Sunday, June 6, 2010

Malaysian Mottos Makes Me Loco

Seperti ilmu padi hampa, makin lama makin mencongak
Loosely translated, this Malay proverb means ‘Like an ear of corn which grows tall in proportion to its emptiness’. The more one is puffed up with pride, the more likely that one’s achievements is just full of hot air. If we apply this to the length of letters in our slogans, it just shows how ‘tall’ we have grown. The more lavish our slogans, the more ludicrous records in our very own Malaysian Book of Records - the more ‘empty’ and ‘hollow’ our lives become.

Life in Malaysia is quite amusing at times. One inescapable fact of life is that when there is a change in the top leadership, a massive public relations campaign is mounted, spearheaded by catchy slogans promising ‘change’. Unfortunately, the nation seems to be headed in the OPPOSITE direction promised by these slogans. ‘Talking the talk’ is what we have come to expect from politicians. Not ‘walking the talk’ is also understandable. However, when one ‘talks one way, walks the opposite way’ or ‘Cakap Tak Serupa Bikin’, things becomes unbearable.

Bersih, Cekap dan Amanah
What does this motto mean? Loosely translated, it might mean Clean, Proficient and Trustworthy. Simply put, let’s just say it means ‘No Corruption’. Well, have we succeeded in reducing corruption in Malaysia? Let’s use the Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International as a measure.

Ooops… it appears that Corruption is actually on the uptrend rather than being reduced. See what I mean?

Cemerlang, Gemilang dan Terbilang
Excellence, Glory and Renown. A fantastic slogan that conjures up images a Golden Age filled with Emperors, Heroes and Glorious Armies of a long lost age. Perhaps one could use such words for the ancient Roman Empire or the Tang Dynasty. But for Malaysia? Is this realistic? A slide from PEMANDU should suffice.

So much for Excellence, Glory or Renown . Perhaps it is true that ‘Those whom the Gods would destroy, They first make Proud’?

One Malaysia. People First, Performance Now
Gee! This sounds quite swell. Finally a motto that actually makes sense. Now, if only the ruling Government could follow through on this one. Unfortunately, the walk has been in the opposite direction. Don’t believe me? Look at the picture below.

Nobody minds good mottos, especially ones that we can believe in. However, let’s have honest mottos that we can rally behind and work towards. How about an eminently more sensible motto on what Malaysians needs? (with apologies to William Boyd "Bill" Watterson II)

Kick MY Butt!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

On 27 May 2010, Idris Jala, CEO of Pemandu presented the Government’s justification for the proposed removal of subsidies. The presentation can be downloaded here. Today, we all the mainstream newspapers interviewing Idris Jala and allowing him to explain his views further here. It seems eminently reasonable to remove the subsidies, if you are one of those that lack a thinking cap. Once you think hard enough though, something appears to be wrong with this picture.

Interesting Headlines but …
The Government tells us that we, Malaysians must be swimming in the lake of milk and honey all this while. In Bolehland, prices are the lowest and life, the rosiest. We have enjoyed living in luxury via generous government subsidies and now the party’s over. No more Bolehland … time to return to the ‘Real World’. Well, this appears to be strange. The cost of living appears to have gone UP these past few years but … well, the picture above seems to imply otherwise. Is what is being said true?

An Independent Analysis
Let’s use the Internet to do a simple, independent analysis, shall we? The analysis below is a review of the cost of living between Malaysia and Singapore, using Numbeo, a free Internet database about the cost of living worldwide. Why Singapore? Well, that tiny little speck south of Johor was once part of Malaysia. We are both geographically and culturally similar. Since Bolehland has the lowest prices in the region, we would expect our cost of living to be significantly LOWER than Singapore, right?

Using Numbeo, we can compare the prices of food in Malaysia and Singapore in USD as well as our median monthly disposable income. Let’s look at the numbers below (click on the picture to enlarge it):
Hmmm.., food costs twice as much in Singapore (USD510) as compared to Malaysia (USD268). So, it is true that we are paying much less for food due to subsidies paid for by our Government. However, let’s not forget the MOST important fact. The average median monthly disposable salary of Singaporeans of USD2.2K is more than twice that of Malaysians, USD0.9K. Singaporeans only have to fork out 22% of their disposable salary on food. However in Malaysia, we have to fork out 27% of our disposable income for the same foodstuff. Although this analysis is imprecise, it is sufficient as an indicator that our cost of living is higher than Singapore. Further, this high cost will only go UP if we agree to the subsidy hike.

So, if the Government goes ahead and removes the subsidies on subsidized goods and fuel, inflation is projected by the Government to increase to approximately 5% per annum. This will be compounded by an additional 5% Goods and Services Tax by the Government. To maintain the same lifestyle, Malaysians will have to fork out an additional 3% (or more) of their hard earned (might I add, measly) salary for food alone.

The main question we should be asking is WHY there is such a HUGE disparity in the quality of life enjoyed by Singaporeans compared to Malaysians? Why is the Government portraying Malaysia as the land of milk and honey? Even BEFORE the subsidies are removed, our cost of living is already substantially higher than the Singaporeans. Let’s not forget that Singapore is a country with almost non-existent natural resources and lacks the economies of scale that Malaysia possesses.

Surprisingly, based on PEMANDU Open Day polls, over 90% of the attendees are ‘happy’ with the proposed subsidy removal. And that is being used as one of THE main justification to remove the subsidies. The very Government that put into place this subsidy mechanism, spent beyond its' limits and wasted billions in white elephants projects and bailing out GLCs is asking us for more money. They promise that it will be used wisely to increase our monthly income, eventually. I say, let’s wait for PIGS to fly and hope that we don’t starve to death in the meantime.

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