When essential public services are profit-driven, humanity suffers

With privatisation, a gulf arises between those who can afford better services and those who have to settle for less

Adequate education, healthcare and basic housing are key tenets of people’s right to life.

When these are turned into engines of profit-making, humanity suffers in the long haul.

There was a time when we saw the merit of governments being obliged to ensure that three pillars of socioeconomic wellbeing were part of their basic commitment to society.

But in many parts of the world and especially in Malaysia, the privatisation mantra gave uncontrolled impetus to reap profits from education, healthcare and housing. These were the newfound ‘sunrise industries’ for many with power and control.

In Malaysia, investors, shareholders and companies are not ashamed to announce the huge profits they rake in through their capitalist-driven business exploits in education, healthcare and housing. These exploits have even become the yardstick of a model of progress that only serves the capitalists and greedy elite class.

Education should empower entire generations of people to rise and become purposeful, and allow civilisations to thrive.

Providing effective healthcare is a duty to humanity.

People also have a right to basic housing – a place to live, shelter and find peace.

But these days, if we do not have money, we cannot go to a ‘world-class’ institution of higher learning. If we must, then we have to borrow the money to pay the ever-escalating fees.

If we need quick, highly professional and well-equipped medical attention, then we have to fork out a small fortune or pay through medical insurance, the premiums for which keep rising. If we are unable, then we have to join the long queues at government hospitals.

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As for housing, even a basic two-room tiny barrack-like home, which used to cost well below RM50,000 three decades ago, is now hovering at around RM150,000 today.

Owning a little land is an elusive dream as such plots are invariably parcelled off to developers, who obsess over their profit margins.

Slowly but surely, this nation of ours is deeply being divided not only along race and religious lines, but even more significant is the huge divide between the rich and poor. This could be the final nail that could sink the nation.

There was a time when people were not deprived of a quality education due to a lack of affordability. As long as we had the drive and decent results in school, the pathway to further education was wide open. But what we have today is a racially slanted pathway, that may not even be affordable.  

There was time too when healthcare was a great service, borne out of humanitarian values – a period where everyone had easy access to immediate and long-term medical care and attention. ‘Service above self’ was the guiding beacon which kept us united as a nation.

And if we were industrious, there was always an opportunity to live off the land by farming. But today, we are victims of profiteering motives. State land is traded for money. Agricultural land is converted into commercial land for a price, developed at a price and ultimately sold to the people at a huge profit.

Meanwhile, the people are burdened with 10, 20-year housing loans. By the time we clear the bank loans and finally claim the property as our own, close to our retirement, the house probably needs serious repairs – if it has not been made unliveable owing to some new project that have sprouted near our homes.

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Perhaps journalists or researchers should show how other nations govern housing to ensure they leave no one out in the cold.

This is the world of success that we have created for ourselves, and we think that there is nothing wrong. Allowing a small minority to reap so much money at the expense of people’s the right to education, healthcare and living is regarded as ‘normal’. To even talk about it is not entertained, but deemed stupid.

Someone once said, “Go and live on the trees then”. But the truth is, even our indigenous communities are losing their ancient habitat in the forests to greedy timber barons and plantation kings.

For as long as education, healthcare and housing are profiteering or profit- driven, the nation’s future will be stymied.

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Phua Kai Lit
Phua Kai Lit
2 Dec 2021 9.27am

The biggest economic and intellectual scam of the last four decades — neoliberal economics (with its “privatisation”, “magic of the marketplace” ideology etc).