May 11, 2019.
Recollections & Reflections – A commentary by Aziz Hassan
THERE was much anticipation for sure but after the customary statements were heard, it could be seen that the report cards on Pakatan Harapan’s first year in office were not too complimentary.
In terms of percentage points, many of the sectors dissected were given less than 50, with most commentators focusing on the institutional reforms promised as per the Pakatan manifesto before last year’s general election.
There have been explanations as to why those fiscally-related have to be put on hold and it does appear that Malaysians accept this and are thus not too grumpy about it but there are areas where Pakatan got it miserably wrong in their manifesto.
One is the promise to abolish highway tolls, with Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad saying now that the party then didn’t know how much it would have cost the government if it were to proceed with the plan. This is not convincing, considering that the main characters who wrote the manifesto all had doctorates in finance- and economy-related disciplines.
There was also a lot of criticisms by the then opposition about the Goods and Services Tax, which it said was the main contributor to high prices of goods and services under the Barisan Nasional government and hence the high cost of living. In came the Sales and Services Tax soon after Pakatan came into power but the cost of living hasn’t gone down in any significant way.
Of course we then heard Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng doing his utmost best to convince Malaysians he never said the SST would bring down prices.
But if you say the GST was responsible for raising prices and have it replaced by the SST, logic tells you that the latter is supposed to do the trick the GST couldn’t.
A lot of Mahathir’s recent statement on the first anniversary of Pakatan rule was to keep on blaming Barisan for all the ills but one can only do so much on this before it becomes stale.
Corruption under control after just one year?
He claimed that corruption was no longer as big an issue as it was under Datuk Seri Najib Razak and cohorts. This miracle in just one year? You decide if you agree with him.
Similarly there are people who can retort that the corruption that plagues Malaysian society was something that was bred over many years and became worse and worse because little was done to stem it by previous administrations, Mahathir’s first stint for 22 years as PM included.
The blame was also heaped on civil servants who were accused of being happy to support the Najib band of politicians due to largesse but Mahathir didn’t provide the specifics, which certainly left us wondering what or who he was actually referring to.
For the most part though Mahathir’s statement was merely a self-evaluation that talked about the positives Pakatan had done, even if these do not match up with the feedback from surveys by independent pollsters.
On the economy Pakatan still lags behind and we haven’t heard of any firm plan to turn the situation around. What we do know is that the ringgit has gone down badly in the last one year and so too the local stock market.
It’s also hazy where institutional reforms are concerned but statements there have been many, with most claiming that Pakatan had implemented these reforms but without anything to back up the claims.
Several agencies previously reporting to the PM’s Department now are supposed to report directly to parliament but how this is to be done hasn’t been told to the public since the announcement last July.
We haven’t heard of any of the agencies submitting their reports and that these subsequently were scrutinised and debated. Nothing and no one seems to ask or be bothered by this inactivity.
Here’s a slightly edited version of a report by the Star Online on July 1, 2018:
“Nine government agencies will operate as independent entities beginning July1 and will report directly to Parliament.
“Among the agencies are the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Election Commission, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), Public Prosecutor’s Office and the National Audit Department.
“The Public Service Commission, Education Service Commission and Judicial Appointments Commission are included.”
The argument for Pakatan is that the ruling coalition needs more time to initiate the reforms, with some suggesting that it should be given the full five-year term to do so.
Mahathir has often alluded to the need for a two-thirds majority in Parliament to effect some of the reforms because these first need the Constitution to be amended.
Agreed, but Pakatan must take the first step to keep the people informed of what is being done but merely using not having the majority to effect the amendments is more a lame excuse than logical justification.