are rumours circulating over the social media that more increases are expected in 2014. Although not verified or confirmed as yet, there are speculations that rice, road taxes and driving licenses are on the list for price hikes as well as another petrol price increase slated for next year or in 2015.
The Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) is said to be reviewing the LRT and Monorel charges but so far nothing has materialised.
Among ordinary Malaysians the current discussions and topic of conversation be it in coffee shops or on the social media is “does Najib care about the people?”
Even Umno division and branch leaders are asking “does Najib care about the 14th GE?”
The fear felt by these grassroot Umno leaders and members is whether Umno will be able to survive the 14th general elections after all the unpopular moves made by the current BN government.
Najib as prime minister and finance minister with numerous advisers surrounding him surely must have considered all these factors before proceeding with such unpopular announcements.
If the rakyat can predict that these price and tariff increases can kill Umno in 14th general elections, Najib must be more aware.
So why was Najib brave enough to allow such ‘burdens’ be dished out to the rakyat despite the promises he made before the GE13 such as reducing toll charges in stages and raising the quality of life for Malaysians?
Najib knowns that Malaysians have such short memories, they make noise for a few weeks or months and then all is forgotten.
There were price increases during former prime minister Abdullah Badawi’s tenure and even after the 12th general election (after Mac 2008).
The people were angry but after a month or two, life went back to normal and people forgot.
By the next general election in four and half years time, Malaysians will have forgotten all these price and tariff increases especially if Najib announces a few goodies and hands over some ‘sweets’.
Six months before the 14th general election Najib will start to hand out ‘goodies’ again and the hardcore BN supporters and fence sitters will be happy to vote for BN again.
A few pro-Umno grassroot leaders that FMT spoke to said that BN is in danger of losing at the 14th general election if Najib does not stop the price hikes, as this time the rakyat are smarter and the people will not be bought over by the sweet promises made by the BN government.
“They have been ‘hit’ (terkena) once by the government and I don’t think they can be fooled again next time,” said a young Umno branch leader from Seremban.
A quick check by FMT at a few Felda and traditional Malay kampung areas where recent price and tariff hikes does not affected them. The sentiment of the Malays regarding Najib and the government is still positive.
There are slight grumblings and unhappiness amongst the villagers, but in general support for BN in these so called Umno fortresses is still unshaken.
“Yes, the prices of goods have gone up. What to do? At least our country is safe. No war. You go to Indonesia, Myanmar or Bangladesh, the situation is much worse,” said Sharulnizam Azhar from Felda Serting, Jempol.
As far as Najib is concerned he does not see any major backlash from the people, especially from the Malays in the rural and Felda areas, Umno’s strongest fortress.

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