Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Malaysia's new Deputy PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and PM Datuk Seri Najib Razak

There are 29 ministers and 40 deputy ministers in our new cabinet making a total of 69 MPs in the Malaysian Parliament. A look at their pictures (see previous post below) shows an overwhelming number are aged 50+. PM Dauk Seri Najib Razak is 56. His deputy cum Minister of Education, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is 63. Minister of Women, Family & Community Development, Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, is 56, and Minister of Health, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai is 58. By the time they have completed their term in office, they would be well into their 60s. As for the handful of younger MPs, they are already within sight of the 50+ milestone. Would the new cabinet ministers who are themselves senior citizens adopt a more pro-active rather than a reactive approach to making life easier for the warga emas (golden citizens)?

Former PMs Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Dato' Seri Abdullah Badawi

To my knowledge, former PMs Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed, 84, and Dato’ Seri Abdullah Badawi, 70, have never addressed any issues on ageing or given any motivational speech to pensioners who have served in the civil service for much of their lives. Talk about showing gratitude and appreciation! No wonder our civil service is in such a sorry state. Upon leaving government service, many of these rank and file pensioners are left to fend for themselves on pensions that are half of their last drawn pay. No advice on how best to manage their health, time and living expenses in their retirement years.

The official retirement age is 58, but there is no retirement age for MPs, of course. It would be interesting to see whether life for the 50+ will change for the better under the new administration. Those aged 60 and above make up around 6.5% of the population. The figure is expected to reach 10% by 2035, at which point Malaysia would be classified as an ageing nation by United Nations definition. But why wait till then?

All Malaysians who are eligible to vote are either current or future senior citizens. We have given the government of the day the mandate to look after the welfare of all citizens, regardless of race, age, gender, status or creed. To improve the welfare of senior citizens, the government should

~ set up a clinic in every major shopping complex, and a senior citizens clubhouse in every electoral division
~ upgrade the facilities in all existing community halls
~ build affordable government-funded retirement homes
~ provide free public transport for all retirees and pensioners as well as free medical and dental treatment at all government hospitals

Bus schedules look good only on paper

Long queues are a common sight at government clinics. (The Star)

Waiting for visitors at an old folks home. (The Star)

That's only for starters. There's no need for government officials to spend millions of taxpayers' money on visits abroad to study retirement homes in Florida, or the public transport system in Japan. For models to adopt, they only have to look across the causeway.

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