1. There are only 365 days in a year. Take away 104 days of Saturdays and Sundays weekends and we have left 261 working days. But Malaysia is multi-religious and we must not work during Raya, Chinese New Year and Deepavali. But we must also not work on Wesak Day, Taipusam, Christmas, New Year, Federal Territory Day, various Muslim holy days and I do not know what else.
2. But we must not work on by-election polling day also. Then there is the Agong’s Birthday and the birthdays of all the Sultans and Governors.
3. We seem to find more reason for not working. If the holiday falls on a weekend, then have a long vacation beginning the day before Saturday and the day after Sunday – four days in all.
5. But I ask myself are people like me, a pensioner being paid and not working? Or is the country on automatic – administering itself? Or is it that there really is not much work to do that we can close up for one-third of the year?
6. We are still a developing country. Developing requires work. Rich developed countries can afford not to work. August holidays see the cities like Paris and London bereft of traffic.
7. I believe, but I may be wrong, that when you are trying to catch up with someone running ahead of you, you must run faster than him. We have this great ambition to become a developed country. If we move slower than our objective can we catch up? I think we cannot.
8. A developed country today and a developed country in 2020 is not the same. In 2020 it will be far more advanced and richer than in 2008. The developed status is not static. It is moving.
9. Even if it seem to be growing slowly percentage-wise, but its one percent is bigger than our 5 or 6 percent. Our base is lower. To catch up we must really grow faster.
10. Can we grow faster by not working? I think not.
11. Lets look at the implication of having holidays. If workers have to work on holidays they have to be paid twice their daily wage. If they work beyond working hours they have to be paid four times their wages. And many industries just cannot stop operating.
12. All these add up to higher cost of production and therefore we will be less competitive. For a trading nation which depends on exporting goods, raw material and services, the cost of our exports is important. We will not be competitive especially against low-wage countries. But not to worry. The Government will make us competitive by withdrawing subsidies and giving them back again under different headings in the budget or off-budget.
13. Its a bit early but I would like to wish everyone Happy Hari Raya. Please drive slowly. We want you to come back after a very relaxing 4 – 5 days holiday. Do not worry about unfinished work. It can take care of itself.
P.S. I think the Government and the private sector should consider retreats. It’s not a holiday of course but comes very close to a holiday. Besides you can become a savvy agriculturist.