Saturday, 7 July 2012

Applying People Power on Public Choice -Part 2/2


The broader issue affecting us is, we are easily taken in by decisions made on a piecemeal basis and out of expediencies. We are influenced by `the acting’ of politicians. We are seduced by form rather than with substance. Hence Najib’s brief visit in Keningau Sabah to a celebrated hovel of a dwelling made people jump up and down in joyous rapture forgetting the longer term solution to lousy housing does not come with Najib's brief  visit and acting out as a super duper concerned leader- but with a comprehensive housing plan. Where is it? 
Its not there -because he didn’t come to Keningau to offer long term solutions that people want. He went then to offer expedient solutions that underscore his self-interest.

The people in Pangsa Keramat live in one room flats with 7 children. The smell of broken sewers permeates the atmosphere if you walk along the back lanes. I know because I did a ceramah session there recently. Males and females sleeping together in the living room. Children spending time mostly outside and getting into drug addictions. Probably there are also unreported cases of incest. No wonder, the Pangsa Keramat is known derisively as Columbia Flats after drug notorious Columbia in South America. 
In Penang, a more comprehensive housing plan for the public is implemented where flats styled after Singapore’s respectable HDB housing are being constructed. Don’t tell this to the Singapore-phobia UMNO people- because anything that smells Singapore are vehemently rejected. 
We can’t rely on the voting system alone to elect who we think are good leaders. The leaders are all motivated by personal motivations. We can improve the efficacy and relevance of public choices by demanding and insisting the setting up of institutions and their strict adherence. 
If we have tender system which is institutionalized, we demand the strict adherence to the rules and regulations therein. If we don’t, then the leader whom we elect and whom we think is pristine can temper with the rules and regulations. Discretionary adherence leads to manipulations and compromises. In the case of the Ampang LRT and Sungai Buloh- Kajang MRT, if those business persons closely related to the PM- we don’t care if they are his golfing buddies or charkuat partners- if they don’t qualify to the terms and conditions of the tender process- we shut them out! Because that is demanded by the strict adherence to the system and institutionalized rules. 
In other words, we must strengthen the voting process by insisting strict adherence to rules and regulations. Rules and regulations are safeguarded and made stable by a system consisting of institutions.  Why? Because as is common, voters in democratic elections will tend to be poorly informed about the candidates and issues on the ballot. And they are not overly motivated to find out the truth. But their ignorance is rational because the cost of gathering information about an upcoming election and on the candidates is high relative to the benefits of voting. Why should a voter bother to become informed if his vote has a very small chance of being decisive? People vote because it is a low-cost way to express their preferences. 

So because of that, we come back to our insistence that we value a system more than the lone snake-oil peddler. 
Thus one key conclusion of public choice is that changing the identities of the people who hold public office will not produce major changes in policy outcomes. Electing better people will not, by itself, lead to much better government. Adopting the assumption that all individuals, be they voters or politicians,  are motivated more by self-interest than by public interest forces us to look closer at the problems of democratic governance. We must now recognize that because men are not angels we must stress and insist on the importance of the institutional rules under which people pursue their own objectives.
“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself” 
( James Madison- The Federalist Papers, no. 51).

7 comments:

Anonymous,  7 July 2012 at 18:13  

aiyoh -- cows missing-- now LRT train also missing-- apa lagi == billions also missing..so GE 13-- UBAH lah kawan n citizens

bruno,  7 July 2012 at 22:16  

Dato,there are many people,in fact the majority of the people who are fed up with the corrupted Umnoputras and their lap dogs the Mca and Mic.But when comes the GE,the people are showered with RM200-500 and they are jumping with joy like chimpanzees.

Maybe it is the after effects of receiving the goodies or the people are too scared of a regime change,maybe to afraid to take risks,to face the realities of the real world.Maybe they might think that without the tongkat,crutches and wheelchair attitude of the Umno/BN,a new incoming PR administration might spell the end of the world for them.

That is the reason of the Umno/BN piority of keeping the Malays subdued and oppressed.Oppressed in a sense that they will feel hopeless without Umno and their tongkat,crutches and wheelchair.The opposition have to assured the oppressed Malays that a better furure is ahead for them and families.

That is the reason come every GE or by-elections,the Umno/BN becomes the white Santa.White Santa gave candies to the kids.And the kids love white Santa.That is the reason that the Umnoputras like the subdued and oppressed Malays to think like children,waiting for Christmas to arrived so that they can collect candies.

For a country forecasted by the ruling regime to be a high income developed nation by 2020,it sure is shocking to hear that a large rural population of resources rich states Sabah and Sarawak are illiterate and living in proverty,and without the neccessary utilities of piped water,sewage and electricity.

Patrick 9 July 2012 at 14:22  

Public Choice Theory (PCT). Interesting choice of topic. But the 2 part article is quite spot on and relevant to the Malaysian context. I would rather look at PCT as empowerment to act based on full (or partial with yearning for more) comprehension of information. Or else, what is 'choice', the key operative word in PCT, without full information to assess and decide.

One of the biggest obstacles to progress in Malaysia is definitely the easy access and availability of unbiased media. PCT is only effective if and when the majority of its citizens are updated on current affairs of the country that impact their daily socio and economic lives. For instance, there are many socio welfare support from the federal and state govt that the majority of the citizens are not fully aware off. Hence, they are not fully aware of their rights as a voting citizen. This leads to incredible abuse by those in govt and power, for they hold the absolute knowledge of all these information. And jealously guard them for their own personal benefit.

In countries that developed rapidly, one of the key success factors is their focus on massive state infrastructure, ie roads, utilities, education, media development, etc, etc. Singapore, HK, Sweden, US and most developed countries have all these in place in the course of the country's development. Even China is moving towards state develop infra on a large and rapid scale. Did you know that China's banking system is far more advance than even Malaysia, by at least a few years? Look at the hi speed rail connectivity in China. It far surpasses even US and Germany, even though they are the providers of such components and technology.

Many critics will argue that smaller countries develop faster due to its small geographic size and hence, smaller budget requirement. But then, how would anybody argue with China's infra development rate?

Patrick 9 July 2012 at 14:22  

(Part 2)


Look at the composition of Malaysia's cabinet characters. They have been there since Mahathir's time and just shuffle around portfolios like musical chairs. They have become so ingrained in their 'right to rule', that they dictate personal agenda into public sector and services without flinching. Malaysia's politics has become autocratic with tried and tested formula of race-religion scaremongering, with controlled govt propaganda to control the masses.

PCT cannot take full effect unless the majority of citizens are in good understanding of their own rights. Rights enshrined under our constitution by our founding fathers. Rights that ensures our harmonious own way of life in a multi racial land and state.

There is some consolation in the PCT in that with the constant expose of massive corruption by the opposition on a daily basis of the ruling govt, these sensational news will disseminate faster to the rural citizens. Never before have this demographic group been exposed to such massive corruption levels. Perhaps PCT can be effective in piggybacking on these sensational news, to have stronger punch. Perhaps in addition to exposing such corruption, the opposition and NGOs should include information, facts, etc such as correct laws, rights, etc. This will empower the rural and ignorant urbanites towards better 'choices' and move the PCT from theory to practical application of choices based on enhanced knowledge.

How will PCT be effective? Perhaps in our very own way of disseminating info, such as coffee shop talks, pasar pagi and pasar malam chatter, constant publishing of our socio, medical/health, constitutional rights, etc, etc in various languages and media. 'Constant' being the key operative word. The urbanites always have the slight advantage of info to the rural folks. But the urbanites alone cant decide for the majority if the rural are ignorant of their fundamental rights. The 'public' in PCT cant be effective without the 'rural AND urban public' empowered with information and rights. If no concerted effort is done to correct this perception and reality, PCT will remain as it is, only a good 'theory' that is debated in these kind of forums. Electronic forums only.

Anonymous,  9 July 2012 at 14:41  

DAP surely not for Malays. Malays are being used such as this writer by DAP. I am not racist that is the facts. Writes as many articles to backup the claims that DAP are for everyone - all i can see that malays are being used and once they got waht they want the malays will just end up like those malays in singaporean. Sakmongkol if you want to be a supporter to DAP go ahead but not everyone would want to follow your footstep.

cui bono?,  9 July 2012 at 22:07  

Cui bono?
If crooks are determined to screw up a nation, the nation gets screwed up. A truism which applies to almost all developing nations. In Africa over the course of 60 years only two men stand out as true statesman, Julius Nyerere and Nelson Mandela, and both were determined from the start not to screw up their country. In Asia one can use the fingers of only one hand to distinguish the wheat from the chaff.

When I look back to governance under the first three PMs, I ask myself these questions:
1) What public choice did the people have?
2) What oversight was in place to see that the PMs perform and perform right for the good of the country?
3) What was the fundamental inspiration that guided the three men to believe that the primary purpose of decent purposeful governance was to ensure that well-being was shared and experienced by the maximum number possible?
4) What drove men to live simple lives without pomp and ceremony and their ladies without glittering jewels with faces softened only by plain rice cream and lime?
5) What made them not resort to the use of insipid, artful slogans to maximise efficiency and productivity?
6) What made them separate their legislative functions from executive and judicial functions, and in so doing leave civil servants to commit themselves selflessly unfettered by threats, subtle or otherwise, from political bully-boys?
7) What made the common man feel comfortable and at ease to sit beside a Ministers or a YB in a social function?

Yes, we need ever more now, “….. an institutionalized system even if Pakatan takes over to compensate (for) the inherent weaknesses and excesses of the legislator.”

The well-being of a State cannot be held to ransom by legislators who misconstrue victory in an Election as tacit approval to do as they please : victory does not and cannot confer upon anyone the status of a new Master of the Malaysian Universe. An open transparent mechanism, formally constituted, must be put in place for oversight duties because legislators have proved so often they care more for themselves than for the common good, as Public Choice theory predicts.

Anonymous,  9 July 2012 at 23:36  

because anything that smells Singapore are vehemently rejected. Yay, cos we the new Malaysians, Penangnites will supersede Singaporeans in terms of intelligence, high EQ and a rich soul of caring and sharing, the Malaysian way.

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