(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): Sarawak State Government is not serious about setting a good example in belt-tightening in the national austerity campaign which the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the Cabinet has urged on the whole country as one of the most important national strategies to overcome the present economic crisis.
Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mohmud said in the Sarawak State Assembly yesterday that Sarawak ministers, assistant ministers and senior government officials would not get government-paid holidays abroad from next year. He announced the suspension of all privileges with regards to overseas vacation from January as a move aimed at helping the country save in foreign exchange.
Calls by government leaders to the people to tighten belts as a national response to the economic crisis facing the country cannot be convincing or credible when they are not prepared to set a public example of individually tightening their own belts first. In other words, ministers, assistant ministers and senior government officials must tighten and be seen to be tightening belts themselves before they could credibly ask the people to tighten their belts.
It is a great disappointment that Taib Mahmud had not announced an immediate cancellation of all government-paid holidays abroad for all state ministers, assistant ministers and senior government officials to convey the sense of urgency and seriousness of the austerity campaign to the people.
How many Sarawak ministers, assistant ministers and senior government officials had made use of the privilege to enjoy government-paid holidays abroad for this year? Let there be a new era of accountability and transparency in the Sarawak state government with a full public accounting of the number of ministers, assistant ministers and senior government officials who have gone on holidays abroad at public expense, giving particulars as to which countries each went to, the length of the holidays, how many family members were involved, and the total overseas holidays bill which the taxpayers have to bear.
The Sarawak Chief Minister should announce an immediate cancellation of all government-paid holidays abroad for all state ministers, assistant ministers and senior government officials with immediate effect, and not with effect from January 1.
This of course would be unfair to State ministers, assistant ministers and senior government officials who had planned to take their government-paid holidays abroad next month, but it would be even more unfair to the taxpayers for them to insist on their privilege to go on holidays abroad at public expense when the public are being exhorted to save, tighten belts, cut down imports and cancel trips overseas.
The Sarawak state ministers, assistant ministers and senior government officials should set a good example, not only to the people of Sarawak, but to the other state governments in Malaysia, instead of highlighting their selfishness insisting on their privilege to go on overseas holidays at public expense at a time of national economic crisis.
AlthoughTaib said it would be difficult for Barisan Nasional component parties to stop their members from holidaying abroad, surely it should not be difficult for the Sarawak Barisan Nasional to send out a directive to all state, divisional and branch leaders of Barisan Nasional component parties to stop holidaying abroad to set an example for the people to emulate.
May be, for a start, Taib Mahmud should declare that he would set an example of not going overseas for holidays for the next 12 months, whether on government or on his own expense!