Current Affairs

Politics necessary, even in garbage collection

IMG_1877Improvements to local government is a question of change in ideology and the presence of politicians in local councils, the DAP has said.

At the “Revisiting the Athi Nahappan report” conference organised by think-tank Research for Social Advancement (REFSA) held last Friday, Kluang MP Liew Chin Tong argued that a change in ideology would result in better governance at the local government level.

“If you want a country that pays Malaysians better, I think it is not the Idris Jala formula, but the ‘Liew Chin Tong formula’, that is to pay garbage collectors better,” he said during the discussion.

He said that under UMNO governance in Penang before Pakatan Rakyat had taken over, solid waste  contracts were given to cronies. He refered to the Seberang Prai council in Penang, saying that it used to have more than a hundred 100 contractors, but when Pakatan took over, efforts were made to bring this number down to 30.

“From July 1, 2014, the entire collection of solid waste and urban cleansing was entirely  taken in-house,” he said.

Liew, who is also DAP political education director, said that the difference when there were 100 contractors, the contractors did not invest in machine tools, resulting in open top garbage trucks that carried waste as opposed to compactors.

The reason for this was the short tenure given to contractors. This was also the reason why the contract was subcontracted twice.

“There will have no incentive to invest in machine tools. And knowing how contract jobs are given – you give to one contractor, the contractor would sub to another contractor, the third contractor will sub to another contractor, and the last guy who takes the contract would say well, I’ve just got a small margin (profit), what can I do? I would hire foreign workers to do the job,” he said, adding that this is how you see a Malaysian garbage truck driver with four or five foreign workers.

He said that in Penang, the Pakatan led government took back all contracts within 5 years, and then hired 2,00 Malaysians at the salary of RM 1,500. Cost went up marginally, added to the state government’s purchase of new machines, which cost another RM 20 million.

However, the improved machinery and the increase in wages in the case of Seberang Prai meant that they had to cut foreign workers from five to two Malaysians, but with better pay.

“So is there ideology in garbage collection? Yes.”

This ideology he said was key in understanding how garbage collection is done, how to handle cronies and to generate more employment for more Malaysians.

Liew said that since there was a need for ideology, there should be political leadership even at the bottom – local councils.

“There must be leaders who are responsive to the public and also leading with vision,” he said.

This was in response to suggestions that only Non Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and not politicians should be councilors.

“To think that NGO councilors are of supreme intellect in not necessarily the answer to our questions,” he said.

He said that the solution to local government issues, is that government should not outsource thinking to private sector interests.

The government, he said, should to play the part of a rubber stamp to approve ideas by the private sector or NGOs. Also, he added that its responsibility is not to play peacemaker between NGOs in when there are conflicting ideas.

“We want a government that thinks for itself and organises various interests in the society so that there are consistent and coherent policies,” he said.

-The Rocket

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