Let’s see whether the Opposition’s ‘big cats’ will maul the trainer or roll over at the sound of his whip. K Veeriah writes.
Tabling a national budget is but a circus act.
In a travelling company of acrobats, clowns, jugglers and magicians, the ring master takes centre stage. During the entire performance, he has to keep the audience captivated by the multiple talents on display. But he is but a mere showman, executing choreography designed by others.
That, obviously, has been the role of our finance minister! Listening to him tabling Budget 2021, I was reminded of the ring master – a showman acting out choreography scripted by politicians to whom he is beholden.
To me, he failed as an acrobat, juggler and magician: the Budget he tabled lacked the required depth of diversity, inclusiveness and objectivity, especially when the nation is under siege from the coronavirus pandemic.
Take his magic act of allowing workers to dip into their retirement savings, the Employees Provident Fund. Going by the EPF’s own disclosure, a vast majority of contributors will not have enough savings to sustain themselves after retirement.
Despite this reality, the minister elected to pull a rabbit out of the hat, magically claiming the government was extending financial assistance to the most marginalised segment of society. That, in my view, is the most disgusting rabbit-out-of-the hat act ever!
His juggling, in the allocations for race-based affirmative action, was a disaster. This ring master played race-and-religious-centric politics, depositing billions for the benefit of a particular community whilst handing out a pittance to others.
While people in the bottom 40% and middle 40% of households are facing the reality of either no sustainable disposal income or a much, much reduced one, the minister deemed it fit to not to extend a blanket moratorium on loans. His magic formula, in a nutshell, is if you want an extension to the moratorium, you sort it out with the financial institution yoursefl!
Under relentless pressure from both sides of the political divide, this lackadaisical ring master resorted to plucking goodies from thin air – say, RM50 more here, there and everywhere without so much as an explanation as to how the total of the tabled Budget would be recalibarated.
While he kept to the choreographed script in announcing one-off incentives to frontline personnel involved in the pandemic, his juggling act found no traction in the case of outsourced workers who are also involved in the front lines of combating the pandemic.
Despite his bungled acts as a juggler, acrobat, magician, trapeze artist and incompetent ring master, he was let off the hook by the headless horsemen (remember “The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow”) in the opposition at the policy stage of the Budget.
What ought to be intriguing is whether the outrageous, monolithic and discriminatory Budget 2021 would be passed by Parliament. That is, of course, left to the wisdom of our MPs, including the opposition.
In a circus, the most anticipated act is when a lone man handles the lions and tigers and safely too. That act brings down the curtain. And, without fail, the cats put up an awesome show. So it should be interesting to see whether our opposition “big cats” maul the trainer or roll over at the sound of his whip!
Let’s wait for the show to end.
K Veeriah is a veteran trade unionist based in Bukit Mertajam