Straits Times (Used by permission)
by David Yeow
KUALA LUMPUR: The admission by Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim that the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) manifesto was "sometimes overzealous" best describes the problem with the opposition coalition.
It has been 100 days since the Pakatan Rakyat took over
office in Penang, Selangor, Kedah and Perak, but aside from populist moves like
the cancellation of backlogged summonses in Penang and Perak, free rice to the
poor and providing 20 cubic metres of free water for Selangor residents, no
substantive plans for future growth and development have been announced.
Not only that, much of its election memorandum has been abandoned or postponed indefinitely.
A prime example is the Malaysian Economic Agenda (MEA). During the campaigning in the general election, the PR teased the public with this programme as an alternative to Barisan Nasional's New Economic Policy (NEP).
The opposition blasted the NEP, calling it a "divisive economic policy" subjected to much abuse.
Part Two paragraph eight of the PR memorandum said: "Five
years from the MEA's implementation date, the per capita income of Malaysians
will be three times what it is presently; in seven years it will be four times
and in ten years, five times the present value."
Now, 100 days after, no mention of the MEA has been made.
Even when Lim Guan Eng, in his maiden speech as Penang chief minister, announced that DAP would rid Penang of the NEP, no alternative in the form of the MEA was mentioned except for repeated mentions of the road to open tenders being considered.
But it is not just a lack of follow up that concerns the public.
Institute of Strategic Analysis and Policy Research (Insap) CEO Fui K. Soong is equally concerned about what the PR has accomplished thus far.
"So far, what the opposition has accomplished is a series of micro–policies with a populist bent.
"The subsidies and price control have, in the past, been populist moves by the BN government. However, such policies can no longer be continued in the age of globalisation," she said.
Fui argues that while the Federal Government was trying to wean the public away from a "subsidies mindset" towards embracing an open and competitive economy, the opposition was doing the exact opposite.
"Good governance has been one of PR's promises. But I must ask if free water, cancelling summonses and the promise to push for freehold land, is good governance?"
Fui argued that PR was shooting itself in the foot, when on one hand, they were promising good governance and on the other, they were rewarding lawbreakers by erasing their summonses.
"The people in PR say they want to benefit the poor, but when you offer 20 cubic metres of free water to all Selangor residents, even the rich benefit. Is this good governance or just political mileage?" she asked.
Echoing Fui's comments was political analyst Khoo Kay Peng, who said it was high time PR got serious and start providing real solutions for real problems.
"I think it is about time they move out from making populist policies and tackle serious issues like inflation, unemployment and local council efficiency," he said, adding that many of the populist policies were not sustainable in the long run.
"Until now, they do not have a comprehensive plan to control inflation.
"Take, for example, the recent announcement by Abdul Khalid that Selangor had attracted about US$10 billion (RM32 billion) worth of foreign investments. However, no details were given."
Khoo argued that foreign investments were not one–off events, they were vital for creating job opportunities and there must be a long–term plan to sustain and expand the investments.
"US$10 billion is a big investment and yet Abdul Khalid still hasn't given any details. They must have a proper plan."
He added that cleanliness, sustainable development, public safety and proper city planning were all issues that fell under the responsibility of the opposition state governments.
"If they argued that the previous state governments did things badly, PR must contribute to its improvement. Currently, it seems that things are still the same," he said.
But perhaps the biggest weakness in PR is its elusive existence. The coalition between opposition parties Pas, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and DAP was announced on April 1. But to date, PR has yet to be registered under the Registrar of Societies.
Fui feels that the existence of PR as an official coalition is easier said than done.
"Currently, it seems like PR will be a once–in–five–years affair. Pas will handle the rural Islamic belt, DAP will handle the Chinese community and PKR will deal with the young urbanites.
"They will leave each other to their respective territories, get by politely and rally together when the next election looms," she said.
Observers feel DAP and Pas will always be at loggerheads, with PKR, or more accurately, de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the glue that holds the coalition together. How long the loose coalition will exist depends on Anwar.
Ironically, Anwar, as the de facto leader of a coalition that is championing for a fair and equal Malaysia with good governance, is constantly talking about goading component parties in the BN to jump over.
"The problem with PR is that their ideologies and their ethics contradict each other. They are clearly not practising what they preach," Fui said.