Home TA Online 2011 TA Online Corruption, cost of living, and the need for good governance

Corruption, cost of living, and the need for good governance

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John Inbaraj urges the Prime Minister of acronyms to forget all about GTP, ETP etc. Instead, he proposes WOC (Wipe Out Corruption) and ELC (Enforce the Laws of the Country).

The Star reported, “[a] Customs director had millions of ringgit spread over several bank accounts. Another had almost 1 million. Two others had between 500,000 and 850,000 ringgit.” Not only that, gold bars, bags of cash, luxury watches and posh cars were among the goods involved in raids that resulted in 62 officers arrested for under declaration of duties and tax evasion (3 April 2011, “Ill-gotten stash”).

To be more specific, about RM10bn has been smuggled out or remitted overseas. Customs officers had also admitted to collecting RM100-500 for every declaration form (K1) submitted and approved (an act that s been openly going on for decades). And RM108 billion has been estimated lost annually in unpaid duties and income tax. One officer had gold bars in his house while another had RM600000 cash in several bags in his house.

Do we congratulate the MACC for some great work or do we condemn the government and the MACC for their continuous inefficiency to tackle corruption to such a drastic extent?

Recently, Idris Jala, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, reiterated that excessive government subsidies had threatened to make the country bankrupt by 2019! These subsidies are small amounts compared to the billions lost in corrupt practices.

It is impossible to understand how the Prime Minister’s Department in particular and the government in general can tolerate such brazen corruption. It is even more difficult to understand why there are people still voting for the same government.

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The standard of living among Malaysians has reportedly gone up. But the reality is that the cost of living has also gone up tremendously. A green apple costs over RM1 and a kilo of infant formula milk is in the region of RM25. The government rates hardcore poverty level income for at RM440 per month for a household. These figures tell us that people are still living under ‘poverty’ conditions due to the high inflation rate in relation to their monthly income.

Is this reality a reflection of lack of enforcement in government or has corruption become institutionalised in the government?

Do you remember the day when Mahathir blasted the then Auditor General Tan Sri Ahmad Noordin for highlighting Bank Negera’s dabbling in the global foreign exchange market, which eventually resulted in RM10bn in losses? Mahathir delivered a body blow to the credibility of the auditor general and his report. Such an act highlighted serious shortcoming in our government system, especially in tackling corruption. What has become of the respect for the auditor general and his annual report remains unanswered. Has anyone been charged for overpaid screwdrivers and car jacks?

Another incident in the recent past involved the supply of goods and services to the army and police departments. The suppliers were charged for delivering sub-standard goods and services. Under normal practices, quotations are requested from suppliers and samples are reviewed before an order is placed. The goods are checked by the receiving departments – in this case, the police and the army – for conformance of quality and quantity before an acknowledgement of receipt is issued. Why was the charge targeted at the suppliers and not the police and army departments? Were there any insiders nabbed and charged? There are many unresolved issues in the conduct of particular agencies in this matter. Such blatant condoning of wrongdoings has encouraged corrupt practices across the length and breadth of this country.

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Enforcement has lost its place in the fight against corruption. The RM108bn losses alone bear testimony to this. This figure represents only a fraction of losses in the Customs Department. What colossal figures are we talking about if we include other relevant authorities and numerous other agencies and commissions?

The inefficiency in governance also takes place at a micro level. On roads, the demerit system is in shambles. Summonses are issued with no proper tracking of settlement. Accidents are aplenty but all is blamed on the drivers’ attitudes. But when a traffic offence is met with quick police action, would it not deter offenders? In fact the reverse is true. When someone who follows the law ends up becoming the victim in time and time again, would it not frustrate that individual and force him or her to breaking road regulations? Queue-jumpers do so without a care and by the thousands. Authorities keep shouting. Why not just catch them?

The rich get richer while the poor struggle to make ends meet. Housing prices have gone haywire. Many who were born and lived in landed properties have moved to high-rise properties that have no proper laws or enforcement. Criminal acts and gangsterism have soared; this is especially evident among the younger generation due to the work schedule of their parents’ 12-hour days to feed their families.
Imagine what the RM108bn (plus the yet undetected billions) can do to help alleviate the suffering of the poor.

To the Prime Minister of acronyms, I urge you to forget all of them (GTP, ETP etc, etc). I propose WOC (Wipe Out Corruption) and ELC (Enforce the Laws of the Country).

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John Inbaraj, an Aliran member, is a Penang-based taxi driver. Nine out of ten people he has asked do not know what a billion ringgit is!

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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