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Election candidates must state their stand on neoliberal economic policies

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How many of them understand the current model of our economic system and how it relates to the prevailing global neoliberal economic ideology, which favours Big Business and the wealthy, wonders Ronald Benjamin.

Some time ago, I watched a YouTube video about diabetes. An expert doctor from India shared with the audience his insights on the disease, its causes and preventive measures.

What impressed me most about this doctor was his knowledge of the workings of global pharmaceutical companies that manufacture diabetic medication that was not necessary or critical to address the illness; yet such medicated was being marketed for profits at the expense of people who are not knowledgeable about the disease.

Reflecting on our local context, I wonder how many doctors and politicians in Malaysia are truly aware of issues related to medical exploitation by international pharmaceutical companies. Such corporations work within the prevailing global neoliberal economic framework, which favours large multinational corporations, Big Business and the wealthy.

The video made me reflect on the coming general election. I see many seasoned members of parliament and those still new on the political stage campaigning for electoral victory. The question is, how many of them understand the current model of our economic system and how it relates to the global economic ideology, the empire called neoliberalism and the consequences of this ideology for relatively poor Malaysians?

For example, I came across a heartbreaking article by Mariam Moktar titled “A Tale of One City, Two Children”, where there was a comparison of life of children living in low-cost flats and the rich kids who are living at a 23rd–floor penthouse, a stone’s throw away from the low-cost flats.

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The poor conditions of the flats and the lack of proper facilities for the poor were concrete proof that social resources have not been equitably distributed, while the rich enjoy such resources according to ability to pay. Obviously, relative poverty existed in the surroundings of great skyscrapers.

This goes back to the fundamental question: what is the real role of MPs and state assembly members in a democratic society in dealing with relative poverty? Are they there to represent the ideologies of their political parties or the socio-economic conscience of the nation?

It is unfortunate there is a lot of condemnation about corruption such as money laundering related to 1 MDB but there is little noise about how the neoliberal economic system in Malaysia has facilitated policies that favour the super rich and how in turn this rich businessman finances and influences politicians in Malaysia.

Is it not obvious that the 1MDB corruption demonstrates a strong link between a politician and a businessman who conspired to steal billions of ringgit, which could have been used to build decent homes, provide free transport and supply nutritious food in schools and even universities?

Like an activist doctor who was able to go beyond his immediate profession, other MPs and state assembly members need to move beyond the comfort zones of their political parties and facilitate greater democratic space in their constituencies. This space should be used to discuss domestic economic models such as neoliberalism and its links to corruption involving collusion between politicians and business folk from large business corporations, which in turn has reduced funds in government coffers, creating conditions for relative poverty.

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In this general election, Malaysians need to ask incumbent members of Parliament and state assembly members and all other candidates what their stand on neoliberalism is and what they would do to address it.

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