I attended a round table talk on subsidy yesterday. Although most speakers spoke about the need to do away with the cost of living subsidy, like the subsidy for sugar, petrol and so on, what a young man said about being cynical impressed me most.
This young man began by saying that even though all the speakers spoke about the need to do away with subsidy, he was against the idea because being a cynical person, he doubted whether the money saved from abolishing the subsidy (direct and indirect subsidy comes to about 80 billionRM a year), will go to development and helping the poor. He said that being cynical, he thinks that this huge amount of money will go to someone else’s pockets and if so, why should he give up his right to subsidy?
His reason is based on one point only, and that is the whole system is rotten. I thought about it and I think he has a very valid point.
With the rotten system and everyone out to make a fast buck, whatever mechanism of doing away with the subsidy and using the amount saved to channel to development and helping the poor would just not work . Remember that time when the pump price of petrol went up to 2.70 from 1.92? The government promised to use the savings to channel into public transport and make it more efficient. Did we see any money going into the intended sector? A big No of course.
I can’t help but think that if the money saved from abolishing subsidy (the 80 billions) goes into private pockets and results in a few more PKFZ, even though I am all for abolishing subsidy gradually ( with safety nets in place such as cash coupons and cash cards to be given to the poor) , I would want to change my mind and go along with the thinking of this young man.
After all, if you have lived in Malaysia for the past 20 years, you can’t help but become cynical.