Debating policies, not politics

Hafidz Baharom

IN the last few weeks, a lot of debate has been ongoing with regards to politics rather than policies. I prefer to look more into the latter. See, changing governments is fine by me, but I want proper policies – and politics should be about who offers better ones. 

This is where disillusionment happens among the youth with regards to politics. The unrealistic offering of policies at the surface without delving deeper, and the total absence of sense in some policies, continue to keep Malaysians wondering who to vote for. 

Some will celebrate five tolls being abolished, but when you look below the surface with the government forking out RM110 million annually for 20 years, it makes it hard to swallow. Personally, it gags me further when you also announce a budget for buses and taxis at only RM100 million. 

Thus, the policy message being portrayed is that this government would rather fork out more money for some vehicles on some routes, rather than focus on the message of public transport which needs further expansion. 

This seems rather schizophrenic in terms of government policy where we talk of reducing traffic and yet, insist on keeping cars economically subsidised, just as how we now have protesters asking for cheaper petrol via government subsidies. 

We need to move on from the focus on petrol and subsidising cars. Instead, why is there such little insistence outside of the Klang Valley for people to ask for better access to public transport?

Similarly, we cannot simply point out that food should be subsidised without wondering why food prices go up and fluctuate. If farmers and fishermen receive subsidies, and the price in the market is high, where is the money going to?

Some have pointed out that the benefits have gone to the middle man. Oddly enough, how does this happen when government has been establishing fresh markets to cut out the middle man? Is it an abject failure of policy, or the insistence to still use middle men rather than sell products themselves?

Or better yet, is the price of raw local foods high due to the recent floods? And would a government plan for crop or plantation insurance have kept it in check?

At the same time, there is no running from the fact that the ringgits purchasing power is down, thus needing people to earn more to maintain their ability to consume. Sadly, wages have remained low, with some employers offering to not pay employees EPF and Socso as an alternative. 

We also have employers insisting that raising the minimum wage will increase unemployment further as a threat, rather than wondering if their workers can eke out a living. Similarly, employers have yet to execute plans that will actually help employees cut costs. 

A simple shuttle service to and from a public transport station cuts out the need to drive, lessening petrol consumption. Similarly, a car pool plan could also allow lower petrol consumption. Ride sharing allowances rather than company cars will also remove the need for companies to buy cars that will get stuck in traffic. 

Establishing a child crèche in office blocks will allow employees to cut out the hassle and worry of taking care of their kids, and in fact might lower the cost on both the company and the employee. And yet, employers have yet to make this a mandatory requirement. 

While removing social media access will increase productivity, a better policy would be to limit working hours and holding employees to those specific hours to complete their tasks. Or better yet, let the employees determine what hours they are most productive to work. 

Or more meaningfully, reducing work hours and forcing employees either to become more productive or be made irrelevant, as the Scandinavians do. 

Of course, many would look at manifestos to think governments can deliver all their promises. Some believe there are those who should interfere with global market prices on certain things and not the other, or even income taxes need to be paid by the fewest possible in return for a consumption tax on everyone. 

Some believe in taxation upon death to avoid rent seeking upper classes from growing richer, others argue that they have paid their dues and the young should not be penalised, even if it still affords them an entire lifetime of lounging in riches. 

And of course, some believe the planet should take focus only after suffering landslides and floods, to be forgotten later on when wealth and revenue become tempting. 

It is always better to debate policies, and I honestly believe neither side has the best intentions nor the will to carry through with some of their most idealist and populist agendas. Thus, I am on no side in terms of political parties but remain very much political. – November 24, 2017.

* Hafidz loves to ruffle feathers and believes in the EA Games tag line of challenging everything. Most times, he represents the Devil’s Advocate on multiple issues.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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