Friday, March 13, 2009

‘Money Can’t Buy Me Love’

I suppose there are many among us contemplating and speculating the implications of the government’s ‘stimulus package’ to get us through what is appearing to be a grim economic storm on the horizon. Needless to say many businesses and industries have already been feeling the early bite and hurt that this storm has churned-up. The economic slowdown seems to have set in motion a steady wave of retrenchments – and I’m not just referring to the foreign workers who are finding themselves being told pack up and head for the nearest airport.

Whether the stimulus package is sufficient, will be effectively utilised or squandered to prop up cronies or whatever else the average person yet cannot anticipate is precisely the issue. It is one of those things which we’ll only somewhat understand – maybe – after the storm is over, the damage has been done, and we’re left picking the pieces. Only then will we be able to realise how the economic stimulus worked – if at all, and what it managed to accomplish for the average Mat, Lim and Devi.

In the meantime, one thing remains obvious – the political posturing will persist. Our beloved prime minister-in-waiting might be hoping that all this stimulus money might buy him some more love – that is, the love of the rakyat. Having had his popularity badly bruised and battered, at least among most non-UMNO and non-BN members, I can’t help but wonder that there must be a strong sentiment in his inner-circle that if only they can pull off some economic black-magic and minimise the public’s pain, perhaps he’ll turn the public’s sentiment around and earn some of their affection.  

That desire for the public’s affection, I would submit to you, is a prize that is coveted almost as much as the post of the prime minster. After all, who doesn’t want to be loved or even liked? Of course we all do. And knowing that the widespread genuine warmth and affection for him has not necessarily been there and that he’s often been overshadowed by the aura of Anwar, must not be easy to swallow. I suppose, however, one can always continue to muster support via some arm twisting and by insisting on loyalty, as oppose to gaining it through genuine enthusiasm and the goodwill of one’s supporters.  

Surely there have been relatively few people – let along politicians - who have not necessarily cared about being liked. And the government’s stimulus package recently unveiled by Najib has to be seen not just as an important economic calculation which will become an important test of his impending government’s competency, but it will also be viewed as an opportunity to score some popularity points. Could it actually be that this stimulus bundle is also going to affectively become a crucial means for lining up some much needed allegiance at a time of when UMNO and the BN have been rather self-destructive and, in the eyes of the public, not doing themselves and their popularity any favours?  

It remains to be seen of course, if the government will indeed again manage to placate the public or will it be lamenting about the line from the old Beattles’ song, “Money can’t buy me love.” 

G. Krishnan