Friday, January 23, 2009

Money, Money, Money...

RM 7,
000,000,000! And MORE to come!


My MATA TERBELIAK at the WONDERFUL NEWS! RM7 BILLION and with the order to SPEND IT NOW to boot! I'm really looking forward to experience how this money is going to stimulate the economy for me. I don't ask a lot, you know, just my fair share! I mean this "Malaysian economic stimulus package" is supposed to be good for me too, right? Cos the last time I checked, my IC stated "Warganegara: Malaysia"

WAIT! STOP!! Reality Check!!

Who REALLY benefits from this much-anticipated RM7 billion stimulus package? Let's take a quick look at what Najib said would be in the package, when he first announced it in Parliament during the Budgett 2009 debate:

· RM1.2 billion allocations for the construction of 15,000 low-cost and medium-cost houses.

(Eh! The world is in a credit crunch la brudder, which orang miskin is gonna be able to afford to buy houses?! Anyway, even if they manage to get a loan, is putting them in more debt a good way to stimulate economy, ah? Isn't dubious credit what got the world financial systems in trouble in first place?)

· RM500 million to refurbish police stations and police quarters, as well as army camps and their living quarters.

(Oi, if the boys and blue and green sleep better and have nicer offices and football fields, that's fine. But how is that gonna STIMULATE the economy? Your hypothesis is that they'll feel so good being in pleasant surroundings that they'll go out and spend, spend, spend is it?)

· RM600 million for small projects under the Public Infrastructure Maintenance (PIAS) for repairing village roads, building of community halls and small bridges.

· RM500 million for upgrading and construction of rural roads and village roads.

(Better roads and what? If salesmen and businessmen can't get business even after hours on the road, what's the point of a smoother ride?)

· RM500 million for the preservation and repair of public amenities such as schools, hospitals and roads.

· RM200 million to four groups of schools. RM50 million each for fully-aided religious schools, mission schools, Chinese schools and Tamil schools.

· RM200 million for early education for kids.

(OK. Just is a more comfortable study environment for our children ever going to stimulate the general economy in any way? Parents so happy, they'll give their kids more money to spend on canteen junk food, is it?)

· RM300 million for creation of funds and to implement skills training programmes in the Development Corridors.

· RM200 million to build human capital through various training programmes by various ministries.

(OK. Yes, people retrenched will need to be retrained so that they can look for other jobs. But that's ONLY if you assume that there's equal supply and demand in the job market! In Malaysia, we are facing a manufacturing slowdown la! With 1,000,000 people possibly losing their jobs this year! Is our economy going to create 1,000,000 NEW jobs in that time? Even if the answer is yes, which sectors will they be in? Can you train a factory worker to take the job of a computer engineer? EVEN IF all the answers to these questions are YES, how will these people feed their famlies while they are unemployed and undergoing training?!)

· RM500 million to strengthen the public transport especially the LRT, Komuter and bus systems in urban areas.

(Finally, SOMETHING makes sense! An efficient public transport system allows people to use the money saved on transport on other things. But since the BN has been promising this for decades, it remains to be seen how it's going to pan out. And by the way, how about also buying back the hyper-profitable highway concessions and reduce the exorbitant toll rates too?)

· RM1.5 billion ringgit as investment funds to attract more private sector investors.

(What is Malaysia's world ranking in terms of investor confidence? I dunno. But seeing as our rankings are consistently slipping in transparency, corruption, education, and human rights indices, is ANYONE from the jittery investment markets going to plonk money down in Malaysia in favour of other economies with stronger rankings? PLEASE be realistic la! Fix our governance problems first!)

· RM400 million to expedite the high-speed broadband project implementation.

(How the BN expects people to believe that surfing the net going to stimulate the economy, I have no idea. This is only gonna profit the few licensees - provided people still have spare money to subscribe to their services when the recession hits!)

· RM100 million for Rakan Muda projects.

· RM200 million to revitalise abandoned housing projects.

(While these are good moves to resolve long-standing problems of wayward youths and abandoned projects, I fail to see how these qualify as economic stimuli. Can anyone enlighten me?)

Now I'm no economist, and I'm too lazy to do the research, but according to my common sense, in a general economic slowdown, shouldn't an economic stimulus package find ways to inject money into the general economy, so that EVERYONE benefits and not just certain selected segments? For example:

Would be better to invest the money in a fund to help distressed companies, ala Danaharta, so that people can keep their jobs?

Would it be better to use the money to upgrade our welfare system so that families in distress can have money to spend?

Would it be better if the money was spent on maintaining and upgrading our tourism products to attract more foreign money? Following from that, would it be better to identify and promote more tourism products, so that the foreign money can be more evenly spread among the various States?

How about setting up an affordable micro-financing scheme, ala Grameen Bank, and help people find ways to earn a living even if they don't have jobs?

Seriously, I fail to see how all these infrastructure projects in the "stimulus package" are going to benefit the average person on the street. I mean, what's the immediate economic multiplier effect? Can the government answer, please? From where I stand, it looks like the bulk of it is just gonna end up lining the pockets of Class F contractors and other govt suppliers - the UMNO elite's "base".

So it's not so much of a Malaysian economic stimulation package as much as an UMNO economic stimulation package!

I guess securing the votes of 2,000+ UMNO delegates is more important than the livelihoods and survival of 1,000,000 jobless Malaysians and their families.

But then, we knew that all along, didn't we?

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