Source: The Edge Malaysia
27 February 2013
KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 26): As the polls frenzy steadily climbs towards a crescendo, Pakatan Rakyat's election manifesto has dismayed some policy thinkers who were expecting a more sober discussion of structural reform for Malaysia's economy in the long run.
Economist Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam remarked that he was disappointed by Pakatan's manifesto as it only looks after the "small man" instead of taking a broader view on the economy.
Pakatan's manifesto does not map out the structural reformation and changes which must be made to make the economy more meritocratic and sustainable, Navaratnam said.
These include long term measures to improve the education system, productivity, public transport, public service delivery as well as address the piling public debt and budget deficit.
"The manifesto focuses more on short-term measures to fight inflation, rather than long-term solutions to create a vibrant society and economy.
"There is nothing much in the manifesto showing a different direction for society," the retired senior civil servant told fz.com.
Navaratnam also said that Pakatan's manifesto could be an impetus for ruling coalition Barisan Nasional to offer better policies that are devoid of the limitations of race, religion and politics.
"If they don't address this, then the nation would face further mediocrity and decline," Navaratnam said.
Like many critics of Pakatan's manifesto, political consultant Khoo Kay Peng said this was merely a political document "designed to please" voter groups who are deemed crucial in the next general election.
These groups include housewives, undergraduates, civil servants, retired armed forces members, Felda settlers, orang asli and East Malaysians.
These groups had been the target of various election pledges when the federal opposition on Monday released its manifesto which broadly promised to end unfair economic practices and place more disposable income in the hands of working Malaysians.
Khoo noted that the manifesto promises a myriad of goodies but is silent on how these will be achieved or how the nation will fund these plans.
"It does not explain how this nation is going to be able to afford some new subsidies, grants, freebies and payouts. The coalition left details on revenue streams aside," Khoo said in a blog post today.
Khoo remarks that the election manifesto has failed to identify the necessary reforms, particularly in addressing the on-going federal budget deficit and improving competitiveness amongst small and medium-sized companies.
"It takes an approach that money is the solution to all woes. This may not be too different compared to what prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has done over the last five years.
"As a result, both coalitions may end up trying to prove who is a better Santa Claus," Khoo said.
Both sides of the political divide are aware that Malaysia's economy, being at a crossroad, requires swift reform to competitiveness and innovation.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's New Economic Model (NEM), launched after he took office in 2009, was seen as a manifesto of sorts in offering his administration's solutions to Malaysia's woes.
The NEM outlined the need for a "new approach" to drive Malaysia toward being a high income nation while achieving sustainability and inclusiveness in the economy.
The World Bank's profile on Malaysia notes that Malaysia will need to spend time on a slew of reforms to achieve the nation's target of reaching high income status by 2020.
The priority areas, as identified by the World Bank, include: improved skills, more competition, a leaner public sector, better knowledge base, smarter cities and environmental sustainability.
Nevertheless, Centre for Public Policy Studies director Ng Yeen Seen maintained that Pakatan's manifesto was precisely just that, an election manifesto designed to inform the electorate of the political coalition's broader position.
"This isn't a blueprint or a budget. It's just promises. It's to make people understand their overall vision so the manifesto won't go into the nitty gritty," Ng said.
Ng added that if the opposition started going into details of how they would fund or implement their pledges, they could end up with a document that resembled a budget paper as they would have to justify where the funds will be found.
"In terms of manifesto content, it is up to the party to say what they feel they can fulfil. But to capture the imagination of voters in Malaysia takes more than a manifesto," Ng noted.
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