Thursday, April 16, 2009

DAP's social democracy at work!

Would like to share with you this interesting article in The Sun. I thought it was well written and someone who understood the DAP's history and its ideological roots. It's precisely what we as social democrats can offer to the Malaysian people. Not many, our own leaders and members included, can claim to understand the essence and values of the social democracy ideology. I think this article articulate it in a very practical way. A lot of people misunderstood the word "socialism". Many thought it is a "dirty word", outdated and linked it to communism. Being in the Left does not mean we have to kill off all private enterprises nor we have to be seen as the No 1 enemy of the capitalists. We only strive for a more just and fair society and reduce the gap between the rich and the poor! Happy reading!

The DAP’s socialist streak

WHEN the Penang government announced late last month that it had eradicated hardcore poverty within its borders, the news raised quite a few eyebrows. It seemed an incredible, if not impossible, task to achieve. On hindsight, however, when one looks at what the Pakatan Rakyat government executed, the solution seems common-sense.

But though it may appear simple, the move was instituted with such impudence and guts it could only come from a political element that is part of the origins and makeup of the DAP – its democratic socialism.

What the state did was to directly uplift every one of the 726 households registered with the welfare department as being in the hardcore poor category by giving them the money. Affected families were literally funded to ensure their incomes are topped up so that they get at least RM500 every month.

These poor souls whose lives, and statistics, seemingly changed overnight must owe their new fortunes to a political decision made way back in 1966. It was then that the DAP was first registered, following the Setapak Declaration, as an offshoot of the Singapore-based People’s Action Party (PAP). What marks the event as significant today is not just its history, but the fact that the party was registered as a democratic socialist entity.

Penang’s success in eradicating hardcore poverty is a fruition of a progressive post-modern socialist ideology. In fact, much of the state’s economic and social policies today can be attributed to a highly-evolved socialist streak in the DAP.

By socialism we do not necessarily mean the radical, anti-capitalist school that emerged in the early 20th century, influenced by the works of Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. Democratic socialism surfaced as a splinter movement that envisioned the attainment of socialism not through a revolutionary process, but through an embracing, evolutionary one. It embraced civil liberties, free elections, parliamentary democracy and transparency in governance.

It is no coincidence then that the DAP is a long-time member of the Socialist International, whose origins can be traced to early international labour movements.

Now, some 43 years after the DAP was founded, Penang has to some extent become a test-bed of sorts for a modern socialist experiment in Malaysia. Hints of this new wind, blowing along a distinctly proletarian agenda, was already felt on the first day that the DAP took helm of the state by assuming the chief minister’s post, with Lim Guan Eng ordering all summonses for hawkers and parking be waived.

Lim had later even proposed to the federal government an “economic stimulus” plan worth RM48 billion that he said would have a “tidal effect” in directly benefiting 27 million Malaysians during the financial crisis. The plan included giving a RM6,000 annual “oil bonus” to all families earning less than RM6,000 a month, or a RM3,000 annual bonus to bachelors earning less than RM3,000 a month. The amount, Lim said, would cost RM35 billion or one third of Petronas’s 2007 gross profits of RM107 billion.

The idea to use national coffers in a massive way to alleviate the people’s burden is perhaps something that could only have come out with such brazen confidence from the DAP, due to the socialist element in its set-up.

For democratic socialism seeks to improve the rights and standards of the majority by directly increasing the powers of workers and consumers. It does place social welfare as a prime component in the governance of a society.

Any aid or subsidy, however, is not meant to be dished out as dole benefits to passive citizens without resourcefulness or personal enterprise; the aid is deemed necessary to empower people, by giving them impetus to be active participants in the greater economic community.

In one of the Penang government’s boldest moves, for example, all residential landed properties on state land were made freehold, and all industrial and commercial property owners had their leaseholds converted to the maximum 99 years. “We want to give ownership of land back to the people,” Lim had said.

Of course, in practice, the DAP’s style of administration is not so purely egalitarian; but its socialist roots do hold significant sway in how the administration has caught people by surprise, by making sweeping changes with unassuming audacity.

It remains to be seen then how many more surprises the DAP-led government will dish out, and exactly how well its socialist inclinations will work for the state over the remaining duration of its term in power.

Himanshu is theSun’s Penang bureau chief. Comments:


Lee Wee Tak said...

Yep read this one this morning and my teh tarik tasted much sweeter.

I am against huge gap of income between classes.

A fairer distribution of wealth and opportunity is the way to go.

Anonymous said...

I m a DAP supporter but I dont agree with dishing out free money to people.
People should work hard to earn their stripes.
Govement can do their part by providing healthy, competitive and clean governance to the public. Goverment should and must also provide quality education to public such that the people can equip themselves with adequate know hows and skills to better their own lives.
Providing free gives can only breed complacency and kills off any form on innovation.
I am against free freebis. A man got to work for his meals!

Anonymous said...

I m a DAP supporter but I dont agree with dishing out free money to people.
People should work hard to earn their stripes.
Govement can do their part by providing healthy, competitive and clean governance to the public. In line with that, Goverment should and must also provide quality education to public such that the people can equip themselves with adequate know hows and skills to better their own lives.
Providing free gifts can only breed complacency and kills off any forms of innovation.
Let the market forces dictate the actual value of a price with minimal and ocassional intervention. With intervention, you can only create a distortation and wedge that is not a reflection of prices actual value, more often than not, the public end up paying an inflated price because of some interventionist polices. Isnt that great injustice to efficient capital and resources allocation?
I am against freebies.
Free market should prevail to drive individuals to maximize their potentials and resource around them.
No freebies pls. Not fair to tax payers who work their soul, mind and heart out!
A man got to work for his meals!

Lee Wee Tak said...

balancing between having a compassionate welfare state and promoting hard work and entrepreneurship amongst its people is never easy, it is even impossible.

in Malaysia, we have the famous rent seeking mentality as a result of misimplementation of NEP

however, Malaysia boast of oil resources and as citizens, should we not all be allowed to share some of the natural gifts of the land? LGE's proposal for sharing of petronas profits for all Malaysians reflects a desire to share nature's gift to all Malaysians, rather than being kept to several privilaged minority.

The problem in Malaysia is that hard working and creative people might run into a host of arresting factors - bureacracy, inflexible capital ownership needs, lack of advance infrastructure, stifling education system etc.

I strongly believe our welfare institutions should be whipped into shape. Have you seen a welfare officer patrolling your neighbourhood to locate the poor and needy? Sure, given the Malaysian mentality, some might take advantage of the benefits system and gain undeseved assistance hence there must be a proper vetting system for that.

Lee Wee Tak said...

the other way to share the petronas profit is to channel its annual profits (less some retained for re-investment purposes) into a transparent and separate statutory body where the petronas money is used for items that benefit the rakyat - education loans & scholarship, cost of living allowanship for the hard core poor, donation for old folks home and orphanage etc.

Lee Wee Tak said...

Anom 1:21pm

I have written 2 long winded article on my thoughts about what the country and ourselves to do to better ourselves....maybe some points for us to ponder.