Addressing the elite gap

Global income inequality is the dominant seed for social and political upheaval across the world.

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Published by MalaysiakiniThe Malay Mail & Sinchew, images from Malaysiakini

The overthrow of BN in the 14th general election was primarily fueled by the largesse of Umno leaders and their cronies redlining the spending engine into overdrive. 

The response of Pakatan Harapan has been to pump the brakes while shifting into reverse. Try that in your Proton and you’ll be on the bus faster than you can say “national car”.

The fact is, then and now, the only ones riding smoothly through the storm has been the political and business elite. This is not unique to Malaysia, of course. 

Global income inequality is the dominant seed for social and political upheaval across the world, and the loudest rallying cry for nationalists and nationalism everywhere – from Donald Trump to Narendra Modi to Brexit to Italy’s Five Star and France’s Yellow Vests.

In Malaysia, nationalism is termed identity politics and we are heading down that sinkhole again, thanks to Umno and PAS playing on the highly-strung nerves of disgruntled middle and lower class voters – ironically the same demographic that got shafted by them in the last two terms of the former administration.

Do you think it’s likely to be different this time? That answer is ‘yes’, it will be far worse for those left outside the power and moneyed elite. 

Not only will they lose the continuity of the policies instituted by Harapan, following the major initiatives of its rakyat-friendly manifesto, but there will be a new raid on the goodies by those at the top of the hierarchy.

This ugly truth of the reality of political change is the land grab by the new incoming kings and kingmakers. Democracy, after all, is a costly affair for the average Joe.

What we do know is that Harapan tightened the belt as soon as it took office, and Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first order of business was the restoration of the nation’s financial assets. 

By contrast, the “cash is king” dictate of the Najib Abdul Razak regime resulted in a feeding frenzy more in common with African dictatorships than Asian democracies. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.

While it is the right of the people to choose their leaders, flawed as ever they may be, it is nevertheless the dutiful obligation of those leaders to exercise their power with honor and responsibility. 

The leaders of a democratic nation, or for that matter an autocratic one, are the last defence of the common citizen. History has shown that ignoring this golden rule of service will result in a decline and demise of the state.

We were perhaps oblivious to this over the last 62 years, under single-party dominated rule. Even states that appear to be exempt from this rule, like Singapore under PAP, will eventually succumb if they do not change their ways of arrogance and impunity. 

The case for this was made ever so elegantly by Diana Sharma, an 89-year old Singaporean pensioner, in an open letter to PAP party cadres posted online.

Her two impassioned pleas were for the elites to 1) recognise the current state of affairs and to 2) serve with moral integrity. She asks for leaders to stand alongside common citizens to give them support against ever-rising cost-of-living, and increasing their income so that they can participate in the knowledge-based, high wages economy. 

As the digital transformation looms this has never been truer, and must include fair access to education and training for all. She asks that we reflect deep in ourselves to see if we are serving the people’s best interests; and if not to step away from our self-interest alone and contribute towards building a system that contributes to equality and the common good, over the interests of the elitist few.

Harapan would be well-served to take her sage advice as a means of avoiding our own early demise in GE15. By-elections results have shown that we have many Dianas lurking within our own voting ranks. 

It is still doable as Harapan has some time. About 3.5 years.

Dr. Rais Hussin is President & CEO of EMIR Research, an independent think-tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

文章来源:星洲日报 (Sin Chew)

在第14届大选中推翻国阵的人主要都是因为厌恶巫统领袖及其朋党让财务引擎超速运转。希盟的反应只是刹了车并倒档退后。你可以用你的寳腾汽车尝试一下,你将会发现速度比你说出“国产汽车”要快。

事实是,那时和现在,唯一能顺利躲过风暴的人是政治和商业精英。当然,这并非大马独有。全球收入不平等是全世界社会和经济动荡的主要因素,也是各地民族主义者和民族主义大声疾呼的声音──从特朗普到莫迪到英国脱欧到意大利五星级到法国黄背心。

在大马,民族主义被称为“身分认同政治”,而我们正再次往那个污水坑里走,多得巫统和伊党在不满的中下选民阶层中挑拨大家紧张的神经──讽刺的是,这群人也是在前朝政府执政最后两届时出现动摇的人。

你认为这次可能会有所不同吗?答案是肯定的,对于那些没有权力和金钱的精英来说,情况将更糟。随着几项亲人民宣言的重大措施,他们不仅失去希盟制定的政策的持续支持,而且在最高层的人将再次对这些糖果进行抨击。政治改革的现实和丑陋真相就是这些新国王和造王者夺取的土地。毕竟,对于普通人来说,民主是昂贵的东西。

我们所知道的是,希盟上任后立即绑紧腰带,而敦马哈迪的第一项命令是恢复国家的财务资产。相比之下,纳吉政权的“现金为王”指令导致出现了如同非洲独裁政权之下的疯狂,多于亚洲民主。疯狂的定义是重复做同样的事情,并期望得到不同的结果。

尽管人民有权利选择领袖,尽管他们的权利可能存在缺陷,但这些领袖应该尽好自己的义务,以荣誉和责任来行使本身的权力。民主国家的领袖,或者在这里是专制的领袖,是一般民众的最后一道防线。历史表明,忽略这一黄金规则将导致国家走向衰败和灭亡。

在过去的62年,我们在一党独大的统治下可能对此一无所知。即使是看起来不受此约束的国家,例如新加坡的人民行动党(PAP),如果他们不愿意改变傲慢和豁免权,最终也会屈服。

89岁的新加坡退休人士Diana Sharma写给人民行动党党员的公开信中,针对精英提出了两项请求:1)认识国家当前的情况,以及2)保持道德上的正直。她要求领袖与一般民众并肩作战,为他们提供支持以应付不断上升的生活费用并增加他们的收入,以让他们能够参与以知识为基础的高薪经济。随着数码转型迫在眉睫,她要求政府让所有人都能够公平获得教育和培训机会。她要求我们深入思考,看看我们时候在为人民的最大利益服务;否则就应该抛开个人利益,并建立一个制度为平等和共同利益做出贡献,而不是仅仅为了少数精英的利益。

希盟应该好好地接受她明智的建议,以避免在第15届大选前提早覆灭,补选的成绩已经显示,我们的选民中有很多像Diana Sharma一样的人。希盟还有一些时间来实施这些建议。大约3年半的时间。

莱士胡先是EMIR Research的总裁兼首席执行官,EMIR Research是一家致力于数据驱动型政策研究的智囊团,主要围绕敬业度,适度,创新和严谨原则。

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