Taipan wasn’t choked with traffic like it always is before Chinese New Year. It was busy but if you had driven around a couple of times, you could still have found a parking bay. Which is unusual. In previous years, you’d rarely find a parking bay or you’d have to drive around and around only to give up and exit in exasperation.
This Chinese New Year, however, it was fairly relaxed. Traffic wasn’t heavy and was moving. Visiting a couple of shops, I noticed that there weren’t many customers either, despite the attractions of offers and discounts. A shop-owner I know lamented,”Look, Chinese New Year and like this.” There wasn’t a customer in her beauty salon.
So, people on the ground are not spending. But, when you read the mainstream newspapers, everything looks good. We are fed with statistics that the economy is growing, that the billions we are getting from China and other countries is foreign direct investment meant to regenerate the economy. We are getting all this money but where is it going?
The people are tightening their belts, not spending like they used to. So, where is the money going? The answer is a mystery. It is going into the economy to give jobs and raise incomes, we are told. But, people still don’t seem to have enough to spend.
Perhaps, the money is going to the rich who, whether in good or bad times, always have money to spend. If it is, then, clearly the gap between the haves and the have-nots are widening.
What really is the true picture of our economy or political situation? To get a more correct picture, we need to read foreign publications like The Economist or BBC analyses. If you read the local media, you need to be an expert at reading between the lines to find out what’s going on! Even then , you only get an inkling of the real situation but not the true state.
Most people, however, depend on the local mainstream media for news, but, are they being fed with spin or honest journalism? The local newspapers are owned by the ruling political parties so the news is tainted by the perspective of the media owners. The spin they create is that under the ruling leadership we are progressing.
But, if you read the alternative media, especially online, you get the opposite narrative: we are not moving forward and the sentiments are expressed in very emotive, opinion-based language.
Now, it is becoming more visible that more and more people on the ground are not getting more money. Who would they believe? The spin doctors or their own financially stiffling reality?
Local newspapers need to be more independent so that their readers can make informed decisions. But, this is what media-owners are afraid of: an informed readership can mean a loss of votes. As a result, we are in this state where we don’t know what is true and not true. We guess at it or look at alternative sources which often can’t be verified.
I am hoping, of course, that there will be a new government after the next general elections, and, one of the early business it will do is to introduce legislation to prevent political parties from owning public media organisations. They can have their own party publications but mass media mustn’t be owned by political parties. That’s the only way the people will get a true picture of government and public issues. Then, we can make decisions to ensure that the government complies with what we want — a better future.