Thursday, December 19, 2013

2014, The Year of Rising Prices

The recent announcement of price increases due to the withdrawal of subsidies have taken a lot of flak from many quarters. This is what follows when people have been used to subsidies and expect it to be as a matter of right. I am not saying that subsidies are wrong, but they were mostly a quick-fix solutions to emergent problems that have outlived their terms and had taken root as part of life.
                      When our rating took a turn for the worse, the powers that be responded with a knee-jerk action that took many by surprise. Now the resultant effect is being felt by all and sundry. Thus we shall welcome 2014 as the year of rising prices. No matter how much explanation are given to rationalise the increases in electric tariff, tolls, petrol, sugar and other necessities, the majority of our people have to bear the brunt as prices rise much faster than incomes which is the right recipe for inflation.
                     The announcement of the establishment of a laboratory to deal with the larger issue of the rise in cost of living is rather too little and too late an action to solve the pain. As a responsible government, it has to anticipate this critical issue, as the signs had been rearing its ugly head for a long time when the country had been living on a deficit for far too long and our overdependence on oil for generating revenue. We have seen how even developed countries have gone almost bankrupt due to their complacency in tackling their economic problems and we seemed to be oblivious to them. Now we are faced with the stark reality of joining their ranks. The rhetoric has to stop and the pain have to be dealt with in the most urgent manner.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Remembering Mandela

On Friday 06 December 2013,  the news of the passing away of Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected  President of South Africa was announced, after a prolonged illness. His famous words of the long walk to freedom as he was freed from prison after being interned for 27 years rang loudly for the whole world to remember until posterity. He was a leader who bore no malice against the regime who locked him up for more than a quarter century and became the President who exhibited great magnanimity and embarked on a peaceful reconciliation of the black majority and the white minority whose government upheld Apartheid policy of segregation between the coloured people and the whites. 
            Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 and he died at the age of 95. In 1961 he was the leading figure in forming the armed wing of the African National Congress and in 1963 he stood for trial with 10 others and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964. He was freed on February 11, 1990 by the last white President of South Africa, F.W. de  Klerk who ended the apartheid policy and lifted the ban on the ANC. In the following year Mandela became the leader of the ANC and in 1994 he became the first democratically elected President after a landslide victory in the first free elections. He handed over power to Mbeki after his tenure in 1999. Mandela shall be remembered as one of the most revered Statesman for his long struggle for freedom and against a rascist white minority government. It was our first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman who agitated for the expulsion of South Africa from the Commonwealth in 1960 for apartheid and this resulted in its withdrawal from the body in 1961. The legacy of Mandela in the fight for truth, justice and equality against an oppressive regime shall be not only be remembered by his nation but by the whole world. Rest in peace Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
                   My first and last contact with someone who was a member of the ANC was during my short course in Hyderabad, India in 1989. He with another lady represented the ANC as participants for the short administrative course organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. They were selected in preparation for the impending independence of South Africa and when the participants came to Malaysia as part of the programme, he confided in me that Malaysia would become the model for his country's future development. And truly enough, Malaysia was one of the first nation Mandela visited in November 1990 and  he requested Malaysia's help in preparing South Africa's first free elections. Since then our close relations had evolved over the decades which led to an increase in trade and investment between the two countries.