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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Not money for nothing — Farida-Hani M. Yacob

MARCH 18 — I regret Andrew Aeria’s caustic and ill-tempered criticism in “Looks like it, sounds like it” of the Penang state government’s Senior Citizens Appreciation Programme giving at least RM100 cash yearly to all senior citizens above 60.

This cash appreciation award is given in recognition of the contributions of the local senior citizens towards Penang’s development. And not as implied by the writer, money for nothing.
Andrew missed the mark by questioning the qualifying criteria for eligibility when there is none. Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had repeatedly stressed that all Penangites are treated equally.
There is no discrimination as to race, religion, gender or even political affiliation. All one needs is to register with the Pakatan Rakyat elected representatives, prove you are above 60 and that you are a registered voter in Penang.
Even though BN elected representatives have chosen to boycott and attack this program by hurling false allegations that the registration exercise is intended to deceive the public to join the DAP, Andrew should not be concerned that their supporters will be left out.
The Penang Chief Minister had said that he would personally hand over the money to Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon or Penang State Opposition Leader Datuk Azhar if they apply. As to why the rich should be eligible, then why does Andrew not question the provision of fuel subsidies that also benefits the rich?
Requiring all applicants to register would provide a natural filter as no one who is wealthy would want to go to the hassle of going to their respective Aduns’ offices to register for RM100 and worse face the embarrassment of being recognised by their Aduns. However this RM100 though small, makes a big difference to those who are less well-off.
Andrew missed the mark again when he mentioned that this RM100 looks very much like it’s a political handout akin to BN’s politics of patronage in its quest to maintain short-term electoral support.
This is nonsense as this RM100 is given out annually regardless of whether there are elections or not, and not once every 5 years. Further, Andrew should not insult the intelligence of voters to think that Penangites are so cheap that they can be bought for a miserly RM100.
If Andrew is so concerned about wastage of public funds, he should focus his attentions on the real issues such as fighter jet engines being stolen, RM4,000 laptops bought for over RM40,000 each, stadium or mosque roofs collapsing just after being built.
Why does he question giving money to the people and not write about more important issues that drains money away from the people?
Bear in mind that the Federal government did not give a single cent to the state government to fund these program. Instead these funds were made available from savings under the Penang Pakatan Rakyat CAT governance of competency, accountability and transparency that has been praised by none other than Transparency International.
This singular success of turning around a projected deficit of RM35 million under the 2008 Budget to a record surplus of RM88 million has also earned commendation from the 2008 Auditor-General’s Report.
I hope that Andrew does not miss the woods from the trees by criticising a clean administration and completely miss out on a corrupt one
* Puan Farida-Hani M. Yacob is the confidential secretary to the Penang Chief Minister.


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