Friday 16 November 2012

Santa Claus politics — Lim Mun Fah

NOV 16 — There are good things about democracy, one of which being the ability of voters to elect their governments once every few years.

However, democracy is by no means impeccable. As a matter of fact, there are deficiencies and shortcomings in a democratic election.

The electoral ballot is a really miraculous thing. It can muster positive forces and release the power to move the nation ahead, but it can also turn many crazy. So much so that every conceivable means will be deployed in order to secure the ballot. Public emotions could be fanned, ill-feelings could be created and truths distorted.

Candidates would do everything they can to buy the favour of the voters, without taking into consideration whether their acts are allowed, whether they would pay through the nose or whether the national coffers could afford their extravagance.

For instance, Budget 2013 has been designed in such a way as to fish votes. For the sake of votes, the government dresses itself up like a Santa Claus, even though this puts it under the attack of the opposition for draining the national coffers.

The “critical” young voters, in particular, have been very well taken care of: Those making less than RM2,000 a month are eligible for the 1 Malaysia aid and get a RM200 rebate if they buy a smartphone.

As if that is not enough, tertiary students can also look forward to book vouchers, 20 per cent discount for one-off settlement of PTPTN loans, 10 per cent off if settled in 12 consecutive months.

To be frank, such generous pre-election “giveaways” are not a Malaysian invention, but something widely practised the world over. And such an election strategy is not exclusive to the BN government. Just take a look at Pakatan’s so-called “shadow” budget.

No political parties under the sun can fail to see that electoral victory could be bought with hopes and dreams instilled into the voters. Whether such hopes and dreams would eventually materialise is another matter.

It is not wrong for anyone to fight for the all-important votes, but Santa Claus politics is obviously creating a bottomless hole, for once we start handing out the goodies to the people this year, it will be tough to hold them back next year and the year after. Before long, the handouts will snowball into a gargantuan burden over time.

Without question, democracy needs to be practised with a rational mind, but in the face of such attractive bonanzas, few would actually contemplate whether they are entitled to that, subconsciously rendering themselves partners in crime in this Santa Claus politics.

I have no idea how effective such a strategy will be, but I am definitely shocked by the greed that is spawned by our political parties’ fervour in this vote-buying tactic. Our social and poverty issues will never be solved with this “handout” strategy.

The politicised Santa Claus brings not good tidings, but the chimes of a dreadful alarm bell! —

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