By LIM SUE GOAN
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily
Undergraduates pitched tents and staged a sit-in at Datran Merdeka to demand for free tertiary education. The move triggered polarised reactions.
Taxpayers think that the demand is unreasonable. As they have been paying so much tax and if the country provides free tertiary education, the income tax rates might be increased.
The Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM) pointed out, however, that abolishing the Higher Education Corporations Loan Fund (PTPTN) and wiping out students debt under the scheme would not cost RM44 billion as claimed by the government, but under RM25 billion, which is affordable by the government.
The ruling and opposition coalitions have also taken the opportunity to attack each other. Regardless of the results, there are two points worth pondering.
The money distribution policies of both the confronting coalitions have led to populism and the people have also been "spoiled", as if a Pandora's box has been opened.
The Selangor Pakatan Rakyat state government provides free water supply and shopping vouchers, and the Penang state government distributes aid of RM100 annually to each senior citizen in the state. The BN government is even more generous. It distributed RM500 BR1M aid, RM100 allowance to some 5.5 million school students and RM200 book vouchers to students in public and private local institutions of higher education, matriculation and Form Six.
After distributed the RM200 1Malaysia book vouchers to undergraduates, the government is planning to distribute discount cards. However, not many people appreciate it. Instead, they are asking for more.
An Indian man involved in assaulting Selangor exco member Ean Yong Hian Wah accused him of not helping the Indian community. It is not the main factor of the storm, however, the people's irrational demands are worrying.
To gain votes, the Selangor state government allocates RM5 million for the state's new micro-credit scheme for plantation women (WALA). The BN has also launched many similar loan schemes. The question is, who is going to oversee the loan amortisation rate?
After getting more and more aid, the people will ask for more without thinking whether the demands are reasonable and whether the government can afford it. Once such a situation takes place, the country and its people would have to pay the price, no matter who will be the government in the future.
Another worrying phenomenon is, the society's sense of responsibility has been gradually declining.
Leaders of the alternative coalition have talked through their hats for votes. They said that after deducting RM5 billion for free education from the RM80 billion Petronas profit, there is still RM75 billion left. However, they did not even mention about the payment for the 1.4 million civil servants and other expenses.
Of course, not only leaders from the alternative coalition are irresponsible. What is actually going on when Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional Bhd reached an out-of-court settlement with former Malaysia Airlines (MAS) executive chairman Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli concerning a civil suit over RM589 million in debts?
The PTPTN management is also a mess. The Auditor-General Report exposed that the PTPTN has actually approved the issuance of loans to over 26,000 non-citizens.
Politicians and government officials did not show a good example and young people have been affected. Therefore, it is not surprising to see some undergraduates actually tried to resell their book vouchers on the Internet.
The PTPTN is expected to have a RM48 billion deficit by the year 2020 if existing borrowers do not repay their loans. The amount is 3.84 times of the RM12.5 billion debt of the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project.
After the protest, many people would plausibly refuse to repay their education loans and as a result, the Treasury would have to fill the bad debts, and the people would be the one to pay the bill.
In a nutshell, a struggle without the support from the public would end up in futility.