Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Out of Touch Politicians

by Khoo Kay Peng
Straight Talk - Only for the Straight Talkers.

At lunch today, I spoke to a good friend and a journalist about Malaysian politicians. He opined they are a complacent lot. I would like to add that many of these politicians are incompetent too.

We elected politicians to help us govern the country. Politicians should work hand-in-hand with the public, NGOs and businesses to drive and coordinate policies. These policies are needed to regulate social life, public safety, economy, education and others. We do not need politicians to play moral cops.

At a time when the economy is facing a risk of downturn amidst the looming global economic crisis, we do not need politicians who are fixated with a ban on yoga, alcohol and other menial and insignificant issues.

The manufacturing sector is facing a slowdown. Many factories in the country are already cutting down production, freezing headcount and implement cost cutting measures. We need to create new jobs to cater for the workers retrenched especially those working in the financial industry in Singapore and abroad.

Starting from the first quarter of 2009, consumer demand is expected to face a downturn as more households will hold back spending after the Chinese New Year festive.

Car sales, a general barometer used to measure consumption, has fallen by 26% in October. Overall, the car industry can expect a double digit contraction in 2009.

Yet, the government is still struggling to come out with the right stimulus to help sustain and support job creation and consumer demand.

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi is more prompt in his response to a ban on yoga than the economic crisis.

Individual income tax rates are still high. The government should reduce income tax rates by 3% for all Malaysians. More money should be put in the hands of Malaysians and allow them to make their own consumption decision. The government does not have a good track record in using public funds.

Government's decision to pump prime the economy through infrastructure development is a good move. But this sector does not hire that many local workers. The government should also consider spending on infrastructure and building maintenance and refurbishment. Several parts of Kuala Lumpur, Georgetown and other major cities are worn out. Urban renewal is necessary. It will create more jobs for local expertise.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak should not talk about winning two-thirds majority before even taking over the hot seat. He should plan how to heal the economy, social rifts and racial bigotry in the country. Not to mention his own huge political baggage.

For goodness sake, we need sensible and smart politicians. Not those who are out-of-touch, complacent and simply incompetent.

About the Author
Khoo Kay Peng is an economics graduate from the University of Malaya. He pursued his postgraduate master's in International Relations at the University of Warwick, UK. He is a British Chevening scholar. Kay Peng is a corporate consultant and an independent political analyst. He is often invited to speak at various forums, corporate events and workshops. He co-authors the book on "Non-Sectarian Politics in Malaysia: The Case of Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia". His views, articles and comments are carried by many local and foreign news agencies, newspapers, magazines, TV & radio stations. A 'Anak Malaysia', he advocates a non-racial society and a good governance. Contact Kay Peng at kpkhoo @

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