Don Quixote was a Spanish fiction work written in the early 17th century about a middle-aged man whose pursuit of ideals was impractical and foolish. It was from Quixote’s name that the adjectival form was derived: quixotic.
Quixotic is best used to describe the alternative budget offered by Anwar Ibrahim in Parliament, days before Prime Minister Najib Razak presented the government’s version. One glaring carrot Anwar presented was setting the minimum wage for Malaysians at RM1.100 per mensem, while Najib’s government is still discussing the issue (or are they?). Whatever it is, you can have a RM5,000 minimum wage level but it means nothing if all you can buy with it is a packet of asam boi. Everyone should be thinking of how to increase the purchasing power of the Ringgit.
What was the Ringgit at versus the Greenback before Anwar’s superb fiscal policy as the Finance Minister almost destroyed the former? It was at around RM2.50 to a Dollar or something to that effect. What are we at now? RM3 to a Dollar or somewhere there. Simple minds would say that we’re still 50 cents off, therefore to a simple person like me, we have not fully-recovered from the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis. Tun Dr M’s recovery plan which was to continue with what the opposition termed as “wasteful mega-projects” proved vital in helping ordinary Malaysians get back on their feet. The local spillover effects from those projects were hardware stores get orders for construction materials, workers flock to Malaysia for jobs and spend their money at the local canteen set-up by the makcik who buys her ingredients from the local sundry shop and market. Every one gets something out of a project, and every one including that makcik becomes a crony. This is evident when trying to be a popular person, a certain sleeping Prime Minister stopped many mega-projects and caused the economy to slide down. He learnt the lesson a hard way.
Najib’s budget makes Malaysia attractive for FDIs, and allows the lower income group to have more purchasing power. When more money circulates in the economy, you create more jobs. I’m no economist but I think that is how things work. Setting a high minimum wage will only encourage traders to increase prices of essential goods, thus raising the inflation rate. When inflation rate goes up, your purchasing power goes down.
Of course, PR is filled with things quixotic, but they are also notorious for not keeping promises made. Let us take the promises made by PR in Selangor in its 2008 Elections Manifesto:
I want to know how many of you whose baby was born in Selangor has had an account set-up by the Selangor State Government with RM100 in it?
I want to know how many of you do not have to pay any form of fees for your pre-school children?
I want to know how many of you have received between RM50 to RM100 for every child that you have to send to a nursery?
How many of your invalid kinsfolk has had a Takaful insurance subscribed by the State Government for them?
How many jobless single mothers with children below 12 years of age has received a fixed allowance of between RM150 to RM250?
How many farmers and fishermen have received a minimum wage of RM1,200 per month? (Co-incidentally, Anwar has reduced this to RM1,100!)
Those are among the promises made but have yet to be fulfilled by the Selangor State Government; yet, Anwar dared to make an even bigger promise through his quixotic budget.
Is Anwar a Don Quixote then? At least Don Quixote’s loss of wits wasn’t as bad as the Donkey’s delirium.