Toll hikes: Why is Barisan Nasional on a suicidal path? Sin Chew Daily

Motorists queueing up to buy Touch 'n Go cards in Penang.
Motorists queueing up to buy Touch 'n Go cards in Penang.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

In its editorial on Oct 15, 2015, Sin Chew Daily questions the belief that Malaysian voters will forget the hikes when it is time to vote in two years' time.

First of all, toll rates for 18 major highways in the country was increased with effect from Thursday (Oct 15). And before long, the frustrated public began to lash out mercilessly at the government for the sudden and drastic increase.

The Barisan Nasional (BN) government is indeed losing ground in recent years. Even though it still managed to retain the federal administration after the 2013 general elections, it lost the popular votes for the first time.

Despite such am embarrassing position, the ruling coalition still has the guts to go against the will of majority of people by allowing the highway toll rates to go up so much, putting further financial pressure on the people.

I wonder whether they are really concerned about their thinning support, that they might lose out in the next General Election (GE).

My friend was full of queries, wondering what the BN government had in mind.

Many people may not agree with me, but I still think this is a decision made after much contemplation and rational analysis.

To the affected voters, the drastic rise in toll rates is most positively suicidal on the part of the BN, but for the government, perhaps this is the best strategy they could put in place.

Wherever possible, every ruling party in this world would be happy to provide generous handouts to satisfy their voters.

And we all know our resources are limited.

So it has become all the more vital for those in power to mobilise the limited resources for maximum benefits in order to gain broader support. And indeed this is what Barisan Nasional has had in mind.

The BN government used to cap the toll hike by way of compensating the concessionaires or allowing them to extend their toll collection periods.

I believe they might have weighed the pros and cons that they have decided to leave the concessionaires alone this time.

Apparently the government is placing its stake on some common human attributes: forgetfulness and adaptability.

The next general elections may be more than two years away, and the time is long enough to diffuse any negative impact that might come with the rising toll rates.

In addition, people will also learn to gradually accustom themselves to the new rates.

Most importantly, people tend to be occupied by more recent happenings than something that took place years ago, when it comes to the time for them to make an evaluation or judgment.

After two years, toll increase will become a long forgotten stale issue, and people are more inclined to focus on the government's performance during the last one or two years before the elections.

In 1980, Republican candidate Ronald Reagan tossed a question to the voters during a presidential debate with Jimmy Carter who was then seeking re-election: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

The question won the approval of American voters who subsequently voted out Carter in favor of his challenger.

As a matter of fact, the US economy was doing pretty well during Carter's first two years in office, slowing down only after 1979.

The Carter administration successfully created some 10 million new jobs during the four-year term, but unfortunately the voters were the forgetful lot.

They would rather scrutinise Carter's lackluster performance during his last two years.

Back home, our BN government is also betting on the supposition that Malaysians are just as forgetful.

But, will they get it right this time round?

Sin Chew Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 22 newspapers seeking to promote Asian affairs.