When my editor entrusted me with this column because I rant a lot, I promised myself I won't become one of those people who end up letting out steam without much substance.
Little did I expect that I'd become one of those people so soon. But I'm just so. Damn. Frustrated!
Never say never, right?
I'm going to try and add as much as supporting facts to this rant, which is what it's going to be for the large part, but I doubt this time I'm going to be very good at checking my biases.
The only consolation is, I know many Malaysians share the same sentiments considering that the hashtag #KerajaanGagal
trended number one on Twitter last Friday (16 April), so I can't be too far off the mark, right?
Here goes nothing.
What is the point of darurat?
So, when Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that there will be a darurat
to handle the whole COVID-19 situation slightly more than three months ago, we all pretended to believe him.
Of course, it had nothing to do with political parties from all sides trying to get the upper hand and become the government of the day, regardless of what the people want.
It was just a coincidence that an Emergency was announced around the time everyone were trying to get the "numbers" to have the majority in parliament.
Nevertheless, the darurat announcement settled the bickering a little. Everyone's hands are pretty much tied till August, at least.
Anyway, from a citizen point of view, what has been happening since 12 January 2021?
The number of COVID-19 cases are not going down; on 12 January, the number was at 3,309 and the lowest it went was still in the 1,000 mark and now, we're back hitting 2,000 and more cases a day.
It really doesn't help that the government seem to be completely clueless about what they are doing.
Cases too high, let people work from home. But no; cases still high, but let the workforce re-enter workplaces despite the many workplace clusters emerging.
Close schools, open schools. Oh no, there are COVID-19 cases in schools now!
Let's increase the fine to RM10,000 but oops... maybe we should fine tune this.
This year would be the second year Ramadan happens during the pandemic and the government decided to allow bazaars to open. However, a few days later, several state governments and federal territories ministry have warned that the bazaars can be closed
for fear of more COVID-19 cases.
Not all the bazaars have officials monitoring to ensure SOPs are followed, and to be honest, it's really hard to maintain social distancing in such places.
The government has had a year to prepare for this, so why wasn't a better system introduced?
Many of the traders at these bazaars have already been severely impacted financially because of COVID-19. This is a chance for them to make some money. Sure, you can cancel the bazaars to curb the number of new cases, but who is going to compensate the investment these traders have already put in?
Why weren't all these thought about in the last year or at least a few months before Ramadan?
There are so many questions raised every time the government makes an announcement. People are so fatigued that many aren't even keeping track of the daily numbers or whether their area is under which Movement Control Order (MCO).
MCO, CMCO, RMCO, EMCO or something else? Does it even matter anymore?
Vaccination or the lack thereof
It's April and the second phase of COVID-19 vaccination for those above the age of 60 as well as those with certain type of diseases should have started.
At least that was the initial announcement. That the second phase would start on 5 April, but now it's been pushed to 19 April.
Here's the schedule as of 16 April 2021, according to Jawatankuasa Khas Jaminan Akses Bekalan Vaksin COVID-19:
According to reports,
the government was initially planning on vaccinating 9.4 million senior citizens and those with chronic diseases before moving on to the next phase, but since only 2.3 million people who are eligible in the second phase have registered so far, there is a possibility for the next phase to be started earlier.
Despite the plans and announcements, people have started to complain that the vaccination programme is taking way too long.
To this, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has said that the delay is due to higher demand for the vaccines compared to supply.
He also blamed rich countries for "hoarding" the vaccines, and promised Malaysians that there will be enough supply to inoculate 80 per cent of the population by October 2021.
Khairy, who is also the coordinating minister for immunisation, said that supplies would be better from June onwards. But after all the promises made and broken, all the flips and flops, how much trust do we have in the words of the politicians in this country?
While we're on the topic of Khairy and vaccination, here's another question that has been bugging me since he was first appointed: what the hell are the Health Minister and his two deputies doing? Why aren't they handling this?
(Quiz time: how many of you guys even know who the two deputy ministers are?)
I could go on and on about the way the government has been dealing with COVID-19 and vaccination but this seems like a good place to move to my next point.
Of depleted government coffers and inflated cabinet
Just a few days ago, it was reported
that Muhyiddin has said that the government's coffers has dried up due to COVID-19.
"So much money has been spent last year and this year. Why? For COVID-19. This included various stimulus packages totalling RM340 billion and RM322 billion allocation for the national budget.
"I went to school, but I am not good at calculation... how much it adds up... it’s more than RM600 billion — that’s a big sum of money," he reportedly said.
I'm not very good at math also lah
, but I do remember being annoyed about the government announcing "aids" which included taking out money from our own Employee Provident Funds (EPF) - i.e. money that should be kept to survive after retirement.
There's been plenty of reports about how most people's EPF money isn't nearly enough to help sustain them after retirement, so I don't know how taking the money out now is supposed to be of help lah
Also, a lot of the other "assistance" given by the government didn't come from its own pockets.
Don't listen to me, but check out this article by The Edge
, quoting people who know a lot more about where the funds came from and where it went.
Here's an excerpt for you:
"She said IDEAS’ research found that only 23 per cent or RM79 billion of the RM340 billion worth of stimulus packages passed, came directly from the government, and of that, only RM65 billion or 20 per cent of the total stimulus package were direct expenditures.
Meanwhile, only RM1 billion were direct revenue losses to the government balance sheet as a result of payment exemptions, with the institute adding that the government had utilised a variety of stimulus policies beyond expenditure, such as liquidity provisions and deferrals, to avoid raising the debt-to-GDP ratio.
IDEAS also pointed out that the government had also relied on statutory bodies, development finance institutes and social security agencies to avoid taking funds directly from its own balance sheets, which includes its reliance on the Employees Provident Fund through programmes such as the reduction in contributions, as well as the i-Lestari and i-Sinar initiatives."
That was what Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) had to say and I can totally see what they mean. Don't you?
Just a few days after the Prime Minister said that the government has run out of money, it was announced that a new deputy minister is being appointed.
Several news agencies reported that STAR secretary-general Guan Dee Koh Hoi has confirmed he will be sworn in
as tourism, culture and arts deputy minister.
Muhyiddin's 70-member cabinet has been criticised for being inflated since the beginning. There are four senior ministers, 27 ministers, and 38 deputy ministers in his cabinet, which means that there are that many people being paid every month by the government. We can soon add one more to the list.
Pakatan Harapan's cabinet had 55 members and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's
cabinet in 2016 had 68 members.
According to this report by The Edge
, the Prime Minister's salary is RM22,826.65 per month, while ministers and their deputies earn RM14,907.20 and RM10,847.65 respectively.
This doesn't include their salaries as Members of Parliament and other allowances that they are entitled to.
Last year, when the government announced that the cabinet will take a two-month pay cut, it said that that saved the government RM1.8 million.
Yes, we are angry!
Maybe this would have been fine if not for the fact that most of the "aid" from the government didn't actually come from it—facilated, maybe but not really from its coffers— and if we're satisfied by how the country is run.
Perhaps if we don't see so many friends and family losing their jobs or forced to take massive pay cuts; young graduates struggling to get a job or even if they do, getting paid less than what most of us did when we started our careers more than 10 years ago; small businesses having to close down and people generally just barely staying afloat during this pandemic, we might be OK with this government.
It is likely that we wouldn't be as pissed if we don't have to watch the ministers' children and family flaunt their wealth on social media; they themselves traveling hither and yon, breaking SOPs without consequences.
There is also a possibility of us not being so angry if the parliament is back in session and the government is being held accountable.
Could it be that our anger stems from ministers asking the general public to be patient, to watch our expenses, to be grateful to even have a job or get a job with a low salary instead of taxing the rich (including the few who became billionaires during the pandemic), coming up with a plan to deal with the issue of low salary in Malaysia which has existed long before COVID-19 and even looking at how the government can reduce its own expenditure?
There are so many reasons Malaysians, including me, are angry at this government. But what can we do about it? The alternative doesn't seem to be all that great either.
If certain parties did not sabotage the previous government, perhaps we could have been in a better place. But now, even those who formed Pakatan Harapan don't seem to be in accord.
It was a tenuous relationship at best, and predictably crumbled under pressure. But while it lasted, at least it seemed a better choice than anything we have now.
When I look at all the political parties, loose coalition, partnership or whatever they wanna call it, all I can think is: "We are doomed."
I wish I can be more optimistic but I don't see how that is even possible at this point in time.
Anyone else feeling the same way?
Disclaimer: The opinion shared in this article is entirely the author's own and has nothing to do with Rojak Daily.