Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Confucian budget

Unlike many developed countries in the West, Asia still has a long way to go to provide adequate social welfare for the needy, disabled, and the poor. Mencius could have got it right (if he were given a position to do so in government) by advising rulers to first enrich the people and then provide them with means of education. The developed countries in the world were the first to have implemented that. (This does not say or imply that these countries followed Confucian thoughts, perhaps Japan did, but the simple doctrine works to good effect.)

Many Asian countries have been trying to enrich their people since the late 1950’s and thereafter to educate them; the more successful ones being Japan, South Korea and Singapore, while China is playing catch up after the demise of Chairman Mao.

Just like her Asian counterparts, Malaysia has made much progress in enriching the people and educating them. On September 01, her prime minister who happens to hold the finance portfolio has announced the 2007 budget which may be deemed Confucian in nature.

In the Budget provisions, corporate tax would be reduced from the current 28% to 26 % over two years, a bonus of two months for civil servants, and the provision of housing for the police, army, firemen and other government employees. Children from poor families will get increased monthly allowances for their education needs; monthly allowances for disabled children has also been increased; examination fees from primary schools to Form Six (A Levels) have been abolished; Scholarships for further studies will be given to needy students who have 10 1As (distinctions) in SPM (O Levels) and other outstanding students. Purchases of books and computers (with an increased amount) are available for tax relief. More universities, polytechnics and colleges will be built or refurbished for the students. 21% of the entire budget has been allocated for education and training. The government will also spur the economy along by increased spending on infrastructures, transportation and housing.

The budgeted spending will be financed by public taxes, and dividends from the national oil company, Petronas which had made super profits from the recent hikes in world oil prices. Well, balancing the needs of the people with the country’s resources and taxes, enriching and educating them shows that a ruler is both humane and righteous. This provides an example of a Confucian budget in the East.

On the other hand, over taxing the people, keeping them in ignorance or in the dark, and increasing the national debt by a quantum leap with overspending for unworthy causes such as financing unjust conflicts or fighting protracted wars with ever increasing foreign borrowings go contrary to Confucian and Daoist doctrines, and Sunzi’s Art of War. Unfortunately, since ancient times, these types of rulers never learn. They still think they are great even while their ‘popular’ rule crumble into dust. Yes, current rulers in the West are chosen by the people, of the people but rulers may not necessarily rule for the people and heck, that is democracy and the rule of law for you. Not Confucian or Daoist doctrines.

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