Greek tragedy

The facts below are  about Greece and taken from 2 online websites

A.  AFP news published in  France24,

1. “We calculate 1.2 million people including contract workers. The civil servants’ union says 700,000. The finance ministry says 800,000” –size of the civil service

(Greece has a population of 11 millions)

2. “And civil servants get bonuses for dressing well and reporting to work on time,”

3. “In parliament, staff work for 12 months but receive 16 (month) salaries.”

4. “This monster was created by politicians,”

(monster refers to the civil service)

5. Packed with political supporters of governments past and present — and often operating on its own rules — the Greek civil service has gorged itself to such a degree that even its nominal masters have trouble deciding where to start trimming waste.

B. Facts From Independent IE.

6. there were special payments for using computers, and there was a spinster pension for the unmarried daughters of deceased government employees.

7. Some civil servants were able to retire on a pension as early as their forties. Foresters received a bonus for working outdoors.

END RESULTS:   GREECE IS NOW BROKE AND IS THREATENING TO BRING DOWN WORLD ECONOMY

…………………………………………………………………………..

Malaysia:

1.3 million civil servants

Possible pay rise of 40%  to civil servants

Productivity increase not in pace with pay rise

More budget deficits

Higher inflation since more money in the system

Are we going the way of the Greeks?

From roundabout to democracy

Those of you who stay in PJ would have at one time or another encountered the snarling jam in the now infamous Rothsman Roundabout.

This is the roundabout that links 4 busy roads: Jalan Universiti leading to sections 16 and 17, jalan Semangat leading to section 14, the road that connects to ss2/24, and jalan 19/1 leading to section 19 industrial area.

This roundabout is famed for its deadlocked jam. Whenever motorists come to this junction, all their sanity appears to have just disappeared, and what takes its place was the kiahsu mentality, with each vehicle trying to outdo another to squeeze into whatever tiny space there is, in order just to be in front of the other car.

What results is a deadlock, which sometimes takes hours to clear.

During the rush hours, even with the presence of police, the jam is as bad ( some motorists claim it is worse), and motorists just disregard every rule and courtesy there is,  right in front of the law-enforcers, just to move into the deadlock.

In the beginning of this year, an upgrading operation was commenced, to turn this roundabout into a traffic light junction. It was scheduled to be completed months ago, but the completion date has been postponed and postponed and postponed again. The latest deadline for completion is supposed to be end of September, which is tomorrow. But there is still no sign of any semblance of a traffic light junction yet, as of today (when I passed it this morning) .

(courtesy of sinchew.com)

In the mean time, traffic jam has become worse, since the area is now so full of potholes and trenches that cars have to slow down , making the already bad situation worse.

Someone commented to me that this type of work would take only a week for a provincial town in China to complete, and it would probably take Hong Kong or Singapore one month .  But it is now 9 months, and still there is no end to it.

A lot of people thought that by voting  the opposition into State government, this type of routine work would be greatly hastened. That would only be an illusion.

 I have often told the young people that we must not expect wonders or miracles  if we vote opposition into government. This is because policy change takes years. Culture change would take even longer. In Malaysia, the tidak apa attitude and the manhole syndrome have been so ingrained into the minds of the little napoleans that it would take probably a generation to change the mindset. We must not expect drastic changes to take place, when we vote  the opposition into  government.

This also brings up a point that it is easier to be in the opposition and be critical of whatever it is; but once in government, even opposition leaders realise that it is often not as easy to push through a scheduled  work like the above example, as they must have thought. There are simply too many red tapes and man-made ‘blockage’ for any project to complete.

I quote this Rothmans Roundabout as an example as to how work is still as snail-paced as before in Selangor, even with the change of government.

Having said that, I would still want to reiterate that we need to have a 2 party system in the country first, before we can slowly do away with this “manhole” tidak apa culture. There is always   a first step when a baby learns to walk.

Just do not have too high an expectation even if the other side comes into power..

For the long term good of the country, I believe that we, despite all these inconvenience, need to put in place an mechanism for change first.  We must first put in place a check and balance system so that in the event we do not see the results from one side, after a reasonable period of time, we can kick that side out and put the other side in.

That is the spirits of democracy, and in order for us achieve this, we must be prepared, for one term at least,  to let the opposition take charge..

Retiring at 60

When should we retire?

Conventional wisdom  has it that people should retire at age around 55.. But that was because in the past , an average person  died at age of 60 plus.

Life expectancy at birth is now about 75 , according to the latest UNICEF figures.

This means that for an average person who retires at 55, there will be 20 years of idle time . This also means that for an average person, if he retires at 55, he must find means to support himself for another 20 years. Compare this  with the average working life of about 30-35 years, and it means that for every one and half year an average person works, he must save up a year of expenses for retirement. But this is for the average person.

Even with a life expectancy of 75, there will be many  who die at 65.  For a person who dies at 65, it would mean that he needs only to save up for  10 years expenses after retirement, a prospect which many find not so bad.

For for everyone that dies at 65, there will be a person who dies at 85, and this person has to think of 30 years of expenses (with probably 30 years of working life).

The problem with all of us is that even with a life expectancy of 75, we will not know whether we belong to the group that dies at 65, and hence only needs 10 years saving for retirement or whether we will be in the group that dies at 85, and needs 30 years of saving to sustain us.

For the average population, retiring at 55 while the life expectancy has gone up means that it would be more difficult to sustain his expenses during his retirement. This is especially true  for health cost which tends to increase when a person gets older.. Since the older you get, the more medical problems you will have.

Just for this purposes, a person should be allow to work longer and retire later.

There are other reasons for supporting this. A person at 55 is still useful. In most cases, a person around 55 is  actually at or has just gone past his prime . By prime, i mean around 45-55, a golden age for any workforce– a person would have enough experience and yet has gone through certain trials and tribulations of life. So for a person at 55, it would be a waste of talents if he were to retire to a life of idleness.

There is thus a case of extending retirement age.

On the other hand, retirement age should be made more flexible, even if it is extended. It is because some of the people who, having worked all their lives, would like to try new adventures by opening their own business. There are also those who would like to travel and see the world. This group is of course the more well off group, and is not  really representative of the main work force.

So to cater for all workforce, I agree that minimum retirement age should be extended to 60, with the option that the person should be allowed to work longer if he wishes too, as long as he passes the requirement physical examination.

In extending retirement age, we should however, not forget the younger work force, and every chance must be taken to ensure that there are ample job opportunity and promotion chances for the young.. This will depend greatly on moving the economy onwards and upwards… expanding our economy and moving up the innovative ladder would do wonders in catering for the younger workforce while taking care of the older working population.

No hudud for me!

Like Karpal Singh, who is dead against Hudud law (he has famously said the phrase “over his dead body”), I am not in favour of changing our law system into an Islamic one.

The reason is simple: there are 40% nonMuslims in the country. It would be unfair to implement a religious law on people who belong to another faith.. And faith is something very personal; you can force a person to change his name, you cannot change his mind about what he believes and not believes..

It is also implied in our constitution that Malaysia is a secular country. Even Bapa Malaysia, Tunku ABdul rahman, who was the person most involved in Independence of this country, had acknowledged  that Malaysia is a secular country..

Many non-Muslims oppose to the implementation of Hudud..PAS and PKR, if they continue to sing this tune, would find that some of these votes which are inclined towards them may just disappear..

We all know that even if PR is to govern, they would probably not implement Hudud, since DAP as a component is dead against it.. But that was before PKR throws in the support behind Hudud. Now that PKR’s defacto leader has openly supported Hudud, it is another story.

I think it is unwise for PKR and PAS to harp on Hudud, when there are many other avenues to win back the Malay rural votes..

It is a strategic move on the part of the Old Horse when he raised Hudud issue and dared PAS to implement Hudud in Kelantan.. It is a move to won back nonMuslim votes, and it would be wise not to fall into the trap of the OLD Horse..So old and yet still so wily..

I think PAS’s vice president,Salahuddin AYub, has a point when he asked that PR stop discussing this issue today.. It is wise not to take for granted the support of nonMuslims, since the support for PR is not so much for their policies, but more because of the loath for BN..

The essence of freedom of speech

PAS No.2 was charged in court today.

Whether this has got the approval of PM, or this is just the action from the Home Ministry or AG , I don’t know.

What I do know is that this runs contrary to what PM’s promise to give the people more freedom, which must include freedom of speech.

Whether we agree with Mat Sabu or not is immaterial, we all must defend his right to say what he has said.

That is the essence of freedom of speech.

Do or Die battle!

Hardly a week has passed and resistance to PM within his own turf is surfacing. UM, the party paper, has suggested that the spirits of ISA be retained in the new laws to be enacted.

 Perkasa, has also begun pressuring the PM by saying that the new laws should not differ much from ISA.

The Old Horse gave support to abolishing the law, but then in the same breath , he is talking about extremists surfacing when ISA is done away.

All these are subtle signs of sabotage. These acts will make people skeptical of the PM’s move.

As Pak Lah has mentioned, there will be resistance from within, as was in his time. I believe that many instances during Pak Lah’s Premiership, his ministers and many top civil servants acted without his prior knowledge, like arresting people under ISA for protection. Many of the flip-flopping acts were due to huge resistance from inside too.

The war has started, and I expect the hardliners to slowly and steadily chip away PM’s support base, by saying or doing things that would be contrary to what he has promised.

The new laws are being drafted and we would not know what it would be. Do not discount the possibilities of those officers drafting the laws to adopt passive sabotage, such as delaying tactic.

I hope that the PM realises that once he has made the announcement, he has no more room to maneuvre. If the new laws are just repackaging, or what i like to call old wine in new bottle, whatever  credibility he has left would be gone. He has to keep to the spirits of his announcement that there would be more liberal and open society if he wants to gain support from the middle ground and keep his position intact in UMNO.

This reminds me of the story of Xiang Yu, who was a general in the Qin Dynasty (around 200BC). In one of his battles against the enemy, which outnumbered him 20 to 1 and which had his army surrounded against the bank of a river, he ordered his men to destroy all boats and all but 3 days of rations, and all cooking utensils. His men knew that if their only way to survive would be to defeat the overwhelming enemy army facing them, since so with a ferocity seldom seen in battles, their men fought their way forward and overran their enemies. This has become a classic legend in the History of China and a classic move in military strategy books.

I think PM must visualise himself as being pinned against the river, and thus has to push through what he promised on the eve of Malaysia Day. To go back on his word would be political suicide, and the only chance of survival would be for him to move ahead and fight head-on with those  trying to sabotage him. Revamp Utusan if needed be. Shut down Perkasa if needed be.. Kick out his No. 2 if needed be, like what Old Horse has done to a few of his NO.2s.

Lesson from the past

Despite certain reservations, I am happy that finally PM has taken the bold step forward and announced the repeal of ISA and the relaxation oer certain restriction on civil liberties.

Even if this announcement is meant to gain votes for the next GE, I will still be happy if it can be carried out as promised and it can lead to more freedom for the society. WHAT IS important is that the rakyat gets better lives and more freedom, regardless of the motives behind such announcement.

This would not have been possible if not for the fact that BN has lost its 2/3 majority after 308. This is further proof that a 2 party system, no matter  how imperfect it may be, is better than a single-dominant-party rule.

The million dollar question remains that whether such reform can be carried out as promised.

In 2004, Pak Lah has promised the sky but we not only did not see the sky, but we lost our ground too.

To answer the million dollar question posted above, we need to look at history, since history, as I have often stated in this blog, can show us that   many  reformist governments  landed up as failure.

Since I am quite familiar with China History, i shall share with my readers  the so called ” Hundred Days  Reform”  which was carried out during the reign of Guang Xu, the 12th and last-but-one emperor of Qing Dynasty.

When the Last-but-two emperor of Qing Dynasty, TongZhi,  passed away ( unofficial sources said he died of syphilis but that was outside this topic), he left no children, so Empress CiXi, installed Tongzhi’s cousin, who was also her  younger sister’s son,  Zaitian, as the new emperor. He was known as  Guangxu.

Guangxu ascended the throne at age 4 with Empress CiXi as the regent.  She was all powerful and was known in History as the Empress Dowager. All the ministers were all her people and no one dared to oppose her, as doing so would result in whole tribe being executed, in those feudal days.

Guangxu was given back his reign when he was 17 (Chinese age 18), and he ws vry much influenced by his teacher, who was reformed minded.

At that time, China was very weak, and was bullied by Western powers, and a resurgent Japan which had just undergone the Meiji restoration. After losing the opium war, China had to sign a number of unequal treaties and as a result ceded Hong Kong, Macau etc to the western power.

Guangxu knew that the only way to save China was to reform , as in the case of Japan under the Meiji Emperor.

He appointed a few reform minded minsiters like  Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao.

At that time, there were 2 schools of thought among those reformed minded Chinese intellectuals . One like Kang and Liang wanted to save China through reforming the Qing government, using Japan as a model; the other school thought that to have a thorough reform, Qing Dynasty had to be overthrown and a new reform minded government, in the form of democracy , would be the only answer. The latter school influenced people like Sun Yat Sun and Wang JiWei.

Empress CiXi, despite allowing Guangxu to finally sit on the throne to decide matters of the State, did not let go all her powers. She remained literally behind the throne and listened to how the matters of the State were being run, and many a time, she had the ultimate say through her connections with other royalties sitting as major advisers to the Emperor.

Guangxu with his reform team instituted the Hundred Days Reform,  aiming at instituting sweeping  political, legal, social changes. However, the change was deemed too drastic, and they lost support of most of the conservatives and the important ministers, who turned to Empress Cixi for help. Even among the population, many could not accept such drastic changes.

In the end, even the general Yuan shikai, commanding a modern army ,  who the reformists turned for help in ensuring power, turned against them and revealed their plans to Cixi. In the end, the reform was put to an end, through the use of army loyal to Cixi. Liang and Kang fled and escaped, but Emperor Guangxu was put under house arrest and was rumoured to be poisoned one day before the death of Cixi, many years later.

What can we learn from this?

That changes will always be opposed. Unless these opposing forces can be tamed, reform would not succeed.

To tame these forces, support from those holding the power levers , such as those with gun barrels are very important.  (Mao had famously said that power came from the barrels of guns )

Support from the people is of utmost important, for the opinion of the people influences those holding the power levers.

These people who hold the power levers would likely turn to a former Ally when their own interest are being threatened. In the Qing case, they turned to cixi.

In Malaysia, they would likely unite under the Old Horse when their own interest are threathened.

This piece of history would serve our PM well, to remind him that to push through changes, he needs to be determine and had a steely resolve. He needs to be prepared to do political battles with his ministers and other warlords, not only within his party, but outside in the civil service as well, especially those holding the power levers.

ANother valuable lesson is that ultimately, 13 years after the failure of the Hundred Days Reform, Qing was overthrown, and Republic of China was born.

This means that if PM cannot overcome the resistance to change,  the government would be at a risk of being change.

I wish PM luck and success, and I sincerely hope that he can implement the changes ,. for the benefits of the people. I also believe that any failure of implementing what he has promised would result in change of regime.

This is the lesson from history!

Previous Older Entries