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MGG: Smart Cards At The Chopping Block
By M.G.G. Pillai

27/9/2001 6:54 am Thu

Smart Cards At The Chopping Block

Bolehland has one undeniable function: make life as difficult for the consumer with a panopoly of
technological refinements. It does not matter what the product is, it is to make you, the consumer, in the end, to be as angry and frustrated as anyone could. Whether it is to draw money from your account at the bank through ATM cards, train tickets, or means to automatically pay your highway tolls, the promised ease soon is an illusion. We have the Internet, but try to top up your account, and see how frustrated you become. It does not matter if you sign up with Jaring or TMNet, the ease you get for embracing it must be paid for at some time or other; anyone who is happy with the system should not be allowed to stay that way for long.

You joined a plan with Touch 'nGo to allow unfettered access through regular transfer of money from your credit card? Well, it is, as bureacrats would say, inoperative. If the limit runs down, you must waste time by queueing up at toll gates to top up; at other times, Touch 'nGo has set up places where you can automatically reload at inconvenient places throughout the Klang Valley and elsewhere. I have since learnt that Touch 'nGo suspended its Auto Reload plan because its consultants, whose sole qualification is his closeness to the establishment, are mere commission agents hawking the consultancy to the highest bidder. So, Touch 'nGo put in place a "state-of-the-art" system meant for no purpose than to rip it off.

It turns out Touch 'nGo loses hundreds of thousands of ringgit monthly to make nonsense of it. The system is not on line with banks and credit card companies, but it automatically uploaded the credit card details, and automatically uploaded funds when it ran low. But Touch 'nGo had to send the details to the banks and credit card companies for collecting the money. This is where it lost money. Enough credit cards and bank accounts were suspended, cancelled or non-existent to force Touch 'nGo to run it at a loss. This is how contracts are given out in Bolehland. It does not matter if it to run "start-of-the-art" defence systems or to set up simple accounting systems at a supermarket. The aim is for someone to make a commission, not that a system should work.

It is this practice of ripping off in the middle that lets our system to crumble. The government is broke but the Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Mahathir Mohamed, announces a RM4 billion injection into the system. The Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange yawned, went about listlessly, more frightened at Wall Street's movements than Malaysia's Most Precious Prerorations, against which the standards of the world are judged. MAS nearly went out of business yesterday (25 Sept 01), and its new top management tells senior staff it has been all but bankrupt for four years; yet not long ago we were told paying twice the market price to bail out a mismanaged, debt-ridden airline was a good buy. The North-South Highway was to make our life easy, but in keeping with Bolehland tenets, it comes at a price: not only do you pay higher and higher tolls, you are also saddled with debt that cannot be repaid in 50 years.

When the system breaks down, of which we see signs, disaster beckons. Every policy has a downside, every action a reaction, but in Bolehland these should not be pointed out except by "traitors". Since the people elected the government, it is incumbent on the people to put its trust in it, even if that trust has, in the meantime, gone out the window. That is where we are now. The government is all powerful, the opposition so thoroughly demoralised that it could not form a coalition to even nibble at the government. No one, not the opposition, not the government, worries about the declining condition of life. It is not just technology and payment cards that has gone awry. Life as we know it in Bolehland has. Touch 'nGo is in good company; it can point to other policies and actions which deliberately make life difficult for those who elected the government into office.

In Sarawak, we are told the opposition cannot form the government and therefore should not be voted in. No one, not even the opposition, claims it could. All they want is a small but active opposition in the Council Negeri to put the government on its toes. The government then would not be allowed free rein, as the National Front (BN) has had, to destroy the edifice of the Malaysia it inherited. The deputy prime minister, Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, misrepresents when he calls on Sarawakians to reject the opposition parties because it cannot form the government. It is this kind of arrogance which has characterised the BN in office that has brought us all, literally, to our knees. But the government does not want an opposition to put it on notice and told to follow the constitutional straight and narrow, is it any wonder that Touch 'nGo can glibly pass off as an administrative difficulty what puts the consumer to much disadvantage.

M.G.G. Pillai

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