Into a ‘high-income government’

COMMENT Our economy in bad shape? We have that from good authority. “We are lagging behind economically and are stagnating for over a decade.

By Jan Yong (Malaysian Mirror)

“Malaysia is trapped in a low-value-added, low-wage and low-productivity structure,” Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah was said to have told an economic outlook conference, according to a recent AFP report.

ahmad-husni-economyAmong its peers China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand, Malaysia’s economic growth over the past three years was second-lowest, he was quoted to have said. That means we are only better off than the Philippines and are losing the race to Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, countries once lagging behind us.

Both former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad and present PM Najib Abdul Razak have acknowledged that our salary levels are comparatively low. Yet, look at recent proposed measures. Are they helping the rakyat or do they seem more like increasing the coffers of the Government as well as being protective measures?

Reasoning seems valid

Just look at the aborted End of Life policy for vehicles 15 years old and above. The reasoning seems valid. Our government is doing us a favour by ridding us of unsafe old vehicles on the road. But look deeper – other countries which have this policy like Singapore is doing it because they can’t afford to have too many cars on the road, plus the level of income of Singaporeans generally allows for upgrading to new vehicles after every 10 years or so.

Compare this to Malaysia. Has any research or credible statistics been done to show that most accidents are caused by old vehicles over 15 years? From my enquiries, most accidents are caused by drivers’ negligence and not by the unroadworthiness of the vehicles. The fact is a 10 or 20-year old vehicle can be in tip-top condition if it’s maintained very well, while a 2-year old vehicle can be a scrap if the owner does not maintain it.

Furthermore, does the government expect retirees and out-of-work people to give up on their old cars and buy new cars on 7 or 9-year instalments plans? Will they even get the hire-purchase loan in the first place? Many are not earning that kind of income and have to struggle to pay their monthly car instalments. Is the government aware of this? In these economically challenging times, is this the best policy?

As further justification for this ill-conceived piece of policy, it was explained in Parliament that cars over 15 years old in Malaysia have zero value. I beg your pardon? Just look at the Classifieds in the newspapers. Just to hasten your search, do an advance search online and fill up the maximum price at RM10,000. You will see that many vehicles before year 1994 have rather high values. A 1990 Honda Accord 2.0 is selling for RM9,900 and a 1994 Proton Wira 1.5 is selling for RM9,500. And I thought MPs now have research assistants to do their research for them to get this kind of figures?

Car prices in Malaysia are already artificially high due to sales tax and an unusually high import duty. Malaysians have to bear the burden of paying unusually high prices for imported cars or else make do with local makes, some of which are known not to have passed the safety standards in developed countries like the US. Considering that our salary levels are comparatively low, and car prices comparatively high, shouldn’t the Government’s priority be to resolve the disparity?

Bear in mind, after decades of complaints, our public transport system is still insufficient to meet the needs of most Malaysians, hence the need to own a car. Owning a car in Malaysia is a need that is fast becoming more of a luxury.

Action, not just talk

This of course is not new news. However, coming on the heels of the much-hyped “Rakyat Didahului” 1Malaysia concept, it speaks volumes of the Government’s real attitude towards the rakyat. We want to see action, not just comforting words. Walk the talk, and not just Talk, talk only.

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