Gojek? It’s time to do better, Harapan

Taufiq Ahamd

Modified 28 Aug 2019, 10:39 pm

LETTER | Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman's push for the legalisation of Indonesia's Gojek has certainly caused shockwaves on social media. Fresh off the success of #Undi18 and paid government internships, it seems that Syed Saddiq could do no wrong.

After all, by allowing Gojek to operate in Malaysia, it will provide thousands of jobs for youths who still represent one of the largest groups facing unemployment (13.2 percent in 2018) and represent a clear sign for foreign companies on the country’s positive attitude towards investment. It will also help resolve long-standing issues with public transport last-mile connectivity in our urban centres.

It’s a win-win situation, right?

Unfortunately, this line of thinking ignores the underlying problem behind Syed Saddiq's. and in extension, Pakatan Harapan's attitude towards nation-building.

A tendency to pursue Band-aid solutions instead of taking up the hard task of concrete policy solutions.

If Harapan was serious in resolving the issues in our labour market, in public transport and foreign attractiveness to investment, they should have just stuck to fulfilling their manifesto promises.

For example, take a look at "Manifesto Promise 8" - improving the quality and coverage of public transport which includes the introduction of over 10,000 public buses within Harapan’s first term in government. Now, the economic opportunities from simply increasing the bus fleet far outweigh the benefits provided by the contractor policy of Gojek and range from increased direct employment from the bus companies themselves to benefits to local SMEs that would be involved in the manufacture and maintenance of said bus fleet.

The government should seek to emulate and learn from the alternative public transport network that is set to be launched in Johor next month – the 51km Iskandar Malaysia bus rapid transit (IMBRT) which builds upon a concept that has been proven to work in over 100 countries.

How about "Manifesto Promise 35": Raising the dignity of workers and creating high-quality jobs?

Yes, Gojek will create jobs but it also sends the wrong sort of message towards the youth of Malaysia – that the only kind of jobs that will willingly take them in are found in the gig economy.

It is no secret that the nature of employment in these companies is precarious, with no safety net, no retirement contributions and most certainly no income protection if they find themselves in an accident.

The urban-suburban nature of our urban centres also poses a serious problem for the overall safety of Gojek users and its viability as a last-mile solution. Gojek works in Indonesia due to the narrow lanes and passages that are primary features in the country’s urban centres. Due to the car-orientated nature of Malaysia’s urban planning, the large distances and roads that connect the suburban and urban sections of the country simply increase the risk incurred by any user of motorcycle ride-sharing.

Not to mention the fact that motorcycle accidents represent over 60 percent of all road fatalities in the country in 2018, according to the latest statistics from the Department of Road Safety.

Do our young Malaysians only deserve low-paying-high-risk jobs? Or is this part of Harapan’s promise to create one million jobs within five years.

If something like Gojek is the best that our ministers can propose in resolving the day-to-day issues faced by everyday Malaysians, how will they deal with the bigger picture?

Most Malaysians are concerned about the same things which are the ability to put food on the table, decent pay, the environment, securing a roof over their heads and a secure homeland.

Why focus on odd jobs and labour-intensive contract work when advancements in 5G, IoT (Internet of Things) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will most probably replace the human factor within the next few decades?

Harapan needs to take a clear look at itself and respect the trust that Malaysians have given them on May 9, 2018.

In the 1980s, while facing a world that was still recovering from a recession and weak commodity prices, Malaysia took bold policy initiatives to change the economy.

The government launched a comprehensive industrial policy agenda in 1986 to transform the structure of the economy and to integrate the domestic economy with the world. It was also at around this period that, for the first time ever, more Malaysians had secondary education than a primary education – an outcome of our policy commitment to education.

By the time the ICT-driven global economic transformation arrived in the early 1990s, the foundations had already been laid and we reaped the benefits.

Today the government needs to ensure that the country builds its digital competency and ensure that "shared prosperity" can be enjoyed across all income groups. If every Malaysian cannot adapt to new technological paradigms, what kind of social safety net will be provided to those who fall by the wayside?

These are questions that will need to be solved by the government today - not tomorrow.

Malaysians deserve better. Not half-baked solutions that only serve to benefit private sector entities. It’s time to do better, Harapan.

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

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