HARESH SAYS: People need assurance, comfort ... not stress

As published in Malay Mail today

By Haresh Deol

DATUK Ahmad Maslan, the man best known for decorating his wok with cucumbers, hogs the limelight again.
The deputy international trade and industry minister, in his latest suggestion addressing the rising costs of living, encourages the masses to take on two jobs. Such a practice is common around the world, he was reported as saying on Boxing Day.

Malaysians are generally finding it tough changing their lifestyles. They rant on social media about the hikes in goods while sipping RM15 coffee. Some complain of low wages yet have no qualms maxing out their credit cards.
But let’s keep that for another day.
Encouraging Malaysians to take up two jobs is not wrong but will derail work-life balance. Young couples may hold back plans to raise a family. Less time spent at home could see the family institution crumble. In other parts of the world, people are reducing the number of hours spent at work while some organisations have started introducing flexible working hours – a practice almost unheard of in this country. The mathematics of this notion is simple – it is about working smart and producing results instead of putting in long hours with little (or at times, nothing) to show.
Will having two jobs lead to abuse? Let’s create a scenario. Haresh works as an immigration officer. Staying true to Ahmad’s words, he sets up an online foreign recruiting agency. His second job requires him to facilitate the process of applying for documentation for foreign labourers in the country. So, Haresh could just submit the application as part of his second job and approve all applications as an immigration officer the next day, no?
Some of you may say such conflict of interest is already happening. Perhaps.
I’m sure there are “regulations”, as Ahmad had reportedly said, to address such matters. Will the guardians enforce these regulations? That remains to be seen.
Certain organisations do not allow their employees to commit to a second job –online or trading by the roadside. What about them, then? 
The Pontian MP should instead tell us how the government is aiding Malaysians in these challenging times. The Royal Malaysian Customs Department, had two weeks ago, announced they have collected over RM30 billion in Goods and Services Tax since its introduction on April 1. As consumers are generally taxed not once, but twice (manufacturers impose GST on distributors who then impose GST on buyers), we would like to know how the billions of ringgit will help lessen our burden.
Parents are preparing their children with new school uniforms and shoes. The prices of such items have gone up. Before a minister says “but they could reuse their old school uniforms”, I’ll spare him or her the embarrassment by saying children grow, and they grow fast.
Toll rates and public transport fares have increased while prices of petrol fluctuate. School bus operators had recently said they would also raise their rates. Even prices of basic items like milk and vegetables have escalated over the year.
The rising costs of living is no laughing matter. Those strapped for cash may do the unspeakable – from accepting bribes to committing robbery. Security will be an issue when people find it tough to put a decent meal on the table.
Ahmad must be clear in addressing the concerns of the people. In June, he posted a picture of himself on social media showing his “zero-GST fried rice”, cucumbers neatly decorated around the wok with a can of aerosol and what appeared to be a cat near the stove. He received plenty of flak for it.
He had also reportedly called former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad an “old man” who needs to learn how GST works. He was once again slammed as there are many who are still in the dark over how the new taxation system works.
Elected representatives must understand the people to be their voice.
There is a need to articulate facts and present them in the simplest of fashion instead of just shooting off one’s mouth only to later claim he or she has been misquoted by an establishment or individual with an agenda.
We do not want a government representative telling us we should take up two jobs. We want to know what the government is doing to fix the uncertainties.
My new year wish is to see Ahmad and his fellow politicians work on well-thought scripts to ensure their words will provide comfort to the people instead of increasing stress levels.

Are we suppose to die once we hit 60?

Speaking about stress levels, I know of several senior working individuals who are stressing out because they may be out of a job soon.
“The contracts for those who have hit 60 and above will not be renewed. Full-timers will serve until 60, and will then have to leave,” said a friend who turns 62 next month.
Another senior, who worked in a manufacturing firm, said: “The management claims it is part of their cost-cutting measures. The older folks are limiting the chances of their younger colleagues to climb up the ladder and apparently, we are too expensive … so many excuses.
“Are we supposed to die once we hit 60? Interestingly, those in the management are mostly in their 60s, too.”
Life seems to be cruel for those aged 60 and above. Many of our seniors remain in the rat race as some are still paying off their mortgages, children’s education and in some instances, saving up for their children’s marriage.
At an age where they are more prone to falling ill, they find it tough securing health insurances and have to rely on hard cash instead.
The seniors should always have a place within our eco-system. They must be treated with respect and dignity – not because of their age but based on their wisdom and capabilities. Employers should judge the golden group based on their performance instead of fearing if they will suffer a stroke and die in the office.
The seniors are icons. Cynthia Sebastian, 74, is McDonald’s Malaysia’s longest-serving employee. In Malay Mail, we are proud to have senior sub-editor Ian Pereira, also 74, and night editor Patrick Choo, 67, and they are 
invaluable assets to the company.
Refrain from generalising. Not all 20-year-olds are shallow and love to whine while not all 60-year-olds are slow and grumpy. It is about having the right people with the right attitude to move forward.
Happy New Year!

HARESH is executive editor of Malay Mail. He can be reached at haresh@mmail.com.my or on Twitter @HareshDeol


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