The prime minister’s cash gifts to various segments of citizens are highly questionable.
The RM100, RM200 and RM300 announced by Anwar Ibrahim may make the government appear caring in responding to the financial difficulties faced by millions of citizens.
But even if RM100 or RM300 does provide immediate relief to the destitute, how far will it go in the long run? No wonder some politicians are already questioning whether such cash aid is actually dedak (chicken-feed enticement).
We need to confront the root cause of the people’s financial difficulties.
Beneath the economic and financial constraints lie two misalignments.
One is the cascading effect of corruption afflicting business practices. We are paying the price for the entrenched corrupt culture we have been subjected to.
Today, the cost of doing business in the country is unreasonably high owing to decades of rent-seeking, kickbacks and political funding, to name a few.
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The other misalignment is the country’s over-reliance on cheap foreign labour in many sectors. This has robbed locals of job opportunities, and it has made many others less productive or hardworking.
Before we blame the working class, it is the government’s inability to structure and enforce a minimum (or compassionate) wage in the various sectors that is a primary cause.
So, the Madani (Civil Malaysia) ang pows cannot really be appreciated by the hard-pressed in the long run, as these gifts are unable to bring life-changing benefits. They are akin to giving a person a fish for a day, instead of building the means to fish better for a lifetime.
The “unity government” could have done better. It should reinvent the job market and promote a business culture that is more compassionate and caring.
Profiteering, making profits in quick time, enriching shareholders and fast-tracking a company for listing at the expense of workers and consumers are outdated practices from the 1990s.
Enough of the excuses that Malaysians are unwilling to take up jobs characterised by the three Ds – dirty, dangerous and demeaning.
Pay minimum wages and share reasonable portions of profits with workers to provide a more hopeful future for everyone. This will reduce the nation’s dependence on migrant workers.
So, let’s get honest about our urgent collaborative role in nation-building. Creating a coterie of millionaires – which was the goal of the Dr Mahathir Mohamad era – is outdated and not value-enriching.
The unity government would have done better by collaborating, partnering and empowering NGOs in the fight against corruption. This could have given the leadership the right ammunition to combat this cancerous scourge.
As it stands, it is painful to admit that the fight against corruption has not been convincing.
The giving of cash ang pows will not ignite much-needed transformation. It will not equip us to tackle global economic challenges.
The country needs to recalibrate all its systems.
The authorities should start by swiftly addressing the corruption endemic, arresting the robber barons, and punishing the givers and takers. We don’t need repeated sermons on the need for new laws or more warnings about tough action.
We need to push through a corporate business culture that thrives by nurturing a productive, happy, willing workforce.
Get rid of Adam Smith’s old economic theory that capital will go to where the most profit can be made.
But rather than fortifying our Keynesian economics model, let’s move to one that is value-centred and focuses on care, compassion, trust and a shared sense of wealth.
Let’s stop reinventing the “cash is king” ideology in another shade. It is time to revolutionise the national roadmap.