Letters - The happiness challenge

05 Dec 2016 / 20:10 H.

    THERE is no doubt that the Umno General Assembly ended exuberantly on a strong basis of greater party loyalty and tighter unity. The leaders and delegates apparently felt confident of winning the next general election. But is this confidence shared by all Malaysians?
    I seriously doubt it, judging from my conversations with many Malaysians of all races and religions.
    The Umno leaders are confident because they are the top political leaders, with high prestige and holding important influential positions. They are also unlikely to be from the poor and struggling masses. They are mostly the elite. Hence there is less empathy at the rarefied political levels for the poor, hard working and lower-income Malaysians who belong to the bottom 40 and lower-middle-income groups.
    There appears to be a serious disconnect between the leaders and the poorer people. This disconnect has to be studied, recognised and rectified. The confidence gap or happiness gap has to be closed, if public hope and happiness are to be raised. So what do we do? We need to ask the right questions to get the right solutions.
    What causes lower confidence?
    » Inflation – prices are rising. From essential foods to housing and shelter, transport, health and education, every item of basic need has gone up? How then can our Malaysians be confident and happy?
    The solution is to examine all ways of freeing the economy of unnecessary economic and financial constraints and overprotection and business preferences that create monopolistic conduct.
    » Corruption is causing huge distortion of economic resources and causing costs to rise.
    Most Malaysians feel that much more should be done to fight corruption. They ask with a sense of hopelessness, how come the big political fish are getting away, while the focus has shifted to senior government officials. Meantime corruption is getting to be rife at all levels of public service and not only at the lower levels, as in the past.
    The government and the MACC should try to re-strategise.
    Unemployment is a growing problem. Large numbers are without proper skills, training and proficiency in the international languages like English, Arabic and even Chinese. The Education Blueprint has some solutions. However they have to be implemented faster and more effectively, to have a real impact on rising unemployment. We should also not feel shy or apologetic to raise the standards of Science, Maths and English.Human rights are being more marginalised.
    Most Malaysians and the international community ask: why should Maria Chin Abdullah be held in solitary confinement?
    The government and the police have to justify this treatment.
    Then there is the case of others who are treated lightly for using seditious language and threats to life and limb, who get away easily.
    Surely all this authoritarian and harsh treatment causes the lowering of public confidence and the rise in unhappiness which bodes ill for the future. Finally, security and safety has deteriorated.
    Today, there is more fear to walk in the streets, especially at night.
    The police complain of lack of staff, but perhaps, if they reallocate their understandably limited resources, to pursue criminals, rather than trail some political leaders, the people might have more confidence in public safety.
    One solution would be to encourage the employment of more auxiliary police. This will raise public confidence even if they have to pay for better security services. At least we can hire and fire errant police personnel more easily and raise the quality of security?
    Malaysia’s public confidence by any measure is now low and declining. But Malaysians are generally patriotic, loyal and diligent and want to make Malaysia great, without all this racial polarisation and religious bigotry.
    Malaysians across the board are unhappy with this sad situation. The confidence of elite political leaders may therefore be unjustified.
    The rakyat want reforms, improvements, changes and a more united, prosperous and fairer and better Malaysia.

    Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam
    Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies


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