Singapore premier Lee Hsien Loong made a statement in an interview with CNN last Sunday that will be well for all to take note of. He said that it would take years for the covid-19 pandemic to take its course as it goes around the world.
This is the likely scenario for the whole world in the immediate future: we have to live with covid-19 for a long time. Are we prepared for it? Is this government able to steer this nation through the challenges that are ahead of us due to the pandemic?
The future is grim. As nations go into lockdown mode, the world economy is collapsing and individual nations will go down with it. Malaysia will not be exempted. In fact, we will be badly affected since we are a trading nation dependent on exports of oil and palm oil, the price of both have dropped drastically.
We are going to have limited resources, which means there will be intense competition for these and desperate people will fight for these resources tooth and nail, abandoning principles.
We got a taste of it through the way the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government usurped the mandate of the people and established itself as the government. We got another taste of it in the way the Movement Control Order (MCO) was introduced — without comprehensive solid planning but in an ad hoc manner, resulting in initial chaos. After much criticisms, they corrected themselves. They brought in the defence forces. The police went quiet as the Defence Minister began calling the shots. Isn’t this the job of the Home Minister? Why has not the Prime Minister intervened and call on the right people to do their jobs?
Then, the announcement of the RM250 billion economic stimulus package. Under this package, RM128 billion has been allocated for the people’s welfare, RM100 billion for business and SMEs and RM2 billion to strengthen the economy. In contrast, the Health Ministry gets RM1 billion to fight covid-19. (An earlier RM20 billion package by the previous government will also be used.)
More than 50% of the package will go to the people in the form of cash aids amounting to about RM3400 per person in addition to the salaries of the recipients. Pensioners and civil servants of Grade 56 will get a one-off payment of RM500. All this money to people who are already paid monthly salaries?
What about help to those who don’t have jobs or who have lost their jobs on account of the MCO? The construction workers, drivers, the security guards, the hawkers, the part-timers, the homeless, and, yes, the illegals. Again after criticisms, help was diverted to them. But, I still haven’t heard of any help to the poor estate Indian worker who has to stay home by the Prime Minister of “all Malaysians”!
Was this a package to give easy money to Malay voters to keep this so-called Malay-majority government in power? If so, it clearly shows that “Cash is King” is back! It aims to appease Malay voters but is it good for the nation, throwing scarce resources to people who really don’t need it when it could have been used for stimulating the economy or keeping it going through the current tough times that will definitely stretch into the immediate future?
RM100 million was set aside for businesses for loans which companies are not going to use because businesses are not operating! Businesses will want to cut costs not take on more loan commitments.
Resources are going to decrease even further as the economy spirals downwards. In the face of limited funds, we need a strong leadership which will fight for the people, so that in the tough times ahead, we know our interests are not going to be overruled by others with vested interests. We need a strong leadership that abides by the constitution and stands up to vested interests when there’s a conflict between vested interests and people’s interest. In short, we need a government elected by the people so that the mandate of the people is prevented from being manipulated for self-serving ends.
Such a leadership has not yet emerged since the PN government took over. The actions of the current government are visible to all and we don’t know if the fumbling and bungling will give way to a strong leadership that puts the interests of the people first. So far, there has been no indication of that. Protecting the mandate of the people is primary to encouraging them to move along with the leadership through the hard times ahead. We need a leadership that has won the right of the people to lead them through the tough times ahead. Otherwise, the people are going to suffer needlessly.
In the short time that the PN has taken over the reins of government, only the Health Ministry has done its job well. Under the leadership of its very able director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, the effort to control the pandemic is underway — without the interference of the Cabinet. His daily briefings to the people show he is reassuringly on tops of things.
That, perhaps, is a clear indication that the people can do without the present illegitimate Cabinet unless it legitimates itself first.