It is high time that we face up to the fact that Malaysians are paying the price for their folly, and more distressingly, their vanity.
We were fools for believing in political rhetoric that left us divided, distrustful and wholly vulnerable to exploitation. We were bigger fools for having allowed our vanity to persuade us to that cause. As we clamoured and argued amongst ourselves about not very much to begin with, the Government we should have all been watching like hawks – for which government is it that has been capable of refraining from giving in to temptation – was on a frolic all of its own.
I drove into Putrajaya this morning. Once again, I was reminded of the colossal waste of money that Putrajaya was and continues to be. Leave aside the fact that most of us go to Putrajaya not because we want to but because we have no choice. Consider instead how much it cost us. Some speculated, almost reverentially, that it had cost some RM4 billion, a fearful sum beyond imagination. Some said it was far less, others insisted it was far more. Last month, under pressure from a more sizeable opposition presence in Parliament the Prime Minister disclosed that it had cost the nation to date a staggering RM11.83 billion
The Malaysian experience does not allow for any justification for that sort of expenditure. Rural and urban poverty is still a reality just as not having meaningful access to electricity and water is in some parts of the country. Those of us lucky to have access to these utilities are obliged to pay dearly for the privilege, just as we do for a range of other services. Our public healthcare and education systems need a major overhaul to get them to even acceptable levels and so on and so forth. The average Malaysian spends a great deal of time worrying about the fact that there is not very much left over at the end of the month and what that means.
The potential real development and essentials, from schools to dialysis machines to vaccines, that RM12 billion could buy is mind-boggling and the Government spent it all on Putrajaya. Did we need it? I do not think so but then, judging by the pontificating we have been hearing as of late, it would appear that the Government considers an ivory tower a prerequisite to it being able to function.
We are not without blame. We were stakeholders in the Government we voted in, it is what we allowed it to become. We let ourselves be seduced by its pied-piper tune of race and religion, privilege, supremacy and power sharing, stability and prosperity. We clapped our hands gleefully as it stroked our collective ego, some would say lobotomized us, with Malaysia Boleh.
Worlds best, truly Asia, everyone loves us. We are Malaysian.
We cheered as we were told that we were sending a Malaysian into space, even though it was costing a us a great deal of money, directly and indirectly – there were submarines in the mix, after all – and even though we really did not need a man in space, particularly one who was interested in making teh tarik and playing congkak.
We cheered as the petro-ringgits were spent as if they were going out fashion on the trinkets for us, and the big ticket items for a small elite. We cheered as we were told, over and over again, that we were the finest at this and the greatest at that, even as standards across the board were declining rapidly. University ratings, corruption and rule of law indexes, we slid down all of them without discrimination. Did we care? Apparently not, like that Emperor with his new clothes we were more interested in the lies.
The reality is that the Government does not have an explanation for the use of the billions of ringgit of oil revenue that has been generated since 1974. Though some of it has been ploughed back into the nation, a great deal of it has been applied without thought to the future or has been allowed to dissipate through unaddressed corruption, cronyism and sheer incompetence in an orgy of reckless and unnecessary spending. As the Malays say, bagai kera dapatkan bunga.
The question is what do we do about it now that rocketing crude oil prices have allowed us to see how mismanaged this nation has been, still is.
The veil has been lifted. As we stare out at the approaching storm clouds, we must be resolute, firm in our understanding and belief that inflation and hardship do not recognize race and religion, they cut into all of us. And we must recognize that it only as a united force, as Malaysians, that we can do what it is that needs to be done. Demanding our just dues.
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