Friday, January 21, 2011

A Vote for BN is a Vote for Cronies

BN has been in power but remains powerless to fight crony interests, at the expense of the interests of the rakyat

Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said that Barisan Nasional (BN) needs to be in power to enable the people’s interests to come first, not for the coalition’s interests.
He argued that it is only BN that can bring progress for the country and therefore the people should put only capable people in the right places.

Najib must be finding it more and more difficult to sing the same BN song over the past 50 years as the fact that BN has failed to protect the interest of the people and had instead increasingly favoured it’s the interest of its cronies over the past half-a-century. The past two decades have been littered with examples of BN policies which have enriched a few while increasing the burden of the people at the same time.

The highway toll concessions provide the clearest example of the BN government guaranteeing billions of profits annually to companies which are cosy with BN while ensuring at the same time that the people will have to pay exorbitant toll rates daily for decades. The North-South Expressway (PLUS) for instance, makes profits in excess of RM1.5 billion and yet the Government still pays compensation of more than RM800 million annually. At the same time PLUS enjoys tax free status while being allowed to raise toll rates by 10% every 3 years.

However with the rise of Pakatan Rakyat in the 2008 general elections, our state governments, despite their limited powers and opposition from the Federal Government have shown a completely different philosophy where we fought crony interest and unfair contracts to ensure that the people’s rights and welfare are prioritised.

The Selangor state government for instance, fought the Federal Government to prevent SYABAS, a private concessionaire, from unfairly increasing water tariff rates in 2009 by 37%. Not only did we stop the tariff hike, the state government has provided 20m3 of free subsidized water to each household ever since taking power costing RM120 million a year, derived from expenditure savings as a result of good governance practices.

On the other hand, the Johor BN government colluded with the private concessionaire, Syarikat Air Johor (SAJ) to increase water rates by as much as 63% in November 2010, substantially increasing the burden of more than 3.2 million Johoreans.

The recent rounds of creeping subsidy cuts where food and fuel subsidies to the man-in-the-street are reduced but the RM6-8 billion of gas subsidies extended to independent power producers (IPPs) which are owned by powerful BN cronies which also makes billions in profits annually are ignored.

Pakatan Rakyat states have also proven the competence in running state administrations better than their previous BN counterparts as shown in Penang where for the first time in history, the tiny state topped the country’s performance in terms of attracting capital investments amounting to RM12.2 billion, or more than 26% of total capital investment in Malaysia for 2010.

Najib who warned that “if incapable people who only knew how to make empty promises were chosen as leaders, the country would collapse” cannot be more true, for if the rakyat continue to give support to BN, then we will be feeding the insatiable appetites of its cronies while impoverishing the ordinary citizens.
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