Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Smiling 2013.....

Look around after the announcement of the RM251.6 billion budget for 2013 by the Prime Minister cum Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak. Everyone from ministers to bus drivers, towkays to fishermen,professors to students, seems to be smiling.There's a bag of goodies held out for everybody.

The billions and millions of ringgit allocated to specific groups of people involved in different aspects of the national economy and social services, just boggled my mind.I look for summaries to get a holistic picture of where the money comes from and where it goes to but what I find more in the print media are details of the allocation to various sectors of the economy and groups of citizens. How much of the RM251.6 is allocated to operating expenditure and how much for development is not highlighted although there is a breakdown in terms of percentage - something like 80:20.

So much of details as to who gets hefty allocations and who gets RM100-500 one-off payment that I could't see the wood for the trees. Can't classify the "gifts" under proper programs to achieve certain targets, so that at the end of the year the degree of achievement can be ascertained. It's like take the gifts and enjoy yourself, in which case the gift is never enough. All will smile when the handouts are given but after spending them and they see the huge chunks of inducement packets others are getting, the smile will disappear. Moreover the inducement packages go on and on for years....

Yes, we all need the quick-cash-supplement, especially when prices of foodstuff, clothings, housing, reading materials etc keep shooting up. The top-up policy cannot be sustained when prices of goods, service charges and rentals keep going up. It's more important to control the prices by increasing production and lowering the cost. Even the 1 Malaysia shops which offer cheaper prices than the usual retailers can only offer competition to the latter, not a solution to the problem of increasing prices.

No, there is no need for me to repeat the allocations made in the 2013 budget, for the papers are full of them. To evaluate whether the amount allocated is magnanimous or ridiculous is meaningless when the cause of the problem requiring added allocation is not explained. It's a happy budget and let's be happy about it until something begins to prick us in the pocket or the butt. One thing that worries me. When the big tycoons, the fund managers, and the towkays are laughing, we the customers had better watch out.The more they take the more we have to pay.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Religious intolerance...

Religion is supposed to save humanity from destruction and hellfire. bring peace of mind and serenity of soul, teach humility, kindness and tolerance. But is religion doing that today? And don't tell me it's the religion - whatever religion and religious belief - that's wrong. It must be the followers- and that's all of us - and the preachers that had fouled up things, including the words of the Apostles and God Himself.

If one wishes to take the best from all religions of the world, one will find many similarities in the definition of goodness, compassion, religiosity, and the straight path as prescribed by the sacred Book of the various Faiths. Only the name of the one God or Deity may differ, together with the names of the Messengers and Apostles. All the religions of the world preach brotherhood and compassion among human beings of whatever creed and belief, living in peace with each other and finding satisfaction and fulfillment in life through seeking endearment and the blessings of their Creator.
But that seems to be the last thing which religion does to us today. We make it a battle cry, an excuse for creating havoc and killing each other, insulting each other, denouncing each other and trampling on each other's birthrights. We insult and denigrade the name of each other's Lord, the Prophets and Apostles revered by different followers, provoke each other by doing so and ended up destroying and killing each other. How can human beings, the most intelligent creation of the animal world and the most advanced in intellectual development, be that stupid.

Yes, the provocation and the insults could originate from the work of some twisted brains and convoluted minds, as claimed by some authorities, in the case of producing the film, the Innocence of the Muslims.But why must the media play it up rather than clamped it down? Surely some people wanted the film to do its damage - and the damage had been done. More it continues to cause havoc and international bitterness. If the cause of religion had thrown nations to war in the past it can still do so now.Unless human beings stopped their stupidity and begin to understand and appreciate religion as it should be.

As for the Muslims, they can take any amount of insults as had been imposed on them in the past by foreign powers. But don't insult their God, their beloved Prophet and their religion. Hellfire can descend on earth earlier than doomsday if such insult continues.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Role of the Civil Service in National Development

In a democratic government where the national leaders are elected through a direct or a collegiate election system, politicians fill in public posts in the Executive and Legislative branch of government. Only posts in the Civil Service and the Judiuciary will be held by professionals, although countries adopting the American system assigned top posts in the Civil Service and Judiciary to elected officials.

Thus, the Civil Service and Judiciary under the British system, being strictly manned by professionals, are mandated to be neutral or apolitical. However, the officials must necessarily be subject to the policies and official directives of their political bosses.But to what extent? How far can the political bosses exert their influence on the career officials in carrying out their duties according to the laws and regulations, before the latter can complain about "political interference." Can officers 'advise' their political bosses when certain directives and instructions go against explicit rules and regulations or even against the law? Who will protect the officers when they refuse to do anything against the regulation or the law until such regulation or law is amended?

Such matters form the basic dilemma of the career public officials in fast developing countries where the political bosses (as elected officials) have almost absolute power.
This can literally reduce the career officials to the position of a 'yes-man' vis-a-vis the political bosses, irrespective of their rank and seniority in the service.Thus, even the Chief Secretary to the Government,the Secretary Generals of Ministries, Heads of Department,Judges, the Police or Army Chiefs etc. would not be able to execute their duties and responsibilities according to the rules and regulations but according to the dictate of the political bosses.

Surely this is a most undesirable state of affairs in a developing country where many experiments in development are being undertaken. Political leaders will be persuaded by the pressure and arguments exerted by their supporters but career officials must study facts, figures,the regulations and the law before recommending any course of action to their bosses, their reputation and trustworthiness being dependent on the merit of their recommendation. The easiest thing to do is to say 'yes-Sir' to the political bosses and that can cause untold damage and incur all the undesirable consequences of a bad decision made by the political bosses. Who then will take the blame?

In Malaysia there is no doubt that the political leaders have outclassed the career officials in pushing through development efforts, career officials often being too cautious and wary about making mistakes. They have been known to drag their feet until the late Tun Abdul Razak at one time and later Tun Dr Mahathir shook them up and instilled in them the frontiersmen spirit. They spearheaded new development programs like Felda, Felcra, Mardi, Pernas, Petronas, Proton, etc and all the privatized development programs.

When the initial jobs were all done, a new generation of civil servants who did not go through the Tun Razak's and Tun Mahathir's attitude transformation program, took over as leaders in the Civil Service. We don't hear them anymore talking as loud in support of their bosses, filling in the details of work to be done, and directing their staff like the old hands. INTAN tries to toughen up the new batches of civil servants through a rigorous six-months DPA course but let them go through paramilitary training without proper and adequate conditioning. That has resulted in two fatal casualties that will shake up the entire training concept formulated by INTAN and PSD.I wonder if that is another indication of the lack of pragmatic and cognitive shake-up which Tun Razak and Tun Mahathir gave the top civil servants in their time.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Cycle of Goodness (the COG)

Give away more money to the people, that boosts up domestic demand, enhances trade and business, government collects more tax, and therefore has more money to give away to the people. That seems to be the long and short of the Cycle of Godness, the COG, that can spin faster to make the country a high income nation.
Sounds good and simple. Yet, many poor and developing countries could not initiate that cycle. Why?

The common answer is: government has no money to give to the people. Yet, the government as we often observe has money to aggrandize itself, supports and is supported by wealthy people living in western-style luxury and comfort, establishes grand embassies with opulent residence and transport facilities..etc..etc..Foreign assistance and aid often flow in enormous quantity, yet fail to reach the needy...
The rich become richer, the poor poorer, was and is still the buzzword. Many development thinkers think that it's not so mush a question of whether there is money to give to the people as the question of HOW government distributes the goodies. Do they reach the rock-bottom, ground level, where the poor scrounge for a living? Giving cash directly to the poor was considered a bad policy. It must be given through appropriate and formal agencies and government organizations. What happened is that the agencies and organizations become rich and colossal monsters devouring the massive allocations (trust funds) they receive. ( Some say even international organizations designed to help the unfortunate people of the world had become such monsters!)

Nonetheless, the COG concept supports giving funds directly to the poor and unfortunate. Malaysia's BRIM 1, 2 and 3 illustrates the point. So do many other "durian runtuhs" programs. Earlier leaders had been very reluctant to give direct handouts including hefty pay rise for the public servants. Result: healthy growth but minimal. Now, PM Najib had reversed the order. The economy seems to be responding in a very positive way.

But, prices of things and the cost of living are also shooting up. Cost of building materials and residential homes and business premises had skyrocketed. Has the government machinery controlling these items been streamlined and charged with new obligations to see that housing developers and real estate dealers are not squeezing consumers and clients to death? Look at the number of "Bank Lelong" notices plastered all around the country. Low cost houses ( link houses and terrace homes)are now crossing the half million ringgit mark. What's the government doing about this or is the policy now: buy if you can afford, otherwise go back to the village?