2013 bitter sweet, 2014 we will survive

Like the chocolate I got for christmas, 2013 was bitter sweet. Let me serve the desserts first. I was involved in Penang Institute’s major mission to prepare a 10-year development blueprint for the Penang state government, the Penang Paradigm. I got elected on 5 May this year as a federal MP for my hometown, Bukit Mertajam. And my wife and I are pregnant with our first child, due happily on the eve of the 308 political tsunami anniversary next year.

But bitter part, Malaysia is obviously disappointed with the result of the 13th General Election in May, or at least 52% of us are. And then came the waves of major price increases, one after another. The people were hoping for a change, and now we will be lucky if we can get spare change.

It’s always not easy to be a messenger of bad news, but 2014 is sure to be a tough year to deal with. Malaysians are anticipating a second wave of price increase and then a third towards the end of the year. The federal government seems to be on a lot of cosmetics lately but I think its safe to conclude that we won’t see any radical transformation anytime soon. It’s business as usual in Putrajaya – the jets, the lavish spending trip, the posh overseas apartments, meaty contracts for friends etc.

Yet, we have shown that we are a resilient people. And those in Penang can look forward to a more cushioned impact as the state government began to introduce several policy measures to face the coming onslaught. Among others, the most fundamental and important item, housing, will see a radical paradigm shift. Not only the state re-claimed its role to provide affordable (not just low-cost) housing via PDC the state development corporation, a new policy removed the most basic kind of housing (those valued from RM40k up to RM400k under the categories of low-cost up to affordable housing) off the commodity market at least for a time (5 to 10 years) to curb speculation and price bubble. This is radical. Another new strategy by the state government is to introduce the shared equity model to enable more people to own their first home. This is basically your government partnering you to build your nest. This is radical.

The local economy has had a strong foundation, laid since the 70s by our late Chief Minister Lim Chong Eu. We are not starting from zero. The present Chief Minister, a second Lim, Lim Guan Eng is expanding the legacy of his first Lim predecessor. His C.A.T (competency, accountability, transparency) strategy paid off. Penang now has the best civil service and public delivery system in the whole of Malaysia. We are the most liveable city in the country and among the best in Southeast Asia. All these are ingredients which attract talents and resources from within and outside of Malaysia to our city-state.

2014 may be a tough year, but I know we are a strong people. It’ll be a memorable year just like 2013, a year to remember we have all struggled to make the best out of the situation. A year which defines us as who we are – a hardworking, resilient and united people, regardless of what our government tells us.

Happy New Year my friend.

Regards,

— Steven

P/s – My small New Year gift to you, a reflection on the background of the waves of price increases, what to be expected next year and what the federal government should have done: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/sideviews/article/najib-is-right-on-austerity-but-wrong-on-where-to-start-steven-sim

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