Thursday, 5 July 2012

Wanted: Political reforms, not freebies

Both BN and Pakatan are to be blamed for delving in short-term populist policies to garner voters' support instead of looking at pushing for reforms, says Kua Kia Soong. 

PETALING JAYA: The populist policies undertaken by both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat run the risk of undermining the urgent need for reforms in the country.

Former DAP parliamentarian and Suaram adviser Kua Kia Soong said that the jostling for votes by both sides of the political divide has seen them coming up with various handouts to capture the voters.

“From the Barisan Nasional, we have seen the free hand-outs to students, senior citizens, taxi drivers and others.

“Pakatan Rakyat has also indulged in populism since they came into power with free hand-outs and giving away free water without any care about ‘demand management’, which is crucial to water conservation,” he told FMT in an e-mail interview.

He said that instead of looking into short-term measures to remain popular, the political parties should seriously look into dismantling long-held policies for a better Malaysia for all.

He added that the Najib Tun Razak’s 1Malaysia concept was one such short-term measure in a vain attempt to observe national unity.

“Honest Malaysians know that we need to start from a position of equality and to expunge racist/populist divisions of ‘Bumiputera/non-Bumiputera’ and the unacceptable concept of ‘ketuanan Melayu’,” said the former ISA detainee.

Kua said the BN looked set to carry with its “Malay agenda” that was set under the 1971 New Economic Policy although the policy was way past its sell-by date of 1990.

At the same time, he added, Pakatan too was unclear with its policy on the NEP.

“Is Pakatan committed to the termination of the NEP as soon as they gain power? Anwar Ibrahim has said it before but recently he has also said that certain demands are ‘economically sensible but politically impractical’.

“Can Pakatan state when the NEP will be rescinded if and when they get into power?” asked Kua.

He said that BN and Pakatan must make their stand on abolishing the NEP and for all future corrective action in economic and education policies to be based on need or sector or class and not on race.

“There should be means testing for any access to scholarships or other entitlements; merit-based recruitment in the civil and armed services and an Equality Act enacted to promote equality and non-discrimination irrespective of race, creed, religion, gender or disability with provision for an Equality and Human Rights Commission,” he said.

A progressive economic policy

Kua, the DAP’s MP for Petaling Jaya from 1990 to 1995, also said that Pakatan must state their fundamental economic policies vis-à-vis BN.

“Besides professing their cleanliness, accountability and efficiency, do they adhere to the same neo-liberal policies as BN? Are they committed to the same indiscriminate race to attract private investors?

“What is their commitment to nationalising our utilities and essential services such as health and a new role for Malaysian workers as owners and controllers of production in our economy?” he asked.

He said that concrete economic reforms should incorporate nationalising all utilities and essential services including water resources, health, public transport, energy – ensuring they are owned and controlled by the Malaysian workers at federal, state and local levels.

He said that true economic reforms would also entail a master plan for all federal and state land to ensure judicious use for the public purpose and/or their sale to the private sector at appropriate prices.

It would also mean all rights to concessions and other licences be paid for at economic prices; promoting the setting up of self-governing workers’ cooperatives to produce goods that are useful for society; and open tendering for all privatised contracts.

“There should be no subsidies to big business such as aluminium smelters.

“There must be a promotion of a sustainable agricultural policy to ensure self-sufficiency in rice and basic food items and to cut down on food imports, and fair and adequate support to all sectors.

“Land must be distributed justly to all farmers in need of land, irrespective of ethnicity; and the New Villages must be modernised by giving land titles, improving infrastructure,” he said.

He added that whichever party in power must also look into providing government assistance for the small and medium enterprises, and return the rights to natural resources such as oil and gas to the oil-producing states.

“And on this, Petronas’ oil and gas production and investments must be transparent and accountable to Parliament and the public,” he added.

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