The New Sunday Times yesterday was expectedly all agog with its boss’s prime minister Datuk Seri Najib’s 100-day milestone. In addition to 6 National Key Result Areas, he announced 11 people-friendly measures. Really, more smoke than substance. Here’re the 11 measures, and my critique:
1) Increasing taxi permits by 3,000 to be approved over the next three months
Hmm .. who decides who gets the permits? And doesn’t this increase competition for all the other taxi drivers who are still forced to rent permits from influential rent-seeking individuals? They are going to find it even harder to make ends meet. Has anyone even done a proper study on what’s a sustainable number of taxis in KL ie balancing commuter convenience with taxi drivers’ rights to earn a decent, honest living?
Actually, on the subject of permits, it is Najib’s Prime Minister’s office that gets to issue the permits! In a recent reshuffling, the Commercial Vehicles and Licensing Board was transferred to the Prime Minister's office whereas the Transport Ministry should have appeared a more suitable home.
So, right now, as Tony Pua points out, Public Transport, which is one of the 6 National Key Result Areas is a complete recipe for disaster. We have the Prime Minister himself taking care of taxis and public buses, the Finance Ministry championing RapidKL, the Transport Ministry in charge of KTM and LRT, and the Works Ministry overseeing the road transport network.
2) 20% discount for SmartTag and Touch & Go cardholders who pay toll 80 times or more in a month
Great headline and great discount. But meaningless to most people. Do the math.
A worker who works five days a week and pays toll to-and-fro = 5 day week * 2 toll payments per day * 4 weeks a month = 40 toll payments/month.
On weekends, he takes his family out and pays toll a total 8 times per weekend = 32 times per month.
Total = 72 times per month only!
3) Introduction of new Amanah Saham 1Malaysia with an initial size of 10 billion units
You are investing your own money! And bear in mind, this is not capital-guaranteed. It is fund like any other fund, with the usual caveat, “The value of your investment can go up, as well as down”.
4) Drastic measures to reduce crime and fight corruption
Haven’t we heard this before? I’ll believe it when I see it, and I’ll be relieved when this happens and ordinary civic-conscious citizens no longer need to turn criminal to protect their own families. In the meantime, the crime rate is soaring, as Tony Pua highlights.
5) Construction of additional roads in Sabah and Sarawak
6) Upgrading of water and electricity supply in rural areas of Sabah and Sarawak
7) Improving efforts in registering births in Sabah and Sarawak.
52 years after Merdeka, and 46 years after Sabah and Sarawak joined the Federation, a birth-registration system is still not in place and roads, water and electricity are still privileges ???!!!
8) Increasing by RM150m the allocation for Tekun Nasional, with RM15m for young Indian entrepreneurs.
9) Fee for learning to ride motorcycles of Calls B2 and below reduced to RM211
10) 50% discount on licence renewal fee for hawkers in Kuala Lumpur
11) Sale of 44,000 public housing units to people renting them in Kuala Lumpur
Mere crumbs to distract the public while big money continues to be wasted elsewhere.
Just last week, the one-year old Aquatic Centre in Batu Buruk was shut down after it was found to have too many flaws. This centre alone cost RM18m.
Of course, there’s a whole range of other huge money scandals, with the current pinnacle being RM13.5bn and counting at PKFZ. Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat tried to do the right thing by stopping payment, but he was overruled by his UMNO colleagues at the Treasury.