How should we judge a government?

In Malaysia, if you don't watch television or read newspapers, you are uninformed; but if you do, you are misinformed!

"If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." - Malcolm X

Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience - Mark Twain

Why we should be against censorship in a court of law: Publicity is the very soul of justice … it keeps the judge himself, while trying, under trial. - Jeremy Bentham

"Our government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no
responsibility at the other. " - Ronald Reagan

Government fed by the people

Government fed by the people

Career options

Career options
I suggest government... because nobody has ever been caught.

Corruption so prevalent it affects English language?

Corruption so prevalent it affects English language?
Corruption is so prevalent it affects English language?

When there's too much dirt...

When there's too much dirt...
We need better tools... to cover up mega corruptions.

Prevent bullying now!

Prevent bullying now!
If you're not going to speak up, how is the world supposed to know you exist? “Orang boleh pandai setinggi langit, tapi selama ia tidak menulis, ia akan hilang di dalam masyarakat dan dari sejarah.” - Ananta Prameodya Toer (Your intellect may soar to the sky but if you do not write, you will be lost from society and to history.)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Assessment hike should be justified by accountability

Mak Khuin Weng, in his letter to Malaysiakini, shows us how to ask the right questions, with MPPJ (now MBPJ) as a good example...


"Learning from others

"...After an ongoing six-month campaign to pressure the then Petaling Jaya Municipal Council (MPPJ) to release the accounts, the council finally allowed the campaign leaders to look at (but not make copies) of the council’s accounts.

In the short two hours ratepayers were allowed access to the accounts, notes were taken with pen and paper. After studying the information, the residents revealed numerous problems with the council’s management.

For example, the MPPJ had invested RM6.8 million in state bonds in 2003. This amount was subsequently written off as a bad investment. Could DBKL have made such similar bad investments and must now make up the shortfall?

MPPJ accounts also showed that a whopping RM38.6 million in unpaid assessment bills were accrued from 1999 to 2004. This has been reduced under Pakatan Rakyat rule, mainly because the main culprits for this debt were various Government Linked Corporations (GLCs) and they were all forced to pay up. What is the amount of unpaid assessment bills for DBKL?

Does DBKL have such skeletons in their closet? We will only be able to tell if ratepayers unite and form a coalition to pressure DBKL to release the accounts to the public."

Assessment rates

"The Local Government Act allows property owners to be charged these rates, which are derived from a valuation exercise on the rentable value of the property. The rates will be a percentage of this total value to be made payable, up to a maximum rate of 35%."

"This valuation list must be gazetted and the figures will be officially used for any rates chargeable to ratepayers. So, even if property prices were to soar ten years down the road, the valuation would remain constant. Unless, of course, there’s a physical change in the property like extensions, redevelopment or even land use change which would force a revaluation exercise straight away..."
"In the case of MPPJ, when the council announced an increase in assessment for landed properties back in 2006, the increase was done not by doing a new valuation exercise but by increasing the rateable percentage from 8% of the property value to 8.8%.

Rates can be changed yearly subject to requirements of the budget and approval from the state government, or in the case of DBKL, the Federal Territories and Urban Wellness Ministry."

"...A revaluation exercise however can only be done once every five years.

Obviously, even if the payable percentage was not increased, the value based on rental prices of property today would have increased tremendously from the past 20 years when the exercise was first carried out for many property owners.

While the law does allow the public to object, the valuers would have studied market rental rates and also through surveys asking owners what their property’s rentable rates were. So, whether you live in the said property and don’t intend to rent it out; whether you cannot afford to pay the new rates; or whether the council’s services has not improved and therefore does not justify the new rates are all irrelevant points. You have to prove that the rental rates in the area are below the value ascertained by the local council, which may be impossible since there are so many advertisements out there that would allow the valuers to reach a median value to affix to your property.

In fact, the point of the objection hearing is to allow you to present any evidence that the valuers may not have considered that would actually bring down the value of your property, like having your house located next to a cemetery or a sewerage treatment plant. Only then would the government consider a lower rateable value for your property.

Asking the right questions

Even though it might be pointless to protest against the rentable value, the ratepayer can still argue that the percentage of the rateable value be lowered by the local council. There is nothing stopping DBKL from reducing the chargeable rate to 3% or even 1% of the new property valuation to approximate the previous rate you paid.

But what ratepayers lack to argue for a lower percentage is information on the council’s operations and financial situation. As such, the ratepayers must demand that DBKL justify the need for the increase in revenue.

The problem is, none of the local councils produce annual reports – or even if they did, they do not make it publicly available. Nor are the accounts available for scrutiny."



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