Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has rightly said that the rationalisation of subsidies is important to ensure that the people receive help while the country’s economy remains strong.
The government subsidy bill for electricity, fuel, food and other items is expected to surpass a whopping RM81bn this year.
It is reassuring that the government will come up with strategies to target subsidies mainly at the deserving. They are the ones who need the aid, and such aid will not jeopardise the economy.
But Anwar’s government should prioritise some fundamentals to ensure that the RM81bn in subsidies does not end up as a perennial crutch that will affect the nation in the long run.
First, make the war on corruption a top priority for the government.
To do this, it needs to beef up the anti-corruption initiatives and strengthen the agencies and instruments that battle corruption. Implement measures to ensure that the Attorney General’s Chambers and the justice system are not compromised or seen to be compromised.
Royal pardons for crimes committed against the people should not be toyed with.
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Second, focus on raising productivity. We need not worry too much about the private sector’s productivity as it has always spurred the economy.
Instead, look into the headcount of the civil service, which is bloated beyond justification.
Finally, declare war on profiteering business people who hoard, cheat, short-change or steal from the people. These cheats are among those responsible for the annual subsidy flops each year.
Let’s boldly abandon the rent-seeking and the political curry-favour culture that we pretend does not exist in the country.