By Raveen Devaraj
The outcome of the 12 August state elections in six states shows that support for the Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional ‘unity government’ has declined in many areas.
Ethnic and religious insecurity, as well as Perikatan Nasional’s propaganda, contributed to this drop.
But the key factor could be the considerable socioeconomic insecurity felt by many people who are in dire straits.
So, if the government wants to gain more support from ordinary people, it has to boost their socioeconomic status. It has to change the political and economic system to prioritise ordinary people’s basic needs and dignity instead of the elite’s greed for profits. It has to revamp the country’s economic and taxation system immediately to raise enough funds for pro-people programmes.
This economic and taxation system in Malaysia and many other countries is broken and lopsided. It is too lax towards elite, foreign investors and multinational corporations. Most in this group only care about profiting for themselves. They care little for the common people’s wellbeing in the countries they invest in.
So, the Malaysian government, along with other Asean nations, must collectively and gradually implement the following measures. A collective effort will prevent the withdrawal of assets and investments by the elites in these Asean nations.
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First, increase tax rates for the rich (the top 20%) and high-income companies. The taxes include corporate tax, personal income tax, inheritance tax and property tax.
Second, change the tax structure of capital gains, both realised and unrealised, by imposing notional equity interests on the assets of the richest people.
Third, create a public registry for the beneficial owners of companies and trusts. Asean also needs to introduce legislation in each country that bans anonymous shell companies.
Fourth, implement a debt monetisation strategy gradually, starting with a low debt amount.
It is high time the government stops pandering to the elite. This wealthy class have to be more responsible and considerate by paying their due level of taxes according to their actual level of wealth.
The government’s mission to eradicate corruption to prevent the loss of funds is important.
But Malaysia’s broken and lopsided economic and taxation system is an enormous problem as well. The government must tackle this weakness urgently to raise much-needed funds.
With more money raised through these measures, the government will have more to spend on pro-people schemes that can raise the ordinary people’s quality of life.
Examples of such schemes:
- Increase the minimum wage to a fairer level
- Establish trust funds using public funds for the provision of basic needs and services to low-income and lower-middle class groups across the country. These essential needs should cover oil and gas purchases, low-income housing, education, medical treatment and services, and the purchase of a first vehicle
- Provide more support in finance, infrastructure, skills training and access to large markets to micro and small enterprises in the country
- Implement a RM500 monthly pension scheme for all retirees aged 65 and above from low and middle-income households who are not covered by any other pension scheme
- Get local councils to take over the management and maintenance of low-cost flats throughout the country
- Strengthen programmes for the development, maintenance and upgrading of public facilities and housing for rural residents
The ruling political parties’ representatives must hit the ground in state and parliamentary constituencies. Along with the bureaucrats, they should meet the common people regularly to receive feedback and complaints about their daily problems. These can then be solved more quickly and effectively.
Such grassroots meetings will strengthen the bonds between the common people and the government. Eventually, these ties will boost public support for the government.
Ultimately, the government must prioritise its efforts and funds towards uplifting the people’s socioeconomic conditions. This will reduce the people’s insecurities and create a thriving society.
All this should be the government’s focus instead of using the other side’s strategy of resorting to extremism and ultra-conservatism in religion and nationalism. Such a strategy is dangerous and will not benefit any society.
In religion and nationalism, the government should promote the spirit of moderation clearly, without being too liberal or too conservative.
If the government implements these measures for such pro-people programmes, public support for the government will surely grow significantly.
Raveen Jeyakumar is an Ipoh-based Aliran volunteer with an interest in social and environmental issues