“Cost of free toll, extra public holidays are borne by taxpayers & employers, not government per se”

(Focus Malaysia) – IN A ‘no holds barred’ opinion piece, veteran journalist and blogger Datuk A. Kadir Jasin has taken the unity government to task for embarking on populist measures in the form of four toll-free days and one extra day of public holiday for Malaysians to usher in the Hari Raya Aidilfitri festivity.

While Malaysians at large are rejoicing over such perks, they should also wise up to the fact that it is the taxpayers and businesses – as opposed to the government of the day – that have to bear the cost of free expressway usage and the one-day additional public holiday.

“Some praise the government while the government itself paints an image as if it has made a huge sacrifice by having to shoulder the toll exemption cost of RM93 mil,” penned the former Bersatu supreme council member on his Facebook page.

“However, the reality is such that the government is not shouldering the cost but every taxpayer regardless of the form of taxation. But not all 33.52 million Malaysians used the highway during the exemption period.”

Likewise in the case of declaring an additional public holiday, Kadir said the cost of losing productivity is not borne by the Prime Minister (PM) or Cabinet but once again taxpayers themselves.

“Those who benefit most are employees with permanent positions. But not all taxpayers hold permanent positions,” he lamented.

“The employer is sure to incur loses. They’ve to pay wages with little result. For those who cannot close their business, they have to pay double wages. And to make up for the lost productivity, they’ve to pay for overtime.

“While their workers get overtime, the employers have to bear additional expenses. To recoup their investment, they’ve to hike up the price of their goods and services. This will push up the inflation rate which puts everyone in a difficult position.”

Kadir further attributed the tendency of declaring public holidays arbitrarily as one of the reasons why Malaysia’s productivity is deteriorating and being overtaken by its competitors.

Citing this year’s World Population Review report, he highlighted that the Malaysian productivity is only US$24.75 (RM109.40) per hour compared to Singapore’s US$54.55 (RM241.10). Out of more than 180 countries and regions in the world, Malaysia ranks 57th overall.

“Do take a close look at the economic ranking of countries with as many public holidays as Myanmar (35 days), Nepal (35), Iran (26), Sri Lanka (25), Bangladesh (22), Egypt (22), India (21) and Cambodia (21). Are they progressing?” he pointed out.

“Even without the PM declaring any adhoc public holidays, the number of public holidays in Malaysia is almost the same as the countries I mentioned above.”

As it is, Malaysian public holiday (depending on state) is between 18 and 20 days, according to Kadir.

“Added to the additional one day for Hari Raya Aidilfitri, our standards are the same with India and Cambodia. There are only 11 public holidays in Singapore,” he justified. “Notwithstanding this, the Malaysian Madani government may even declare public holiday in the Perikatan Nasional (PN) states that will be the site of Aidilfitri open houses.”

Added Kadir: “My apology if I say that what is the use of sophisticated slogans if we still possess third world mentality; this is no different from the previous government which used spare change as sweetener to deceive the people.”