AFTER my last column, I was asked by friends and colleagues how can Pakatan Harapan turn its political fortunes around.
I think in politics, anything is possible, but as I was in politics before, I can attest that doing the right thing can be unusually tricky sometimes.
Second, power changes a person. Anyone who tells you it does not is a liar. But the degree of change can always be managed.
The trappings of power can intoxicate quite quickly.
In fact, for many Pakatan politicians, the change of scene must be very stark.
For example, they no longer need to sleep on the streets (as they did during Bersih), they do not need to fly coach or eat in a food court anymore. As government officials, they can avail themselves of the trappings of power, and I’m sure it feels good – first-class flights, meals in fancy restaurants and a coterie of special assistants.
So, as the country grapples with a myriad of problems and with those in power, adjusting themselves to being in power – how can things get better?
Pakatan must make Malaysians hopeful once again.
Hope is a powerful emotion. Most people strive for hope. Hope gives many people the reason to forge ahead in life.
Someone also shared a video of the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern trumpeting her government’s achievements in under three minutes. I think the current government leaders will need less than that to talk about their accomplishments.
Also, there is an apparent disconnect between the government and Malaysians.
For example, the Minister of Human Resources, M. Kulasegaran, said “right now. We have around 640,000 jobs available and not just in the 3D sector. We have more than 21,000 professional jobs and 22,000 technical jobs.”
The minister went on to say young people did not want these jobs.
Now, I don’t know where the minister got his statistics from, but it is not the case on the ground. Due to a slow economy, the job market is sluggish.
Maybe the Labour Department can list every single job via a job portal or placement agency – then we may be inclined to believe what seems to be “mumbo-jumbo.”
I believe Pakatan campaigners will have a tough time in Tanjung Piai as many of the promises made in their manifesto has not been implemented. Instead of making things better, the mood of the nation is dour at best.
People do not feel good anymore. That most powerful element – hope – is not there anymore.
So how can Pakatan be hopeful again?
First, it’s the economy stupid!
We cannot blame the government for the global slowdown. Malaysia is a trading nation with trade larger than our GDP. So any decrease in global trade will affect us.
However, the economic management of Malaysia has two power centres. One is the Ministry of Finance and second is the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Previously, the Ministry of Finance was the overriding authority on our economic management. The Economic Planning Unit under the Prime Minister’s Department focused on the five-year plans and its implementation.
Of course, there was some overlap and duplication, but, on all matters, economic – the Ministry of Finance would have the last say.
Now we have a Minister of Economic Affairs, but no one knows what he is doing for the economy. The Minister’s Twitter feed is inundated with proclamations of loyalty to the Prime Minister and description of his many meetings.
Beyond that, we have no idea how he plans to make Malaysia the new “Asian Tiger.”
The “Shared-Economic Vision 2030” was merely a rehash of previous policies with fancy jargon. It has very lofty objectives, great branding but little substance. It is just old wine in a new bottle.
The Minister of Finance, on the other hand, is trying his best in a challenging climate. However, he needs work both hard and smart.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs need to get in a room and on the same page on what needs to be done to support the economy in these trying times.
Second, Pakatan has lost its reformist zeal. The Attorney-General seems unwilling or unable to push for the reforms he so passionately advocated during his long and illustrious career at the Malaysian Bar.
And now, a further slap on the face is the charges of terrorism against two elected representatives from DAP. Previously DAP would find itself fighting the government on such spurious charges, but now it has to fight itself as it is part of the government.
It’s a pity that the state of the nation is such that we find our security forces fighting terrorists from a defunct organisation.
Third, we need ministers to stick to the work of their ministries.
We have an indefatigable and energetic Minister of Youth and Sports. However, sometimes I see him as the Minister of Food Panda, Minister of Information, Minister of Gojek and Minister of Entrepreneurs. Pardon my confusion, but it’s real.
Fourth, we also need to stop fighting with our friends.
India buys close to 13% of our palm oil, yet we find ourselves quarrelling with them. And as we decide whether India “invaded” and “occupied” Kashmir – Indonesia has started selling more palm oil to India.
And what is the answer of the Minister in charge of palm oil – “murukku” for journalists and parliamentarians in conjunction with Deepavali. The only savings grace was the murukku was cooked using palm oil.
I believe Malaysians deserve better.
The way things stand, we deserve better than both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan.
We deserve a government that listens and cares. We deserve leaders who stand up for us.
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