By LIM SUE GOAN
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak attended three banquets on Wednesday night and two of them were Hari Raya open house events. It is a blessing for Malaysians to celebrate the festival for nearly a month.
Open house events always attract thousands of people and much food is unfinished after the events. Compared to many of those suffering from the European debt crisis, how leisure life is for blessed Malaysians!
A shadow has been cast over the global economy. Malaysians, however, sense no crisis and continue to slow down the pace of work. They participate in various kinds of political activities to get some travel allowance. Would this enough to help turning the country into a high-income economy?
As the general election is approaching, it is expected that more monetary benefits will be introduced soon.
Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah said that while the government is heading towards the target of high-income economy, in addition to the BR1M aid, more assistance will be provided to low-income earners.
This might mean that the 2013 Budget scheduled to be tabled on September 28 will provide more subsidies, a move contrary to the government's wishes of controlling the fiscal deficit. If next year's deficit deteriorate due to the preparation for the general election, the national debt might reach the alarming level of beyond 55%, and the sovereign credit rating of Malaysia would also be lowered.
In addition, senior government officials' interpretation of the people's happiness index is worrying. The happiness index should not be mentioned in the same breath with subsidies and they should not rely merely on aids in improving the people's happiness.
Even if the Pakatan Rakyat is able to take over the office, corruption, waste and debt problems will not be alleviated in a short period of time. It is because the Pakatan Rakyat has also promised to give various subsidies and the latest commitment, the Buku Jingga Versi Wanita, promises a monthly fund of RM50 for each woman with family.
The intensified competition in populist policies between the BN and the Pakatan Rakyat will further weaken the people's fighting spirit. The people might wonder why they should work hard since they can actually survive on aids and subsidies.
Once such an idea becomes the mainstream and everyone feels the same, it would then be very difficult for the country to achieve high-income economy.
The increase of subsidies, in fact, is contrary to the objective of the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP). There is a hope of transforming the economy only when the people's working culture and attitudes are changed. Attaching excessive importance to votes has weakened the implementation of the ETP.
It is an indisputable fact that the people's competitiveness is deteriorating. According to the preliminary report of the Malaysia Education Blueprint (2013-2025), Malaysia was ranked in the bottom third of 74 participating countries of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009+, below the International and Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average. It was an assessment three years ago and if we do not try to work hard in the next eight years, we can actually imagine how bad the future of the country might be.
We need to spend huge resources to become an advanced country, including enhancing the quality of 400,000 teachers nationwide and improving education facilities. If we spend precious resources on subsidies while young people do not improve themselves, education reform will then be hindered.
Malaysians lack the sense of crisis and do not care about productivity, because the country is still getting oil revenues. However, there is no free lunch in the world and we reap what we sow. If we do not work hard today, it might be too late to regret tomorrow.