Malaysians generally don’t care about billions of ringgit wasted by government

The general Malaysian voter — rather it not be wasted, but that does not keep him up at night.

Sure, every billion ringgit siphoned, or allegedly siphoned — from the wealth of the 30 million Malaysians walking, breathing and paying bills — is indeed RM33 from every citizen’s pocket.

Thus the sexy stories. The billions spread out all over the PKFZ in quaint Port Klang, the various mega-projects and the future billions.

Talking about future, we still own one of the biggest energy firms in the world — Petronas — but the rakyat is deemed too simple to be informed of what our nationally-owned corporation earns, and surreptitiously spends.

That only the blue bloods in the country can truly know, they have pedigree and had better tutors in their teenage years, I’m only guessing.

Again, all that does not matter.

They are indeed sexy and they do make those who are quite upset with the Barisan Nasional to be even more determined not to like them. Their hatred might multiply along with their blood pressure levels, but their vote remains single.

After whipping up a media storm, you have to then settle down and accept the reality that you do not win new votes on those issues. And they sit in the same stagnation pit as other issues — religion and ethnic prioritisation or polarisation (you be the judge of that).

The above issues are critical and will always matter, but they do not win you new votes, if anything they only underline the paradigm divides in the country.

The billions do not matter because the majority of Malaysians, who are incidentally working class, feel irrespective of who is in power they’d never get to touch the billions. Billions are the games people with Ferrari showrooms play, workers just try to get by paycheque to paycheque.

They’d be more upset if Astro increases their fees by RM33. That would mean cutting into their income if they did not want to cut off from the world of pop stars and new songs. And most would cave in because they are simple people, and having a blaring set in the living room is nice.

Not profound, but profound is not what necessarily wins elections.

A person with a degree from Melbourne might think the education qualifies him to tell people what should be important to them. Maybe he is right, the issues have to be better, and the reasoning should be “big picture” driven.

But maybe he should have spent time sharing a few beers with a couple of Bogans, to know how people with less feel. Then he learns about new voters.

The winning discussions begin with the now and here.

The real issue of present-day Malaysia, and it is hot, is education.

Say education and you have parents and potential parents’ interest. Thanks to decades of almost-exclusively public schools, most voters have a first-hand knowledge of state-powered education.

Our public schools are collapsing.

It is not about maths and science in English or not — which is an upper middle-class urban issue — nor about “Interlok” being a nasty book — there are countless nasty things in public schools for minorities which I have very personal knowledge about.

The resources are stretched beyond repair thanks to a politically inherited four-separate but equal schooling systems co-existing with race-motivated remote boarding schools.

The exams dominate the classrooms not the learning. Tuition casts a shadow over schools and now teachers are streaming kids to the top class (read: salvageable) and then giving a cursory glance to the “other” kids (read: the future needs dispatch riders too).

We need to spend more for our public schools, corporatise those with potential and introduce the school-based assessment tandem with aptitude tests. That should have been done yesterday.

Tying in priority is healthcare. Malaysia is producing record number of nurses, graduating doctors as quickly as they get cadavers and making ads about us being a health-tourism destination.

The question remains as more and more procedures, treatments and preventive measures appear, how much of it will be there for the average Malaysian?

The government points to some of the more affordable healthcare plans available, but it does not canvas.

The birth-rate numbers in Malaysia after decades of great growth are sliding. We are no Japan, but as more people age with less on pension and little shield with their savings the question of healthcare will increase in focus by the year.

This will not be the odd child with a hole in the heart seeking care through the donations of the public. The number will increase enough that the question will continue popping-up on whether Malaysia advertises to care for tourists with dollars but is not particularly concerned if the same modern and robust medical products reach the general Malaysian.

The trio of issues are completed by jobs, the bleeding of them and the lack of generating them.

The government does not tire of mentioning of how the GDP is more positive than expected in 2010, and plays down the possible blip this year. Neither do the rumours that 2011 will be the year of spending to a good time in Malaysia.

That does not necessarily deal with the pressing need to have new jobs to replace the old ones leaving our shores. The government keeps emphasising that our economy is transforming, and if not enough then they will spend their way to transform it. Which is a convoluted way of saying the old jobs may not be here for your children.

Then what will be our children’s jobs? The high-income jobs which will come from the very same industries? The old jobs might have not been very plain — palm oil estates, electronics factories, etc — but they were planned out and went on for decades.

A lot of the present economic activities are about Malaysian firms operating abroad or in low-labour intensive industries, so the gap being filled by adding the number of civil servants and forcing GLCs to not cut down bloated numbers.

That is stop-gap.

A discussion about the economy is a discussion about jobs, but starting the conversation with jobs gets more ears. No one with a mortgage and car loan ridicules the shortage of new jobs.

Education, healthcare and jobs transcend race and religion, or the perceived corruptions. They decide if people live or not, and if they live do they have a life worth preserving.

The quicker those issues are engaged in a way that makes sense to the people living the insensible reality, then the quicker new votes will trickle in a different direction. Government is not about morality alone, most times it is about keeping people alive well so that they have time to moralise.

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