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Learn from Sabah
Published on: Saturday, September 02, 2017

By Datuk John Lo
“Let us never forget this fundamental truth: the State has no source of money other than money which people earn themselves.

If the State wishes to spend more it can do so only by borrowing your savings or by taxing you more.

It is no good thinking that someone else will pay—that “someone else” is you.

There is no such thing as public money; there is only taxpayers’ money.”

Thatcher – Speech to the Conservative Party Annual Conference 1983 Margaret Thatcher’s above statement cannot be more succinct that the elected representatives are trustees to our tax dollars. It does belong to them.

The government, by itself, has no money. Tax dollars are our money, not public money.

She was preaching something fundamental which should be adhered to by all elected representatives.

As general election is near, Malaysians should consider, before casting their votes, these factors very carefully:

[a] Does the candidate fishing for your vote know that the tax dollars are not theirs but ours? [b] Does he possess financial discipline? [c] Does he know what to do with our money? [d] Will he squander our children’s future money away? [e] Will he put his hand into the kitty [corruption]?

Many West Malaysian political leaders have harboured a strong streak of feudal political attitude, meaning they act like they own the Government/Country. This is a serious negative against for Malaysians in building personal independence, initiatives and are very inappropriate in the prevailing global environment of keen competition and survival by innovation.

The chronic out of date attitude of many West Malaysian political leaders, including those in Government, have been the largest stones around our necks. Opposition leaders are not blameless for they have failed to provide an attractive alternative government. They have created three great problems -

[a] They have tried to use this negative attitude to hang on to political support and power.

[b] They keep telling the people that they can shower them with “freebies” rather than what they can do to help Malaysians to be financial independent, more competitive, more productive – baby-sitting Malaysians into a highly dependent society infesting them with “rights”, “privileges”, “quotas” “subsidies” and finally, resorting to “racial supremacy”.

These widespread “freebies” are clearly unsustainable in the era of low oil prices.

[c] This political style has cracked the political peace and harmony that have existed since independence.

Racial and religious segregation have become common. Everything has become “sensitive” or “offensive”.

Sabah is very lucky we do not have this political disease.

No area is more obvious than the way some West Malaysian political leaders are managing our tax dollars [this includes revenue from oil and gas].

These West Malaysian political leaders in government and opposition have all but forgotten that the tax money is OUR MONEY – the people’s money. This money is not for them to do what they like with it.

It is NOT their money. Elected political leaders have implicit, explicit and legal fiduciary duties as our trustees, not our masters, to serve us, not to lord over us.

The tax money is not for building monuments, not for self-glorification, not for self-gratification, not for self-enrichment. They are meant for the benefit of all Malaysians, especially for nation building, building a strong economy, for equitable wealth distribution and to assist less fortunate Malaysians.

Buying grossly overpriced hotels in London and Australia and other reckless “investment” is spending away our children’s money.

News of EPF’s purchase of a RM1.5 billion shopping mall in Poland [hope not true] is crazy when Malaysia needs all the investments to lighten the burden of high cost of living. This huge amount is better to invest in food production to feed Malaysians.

The urban, middle class, educated Malaysians have rejected this feudal attitude in GE13 resulting in – [a] political leaders in W Malaysia have begun to blame the voters for voting against them.

[b] Irrespective of their own below par performance, they expect and demand voters to support them.

[c] A big gap of perception has occurred between some West Malaysian political leaders who think they have rendered 1st class performance for the people and urban, middle class, educated voters who think their performance is poor.

Symbolic of how grave this “feudal” attitude has become, many West Malaysian political leaders have said publicly “don’t bite the hands that feed you” or “people don’t show gratitude”.

First lesson in democracy – in matured democracies like UK, Australia, USA, the politicians never ever blame voters for not voting for them or expect them to show gratitude. They work hard to meet voters’ expectations for they know voters are the ultimate boss in a true democracy.

Some West Malaysian political leaders have not learned this basic democratic principle.

Political support, like respect, must be earned – only dictators or authoritarians ignore this.

Sorry “boss”, your “favours” and “handouts” for the people are not your money. You are the trustees of the people with bounden duties as elected representatives to work for the benefit of the people.

“We are giving you favours” by West Malaysian political leaders when doing something for the people has generated a lot of unhealthy “financial unaccountability”.

Hence many cases of abuses and corruption in the management of our tax money.

In going forward to the next general election, Malaysians of all races must think what sort of leaders do we want.

Do we wish to have leaders who think the tax money is theirs and not ours? Who are the leaders that we can trust with our money?

What are the signs of responsible and irresponsible tax money management? Simple!

[a] States that are in perpetual financial deficits and require Federal bailouts is very bad.

States like Sabah which is having a sizeable reserve is very good.

[b] GLCs always losing money is bad. GLCs always making profit, like those in Sabah, is good.

[c] Political leaders spending tax money like water are spendthrifts, they are spending our future away.

This is very bad. Those who look after tax money assiduously is good.

[d] They use tax money to enrich themselves is very bad. They spend money to give people better lives, better education, medical care and retirement financial security is very good.

[e] Wasteful projects are very bad. Projects like SICC and Tanjong Aru Eco Projects and communal titles which will create and generate long term economic benefits for the people is good.

[f] States that fail to repay Federal Government loans is bad. States, like Sabah, that repay such loans on time is good.

Only 4 of 13 states can claim all these positives – Sabah is 1st of the 4. Sabah has received the most number of 5-star ratings in financial management and administration from the Auditor-General.

Many West Malaysian politicians are practising divisive politics and bad financial management.

They should take some lessons from Sabah – learn our Sabahan Way. In addition to exemplary responsible financial management, Sabah excels and easily tops in racial harmony, religious peace which are also lacking in West Malaysia.

These are the essential ingredients for unity and achieving high income status.

Sabah is the best model to emulate if West Malaysian politicians truly want national unity, nation building and a prosperous Malaysia.

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