Can bribery win the elections?

by P. Ramakrishnan

Never ever did we have an occasion when the Barisan Nasional government had indulged in such a blatant form of corruption as have in recent times! For almost a year, the Prime Minister has been on a bribing binge to entice Malaysians with all kinds of goodies and cash payments.

Let us not misunderstand or misinterpret this BN gesture as the generosity of a caring government. It is only the reaction of a frightened government that stands to lose its grip on power and foolishly thinks that voters can be bought easily to avert the impending disaster!

If it was the generosity of a caring heart, then this so-called-assistance could have been the order of the day as soon as Najib took over as Prime Minister from his predecessor in 2009. But that did not take place.

Only when he realised that Malaysians are truly fed up with the BN for all the policies that only favoured the cronies and marginalised the majority of Malaysians without connections did he, in dire desperation, resort to bribing the voters!

Does he really think that all these years of neglect and indifference to the plight of the poor and the weak will be obviated by suddenly splashing money and appearing to be caring? Does he really think that Malaysians have such a short memory that all the past ills, exploitation, corruption and plundering will be forgotten and forgiven?

This was what Tun Mahathir used to think, and it worked in his time not because Malaysians were insensitive to his rotten governance. It was simply because he was all powerful that he could detain Malaysians at will, rob them of their freedom and liberty – on false charges as happened to Anwar and put the fear into them. But the rakyat remembered how innocent people had to pay a heavy price so that he could continue to remain in power.

Payback time came in March 2008 and the voters really relished routing the BN in four states and denying them their two-thirds majority in parliament!

Coming back to the point, how is it that there is so much money now to throw about so freely to entice the voters but incredibly there is no money when it comes to deserving causes and needs?

Many necessary and vital drugs are not available to the poor and the disadvantaged at general hospitals in contrast to how powerful people seem to get everything for nothing simply because there is insufficient allocation for the needs of the poor.

Nexium, for example, is an effective drug for gastritis. I was on it once and it helped me tremendously. I asked the doctor who prescribed it to me what it was. And he replied, “This is what doctors take when they have gastritis!”

Recently I was with a friend when he went to see the specialist about his medication. He was suffering from a severe case of gastritis. I related to the specialist my own experience as to how Nexium helped me greatly. He curtly replied, “If we give Nexium to every patient, the government will go bankrupt.”

It was a stupid response. You don’t prescribe Nexium to every patient – only to the deserving and those in real need of it. If it is true that the government can go bankrupt by making available effective drugs to people who are sick, why is it that it doesn’t go bankrupt by throwing billions of ringgit indiscriminately to bribe the voters?

The government coffers are seemingly bottomless when it comes to enticing the voters but strangely it seems hard-pressed for cash when it comes to the essentials. But these doctors have no qualms in prescribing this expensive medicine to their friends and the titled patients who come to them. Economic consideration only comes to play when the poor are involved!

Likewise, poor heart patients don’t have access to effective medication because they are expensive,  but they are essential and necessary for certain heart patients. Strangely, it can be dispensed to the wealthy and the connected without a second thought. But it seems to become a problem when it has to be dispensed to the poor.

Last year that there was a big cut in the allocation for medicine, causing problems in purchasing medicine and for this year again there was a reduction of 50%, which will make it even more difficult for the poor to obtain their medication at general hospitals.

Not only that, there was also a 50% reduction for in-service training programmes in the Penang General Hospital which are meant to improve the skills and enhance the knowledge of hospital personnel. It is imperative that this training be continued so that doctors and staff can be kept up to date with medical developments in the interest of the patients under their care.

Certain equipment could not be purchased by the general hospital because there was no allocation last year. As a result, certain investigations have to be carried out at private hospitals with the necessary equipment at exorbitant costs, which is not a problem to the wealthy. But for the poor it is a long wait stretching over many months before they can have access to this facility. Some sadly don’t make it through the long wait.

In certain departments at the hospital, doctors are squeezed into cubicles because there is no allocation for expansion. They work in extremely taxing conditions with little or no space for themselves and their patients. Is it a wonder that many doctors prefer to go to the private sector where they are more comfortable and earn many times what they are paid in government hospitals?

Welfare assistance and pensions for old timers are shockingly meagre in these times of rising prices and hardship. They deserve to be given extra assistance monthly so that they can live in dignity. When it comes to regular assistance, there is no money but when it comes to one-off giveaways that run into billions, we are never short of money.

But Najib is simply throwing money in a one-off effort to win over voters, not minding whether it is prudent or otherwise. What is the point in throwing money for smart phones? Who benefits from this scheme?

Likewise giving RM100 and RM200 to students irrespective of their financial background makes no sense. Why give to the wealthy students? By not giving to the well-to-do students, more could be given to deserving poor students. That would be meaningful assistance. That would make economic sense.

As for the recipients of BRIM 1.0 and 2.0, what do they do after the one-off payments? How do they survive for the rest of the year? Shouldn’t they be put on welfare assistance so that their lives will be less burdensome? But Najib is not interested in long-term assistance to the deserving. He is only interested with his immediate problem: how to get elected!

We cannot have a government that places so much importance on its survival and cares very little in solving the long-term hardship of the citizens. We cannot condone the conduct of a corrupt government that goes around bribing the voters.

Instead of debating their policies and ideas to overcome the predicament faced by the people, the BN leaders are resorting to bribing in order to stay in power. All that they are good for is money politics and nothing else! We must destroy this culture of corruption. That can only be done by getting rid of the BN!


This article first appeared in Free Malaysia Today

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