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theSun | TUESDAY FEBRUARY 24 2009 13

speak up!

Focus on the cake,

not the icing
IT IS understand- ery (theSun, Sept Nasional still believe in
able for the 10 29, 2008). Has appointed local government
Pakatan Rakyat this body com- while those in the Pakatan
members of pleted its work? Rakyat state governments
Parliament from Furthermore, seem reluctant to push for
Kuala Lumpur to KL Mayor Datuk elections despite their elec-
be critical of the Ahmad Fuad tion promises.
workings of Kuala Ismail assumed As mayor, Ahmad Fuad
Lumpur City Hall the post only in does have power over the
since they have no mid-December. degree of transparency in
official roles. Ap- It is only fair to city hall. As such, it is fair to
parently, the only LocalCounsel allow him some expect much more transpar-
Barisan Nasional by Goh Ban Lee time to get things ency in the workings of city
MP from Kuala done. There is no hall, especially in develop-
Lumpur, Datuk Seri Zul- doubt that he has received ment control decisions,
hasnan Rafique who is the much advice, solicited or recruitment and promotion
Federal Territories minister, otherwise. As a former of staff and procurements of
is also not satisfied. president of Subang Jaya goods and services. While
Zulhasnan has formed Municipal Council and the transparency itself is not a
a Modern City Manage- secretary-general of the panacea for poor decision-
ment Committee for Kuala Housing and Local Govern- making, it reduces the temp-
Lumpur, Putrajaya and ment Ministry, Ahmad Fuad tation of the decision-makers
Labuan headed by Tan Sri has travelled the world visit- to pander to favouritism.
Samsudin Osman. “The ing well-managed cities and KL is not in imminent
committee would suggest attending conferences on danger of being inundated
ways and means towards good governance. So have by piles of garbage or be-
better organisation and senior officers of city hall. coming the worst place to
management of local au- As such, the leaders of live in Asia. On the contrary,
thorities,” said its chairman city hall are familiar with in the context of Asian cities,
(The Star, Feb19, 2009). modern city management it is a fairly attractive city to
Zulhasnan could not and concepts like account- work, bring up families and
have picked a more qualified ability, transparency and have a life.
person as Samsudin was the rule of law. Nevertheless, if The problem is that city
chief secretary to the govern- Ahmad Fuad needs advice, hall seems to be better in
ment, the highest-ranking let him choose his advisers. coining catchy visions than
civil servant in the country. The problem is not lack managing a capital city. It is
He is also the chairman of good ideas; it is the un- rather ambitious to promise
of the multi-billion ringgit willingness to swallow the a world-class “garden city of
Employees Provision Fund. prescribed medicine. For light” when the country itself
As Putrajaya Corporation example, in the case of ac- is not yet world class.
president, he is practically countability, it is logical for Chasing after a world-
the “mayor” of the adminis- city hall to have an elected class city status takes the
trative capital. mayor and councillors eyes away from city hall’s
However, there is no real rather than an appointed core objective: a safe, ef-
need for the Modern City mayor and advisers. While ficient and pleasant city.
Management Committee. an elected city hall does not Becoming a world-class city
The management of KL cer- automatically lead to effi- should be the icing on the
tainly needs improvement. ciency and effectiveness, the cake. The focus of city hall
But there is already the ratepayers have opportuni- should be on the cake, not
much-heralded special focus ties to replace the leaders. If the icing.
group appointed by Pemu- they are re-elected, they are
dah and headed by Federal at least the people’s favourite
Territory Ministry secre- bunglers. Dr Goh Ban Lee is a retired
tary-general Datuk Ahmad But local government academic interested in urban
Phesal Talib that is to work elections are the decision governance, housing and
with city hall to address spe- of the politicians. Unfortu- urban planning. Comments:
cific issues of service deliv- nately, those in the Barisan


Slash credit card interest by half

NUBE supports the call by the Domestic Trade who suffers – the same taxpayers who had a
and Consumer Affairs Ministry on banks to hand in the bail outs.
further cut credit card interest rates. Banks cannot and should not forget the role
Many a time, taxpayers’ monies saved the of the taxpayers during crucial times. It’s now
day for several corporate organisations includ- “pay back time”.
ing banks. During the Asian financial crisis in The Association of Banks Malaysia has
1997 the government brought relief to many merely embarked on lip service in reducing
troubled banks and prevented the collapse of the interest rate on credit cards by 0.5%, 1%
the banking industry by setting up institutions or 1.5%. Ideally, interest rates on credit cards
such as Danaharta and Danamodal. should be slashed further by half. Banks collect
Danaharta successfully recovered more several types of charges and interest on credit
than RM30 billion from the NPL portfolio of cards. There is a late charge, finance charge, an-
over RM50 billion. The success of Danaharta nual fee, cash advance fee, etc. Further, banks
is of course largely owed to the watchful eye are also collecting a minimum of 3% from the
of Bank Negara Malaysia that coordinated all merchants inter alia other hidden charges.
activities through a steering committee. Re- The banks must assist the government now
sulting from this, banks that sold their NPL to by lowering interest rates on credit cards and
Danaharta started off with a clean slate and in all lending which are artificially high. By doing
the subsequent years they were able to make so, banks will now show red in their financial
continuous profits. statements but this will only be a temporary
The resilient banking industry today in measure to assist the government and play
Malaysia owes much to Bank Negara which en- an important role in stimulating the economy
sured that the local banks were well regulated. while fulfilling its social obligations to the na-
Even to date, Bank Negara has taken measures tion.
such as the recent cuts in its overnight policy
rate by 1% point to 2.5% a year. J. Solomon
Taxpayers are truly the unsung heroes. Yet General Secretary
in times of distress, it is the ordinary worker NUBE