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Rate hikes causing major discontent
The Sun 14/1/2006

IN RECENT WEEKS, 'the 'Selangor Gerakan Youth headquarters has been inundated with many complaints from residents allover the country on the manner local councils had raised the quit rent and assessment rates and the extraordinary high percentage increase of the rates.

Most of the disgruntled callers were from areas under the jurisdiction of the Kuala Muda District Council, Sungai Petani Town Council, Kuala Lumpur City Hall, Petaling Jaya Town Council, the Selayang Municpal Council, Malacca City Hall and even from as far south as Johor.

In the cases involving residents of Sungai Petani, many were not even aware of any increase until they went to make payment at the Land Office.

Many of those who did not bring extra money had to return home and queue up again on another day; they claim that not only were they not notified but the increase of between 100% and 257% does not make any sense.

A fisherman from Kuala Muda narrated that it was a burden for him as it was only last year that his family had to go through hardships, no thanks to the tsunami that hit the northern coast.

This year; the local government is adding to his burden by the increased rates.

What irks him more was that he had to take a bus and taxi to come all the way to town to make 'payment only to have to go back as he did not bring sufficient cash.

It will cost more now as not only has he to pay for trips to and from town but he has to forgo another day of fishing to come again.

He laments that fishermen like him who live along the coastal areas cannot afford all this hassle and extra expenditure. The money would and could be put for better use for his family.

Another resident from Pekan Lama, Sungai Petani, claims that his previous assessment was only RM40 annually, but it was increased to RM100, which is a whopping 150%.

There is no major development in his area nor is there any renovations made to his home, so he cannot fathom why they are such a huge increase. Complaints to the Land Office only fell on deaf ears.

This increase will make a dent to his already meager pensioner's income. And to add insult to injury the services by the council thus far is nothing to shout about and does not justify such huge increases.

Many a time, too, the complainant had to make countless phone calls to the council to remind them to cut the grass or clear the drains.

He angrily said that maybe it is about time he starts charging the council for the calls made.

If indeed all the above allegations are true, then Gerakan Youth believe something in must be terribly wrong in the way the above town council went about increasing title rates.

Residents from Selayang who called the Gerakan Youth office said their rate hike was between 50% and 200%.

They are confused as to why there is such a big jump as they were initially informed by the councilors that any increase, if there was, would not exceed 10%. This sudden increase is both puzzling and a burden.

Like their brethren in Malacca, all the above complainants want either the mentris besar or the federal government to intervene and investigate whether the hikes in assessment rates were according to procedures and ensure that no mistakes were made.

The people want to know whether such hikes in the present trying times are justified.

Chief Minister of Malacca Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam has admitted that the increases in rates for certain areas in Malacca were wrongly computed by staffs that were not good in their maths.

Some could be due to technical errors. If this is the case, there is a possibility the same mistakes are being made by other councils, too.

Most of the complainants are also angry that politicians are silent and are not voicing their constituents' grievances.

Some even went on to indirectly threaten in their complaints that they would use their voting power to effect changes.

Selangor Gerakan Youth fears such remarks may be detrimental if the discontent is more wide-spread.

Though the increase in Petaling Jaya is not as high as those from the rural areas, nonetheless, these urban middle class residents have already started a signature campaign with the aim to lower or defer the increase in their assessment rates.

Not many of the home and land owners in the smaller towns or rural districts are willing or able to take such action, but it does not mean they agree to the exorbitant hikes.

The minister for the local government and housing should look into their grouses and be the voice of these people.

The rise of the price of petroleum and cooking gas has already caused a dent in most household budgets.

Parents with school-going children are already burdened with fee and book price increases.

Thus, the exorbitant rates imposed do not augur well among the people affected.

Delren Terrence Douglas
Petaling Jaya


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