Extend travel discounts to all govt staff

I LOVE to promote public transport, particularly our train services with the hope that the system continues expanding. We need to encourage more people to use public transport rather than insisting on widening roads and building more highways because it takes away precious land that could be used for better purpose.

There is a need to address the disconnect and awkward policies when it comes to public transport and the civil service. We have 1.6 million citizens employed as civil servants.

We perhaps have a huge number who are retired and drawing a pension that is often meagre and not in line with the cost of living. Thus, who better to give benefits to when it comes to public transport?

With the MRT Line 2 (to Putrajaya) project now under way, we need to talk about giving better public transport benefits to civil servants and their spouses. What are the benefits offered to civil servants and pensioners when it comes to transport?

A notice at the KTM station in Ipoh has highlighted a rather awkward policy. According to the notice, retired civil servants are eligible for a 40% discount. However, this does not extend to husbands of retired female civil servants.

And male civil servants need to show their marriage certificates to get the discount for their wives.

At the same time, retired armed forces personnel must have served over 21 years to qualify for a 40% discount. Yet, retired police personnel only get a 25% discount.

All these listed benefits do not extend to auxiliary police or army reserve personnel. And all these discounts exclude the additional cost of choosing seats and even air-conditioning.

I'm not sure why we have such an awkward policy that differentiates and sets different rates with so many conditions. Nor do I know if this is a company policy issued by KTM and if Prasarana has a different policy.

But let's propose a better system. First, let the discount rate apply across the board for all civil servants (male and female) and their spouses. At the same time, this discounted rate must apply not just to serving and retired civil servants, but also to cadets from all the services and reserve units.

Similarly, may I be so bold to propose that we take the issue of marriage on trust, rather than have 50-year-old couples show their marriage certificates at the ticketing counters? If they say they're married, the counter staff should accept it on face value?

Keep it simple, let's offer a 30% discount for those working for the government and a 50% discount for all retired civil servants and uniformed personnel, and their spouses.

Similarly, a 25% discount should apply for the children of all civil servants and uniformed personnel, including reserve unit personnel. Adding on, 25% for the parents – regardless of their age – of those serving in the civil service as well as the cadets.

This rate should be applicable for all public transport services including taxis and tour buses.

By the way, this idea isn't new. It was mooted by Cuepacs president Datuk Azih Muda on Oct 16, who had asked for commuting rebates and discount cards for civil servants.

I am merely expanding on the idea to include the trainees and immediate family members of the civil servants. I believe this privilege is part and parcel of promoting public transport as the obvious choice for those serving the nation.

Hafidz Baharom is a public relations practitioner. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com