By P Ramakrishnan | Aliran executive committee member
28 December 2012
The Prime Minister seems to be playing Santa Claus. He is very generously dishing out goodies from seemingly bottomless coffers, convinced that Malaysians are a greedy, unthinking lot who can be bought easily.
Little does he realise that the Malaysians of today are a very perceptive and discerning lot who can see through his election ploy.
They know that the money that is being doled out does not come from Barisan Nasional coffers. If that was the case, then Malaysians can be grateful to the BN. But when he uses the people’s money to bribe them and expects them to be grateful to the BN, it is insulting their intelligence.
The new-found concern and compassion for Malaysians is very telling. It is nothing but a bait to fish for votes that will keep the BN in power. Malaysians will not fall for this ruse.
Housing has been a great problem for Penangites for the last thirty over years. The soaring prices have put houses beyond the reach of average Penangites. Thousands of Penangites have moved to the mainland to buy houses. An equal number of Penangites have bought houses in Kulim and Sungai Petani simply because they could not afford houses on the island.
The narrow streets and poor public transport had created horrendous congestion and pollution for Penangites, making their lives a nightmare. But this problem did not suddenly confront Penangites with the change in government on 8 March 2008. It has always been there.
Hardly anything substantive has been done by the BN to redress these problems. This neglect continued despite Penang producing a Prime Minister in the past. Penang has been marginalised for many decades. That is a fact.
The housing problem confronting Penangites has been there all along. Najib should have known this. He was the Deputy Prime Minister for more than five years after which he became Prime Minister, a position he has been holding for more than three years. In other words, he was in the forefront of the nation’s leadership for almost nine years.
How has he been blind to this grave situation all this while? He must have known this; yet he did nothing to alleviate the misery of the poor in Penang. He did nothing to solve this problem even when he became the Finance Minister.
It is not a question of finance for not building the much-needed houses in Penang. The BN seems to be never short of cash! It only means that the BN did not care for Penang in spite of the continued support that the BN received from Penang every time there was an election. We were just taken for granted!
During his visit to Penang on 8 December 2012, Najib said that “the opposition had failed to deliver on promises of affordable housing made when campaigning during the last election”. He further alleged, “They had promised that they would resolve the housing issue within two weeks of coming to power”.
I don’t seem to remember such a promise being made. If it was true that the opposition promised to solve the housing issue within two weeks of coming to power, then they must be stupid. Can houses be built that fast? The opposition has been in power for more than four years. With limited resources and burdened with carried forward debts, can this be solved within this period?
Let’s take a look at Najib’s promise. He promised to build 20,000 houses for Penang. He stated that under the 1Malaysia People’s Housing Scheme, “the first PRIMA project will involve some 2,000 units in Kampung Kastam, Bukit Glugor”. The ground-breaking for the project is expected to be next year and the project is slated for completion 36 months later.
In other words, with all the resources and expertise at hand, it would take the federal government three years just to build 2,000 houses. Yet he expects the opposition to build houses in “two weeks”!
What kind of houses is the BN going to build? According to him, “if the current unit costs RM500,000, we will sell it around RM300,000 only”. In would mean a 40 per cent discount. But the RM200,000 discount has to be absorbed by the government. It would cost RM400,000,000. For the 20,000 units promised, the government will have to fork out four billion ringgit!
What would be the monthly instalment for these houses? Who can afford to pay such instalments?
Now, even if the houses are to be bought at RM300,000, who will be buying these houses? Can the homeless poor and the low-income earners afford to buy these houses? Where is the BN’s concern for the poor? All their talk about caring for the poor and taking care of their welfare is now exposed as empty talk. There is no housing solution for the poor!
Why is the BN unable to start building immediately? According to him, federal-owned land and that belonging to agencies like the Penang Regional Development Authority, JKP Sdn Bhd and Syarikat Perumahan Nasional Bhd are available for this project. This land has been available for many years; so why was no attempt made previously to build houses to ease the housing problem. Why wait until next year?
This is where the BN comes across as hypocritical. He is making a conditional promise expecting support to be returned to power in order to build the houses. He is coercing Penangites to vote for BN. He did not say that these houses would be built irrespective of the outcome of the election results. He did not say that the BN will build these houses even if it lost the elections.
Will Najib dare to declare that he will build the promised houses even if Penangites voted for the opposition?
Prove your sincerity by making such a declaration. Malaysians are not that stupid. They will not be bribed with their own money!