NOVEMBER 11 — Watching the annual national Budget presentation is a special kind of torture.
The ridiculous table banging, the smugness of whoever’s presenting as though we, the rakyat, should act as though it’s Christmas come early, and the numbers that hide more than they reveal.
Speaking of numbers, the re-emergence of Barisan Nasional’s Special Affairs Department or Jasa has become a hot topic as it should be.
Why are we bringing it back and giving it RM85 million when all we’re giving our frontliners (leaving out the hospital cleaners, again) is a paltry RM500 one-off cash gift?
I wonder if its director can again expect a cushy RM20,000 a month.
The rationale behind its comeback, which is apparently to “listen to the people” is some special kind of bull.
You don’t need RM85 million to hear the people; if China can make CCP members go down to the ground, to hear grievances and talk to the people, then this government can figure out how to do that — while following Covid-19 SOPs, of course.
Speaking of SOPs, it’s a wonder that none of the ministers got a telling-off when clearly some didn’t see the need to wear a mask during the Budget tabling and some were even wearing masks with valves.
Since no one is reminding the ministers, here’s a reminder: valved masks do not filter out the air you exhale and while they might still give you some protection from the virus, they do not protect other people from you. End of PSA.
I despise Jasa. At their worst, they were spreading partisan propaganda and marshalling bots as well as ordinary people to harass Malaysians who would not toe the government line.
Dissent is normal in any democracy and last I checked we weren’t living in an authoritarian dictatorship.
It was funny to me that people being paid by Jasa still added me on Facebook, as if they weren’t sending their goons to send me violent threats on social media and email.
The worst thing about all that targetted hate was that it worked. When you fill social media with hate, when the ordinary citizen has to claw through mountains of misinformation to learn anything about current affairs you can say Jasa was effective as a churner of vile propaganda.
What message, then, is this government sending by not only resurrecting what should have remained dead and buried, and pumping it to life with even more money?
There are a lot of things wrong with this year’s Budget — the lack of transparency, the questionably opaque means of dispersal, the baffling insertion of the fixing of streetlamps in the Budget speech (shouldn’t that be under general utility maintenance?) and the many potential ways the Budget will likely enrich those with vested interests.
What is apparent, however, is that this is a survival Budget — a Budget crafted not to ensure the rakyat have money in their pockets as many lose jobs and roofs over their heads, but to ensure this government remains in power with the help of generous friends.
Back to the drawing board with you, finance minister.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.