Thursday, October 4, 2012


'People-friendly'? Not unless it includes all the rakyat, including private sector retirees especially from the middle income group who are struggling with the rising cost of living but are not eligible for welfare or most of the budget goodies. (Photo grab from NST 29 Sept '12)

Let's get this straight. All pensioners are retirees, but not all retirees are pensioners. In Malaysia, it matters which category you fall under after you punch out for the last time at your place of work. If you are a pensioner, your future looks secure. The government will provide for you, AND even after your demise, your spouse is looked after. No wonder our civil service is the biggest in the world in relation to our population. So many perks and handouts!

In Budget 2013 that was announced last Friday, if you are a pensioner you will be out celebrating yet another windfall from the government. If you are not a civil servant retiree, you will be scrapping the bottom of the windfall barrel and searching for whatever miserable crumbs that remain, if any at all.

While I am happy for the pensioners, and I do have many good friends who are pensioners, I sympathize with the retirees especially those from the middle income group. As mentioned in a previous post ("Little for seniors to cheer about in Budget 2012"), they do not qualify for welfare, and neither are they eligible for the one-off perks regularly given out before elections or before Budget Day, or whenever the government feels it's time to make the 1.42 million civil servants happy.

While it is understandable the government must take care of their own, shouldn't it also look after the welfare of other groups as well? What is this 'People First, Performance Now' and all the 1Malaysia sloganizing if not mere lip service? Slogans sound hollow if not backed up by action and results that are visible, not just perceived.

Practically all the senior citizens who were interviewed by the media for their reaction to Budget 2013 are pensioners or are eligible for welfare. Of course, they are overjoyed. And why not? They are grateful to the government for its generosity and heap praise on the PM for thinking of the 'people'.

The small people (the lower income group) are offered one-off perks and budget goodies. The writer should also ask lower middle income retirees from the private sector for their views as well. 

Try interviewing a retiree from the lower or middle income group who is not a civil servant. Ask for his comments on the budget. His answer is probably #%*@!!! - not printable!

Giving one-off handouts is good only for the short term. What happens after the money is gone? I have personally overheard a student asking his friend at a book store what else to buy with their RM200 book voucher from an earlier handout. He had just purchased some stationery and obviously didn't enjoy reading books, much less textbooks for which the voucher was meant. There are also cases of people spending their RM500 voucher on upgrading their electrical gadgets, rather than on necessities. I am sure many of us can quote real life examples of misuse of these vouchers.

Retirees would welcome a discount card like this
one issued by the Queensland government.
So what are we asking for? Many retirees are depending on their savings to tide them over the next 10-20 years of retirement. Unless they have at least RM1 million saved, and unless their health continues to be good, paying for daily expenses, utilities, and servicing loans will eat into their nest egg.

For a start, the government can issue a seniors discount card to all retirees and pensioners aged 65 and above for the purchase of provisions, petrol, and for payment of utilities. I have two warga emas cards at the moment - one for 50% discount on RapidKL buses and trains (which I use almost every day), and the other (which I rarely use) for a 10% discount for medicines, health supplements and healthcare products purchased at Guardian. What we need is a discount card for purchases at supermarkets and petrol stations. RM200 used to be enough to see our family through a whole week. Now we would be lucky if it tides us over three days.

Mind-boggling numbers - all about spending and dishing out goodies to make the people 'happy'. Where is all this money coming from? According to The Star report, "The proposals (to reduce personal tax by 1%) will reduce the number of individual income taxpayers by 170,000 to 1.7 million as compared to the overall workforce of 12 million.

Handing out goodies like this is NOT sustainable. Total Federal Govt debt is expected to rise by 10.1% to RM502.4 billion. Of this figure, domestic debt accounts for 96.5% or RM484.8 billion. Yet the handouts keep on coming. When is this reckless spending going to stop? When the country goes belly up?

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Anonymous said...

Vote to throw out crumbs at 13th GE !

Anonymous said...

Ah Lily, you seem to forget that the grateful civil servants will convert their gratefulnessinto votes for the Federal Government!
So, the more goodies dished out to them, the more votes it gets!
This is another fixed deposit!
They really play it very safe!!!

seniorsaloud said...

Anonymous, no I didn't forget. How can anyone forget or not know? It's so shamefully obvious. Having said that, I also know that folks these days, especially those in the urban areas, are not that naive. They get the goodies too e.g. 50% off public transport, passport fees, income tax reduction, etc, but it doesn't necessarily mean they would vote the current govt back for another term. In any case, the govt is merely giving back to the rakyat what came from them in the first place. The rakyat are the tax payers and the consumers. Without the rakyat contributing, the economy is dead. So really, who should they be grateful to?

Anonymous said...

I am a pensioner. I wasn't a registered voter during my government service. I only started voting after retirement and it is my personal opinion that all government servants should be barred from voting to maintain their neutrality.

On the proposal of giving supermarket/petrol discount cards for retirees, a proper monitoring system should be in place first to deter abuses. Many years ago, I was told personally by a Superscale G officer who unashamedly claimed she applied for book loans for her school-going children even though she was not entitled to it. There are many free-loaders like her. And there are many retirees who are blessed with filial and well-off children who take good care of their parents. My monthly pension is nothing to shout about but because my two kids earn good salaries, I am comfortable and sufficient. Ideally discount cards should be for retirees who are struggling to make ends meet, and a monthly quota on essential items only.