Friday 24 January 2014

A sure-‘W1N’ way to reduce the deficit?

There is so much talk about the need to cut the budget deficit.  As subsidies are rolled back, the public is now paying a heavy price and is aghast at the rising cost of living.  

We are already seeing price hikes in basic necessities, electricity and toll, among others.  On Thursday, we were told that most of us will soon be not eligible to buy RON95 petrol.  It is subsidised fuel reserved for the "poor", we were told.  How that will be implemented and how "poor" is defined, is unclear.

But you can bet that if they decide to reserve RON95 petrol only for national cars at the petrol pumps, that will be a "sure-WIN" for Proton.  Speaking of WIN and cars, there is an almost sure-WIN way of closing in the budget deficit fast, without unnecessarily burdening the public.  The public will gladly pay for this effort, and it will be largely funded by the upper classes and elites.  

I am talking about the creation and selling of special car numbers. This week, the Sultan of Johor paid RM748,000 to secure the car number plate "W1N" which looks like "win".  

Malaysians have a great affinity for cars, and even greater affinity for car numbers.  For many businessmen and tycoons, the car number is as important as the car marque.  In a land where Mercedes and BMWs are common, it gives the owner added status and identity. 

To be fair, the sum paid by the Sultan of Johor as much higher than usual. But then again, it is the only one with a "win" permutation.  The subsequent numbers, W2N to W10N netted a total of RM653,687, or an average of RM72,632.  If we average out W1N to W10N, the average per number would be RM140,169.

If a W1N number is worth as much as ten times that of a non-W1N, then perhaps we should start considering creating more W1N permutations?

Imagine if we create more opportunities for the public to own the winning number.  We could start by adding more numbers behind W1N, starting from W1N 1 to W1N 9999.  That gives you 9,999 permutations of the W1N series. If each number can be sold for, say, an average of RM50,000, we are looking at a potential revenue of RM500million !

Stretching our imagination a bit further, what if we add more permutations to the W1N series, by also adding alphabets before that? Okay, that would cross state boundaries, but if we could add MAT, NOR, BIN, AL1, ABU, HAJ, ARU, AR1, TAN, LIM, ANG, ONG, AKU and so on.  To precede W1N, the possibilities are endless. 

A number like "TAN W1N 1" or "LIM W1N 1" will surely be coveted by rich tycoons with the surnames Tan and Lim, of which there are plenty.  Similarly, for the combinations that appeal to ethnic Malay and Indian names. 

For the more neutral, "AKU W1N 1", "1 W1N 1" or "MY W1N 1" sound perfect ! The young at heart would love to have MACHA W1N 1, but, oops, there are too many alphabets there.

Imagine again, if we could create just 20 of such permutations, each to join W1N and followed by the 9,999 permutations for the numbers that follow. We are looking at a total of 199,980 possible permutations! And if each number can garner say an average of RM30,000, we are looking at potential revenue of RM6 billion!

If one is worried about potential oversupply of numbers, it can be easily absorbed as this would represent less than one-third of new cars sold yearly.  And one will gladly pay for a number that bears his or her name, and can be kept for future cars and future generations.

This is of course, a tongue-in-cheek proposal. I am not sure if the authorities will take it seriously, although there is a huge market, and it will be a "Sure-W1N" formula.

But the main reason I am writing on this is to show that there are actually many ways for the government to cut the budget deficit.  It can be achieved by not just focusing on cutting subsidies, raising taxes or burdening the public.  

The government should be more creative. It must think out of the box to find new ideas to raise revenue or cut unnecessary wastages. 

Oh, and of course, please don't privatise these ideas !


  1. The government could sell APs too. Another RM3-5bil to reduce our deficit.

  2. "C4" would be a specially reserved plate

  3. Could not agree more especially your last statement "please don't privatise these ideas". For privatised entities with monopolistic business, the government should collect higher taxes or more say in the way the business is run. Why benefit only select few? We probably know the answer to that. Am waiting for news announcement in the future where the IRB will be privatised as well in order to improve efficiency.

  4. It escapes me why anyone would pay astronomical sums for a car plate number in Malaysia, no matter how 'fortuitous' it can be made to sound. In California, I got a personalized plate but it did'nt bring me any special good fortune. Eventually sold the car, with the plate, for peanuts after 5 years.

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