Politics & government

[2867] Assessing Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto for the 2018 general election

So, how would I rate Pakatan Harapan’s massive manifesto for the 2018 general election?

I generally agree with the conclusion reached by the people at the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs. Pakatan’s institutional reform agenda is impressive, and it satisfies my demand enough. But its economic proposals are difficult to stomach wholly.

Pakatan’s economic side may suffer from credibility crisis because the coalition has multiple big pushes that will affect government revenue negatively (namely GST abolition, income tax reduction, greater sharing of petroleum royalty with the states, sharing of income tax with the states) while committing to big expenditure plans (free tertiary education, the return of fuel subsidy albeit more targeted and highway concession takeover). This will strain government finances. Pakatan should be prepared to put a cost on these measures and cite the potential sources of financing for these policies. These are big changes that will take time to carry out. It can work, but with very careful planning. A very gradual sequencing could be very important.

But I believe at this stage Malaysia needs institutional reforms more than yet another boost in our short-term growth. Stability is important, but at the same time long-run prosperity will depend on our institutions and our social capital, without which our economic achievement might be short lived. Sometimes we need to slow down and reassess what we have. In this flawed democracy that we have, perhaps populism has to be engaged first before the reforms could be made.

You need to win the election first. That is the ultimate objective, as obvious as it sounds. The manifesto has to be taken as a whole. And so, weighing the two, I will give the manifesto a thumb up.

I have a wishlist. I am naturally disappointed some of them are not taken up, but also happy that some others are included in the manifesto. This is a democracy. Some compromises are inevitable however disappointing and discouraging.

Another thing, while we judge parties by their promises and their ability to fulfill it, we also have to take into account things they do not mention and will not do. I think a lot of people out there do not quite realize the importance of which sides would not do what. Too many are focused on what political parties explicitly said they would do. What they would not do could be just as important as what they would do.

Here, I try to assess all the manifesto points made by Pakatan. Before we go there, I would like to apologize for any typo and grammatical problems. The manifesto is very, very long and hard to read. It took me two days to properly finish it. Once I got to the end, I had lost all interest in editing this post.

I will say this. The document needs a bit formatting. It is too massive to be easily read. I take the size of the document as a sign of growing maturity of the two-party system in Malaysia, as well as the complexity of working with too many people. After all, this is an actual organization of diverse people, not a hashtag.

Well then, let us get on with business. There are five main pillars:

  1. Reducing living costs
  2. Institutional reforms
  3. Exciting economic growth with fair distribution
  4. Returning powers to Sabah and Sarawak
  5. Buillding an inclusive and moderate Malaysia

There are other minor sections, but I will skip that.

So, knock yourself out.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reservedMohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reservedMohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved

Core 1: Reducing living costs Summary: I feel a large part of this section is difficult to swallow whole. Abolishing GST and reintroducing fuel subsidies are a step backward. Meanwhile, I feel measures on PTPTN needs more thinking, although there is no easy solution to it; the current model does not work well. Nevertheless, there are some good points here and I like the anti-monopoly position taken. There is also a nod to renting as a solution, a good counter to the madness of homeownership culture.

  1. Abolish the GST. I oppose and my reasoning is here. There is a better way to do this.
  2. Reduce inflation. It is difficult to give a yes-no answer here.
    • I like the anti-monopoly position taken. I would have vested greater power and independence into the Competition Commission, while promising to expand its resources.
    • I like the excise duties reduction for low-powered cars. But on cars, such policy must come together with fuel tax to address usage.
    • I am of two minds about the abolition of tolled highways. By default, I oppose it because I believe in pay-as-you-go approach to limit usage costs to actual users. But the issue is complex. Some abolition might be cheaper for everybody (in positive externality sense) because the political pressure to keep toll charges unchanged and the subsequent compensation that must be paid to private operators might be more expensive than an outright takeover by the government. Furthermore, as far as Kuala Lumpur (and Penang as well?) is concerned, I would not mind if such takeover functions as a precursor to a systematic congestion charge system, like in Singapore.
    • The implicit reliance of price control tools is a downer, but that is nothing different from what is happening right now.
    • On the ringgit, all I can say, politely, leave it to the central bank. The executive branch of government should have limited say in on this matter and the independence of the central bank must be guarded so jealously.
  3. Share the wealth. This is another point where it is not so clear-cut.
    • Continuation and more importantly, the depoliticization of the cash transfer program BR1M is a plus. I would have added a rule-based program, rather than continue with the discretionary method used today. A rule-based program with automatic transfer, in my opinion, is the best depoliticization tool around. The manifesto is silent on the exact method to achieve depoliticization.
    • Establishing universal safety net is admirable, but it may require more hashing out. Malaysia has a fragmented system that needs to be merged systematically. I have a feeling BN will come out with a more sophisticated version of this promise, especially because they have access to the relevant professionals and experts by virtue of being the government of the day. I know several programs the BN government plans to roll out in the long term and they are generally good.
    • Streamline and centralize welfare data. This is good for efficiency and as part of the safety net system.
    • I think I can support reallocating more petroleum royalties to the states. I think this is probably better than what Sarawak, Najib and Barisan Nasional are doing with Petros and related matters. Nevertheless, I wonder if this is the best way, given Pakatan’s other set of promises.
  4. Introduce affordable homes and rent-to-own scheme. I generally support this.
    • I support rent-to-own scheme, as a way to steer current homeownership culture to a more sustainable system.
    • I support anti-monopoly measures on land by putting a limit how long a developer can own an undeveloped land. But I fear, this might not be enough, because the state themselves make money by selling land to fill up its own coffer. This goes back to the separate issue of state revenue.
    • I oppose incentives given to small developers. My support for anti-monopoly measures does not translate into giving out business goodies to the small guys.
    • I support developing Islamic grant land (waqaf) as new residential areas. A digression: these waqaf lands most of times are unproductive and untaxable. More effort should be done to make them productive, while discouraging the creation of new waqaf. In fact, I would support the taxation of waqaf land, with the exception of very few cases. I would also slap all waqaf land with a 99 years tenure, which later must be returned to the state, which its status converted automatically to conventional land, except when the state agrees otherwise.
    • Proposal to redo PR1MA is unclear.
    • I support the creation of a master housing authority to streamline and absorb all housing government bodies so that we can have a more consistent approach/policy.
  5. Reduce living costs for the youth. 
    • I am undecided about delay in PTPTN repayment. There are 3 specific suggestions deserving attention:
      • Pakatan wants a program where borrowers would only pay back once their gross income hits RM4,000 per month. I think this good for the borrowers (financial problems faced by young graduates is a problem) but I am a bit concerned with the sustainability of PTPTN. The fund, even right now, appears unsustainable and this would force PTPTN to finance their long-term assets with more short-term liability (it is already doing so). The interest differential under this suggestion would exacerbate PTPTN current problem. PTPTN currently is unsustainable without massive government support and I do not see Pakatan (or BN for that matter) addressing this problem, which could turn into a monster. I see a gargantuan bailout, regardless who is the government of the day, sometime in the future. The sooner we solve this, the better.
      • Discount or debt forgiveness for high-achievers. Disagree, because this group of people are the ones most able to pay back their loans. If they get discount, that means PTPTN would have an extremely high ratio of bad borrowers in their books. Sounds like a bad business model made worse. But I understand PTPTN is not a business, but again, its sustainability is a problem and giving out discount exacerbates it. It might be better double down on it by gradually do a debt forgiveness or even heavy discounting for all with a view to close the fund down, rather than exacerbate the unsustainablility of PTPTN. This will be extremely expensive one way or another.
      • Incentive for employers that somehow help their employees payback their PTPTN loans. I am unclear about this to have an informed opinion.
    • Marriage incentives. I am ambivalent. I prefer baby bonus.
    • Job creation promise. I do not see details.
    • A cross-Asean labor mobility program for young graduate. As a regionalist, I support this.
    • Reduction in internet cost. I support and this will go back to controlling monopoly. I am looking at you Telekom.
  6. Abolishing tolled roads. This an expansion to the same point above but, explained in greater details. It says Pakatan would reassess all concession agreements, and on case-by-case basis, end toll collection. Put it this way, I might be more agreeable to such takeover.
  7. Introduce targeted fuel subsidy. I oppose. Expensive in cost. Expensive in implementation. I have been opposing fuel subsidy for the longest time, and I have been pro-cash transfer as a replacement of such subsidy since at least 2010. We should improve on the cash transfer instead of returning back to an inefficient policy. Pakatan wants to use better identification technology to design a targeted subsidy regime, but economically, cash transfer is more efficient in the sense that it is cheaper and more welfare enhancing. You can increase the cash size for poorer folks. I do not mind that. Just do not revert to the inferior solution.
  8. Improve public transport. Generally agree but this section feels too focused on bus and lacks other solutions like congestion charges, bus lanes, etc. I do not feel it is as comprehensive as it should be.
    • More bus through concessions, with profitable routes subsidizing less profitable ones. I agree, although I would add the routes (profitable ones paired with the less attractive ones) should be opened to transparent bidding by interested parties. But I think what is missing here are bus lanes.
    • Cost reduction for bus license. Okay I guess, for it reduces the operation costs for bus as a means of public transport.
    • 10,000 additional buses on the road by the end of the first term of a Pakatan government. I am unsure about the number, but perhaps it is in the right direction.
    • Monthly public transport pass. Agree.
    • One-pass-for-all approach for the pass. Agree, only if it reduces costs relative existing native system. And oh, no TnG.
    • Ridesharing services. I am leaning towards disagree. Pakatan wants to encourage the sector. I think apart from making protecting drivers’ rights and the necessary laws to make the sector legal and safe, maybe the government should stay out of it. Let Grab and Uber or anybody else handles it. No need to give out extra incentives. I do not want to give out sweets here. They can survive on their own.
  9. Improve quality and access to health services. I am unclear or ambivalent about the measures. Some proposals are too general that one goes meh, while some are too specific that I would prefer to ask an actual doctor for his or her opinion.
    • Promise of 4% of GDP spending on health care versus 2% currently. Cool, but what would they spend on?
    • RM500 health voucher for treatment at private clinics. Sounds great, but at the back of my mind, I think there will be tons of abuse by the doctors. I can agree with the proposal if I could be convinced there is a mechanism to detect the abuse and punish the abuser.
    • Allocation and incentives for private companies and welfare bodies to treat rare diseases. I do not know enough to have an opinion here.
    • Focus on noncommunicable disease. Feels too general to merit a response.
    • More resources for mental health. Agreed although more details are required.
    • Compulsory pneumococcal vaccination. I do not know and I am not going to google that.
    • Incentive for palliative care centers. Agreed given Malaysia is ageing but may want to guard against an oversupply of such centers. I do not want such centers to cater foreigners, which is sort of becoming a big business in Malaysia with clients from places like Korea and Japan. Government funding, in this particular case, should be reserved for Malaysians only.
    • Reduce houseman waiting time. I am undecided. I have heard horror story that shortening it might not be a good idea.
    • Medical scholarship abroad to be limited. Agreed. After several conversations with doctors, the quality of a lot of foreign graduates in medicine is pretty bad. I found this shocking but began to understand later that those would could not quality into medical programs in Malaysia generally go outside to get their degree at foreign universities with low reputation. Digressing altogether, there needs to be a qualifying exam (is there already?) for foreign graduates intending to become a doctor in Malaysia.
  10. Guarantee basic food supply and farmers’ welfare. This will make me sound bad, but I largely oppose it. While I support “food security” measures, I oppose self-sufficiency for the costs it imposes on the majority.
    • Introducing tech to farmers. Agreed, but I am unsure if this is any different from current practice.
    • Abolition of rice monopoly by Bernas. Agreed although its abolition should not give rise to other monopolies, private or otherwise. I would suggest a no quota, free imports market.
    • Tight control over rice imports. I oppose. The deltas of Irrawandy, Chao Phraya and Mekong produce tons of rice that could produce the foodstuffs very cheaply. Farmers’ can be aided in other ways, perhaps through diversification away from paddy planting.
    • Cash aid for purchases of farming supplies. I am unsure about this.
    • Aid for disasters for farmers and fishermen. It does not say it so explicitly how, but I think I can support a government-funded income insurance for the groups.
    • Establishment of rubber reserves to control the price of rubber. I oppose. When I read this, it reminds me of Thailand’s disastrous rice reserves.

Core 2: Reforming national institutions Summary: This is perhaps the best part of the manifesto. Direct, clear and what I think this country needs at this juncture so badly. I disagree with very few points only.

  1. Empower the Malay institutions. As I said, Core 2 is the best part of the manifesto. But it is unfortunate that it begins with a section that gives out recommendations that I on average oppose.
    • Empower the sultans and the rajas as a check to the executive. Oppose because I am aware of… checks gone wrong here. I prefer for us to empower other non-royal bodies for check-and-balance purposes.
    • Return religious affairs back to the state and federal intervention removed. Agreed but perhaps with multiple reservations which I will not mention. These reservations could be addressed by a strong federal guarantee on civil liberties and the supremacy of the civil courts over all religious authorities.
    • Establish a consultative body on national harmony. Agree.
    • Encourage research into Malay studies. Okay-lah.
    • Upgrade the Royal Museum into a research center. Okay-lah.
    • Safeguard Malay reserves. I am unsure of this because such status affects the land value adversely. I do not have a solution for this, so I will reserve my judgment. A way has to be figured out to develop certain places, like Kampung Bahru and Kampung Datuk Keramat in Kuala Lumpur.
    • Selected government-owned companies would be prepared for management buyout to raise Malay and bumiputra equity percentage. I oppose. Is there anything special about MBO that I am missing? But MBO could easily go wrong in the cronyism kind of way. I feel it is better to float such companies, and have PNB handle the equity concerns.
    • Table annual status report on the Malay and Islam. Unsure if this is a good idea, but I do not oppose it.
  2. Limit the PM’s terms and reform the PMO. Agreed wholly.
    • 2-term limits on the PM and CM offices. Agreed. In fact, they should enforce this immediately at the state level, regardless whether Pakatan wins Putrajaya.
    • PM to hold no other office. Agreed. This separates the roles of the PM and the finance minister.
    • Reducing the number of ministers in the PMO with functions absorbed by the relevant ministries. Agreed.
    • Reducing allocation for PMO. Agreed.
    • Reducing the number of agencies under the PMO and reassign these agencies to the relevant ministries or bodies. Agreed.
  3. Address scandals in 1MDB, Felda, Mara and Tabung Haji. Agreed wholly.
    • Credible investigation in to the scandals. Agreed.
    • Legal prosecution. Agreed. I would add a promise to throw that crook into prison.
    • Depoliticization and professionalization of these bodies. Agreed.
  4. Reform Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. Agreed wholly with additional suggestions.
    • MACC to be placed under the authority of the Parliament, instead of within the PM Department. Agreed.
    • Security of tenure for commissioners. Agreed, if it means they cannot be removed earlier than their term expiry. The term expiry needs to be longer than the term of the parliament, possibly 7 years to increase its independence from the executive.
    • Reforming the Whistleblower Act, Official Secret Act and Witness Protection Act. Agreed. My suggestion is that whistleblower protection should include protection from legal prosecution under any laws, and avenues of legitimate whistleblowing to include, perhaps among others, the press.
    • Compulsory asset and income declaration for all MPs, senators and top civil servants. I would include those at the state levels too.
    • Joining Open Government Partnership. Agreed.
  5. Make the Attorney-General more independent. Agreed wholly with additional suggestions.
    • Splitting the AG chamber into the public prosecutor office and the government’s legal advisor office. Agreed.
    • A qualified MP to be appointed as the legal advisor, who will be a minister. Agreed.
    • Public prosecutor to be independent of party politics. Agreed but I would suggest his or her appointment must be approved by the Parliament with tenure longer than 5 years. I propose a tenure of 7 years
  6. Empower the Parliament. Agreed largely, with additional suggestions.
    • Speakers of the Parliament to be appointed among the members of the House/Senate. I think I disagree but such disagreement may be a matter of definition. I prefer for the Speakers to be elected directly, just like in the UK.
    • Speakers to cannot be a member of any political party. Agreed.
    • Establish a committee to address members’ complaints against the speaker. Agreed.
    • Opposition leader to be a cabinet member. Agreed.
    • Transparent state funding for all MPs. Agreed. I would include the Senators too.
    • Compulsory minimum 100 day sittings a year. Agreed.
    • Establish select committee to keep all ministries in check. Agreed.
    • Top positions to Human Rights Commission, Election Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission, etc to be confirmed by the Parliament. Agreed but I would add their tenure must be longer than 5 years to make them independent of the Parliament after their appointed. Seven is a good number. I do not want to have an overly powerful Parliament that if they become corrupt like during the Cromwell days, then there would be no recourse. It is important for these positions to be independent of the executive and the legislature after their appointment.
    • Select committees to have the power to call major government regulators in for questioning. Agreed but I would say the committees should have the power to call anybody for questioning, the jail time for failure to attend any hearing.
    • Public Accounts Committee chairman to be appointed from opposition MP. Agreed.
    • Compulsory public feedback for all bills. Agreed.
    • The number of all state senators must always be greater than federally-appointed members. Agreed. But here, I am disappointed there is no move to have election for all senators.
    • Publication of board membership on all companies by all MPs and senators. Agreed.
  7. Guarantee the integrity of the electoral system. I do not object. But the proposals do not go far enough to my liking. I prefer the first-pass-the-post method be replaced with proportional representation.
    • Creating a permanent committee on caretaker government. Agreed.
    • Instituting previous electoral recommendations from Bersih and Ideas. Agreed.
    • Cleaning up the electoral roll, improving voting process and minimum 21 days official campaigning period. Agreed.
    • Lowering voting age to 18. Agreed.
    • Automatic registration. Agreed.
    • Guaranteed access for all registered party to state tv and radio. Agreed.
    • Anti-malapportionment and gerrymandering measures. Agreed.
  8. Establish political financing mechanism. Agreed wholly.
    • Pass an act to make sure political financing is transparent and legal. Agreed.
    • Provide state financing for political parties. Agreed.
    • List out all legitimate financing sources. Agreed. I would also ban foreign financing, and provide protection for all local sources. No tax break for this purpose. I would also put a ceiling a corporation could donate.
    • Financing reporting each year. Agreed.
    • RM1 billion limit on assets held by political party. Agreed.
    • No government-linked companies are allowed to give political contribution. Agreed.
  9. Instill trust in the judiciary. It’s okay. I think there is also a need to reform how the AG has a say in the appointment of lower judges, which the manifesto is silent on. I want that to go away.
    • Merit-based promotion without interference from the Prime Minister. Agreed.
    • Improvement in wages, bonuses and incentives for judges. Ambivalent.
    • Parliament select committee to have a say in judge appointment. Agreed.
  10. Instill trust in the police and the military. Largely agreed.
    • Increase in funding for the police. Ambivalent.
    • Decentralization of the police force. Ambivalent.
    • Establish IPCMC. Agreed.
    • Special branch to have its political policing role removed while focusing on domestic security, terrorism and organized crime. Agreed.
    • Reforming pension for the police force. Agreed. There are no details, but it has to be contribution-defined benefits.
    • State financing for ex-police/military associations. Ambivalent.
  11. Empower the civil service. Too general.
    • Depoliticize the civil service. This feels too general to be meaningful.
    • Limits on external consultants participation in policymaking. I am unsure if this is good because there are a lot of good people outside of the civil service. But it is clearly a response to the Pemandu experience.
    • Merit-based promotion. Agreed.
    • Instilling out of the box culture. Is this a manifesto item?
  12. Improve governance at GLCs. Mixed.
    • Improving governance in troubled GLCs. Agreed but too general.
    • GLCs to be active in sectors with market-failure and not compete with others. Unsure. From the way it is worded, the author does not understand the concept of market failure.
    • Management buyout for GLCs to increase bumiputra equity level. I oppose.
    • Politicians to not sit on GLC board. Agreed.
    • GLCs to have bumiputra vendor program. Opposed.
    • Establish a select committee to vet GLC’s financial performances. Agreed.
  13. Improve government procurement. Wholly agreed.
    • Wider used of open tender system. Agreed. You know what would be awesome? Ratifying the new TPP government procurement chapter.
    • Revise recent infrastructure contracts given out to foreign firms. Agreed.
    • UKAS to be transferred to MOF from PMD. Agreed.
    • Wider use of IT system to avoid the role of discretionary in contract awards. Agreed, with reservations.
    • Share a public list of all government contracts awarded, along with relevant financial information. Agreed.
    • Support for SMEs to navigate the bidding process. Agreed.
  14. Realizing federalism. Agreed, with some reservations.
    • Limit changes to the ninth schedule to prevent the strengthening of the federal government vis-a-vis the states. Agreed.
    • Decentralize services. Partially agreed. Some of the areas mentioned may need federal powers. For instance, I do not trust the state in managing the forest due to its incentives to encourage timber production. The federal government needs to check some powers invested in the state.
    • Each state to enjoy 10% of income tax collected from the state residents. Agreed but may need to lower the amount.
    • 50% of development expenditure to be directed to the five poorest states in the next three years. Partially agreed. The figure might be too high but I have not done the calculation to have a firm opinion on the matter.
  15. Empowering the local council. Agreed, although I feel the promise of “mengukuhkan demokrasi setempat” is a bit vague. May need to wait for the English version to come out. I would take that as reintroducing local election, but I could be wrong.
  16. Protecting human rights. Agreed wholly.
    • Members of the Malaysian human rights boards to be appointed by the Parliament. Agreed.
    • Improve Malaysia’s standing at the Universal Periodic Review. Agreed.
    • Greater funding for human rights bodies. Agreed.
    • Upgrade the powers of Malaysia’s representative to the Asean human rights body. Agreed.
    • Ratification of various agreements regarding human rights. Agreed.
  17. Abolish oppressive laws. Largely agreed.
    • Abolish Sedition Act, Crime Prevention Act, University and College University Act, Printing and Publication Act, National Security Council Act. Agreed although I am unsure if Crime Prevention and University and College University Acts should be abolished. I think maybe an amendment is suffice.
    • Amend laws relating to public assembly. Agreed.
    • Amend Communication and Multimedia Act. Agreed.
    • Amend SOSMA. Agreed.
    • Amend Peaceful Assembly Act. Agreed.
    • Amend POTA. Agreed.
    • Amend laws to allow the courts to revise decisions by the government. Agreed.
    • Professionalize RTM and Bernama. Agreed.
    • Media ombudsman to be established. Agreed.
  18. Abolish BTN and PLKN. Agreed wholly.
  19. Increase transparency to the budget process. Agreed.
    • Midyear review of budget at the Parliament. Agreed.
    • Implement accrual accounting to government finances. I will leave to this to accountants.
    • Centralize all data on off-budget spending. Agreed.
    • Stats department to publish machine-friendly data. Agreed, but might be irrelevant under this section as most of data from the department is unrelated to the budget process. Fiscal data usually comes from the Finance Ministry.

Core 3: Economic growth and equality Summary: I feel I could see Bersatu’s influence the strongest here. I think I am mostly 50-50 here.

  1. Raise national economic growth. Mixed.
    • Maintain an open economy. Agreed.
    • Support SMEs. Mixed.
    • Support bumiputra economic activities. Mixed.
    • Publish the latest bumiputra equity holdings in the market and do a yearly report on it. Agreed.
    • Bumiputra economic NGOs to be official dialog partners. Opposed. What is the significance of being dialog partners? I feel they should not be given special access to the government.
    • Focus on achieving Wawasan 2020. Ambivalent.
  2. Encourage investment and simplifying business and trade. Agreed.
    • Participation in Asean-linked agreement and RCEP. Agreed. I hope this also means ratification of the TPP.
    • Proceed with bilateral with the EU. Agreed.
    • Focus on attracting high-quality investment from China, but with safeguard especially with it comes to public infrastructure projects. Agreed.
    • Business associations to have access to the ministries and the relevant agencies. I am unsure why this needs to be mentioned.
    • MPC to be given power to cut red tapes to increase productivity. Agreed.
    • Encourage women participation in the labor force. Agreed. But wrong section.
    • Increase English competency in the labor force. Agreed.
  3. Revamp the taxation system. Leaning towards opposing it.
    • Revamp personal income, corporate income and other taxes. Unclear what the revamping entails. I would suggest closing all the tax holidays/incentives for old industries.
    • Reduce tax rate for small businesses. Mixed. Malaysian tax rates are already quite low relative to most countries in the world.
    • Cut income tax for the middle 40%. Opposed. Such cut cannot come together with abolition of GST or an equivalent tax cut in consumption tax.
  4. Establish Equal Opportunities Commission. Agreed. This is important to move beyond affirmative action/positive discrimination and address negative hiring discrimination in the public and the private sectors.
  5. Raise household income. Oppose most of the measures.
    • Raise economic growth and provide safety net for low-income workers. Too general.
    • Standardize minimum wage across Malaysia. Opposed.
    • Raising minimum wage to RM1,500 monthly. Mildly opposed. I think the orthodox view is that 40% MW of median wage should be okay and RM1,500 and below should not affect market rates that much.
    • Government to subsidize RM250 of the minimum wage. Mixed. With the abolition of the GST, and further proposed cuts in income tax, the raise in expenditure might be too much. I need to see its projected total cost to decide.
    • Reducing foreign labour to 4 million from 6 million within 3 years. Opposed. The impact of reducing 2 million work within that short timeframe can cause a recession. There is already a shortage of workers in Malaysia in multiple sectors.
    • More efficient zakat aid for the needy. Agreed, but no details.
    • Special agency to distribute BR1M. Mixed. I am unconvinced of the need to have a special agency for that. The document does say the agency might be a genesis of a safety net system. I prefer a migration towards negative income tax system, which will make BR1M redundant.
  6. Create quality jobs. Agreed. The point on work rights for refugees is particularly brave and the right thing to do.
    • Reintroduce unions and collective barganing at workplace. Agreed.
    • Create 1 million quality jobs. Unsure.
    • Free retraining for new economy. Okay, maybe.
    • Legalizing and allow refugees to work in Malaysia. Agreed.
    • Subsidized child creches throughout the country to encourage labour participation. Agreed.
  7. Introduce EPF for homemakers. Opposed. Cash flow can be as important as savings. If you do not have enough cash flow while starving, savings that could only be tapped into 30-40 years from now will not be useful. I support if it is voluntary.
  8. Guaranteeing public finance sustainability. Agreed.
    • Preventing the government from taking public funds money. Agreed, without quibbling too much with the presumption here.
    • Revamp KWAN. I am unsure what the revamp is, and how their proposal is different from current setup.
    • Allocate RM60 million yearly to New Villages, from RM20 million now. Ambivalent.
    • Soft loans for small businesses in rural areas. Ambivalent.
  9. Protecting Orang Asli. Agreed.
    • JAKOA to be led by an Orang Asli. Agreed.
    • Implement Suhakam’s recommendation relating to Orang Asli’s land. Agreed.
    • Renegotiate Orang Asli’s land rights affected by land development schemes. Agreed.
    • Demarcation of Orang Asli’s land. Agreed.
    • Bringing public utilities and services to Orang Asli’s settlements. Agreed.
    • Funds to preserve and promote Orang Asli’s culture. Agreed.
  10. Stronger environmental protection. Largely agreed.
    • Enforcement of timber quota. Agreed. This will need federal power, which may call for a slow down in some decentralization proposals.
    • 40% carbon reduction by 2020. That sounds unrealistic. It is also unclear. 40% of what and when?
    • Source of renewable energy to be increased to 20% from 2% by 2025. Agreed, but that may require lots of dams.
    • Establish a climate change body to focus government response to the phenomenon. Agreed.
    • Taman Negara as a World Heritage Site. Ambivalent.

Core 4: Sabah and Sarawak Summary: Largely agreed, but there are multiple points that may suggest the manifesto decentralizes power by too much, and ignores the sustainability of the federal government finances.

  1. Establish a commission to review and implement the 1963 Malaysia Agreement. Agreed, mostly on the reviewing part. Implementation may depend on the reviews.
  2. Encourage economic growth. The section is a misnomer. It is more about royalties and rural development. 50-50.
    • Increase state share of petroleum to 20% from current 5%. Leaning towards opposition. Opposed. Government revenue will take a big hit in conjunction with abolition of GST and cuts in income tax. If the share is increased, it will be hard for the federal government to raise expenditure in Sabah and Sarawak.
    • Radically expand clean water supply in the interior. Agreed.
    • Better road access to the towns and the interior. Agreed although I am concerned how this will affect forest cover.
    • Build a trans-Borneo rail service. Agreed.
    • Review PDA to allow Sarawak have a petroleum company of its own. Opposed.
    • Pan-Borneo Highway. Agreed.
  3. Create Job opportunities. Mixed.
    • Borneonization of public agencies located in the states. Mixed. It is good to have a good mix. There are Sabah and Sarawak people working in the peninsula and Borneorization might segregate people unnecessarily, taking these people to fill up positions at home.
    • Establish an industrialization fund in Sabah and Sarawak. Agreed.
  4. Make Sabah and Sarawak as model society. Very fluffy. Not worth writing much.
    • Student exchange programs between the peninsula and Sabah-Sarawak. Agreed.
  5. Improve education and health services. Largely agreed, but there is a bad idea here.
    • State government to have the right to decide on education services. Agreed although there has to be certain requirements that the state must adhere to.
    • Parents to get options on the teaching medium. Agreed.
    • Local content in school syllabus. Agreed.
    • Upgrade of all Borneo hospitals. Agreed.
    • GLCs to contribute to upgrades of schools and clinics. Opposed. Let the government use the tax money to do so. It is not the responsibility of the GLCs to do this. It is the government’s.
    • Introduce health insurance in the rural areas. Agreed.
  6. Protect rural welfare. Largely agreed.
    • Reduce bureaucracy when it comes to birth registration. Agreed.
    • Encourage the use of microdams, solar and biogas power in the interior. Agreed.
  7. Defending the sovereignty of Sabah and Sarawak. Agreed. But there is no mention of China’s presence off Sarawak and plans to end curfew in eastern Sabah, which is disappointing.
    • Establish truth and reconciliation policy on immigration into Sabah. Agreed, but will oppose if it involves expulsion of long-time residents.
    • Increase the strength of border patrol in Sabah. Agreed.
  8. Decentralizing power to Sabah and Sarawak.
    • To spend 50% of all revenue generated in the states within the states themselves. Weakly agreed.
    • To delegate trade and commercial policy to the state government. Weakly agreed.
    • Grant the state government the power to abolish trade barrier and tariff. Undecided. I am okay with it, as long as it does not affect the single market status of Malaysia.
    • State government can control the relevant federal enterprises active in the states. Weakly agreed, but isn’t it is already the case?
    • Upgrade the adat court. Mixed. I am unsure how this will affect the civil courts.
  9. Address native customary land conflict. Agreed.
    • Compensate any loss of native land. Agreed. I must also say, the compensation must likely come from the new owner of the land.
    • Mapping of customary land. Agreed.
    • Establish tribunal courts to settle land conflict. Agreed.

Core 5: Building a moderate and inclusive Malaysia Summary: I like the focus on technical and vocational schools.

  1. Make government-funded schools as the schools of choice. Agreed, although this section is not comprehensive enough. The question of vernacular and religious school is largely untouched.
    • Reserving a level of SBP and MRSM quota for high-performing students from poor families. Agreed.
    • Upgrade roads connecting schools with homes. Agreed.
    • Encourage the private sector to aid and adopt schools. Mixed. The private sector could do it if they want to, but the government should use its own resources to improve these schools.
    • Encourage the private sector to aid and adopt schools. Mixed. The private sector could do it if they want to, but the government should use its own resources to improve these schools. One reason I am skeptical of such CSR is that these companies get tax break. I oppose such loopholes for whatever reasons. That tax money could better be used by education experts, which these companies unlikely to have. Why would we delegate education expenditure to PR or HR personnel in, for instance, a telecommunication, power or petroleum company?
    • Improve trust schools. Mixed. If it does not work, can we go back to the simple public/private school model?
    • More GLC scholarships for poor students. Agreed.
    • Scholarship for teachers. Agreed.
    • Depoliticize school syllabus. Agreed.
    • Raise the status of vocational and technical schools. Agreed. This is very important, as it provides an alternative educational route. Not everybody is suited to attend university, at least not immediately.
    • More resources for vernacular, missionary and Islamic schools. Too general. I prefer a gradual move towards a unified national school stream that deemphasizes religion and offers various languages as a subject, not as medium of teaching.
  2. Improve the quality of Malaysian universities. Agreed.
    • Free university education. Mixed. If it is free, perhaps we can start abolishing PTPTN. Also, if it is free, abolishing GST and cutting down the income tax will be an incredible policy to follow. Making university education free will be a big undertaking.
    • Guarantees students’ political rights. Agreed.
    • Self-governing student bodies. Agreed.
    • Universities to have the autonomy in appointing its Vice Chancellor. Agreed.
    • Expansion of technical and vocational training. Agreed.
    • Recognizing UEC certificates. Agreed.
    • On PTPTN, there is a proposal to abolish the practice of blacklisting. While I may agree on raising the minimum wage for servicing one’s debt, I oppose doing away with the blacklist. There has to be a cost to not paying. The blacklist, at the very least, could include a ban from foreign travel.
    • Increase opportunities for massive open online courses. Mixed.
  3. Protecting the welfare of disabled persons. I would be a monster to oppose this.
    • Several research institutes to be established to look into the requirements of disabled persons. Agreed.
    • More schools for the disabled. Agreed.
    • Incentives for companies for hiring disabled or special needs workers. Agreed. I have to add, the best way to do this is to have tight labor market.
    • Government supports for centres catering to special needs people. Agreed.
  4. Fighting crime and social ills. Largely ambivalent.
    • Raise allocation for wages and equipment for the police force. Agreed but at the back of my mind, revenue issues.
    • Further training for police officers for sexual crimes. I am not an expert in this field so I will refrain from so saying too much.
    • Address online crime. Ditto.
    • Enforcement against the smuggling of alcohol and tobacco products. Mixed. The source of high smuggling activities is the astronomically high duties imposed on these products. A better way is likely to reduce the duties significantly.
    • Stern action against… moonshine. See statement on duties.
    • Do anti-bully, anti-crime, and anti-social ill campaigns at schools. Meh. Note me down as unimpressed.
    • Work with NGOs for drug addiction rehabilitation programs. Ambivalent. I do not have any strong opinion on this.
    • Apply harm reduction principle in addressing drugs addiction. Ambivalent, largely because I do not know what it means.
  5. Inculcate neighborliness and support the family institution. Mixed, and too fluffly.
    • Transferable tax allowance between husband and wife. Agreed.
    • Tax allowance for married couple. Agreed although, better not be too much.
    • Encourage balanced urban-rural development to keep families together. What?
    • Encourage local activities at the neighborhood level. Agreed, but needs details.
    • Corporate tax break for companies-sponsored activities that support the family institution. Opposed. No tax break for companies doing CSR. Keep the tax code simple.
  6. Empower the civil society and encourage social entrepreneurship. Mixed.
    • Simplify the process to establish welfare bodies and non-government organization. Agreed.
    • Grant tax break for welfare bodies. Opposed. I would grant income tax break up to a certain level only. After all, if they are welfare bodies, why are they making large profits? I would go further and tax the income of any large profitable NGOs.
    • Establish a commission (Charities and Non-Profit Organizations Commission) to regulate the NGOs, taking over the function of Companies Commission and Registry of Societies. Agreed.
  7. Making public space for youth. Largely agreed.
    • More recreational and sporting space. Agreed.
    • More local libraries. YES!
    • Encourage entrepreneurship among youth. Too general.
  8. Establish National Harmony Consultation Council. Agreed.
  9. Clean up Malaysia’s reputation with respect to corruption. Too general although the other proposals could be counted under this section.
  10. Strengthening border security. This section feels remarkably disappointing. In my opinion, Pakatan should have addressed military and border authority capacity, to include the ability to defend the Spratly’s, curfew/security in eastern Sabah and piracy in the Straits of Malacca.
    • Increase resource for the maritime enforcers. Agreed but too general.
    • Engage Indonesia and the Philippines to address border issues. Agreed, but too general.
    • MACC to keep a close eye on border authority. Agreed, but too general.
  11. Address the the Rohingya crisis as well as the conflict in Palestine. Agreed with the Rohingyas but might be too ambitious when it comes to Palestine.
  12. Strengthen Malaysia’s foreign policy. I agree with pro-Asean proposal, disagree with non-aligned principle.
    • To get a Malaysian to be the Secretary to the OIC. Blergh.
    • Encourage the formation of an Asean community, and reenergize Malaysia’s role in Asean. Agreed, but needs more details.
    • Upgrade the Malaysian office to Asean human rights commission. Agreed, but needs details.
    • More Malaysians to be appointed to the Asean Secretariat as well as to the Commonwealth Secretariat. Agreed with Asean, but I feel we are wasting our time with the Commonwealth.
    • Reassert non-aligned position. Opposed. Time to put our feet down.

By Hafiz Noor Shams

For more about me, please read this.

3 replies on “[2867] Assessing Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto for the 2018 general election”

I remember 9 years ago over lunch in Bangsar when you told me their Manifesto was a bunch of bull.
This new version looks much better and surprisingly more believable. Perhaps the M factor.
A case for optimism.

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