If governments are not a punching bag, then who?

TK Chua

Modified 12 Feb 2018, 8:54 am

LETTER | Sometimes I don’t understand what our cabinet ministers are saying. If a government is not supposed to take care of the economy and its people, may I know why do we have it to begin with?

Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani said governments are not a punching bag, meaning don’t just blame the government if the people are faced with problems.

Sometimes I think it is easy for those in government to forget. Worldwide, most governments are the source of people’s problems. They are abusers, corrupt, incompetent and they accrue privileges and obscene perks to themselves. So, what is so wrong if bad governments everywhere are used as a punching bag?

As a minister, Johari Abdul Ghani must first differentiate between systemic problems and individual problems.

If a person is a gambler, a drug addict, a spendthrift or is lazy, then surely he/she must bear the responsibility of his/her own actions. Blaming others, including the government, would be out of place.

But if citizens work full time, sometimes holding two or three jobs, but can’t earn enough to provide decent living for themselves and their families, may I know who should they blame?

If law-abiding citizens are constantly being harassed by snatch thefts, break-in, and mat rempit, may I know who should they blame?

If taxpayers can’t get the basic amenities, having to face unhygienic living conditions, and are often cheated by conman and substandard/fake products in the marketplace, may I know who should they blame?

If privatisation often results in massive payoffs to cronies and concessionaires, may I know who should the people blame?

If government revenues are channelled to luxurious projects and if deserving students can’t get scholarships, may I know who should the citizens blame?

When the cost of living is decoupled from income, I think we don’t ask the people to drink brand-less cocoa, tighten their belts or change their lifestyle.

We need to find out and provide solutions why inflation and taxes are growing faster than income. Surely we know this is more than people telling the government prices now are much higher than those during their primary school days.

Asking people to tighten their belts or change their lifestyle is not managing the economy. That is squeezing the people. Telling people prices now are not like those during their primary school days is not being sensitive to the plight of people who can only articulate their problems simplistically.

As a minister, please don’t tell the people the prices of non-controlled items are subjected to “demand and supply” which has nothing to do with the government.

This is not whether an item is price-controlled or otherwise; this is inflation management. If in doubt with what I say, please consult the IMF or the World Bank.

Johari Abdul Ghani has also pointed out that those working in banks, public-listed companies (PLCs) and government-linked companies (GLCs) have no complaints of low salary.

Assuming this is true, is this the end of the story? Surely as a minister, he must try to find out why certain sectors are doing fine while others are underpaying their workers.

To put in the nutshell, governments everywhere must at least learn not to behave like Maria Antoinette by asking the Parisians to eat cake when they had run out bread.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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