Home TA Online Unlimited-travel pass should be for all

Unlimited-travel pass should be for all

An underground station in Sweden. Foreigners are charged the same rate as locals for a travel pass - Photograph: Benedict Lopez

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We must extend this privilege to our migrant workers as they too are contributing to our economy and taking up jobs shunned by Malaysians, says Benedict Lopez.

From 1 January 2019, Malaysians will be able to enjoy the benefits of unrestricted travel on several modes of public transport under Prasarana Malaysia Berhad using the new My100 and My50 monthly passes.

For just RM100, commuters will be able to buy a pass which can be used for all of Prasarana’s rail and bus services within the Klang Valley. And for RM50, the pass allows commuters to use Prasarana’s bus services within the Klang Valley.

According to Transport Minister Anthony Loke, this pass will encourage more people to use public transport, and it will also contribute towards alleviating the burden of the cost of living, particularly for the middle class and the bottom 40% of the population.

This is a commendable move on the part of the Pakatan Harapan government. But to me it smacks of discrimination. The travel pass should have been extended to everyone in the country including our migrant workers and tourists.

Recently, when I visited Stockholm, I bought a weekly Access Card for just SEK325 (RM140). In fact, I had enjoyed this privilege throughout my earlier four-and-a-half-year stint in Stockholm. As a foreigner, I was not discriminated against; I paid the same price a Swedish citizen would pay. (The only reduced fares are for seniors over 65, adults holding a Swedish student card and those under 20.)

The Klang Valley travel pass must be extended to our migrant workers as they too are contributing to our economy and taking up jobs shunned by Malaysians. Migrant workers cannot afford to pay the expensive fares on public transport. Often they are also exploited by some unscrupulous Malaysian employers. We must also remember they too are our fellow human beings and deserve to be treated fairly.

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Tourists too should also be offered the travel pass as it will boost tourism in the country. If tourists are given this privilege, they may be inclined to stay longer in the country, and we will benefit through foreign exchange earnings. Yes, I am aware that in many countries there is fare discrimination against foreigners, but tourism can be boosted if there is a uniform rate for both.

If more people use public transport, it would be more financially viable for the operators of public transport companies in the long run. Moreover, the main thrust of the government is to reduce traffic congestion by encouraging more people to use public transport – a move which will also help in meeting Malaysia’s emissions reduction target. It will be self-defeating if there is fare discrimination against foreigners.

Having a standard rate for both foreigners and locals will send a strong signal to other countries that uniformity and non-discriminatory policies should always prevail. Any form of discrimination is morally wrong and should never be permitted in any country or society. In countries like Sweden and Denmark, it is against the law to discriminate on the grounds of race, colour, religion, gender, disability and sexual orientation.

Hopefully, the government will reconsider its decision and implement a uniform rate for all. Are we not a caring society?

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Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. A pragmatic optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits and privileges found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one that he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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