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Politics pays all too well in Malaysia

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When will we stop pretending that politics does not pay or that it is a job that demands arduous personal sacrifice, writes JD Lovrenciear.

The politicians’ assets disclosures lodged with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission have sprung some shockers, to say the least.

While no one should envy the wealth of others, you cannot help but wonder if politics is truly all about service above self – or it is more like a sheltered path to riches.

The salaries earned by politicians will make any small and medium-sized entrepreneur or salaried graduate go green. But that is okay. If we pay peanuts, what kind of leaders would you expect to lead the nation, right – or so the thinking goes.

But when you look at the millionaires’ row in politics, you might wonder if some of our politicians have beaten Hollywood celebrities in the size of their wealth. Perhaps the government could help clear the perceptions arising from public opinion.

A politician gets paid very well these days, no doubt about that.

Often, some politicians may not even have to buy their meals as they are given treats by individuals and organisations – especially given the melee that tends to surround political leaders and the entrenched culture of inviting VVIPs to grace functions ranging from official launches to signing ceremonies.

Allowances and claims take care of out-of-pocket expenses. (But have we not heard of politicians saying they help a lot of people, often giving handouts from their own pockets?)

Other ‘perks’ – discounts and offers of gratitude – go far too in enabling politicians to enjoy the comforts of life like a lavish home.

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Then there is the opportunity or possibility of acquiring say, property, land, vehicles and perhaps even businesses – not to mention the possible offers of say, vacations, discounts for servicing their personal fleet of vehicles and even home renovations.

All of this suggests that politics, for some, is almost a sure path to personal wealth and the spoils of power.

Other routes to similar wealth – eg venturing into business – may come with far too many sacrifices and unpredictable risks. Professional careers – medicine, engineering, even teaching – pale in comparison to the politician’s simple path to riches.

Perhaps the Ministry of Education should be kinder by encouraging a larger segment of school leavers to study political science!

When will we stop pretending that politics – especially if the politician has access to the corridors of power – does not pay or that it is a job that demands arduous personal sacrifice.

Truly politics pays very well – at least in Malaysia!

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