I consider myself lucky. I have gotten enough education opportunities to ride on the benefits of globalization and technological changes. So big are the benefits I have reaped that I think I could travel around the world tomorrow if I wanted to without worrying too much about my financial obligations back home. If I lost my job somehow, I could afford to enjoy my unemployment as a short holiday and more importantly, I could get another good job in Malaysia or elsewhere with the skills, the connection and qualification I have. My social capital and wealth are great enough to tide me through such difficulties.

But the same modernization can be unkind to others. Not everybody benefits from such changes. Some are unequipped to ride the waves with the same education paths available to me. Worse, the wave could smash and sink whatever raft they are on. That fact sometimes makes me feel guilty of living the life I live now.

The last time that guilt hit me hard was when I found myself on the side of the Irrawaddy in Mandalay several years back. I remember walking by a shanty town where homes were haphazardly built along the river, with no access to clean water. There was no sanitation. The people lived in wooden homes on stilts with pigsty below. Trash of various kinds could be found everywhere and some children no older than ten would play happily among flies, fleas and maggots, contend with their small world simply for not knowing any better. I have seen how poverty looks like before but the kind in that Mandalay village is by far the worst kind I have ever witnessed.

I felt guilty just for being luckier than them, just for doing much, much better than them economically.

That feeling re-emerged recently as I travelled through southern Thailand for work. The Deep South as the Thais call it is a Malay heartland, just as how northern Malaysia is. The people on both sides of the border, more so on the east coast, have cultural ties restricted by the logic of modern states.

Somewhere by the beach in northern Narathiwat, the province that borders Kelantan to the south and Pattani to the north, is a village called Naim. There is a traditional Malay boatmaker aged in his 50s working hard to meet his orders. The only additional hands he gets are his son’s aged 20.

Ten or twenty years ago, he claims there were about 20 boatmakers on the same beach. Today, he and his son are the only ones left. So few are the traditional builders throughout southern Thailand that he is busy for the next four years meeting whatever demand that exists. It takes about four months to finish a boat, and by that account, he should have 12 boats to build.

The traditional boats he produces are magnificent. Made out of wood, they are 20-30 meters long. He uses modern tools to saw off wooden plank, before shaping and carving them. During my visit to his workshop, he and his son were working on the bottom most part of the boat, which had holes drilled into the sides and wooden studs jutting out of it.


The final stage of boatmaking involves painting the boat in bright contrasting colors, making the intricate pattern drawn on its body impossible to miss on land and in the sea. I would later visit Pattani located farther north and I found similar boats floating on the river that cuts through the city. An former MP for Narathiwat told me even the painters are a dying breed.

The modern economy has made traditional boat building an unlucrative business. It takes about BHT300,000 to make a boat, with the labor share of the cost being very small. Obtaining capital to finance the boat is also very difficult and the boatmaker complained nobody has helped him to keep the trade alive.

He also told me nobody wanted to become an apprentice anymore because of great sacrifices required. Apprentices are usually, or more accurately were, taken in young. Doing so today would mean missing out school days and missing out school would mean limiting one’s economic opportunity to escape poverty and rise up the social ladder. And the people in the village are largely poor living in their wooden homes and riding their motorcycles. Many live in wooden shacks in fact that could be mistaken as having been abandoned. One could get modern education and try to integrate with the modern changing economy, or risk one’s life making traditional boat for local fishermen, who themselves likely unable to compete with larger boats with deep sea capability, at a time when fishing stock is depleting regionally.

Boat building is a heritage of this part of the world. And he and his son are among the last of Narathiwat boatmakers. They are the last of traditional boatmakers on Banton beach.

And the same economic setup I am benefiting is killing that beautiful boatmaking culture. The importance of modern education is taking labor away from this trade, a trade that is a public good.

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.

Two of Pakatan Harapan’s ten big promises are the abolition of GST (returning to the SST regime) and the reintroduction of fuel subsidy.[1] While I can agree with most of its other proposals that include credible investigations into various financial scandals besetting the Barisan Nasional government, I oppose these two policies.

With respect to the GST, I think there is a better way to get what Pakatan Harapan seeks to achieve: cut the GST rate to as low as 4% from the current 6%. This policy is equivalent to abolishing the GST without actually abolishing it.

To make sense of why they — abolishing the GST versus cutting the GST rate — are effective equivalent, we have to understand two things.

First, consumers essentially face the end prices only. It is the end prices that matter to them, regardless of tax regimes. If the SST regime had been maintained and its rate hiked to 20% from its previous 6%-10% rates, consumers would have still felt the pain of rising prices. It does not take a GST for that statement on pain to be true.

Second, there is an equivalent GST rate to the old SST one. From my understanding, 4% GST rate is the same to the old 6%-10% SST rate. We know this because at 4% GST rate, government GST revenue would have been the same as its SST revenue (we call this revenue-neutral). In other words, the tax burden faced by residents in Malaysia collectively would remain unchanged if the GST rate had been introduced at 4% back in April 2015. To put it yet in another way, if the GST rate had been implemented at 4% instead of 6% in 2015, consumers would not have faced the price pressures they suffered in 2015-2016. Theoretically at 4%, there would have been no inflation attributable to the taxation system change.

Once we understand these two factors, we can immediately reframe the 2015 introduction of the GST as a tax hike, from 4% to 6%.

So, instead of abolishing the whole GST system altogether, Pakatan Harapan, if it comes to power, should cut the GST rate to 4% at minimum. That in effect will undo the 2015 tax hike and achieve the same effect as abolishing the GST from the perspective of the consumers, given that only the end prices matter.

I think this is the best way to acknowledge and to address the pain many felt during GST implementation, while keeping the benefits of having a transparent and efficient taxation system.

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

My fear of returning to the old SST way is that it could lead to an inflationary pressure worse than what we experienced in 2015 and 2016 (discounting the collapse of energy prices). The SST suffers from double taxation problem, unlike the GST. This has the potential of creating a cascading effect throughout the supply chain. Such a large rise in price level would be disastrous to a Pakatan government that campaigned not just against GST, but more importantly, a coalition that campaigned against rising living costs. To prevent such inflation from happening, a SST rate lower than 6%-10% might be needed, which would be a big hit to government revenue (essentially cutting the equivalent GST rate to below 4%).

This is another point to consider: government revenue. There is pressure to increase government revenue for social services, at a time when Malaysian society is ageing, unless you believe in a strict libertarian understanding of the state, which is not the norm in Malaysia. Under current situation, I think Malaysia can afford to loosen up its deficit ratio, but taxes could only be cut so low.

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

[1] — Pakatan Harapan (PH) says it will only take 100 days for it to put into place 10 major policy changes if it is voted into government in the 14th general election. [Pakatan pledges to fulfill 10 promises within 100 days of GE14 victory. Kamles Kumar. The Malaysian Insight. March 7 2018]

It is the final GDP release before the year goes to the dogs! The Department of Statistics will announce the fourth quarter figures tomorrow at noon. Before that, let us play a game:

How fast do you think did the Malaysian economy expand in 4Q17 from a year ago?

  • 4.5% or slower (13%, 3 Votes)
  • 4.6%-5.0% (13%, 3 Votes)
  • 5.1%-5.5% (22%, 5 Votes)
  • 5.6%-6.0% (43%, 10 Votes)
  • 6.1%-6.5% (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Faster than 6.5% (9%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 23

Loading ... Loading ...

For some context, the year 2017 was a pretty good year for GDP growth. It came after a pretty bad two-year period that in large part caused by the GST-shock to the economy.

But the fourth quarter growth is unlikely to be faster than the 6.2% yearly expansion we experienced in the July-September period. The third quarter was the peak and it was extraordinary. Even the 5.8% year-on-year growth in the second quarter now seems slightly on the high side.

You could see that industrial production has taken a break from the pace it grew for much of last year. Hot export and import growth are tapering off, with the volume index growing at a more modest pace now. There will be no more double-digit growth in the near future. Improving foreign exchange rates for the ringgit (with the exception against the Euro) will also keep export growth from flying off as it did from December 2016 to November 2017. Money supply growth is stabilizing after climbing for much of 2017 from a trough.

Change in government spending would be super-interesting this time around since the general election is just around the corner. Other GDP components like consumption and investment would likely expand at a rate not too different from the recent quarters.

Whatever the fourth quarter GDP growth would be, the first nine-month strong growth has translated well in the labor market. Seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate fell to 3.3% in December after staying at 3.5% for the longest time. So, consumption growth seems sustainable and okay in light of labor market improvement.

This happens at a time when core inflation has also fallen, suggesting potential output for the economy may have risen up, which is good news. As a result, unemployment rate could probably drop further with little impact on demand-pull inflation. I think this may also mean another rate hike by the central bank might be unnecessary this year, if things go as it is now.

Oh, happy lunar new year. Given how things are happening with the dogs here in Malaysia, I already cannot wait for the year of the pig. Too oinking exciting.

People are starting to canvass for votes. The Malaysian general election is just somewhere around the corner.

But some are advocating a no-vote strategy and some others are proposing to go out and spoil their votes. All that to express dissatisfaction over the options they will likely face at the ballot box.

I can see some if not most of the no-vote and spoil-the-vote crowd are advocating their case by resorting to analogy. In a Coke versus Pepsi, they want something else not on the menu. Another that I notice is a group of sheep voting for either a lion or a wolf, both of which intend to have the sheep served as lunch. There are others which are absurd but all of these analogies are an attempt to present the low favorability of the likely realistic choices we face in our democracy.

Analogy can be useful in many ways. It is meant to clarify thoughts and sharpen messages. Some situations may be too complex to describe in full that an analogy provides a quick introductory comprehension.

But the use of analogy is no proper comprehension of reality, especially when there is a deeper logic at work. There are limits to analogy and going beyond the limits is an abuse. Proper understanding will need to go beyond analogies.

There are times when the actual situation can be explained simpler and more accurately without resorting to analogy. There are times when no analogy is appropriate and instead analogizing is an exercise in absurdity. In these cases, having an analogy do not clarify our thoughts or sharpen our message. It instead blurs and misrepresents the actual picture.

Analogy necessarily simplifies the picture. A good analogy simplifies by ignoring irrelevant details. A bad analogy simplifies by ignoring relevant details, and worse, by adding unrelated matters.

The limits of analogy, or rather the appropriateness of analogy can be tested by stretching it to its logical absurdity while at the same time, if the same is applied to the actual situation being analogized, no absurdity could be found. The divergence in absurdity between the analogy and the actual situation is a good test for a good analogy. In the analogy of sheep voting for either a lion or a wolf, would the sheep be safe if they refrain from voting? In the Coke-Pepsi menu, would non-voting mean either drinks would taken off the menu the next time?

The reality is that we are not sheep and we are not choosing either Coke or Pepsi, or sirap bandung either.

In Malaysian elections, in the real world beyond elementary analogy, not voting (especially in a situation where wasted votes associated with the weaknesses of first-past-the-pole system is a non-issue; sometimes voting can be meaningless too) would not exclude you from the consequences of political choices made by the majority. While the non-voting or the spoil-the-vote you would enjoy self-satisfaction for not being directly responsible for the choice made by the majority, and that somehow grants you some kind of self-perceived moral superiority, the consequences would still be imposed upon you. If you do refrain from choosing in this system of ours, somebody else would force you to drink the majority’s preferred drinks presented in the analogy.

If you like sirap bandung more than Coke, and prefer Coke to Pepsi, you would worse-off if the majority imposes Pepsi on you in a world of Coke versus Pepsi. There is no question of not drinking it unless you leave the system altogether, i.e. migrate out of Malaysia. The analogy does not capture this.

This is where analogy fails. They do not capture the essence of the real world and obscure the choices and its related preference.

But the general dissatisfaction over the choices available cannot be dismissed and indeed it points towards a larger institutional problem. Our current political and democratic process arising from gerrymandered FPTP system is deeply flawed. It is a sign of growing legitimacy crisis that our political system suffers. One solution is the introduction a new way of doing things, and one of them includes reforming our FPTP contest to some kind of proportional representation system where we will not be trapped in a practical binary choice. Now, who is likely to rock the voting system? The incumbent that benefits from the status quo, or the challengers who think the system is unfair?

But until such reforms happen, we are stuck in our current deplorable system. And what we need to do is to appreciate the complexity of our current system rather than simplifying it with elementary tools.

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

Given the current confusing political situation in Malaysia, it is understandable why some voters are thinking of not voting at all. While I am pro-voting with clear preference due to my intention to test the Malaysian system’s ability to facilitate power transfer peacefully, to improve our institutions and due to my belief that power change is the best way to create a competitive and a fairer democracy, I appreciate the non-voting option.

The option off the ballot box tells various political parties that no voter should be taken for granted, and that the cajoling of potential must happen. Efforts at appeasing the voters must happen. Hopefully such appeasement happens at the policy dimension and not as crass as simple handouts. Non-voting is a good credible threat that must exist in a democracy so that the system does not become calcified in a bad equilibrium. For this reason, I am reluctant to berate (too much) those who plan not to go out and vote, however great the temptation is (although I am very much less sympathetic to the spoil-the-vote crowd for it is I feel a very anti-social tactics in the most social of democratic exercises: voting).

Nevertheless on the election day itself, I hope this class of voters would go out and vote eventually because our Malaysian equilibrium is truly horrible and it needs a good jolt. The status quo just will not do and there has to be attempts at changing it.

Reading is a private experience that takes place within a personal bubble. It is one between you the reader and the author through his or her text. You can read in a group silently or aloud, but chances are most of the time it is a private experience.
 
During the time you spend reading, the text is your world and the author exercises an authoritarian control over your mind. He or she tries to convince you of something by explaining an idea, describing a scene real or otherwise, or even ambitiously trying to create another world to take your mind away from the real current life we all live in. You have no say for the bubble is not democratic. You can agree or disagree, politely or violently, but the author will always have the final say. Your immediate protestation would be heard by a deaf inanimate object.
 
Of course you are free to free yourself from the dictatorship, temporarily or for good. Temporarily because something else more urgent in nature is taking place like the likes on your Facebook, or for good because the author bores or disgusts you, or that you simply do not have the stamina to go through it. I have a book claiming to be a complete collection of Franz Kafka’s published work. Reading it mangled my mind so badly that I felt I was at risk of losing my mind. The private bubble of mine was beginning to detach itself from the real world and I was drowning at the shallow side of the river while watching someone, or something, trying to cross it in the most incomprehensible manner. I had to leave Kafka behind to preserve whatever left of my sanity. I would rather be left alone with Critique of Pure Reason instead of The Metamorphosis. Kant would help preserve your mind intact from rationalist assaults. Kafka would consume you whole.
But outside of the personal bubble, you are not free from the gaze of strangers. They may not know what exactly you are reading or thinking. You can create another bubble to exclude a third-party from observing you by reading at a private space, like in your room or at a carrel in a library. But reading can happen in public space too.
 
I read at various places to pass my time gainfully. These places include the trains during rush hour. While my mind would focus on the text, I sometimes do notice strangers peeking discreetly trying to identify the book I am reading. If our eyes accidentally met, they would pretend to look elsewhere. I sometimes can see judgment made.

I re-read The Malay Dilemma recently. Mahathir Mohamad the author in 1970 (and well, later the fourth prime minister of Malaysia, and if the stars align spectacularly, also the seventh) argued the Malays as a whole due to their feudal and rural background were too polite to fight for their rights and compete with others in the colonial industrial economy. More specifically, he wrote “…[W]hat is important, the Malays are told, is that Malaysia must prosper as a nation, and amateurs like them in business are not likely to contribute to this prosperity. All these arguments are completely true. If no impediment at all is placed in the way of total Chinese domination of the economy of Malaysia, the country would certainly be prosperous. The Malay dilemma is whether they should stop trying to help themselves in order that they should be proud to be the poor citizens of a prosperous country or whether they should try to get at some of the riches that this country boasts of, even if it blurs the economic picture of Malaysia a little. For the Malays it would appear there is not just an economic dilemma, but a Malay dilemma.”

The Malay Dilemma. 1981 edition

Mahathir had the book published when he was out in the political wilderness. Tunku Abdul Rahman kicked him out of Umno over policy differences: Mahathir was harshly critical of Tunku. The Malay Dilemma itself was first published just about year after the May 13 racial riots. Mahathir wrote it partly to explain why there were riots and partly to suggest ways to address the Malay discontent in the countryside.

It was a re-read because this time I felt I read it more critically, armed by other sources that better informed me of the 1920s-1960s conditions in Malaya and Malaysia, and also of the high colonial period. I read it with the relevant context in my mind. Books like The Malay Dilemma are always dangerous when read in isolation because its arguments are based on generalized racial stereotypes and if taken as unchallenged complete truth, it has the power to radicalize the mind towards the wrong side of the spectrum. Syed Husin Alatas in The Myth of the Lazy Native criticized many, including Mahathir, for accepting orientalist presumptions wholly and uncritically.

While Mahathir did accept and go far to justify the stereotypes, such as accepting the graceful Malays, to put it politely, as uncompetitive against the 19th-20th century migrants to Malaya, and the Chinese were greedy but intelligent, and the British efficient, the book is also more nuanced than that. It describes partially the economic picture of that time that fuelled Malay discontent. Sources like James Puthucheary’s 1960 The Ownership and Control in the Malayan Economy, perhaps Lim Teck Ghee’s 1971 PhD thesis Peasant Agriculture in Colonial Malaya or even the modern 2014 revisit on wealth by Muhammad Khalid’s The Color of Inequality, I think do corroborate with the picture of mass Malay poverty Mahathir painted. Kua Kia Soong meanwhile is more than happy to paint the whole of 1969 as a Malay peasant revolt, interpreted, perhaps, from communist (Marxist?) understanding of history. The then economic reality was a real contributor to Malay unhappiness that blew up in 1969 and which later gave rise to the 1971-1990 affirmative action policy, the New Economic Policy.

Indeed, deep in the book beyond generalization lies a Keynesian voice. Mahathir praised the free market system but pointed out what he considered laissez-faire market failings, which he believed, and still believes, necessitating state actions. The book not only has a Keynesian voice, but it has an egalitarian one as well spoken through a communal loudhailer. The Mahathir of 1970 showed himself as an integrationist. He almost achieved his dream in the 1990s with his Bangsa Malaysia, except that the means he used to achieve his integrationist dream were unlibertarian and at times felt contradictory.

Some of his solutions appeared reasonable. To pacify the Malay discontent and address the inequality between races, he wanted affirmative action mixed with meritocracy in education so that the Malays could join the modern economy faster. He wanted to urbanize the Malays so that ordinary Malay families would get exposed to the modern life rather than live isolated in the rural kampongs. He wanted to create Malay industry captains so that the Malays in the streets would have role models to look up to.

All three policy recommendations were carried out under his watch. Despite its failings, PTPTN and the mushrooming of tertiary institutions expanded education opportunities for the Malays. Wangsa Maju, Subang Jaya and many others were created as part of Malaysian urbanization that partly benefited the Malays. And then there were Halim Saad, Tajuddin Ramli, Yahaya Ahmad and many others who were Malaysia’s industry captains before the Asian Financial Crisis left the country in ruins.

His other suggestions were quite intrusive, based on extreme distrust of Chinese businesses and guilds. The suggestions included harsh price controls and frequent spot-checks. He went as specific as suggesting standardizing all weighing machines purely because he believed Chinese shopkeepers were cheating their customers.

Some fifty years on, some of his ideas are now obsolete. If I had the chance to sit with him, I would ask if he had changed his mind. Whatever the answers might be, this book is still crucial in understanding Mahathir’s mind.

And regardless of the validity of the stereotypes made by the Mahathir of the Malays and the Chinese, and also of the Europeans, these stereotypes did fuel discontent against the other among the Malays. These stereotypes cannot be dismissed as irrelevant. It had a real world impact on Malaysian politics, and it is true even today unfortunately. Timothy Harper in his 1999 book The End of Empire and the Making of Malaya, the book I am reading at the moment quotes The Malay Dilemma early: “those who say ‘forget race’ are either naive of knaves.”

But the book is mainly known for its stereotypes. Truly, The Malay Dilemma is like Romeo and Juliet. It is book that everybody has heard of, and everybody thinks he or she knows, but pretty much nobody has read it really.

It is not only the book that suffers such reputation. The reader reading it in the public too can suffer a stranger’s judgment. And I am a Malay, who read that book in the train where its passengers were of multiethnic composition

The occasional strangers’ gaze left me uncomfortable in the train. When I began the book, I noticed not the various ethnicities in the car. But while reading it, with those not sharing my skin color standing or sitting next to me, I felt uneasy. I should not feel so for I do not share Mahathir’s racialist worldview. Yet, I did feel uneasy.

That is the cost of reading in public space.

But such discomfort is perhaps less powerful than the political discomfort we live in now. So uncomfortable it is now that some plan not to vote at all in the upcoming general election, citing it as their rights to do so. The robots are so confused after being caught in a false equivalence fork, frozen to decisive inaction.

Star Wars Episode VIII reminds me of Hero, a Chinese movie set during the Warring States Period starring Jet Li. What I like the most about Hero is its offering of multiple perspectives of the same event. Each perspective details how different characters see and understand the same event differently, and how it leads to conflict. And if one reconciles all perspectives by listening to all sides without prejudice, one gets to a higher truth. In Hero, the truth is an authoritarian one but the conclusion from understanding those perspectives is so profound that I think a libertarian would submit to its truth (within the context of the film of course).[1]

Director Rian Johnson used the same trick in The Last Jedi to explore the conflict between Luke Skywalker and his nephew-apprentice Ben Solo/Kylo Ren. Johnson does not take the relationship for granted and takes time to explain it. The exploration blurs the line between good and evil that previously was so clear in Star Wars, suggesting as I understand the scene, that the relationship between Luke and Kylo arises out of an unfortunate misunderstanding. The conflict is told through three perspectives: from Luke’s, Kylo’s and then from Luke’s again but with further commentary augmented by Rey. The colors, the cuts and the narratives are so convincing that sometimes I wonder which one is the truth. Rey is so confused by the stories told by Kylo and Luke that she demands Luke whether he created Kylo on purpose. The confusion between good and evil even leads to an altercation between between Luke and Rey, a fight so convincing that as I sat in my chair, I began to wonder, is Rey turning? Is Luke a Sith? Who is the good guy here?

There is at least another scene where Johnson tries to blur the line. I do not remember the exact dialog but it is the scene when hacker DJ shows Finn that the same party supplying the First Order weapons is the same one supplying the Resistance equipment. DJ goes on to tell Finn to not get involve and be free.

But the mindblowing moment for me is the philosophical truth Luke discovered during his exile. As he trains Rey, he tells her all Star Wars fans knows since A New Hope: the Force is “an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” But Luke goes further by explaining explicitly to Rey that is a balance in the Force and the Jedis do not own it. And since there is a balance, the light that the Jedis claim to defend must always come with the dark side. All this is not groundbreaking. But Luke’s conclusion is. He comes to the realization that if that is so, then the Jedis must not exist and the order must end.

Luke’s philosophy casts all of Star Wars films in a different light, forcing us to reassess what the whole franchise really means.

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

[1] p/s — I recently learned it was the Japanese film Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa that first used this technique.

It is fashionable in certain circles these days in Malaysia to question the reliability of GDP as a measure of welfare. They say they do not feel GDP growth and they prefer something like household income or wage statistics to a measure that is hard to understand. The more extreme criticism goes to claim GDP is worthless.

A journalist recently called me up for a crash course in GDP, just after the release of the third quarter statistics. “Why would the GDP matter to the man on the streets?” She asked me in a combative tone, as if I was lying about GDP, as if I was part of a conspiratorial system.

But GDP has functions that wages and household income cannot fulfill, just as wages and household income play roles GDP cannot properly fit in.

Wages and household income describe individualized statistics. Its appeal to personal welfare is also its weakness: it does not describe much beyond the individuals.

If the world were all about the individuals and the things happening within the four walls of our homes, then wages and household income would be sufficient. But there are entities that exist outside that do not contribute to our incomes and wages directly. And yet, those extra-household activities bring benefits to us (and sometimes, not so).

For instance, if a robot owned collectively by a community of humans provides a service to the neighborhood for a nominal fee (or perhaps even at market price), and that the robot income is used for community improvement instead of being paid as dividend to individuals, it is not clear to me wages and household income would increase as a result. But that income would definitely be counted under GDP.

Or if you are a Luddite and dislike the example, consider a more traditional case. If a government-run business — like operating the trains — makes profit and pays dividend to public coffers while the government itself is running a fiscal surplus, that income would not translate into wages or household income. But GDP would take care of that income, taking it as income for the whole economy.

Granted, GDP has its issues but we have to be careful about making false dichotomy when in truth GDP, wages and household income (along with other statistics) play complementary roles within multiple contexts. There are times GDP is more useful than wage stats and there are times the reverse is true. A widening productivity-wage gap, for instance, can be worrying within the current system and headline GDP figures might not be as illuminating as wage/household income statistics. And there are times all are useful. A complete picture of the world would use all measures available.

To kick GDP out as worthless in favor of a more restrictive statistics centered purely on the individuals is to develop a worldview of selfishness, that the world is all about me, me and me while discarding the fact we live in a society. The society can be larger than a collection of individuals. And I say that as a libertarian.

The Malaysian GDP has been growing strongly so far this year. So strong, that a lot of economists and institutions had to revise their 2017 projections significantly.

The growth has been partly due to consumption recovery that took a tumble thanks to the GST, and partly due to strong trade figures (though this is true for the second quarter only). You can see the actual contribution of each component to the GDP below:

Industrial production rose about 6.0%-6.8% YoY in the third quarter, which is quite respectable. The September numbers are not out yet but I do not expect it to be bad. The fourth quarter could be a different story with all the major flooding happening, especially in Penang which is an industrial powerhouse in Malaysia. And we are not yet done with November. I am unsure how the major Penang industrial spots are affected but it does not seem like the disastrous Bangkok-style 2011 flooding. But at the very least, several production days could have been affected just because of labor and commuting issues.

This monsoon season feels stronger than usual but I probably should look at the rainfall data first before making that statement. Unfortunately, data at the Met Department is… not really forthcoming. But this is one negative impact of climate change on GDP growth. Addressing climate change for Malaysia might not be easy since our emission contribution is not big compared to other countries, but we can do our part by keeping our jungle healthy and perhaps, institute a carbon tax or at least a tax on petrol.

Trade figures continue to be outrageously strong. Total trade has been growing at double digits since December last year. There is no temporary “base effect” and instead there is a level shift, as you can see in the second chart. More relevantly, net exports are strong too.

You might say, “but these are in nominal prices!” Well, the same level shift is also visible in export and import indices that strip price effect out. So, it is real (Get it? Did you get it?).

But the double-digit yearly growth on the nominal part will not last, and so this I agree with Mr Econsmalaysia. Eyeballing the levels, December sounds like the time when the double-digit growth phenomenon will end. But, that also means, Penang flooding notwithstanding, trade would likely have a positive effect on the GDP in the fourth quarter.

Anyway, the labor market and core inflation appear stable despite the relatively strong GDP growth so far this year. Meaning, no overheating yet.

The Department of Statistics will release the GDP figures on Friday. So…

How fast do you think did the Malaysian economy expand in 3Q17 from a year ago?

  • 4.5% or slower (10%, 1 Votes)
  • 4.6%-5.0% (10%, 1 Votes)
  • 5.1%-5.5% (20%, 2 Votes)
  • 5.6%-6.0% (40%, 4 Votes)
  • 6.1%-6.5% (20%, 2 Votes)
  • Faster than 6.5% (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 10

Loading ... Loading ...

There were a lot of talks about the budget recently. About those by the opposition and by the government.

The opposition may have to improve on its budget quality especially on the assumptions made, but I believe the annual tabling of such alternative is healthy and is a positive development in our increasingly flawed democracy. Why? Because it provides a clearer picture of a different near future, regardless whether we agree with it or not. Imagining an alternative (or a utopia even) is always important so that we do not fall into the trap of Doctor Pangloss, or unnecessarily resigning to a bad outcome.

But a budget is just a budget however important it is. It is merely a short-term roadmap towards whatever goals we want to achieve. A better document offering a clearer alternative would be a goal-setting manifesto.

Below is a partial list of matters I would like to see in the manifesto. Some of them are general and others are specific.

I have not costed it, but whenever costing is relevant, I think it is doable. In truth, a lot of crazy ideas are economically feasible and mine, I do not think they are crazy. And some of them may already exist, or in the process to coming to reality. Some admittedly are fluffy.

Let just say it is a non-comprehensive wishlist for further discussion.

Election matters

  1. Introduce proportional representation to address gerrymandering and malappropriation in Malaysia. Having a PR system in place of first pass the post would help make our electoral system fairer and so, instil more confidence into our democratic system. It would also be more robust against possible cheating.
  2. State funding for all individual contesting for public offices. This hopefully would make money less important in an election. To avoid abuse, candidates failing to get a certain percentage of votes would be required refund the state. Candidates will be allowed to receive contributions from private citizens.
  3. Mandatory reporting for all contributions received by all candidates. Limits to be applied on parties and individuals. Contributions will be taxed above a certain limit.
  4. A complete ban on private corporations and government bodies from making contributions to any political parties. This includes no program with any political parties. In Malaysia, government bodies especially have serious conflict of interest and this ban would help reduce corruption.
  5. Ban political parties from running or owning for-profit entities.
  6. Automatic registration for all Malaysians age 18 and above. We should not put up barriers to voting.
  7. Yes, reduce voting age to 18.
  8. Reinstate local elections, starting with cities with population more than half a million. This should help make local authorities more responsive to the local population instead of to Putrajaya.

Parliament

  1. Election of Senators.
  2. Create a smaller Senate by limiting federal appointees to no more than total state senators. Federal Territories’ representatives be reduced to 3. Representatives for Sabah and Sarawak be increased to 3 each. This will create stronger check-and-balance in the Parliament and return power to the states.
  3. Reserve special seats for the Speaker of the House and the Senate, and have them elected. The Speaker must renounce membership with any political party. This is to ensure fairness in the Parliament.
  4. Greater funding for all MPs for area servicing and hiring of research assistants.
  5. Parliament to remain in Kuala Lumpur.

Government

  1. Ten-year term limits for the positions of prime minister and chief ministers. The years are cumulative. This is to encourage new talents to enter politics and the government. Also, to avoid having a long-term authoritarian as a leader.
  2. Enforce retirement age on all civil servants. No contract extension.
  3. Public declaration of assets and income for all public office holders, and as well selected civil servants.
  4. Encourage diversity in the civil service. Malaysia is a diverse country and our civil service should reflect our demography.
  5. Total function separation between the prime minister and the finance minister at the federal and the state levels. This is to address conflict of interest.
  6. No minister will be allowed to hold more than one portfolio.
  7. Decentralize powers of the Prime Minister’s Department through closure of several agencies or relocation of agencies to other authorities.
  8. Separate the office of the AG between government’s legal advisor and the public prosecutor. This will also include separating the AG from appointment/promotion of judges.
  9. Downsize the size of the Cabinet. The decentralization of power of the PM Department would also mean fewer ministers without definite portfolios.
  10. Limit federal funding to regional development authorities designed to circumvent state governments. States to have strong representation in the relevant regional development authorities.
  11. Total separation between the government and Pemandu’s overseas business. The entity will not be allowed to use Pemandu’s name, or government resources. Private enterprises should not use government name or resources for private gains.

Government finances

  1. Target 1%-2% deficit of NGDP. Balanced budget unnecessary.
  2. Reduce government guarantees for government-linked companies.
  3. Migrate civil service pension scheme towards defined-contribution plan fully.
  4. Include off-budget spending in government accounts, though no necessarily merged.

Taxes

  1. No GST hike in the next 5 years. Rate to stay at 6%.
  2. No GST refunds for foreigners.
  3. No zero-rated GST for goods bought by corporations.
  4. Rideshare services to pay GST.
  5. No income tax holiday for TRX.
  6. No tax-free treatment for real estate projects.
  7. Income tax holiday to be reserved to selected manufacturing and high-tech services.
  8. Create several new income tax brackets and push the top income tax rate higher.
  9. Close loopholes for corporations with respect to income tax.
  10. Negative-income tax for all Malaysians.
  11. Wealthy NGOs and religious institutions will be taxed, regardless of profit/non-profit status.
  12. Find a way to get global internet companies with operations in Malaysia to pay income tax.
  13. Gift or donation above a certain high threshold to private individuals to be taxed.
  14. Temporarily reduce income tax rate marginally for married working women to encourage labor participation rate as well as address gender pay gap.

Government-linked companies, funds

  1. Complete professionalization of GLCs by banning MPs and retired politicians from heading any government-linked companies or funds.
  2. No bailouts of government-linked companies.
  3. Remove government ownership in Malaysia Airlines.
  4. Reduce government holdings in non-strategic private companies, especially by Khazanah.
  5. GLCs to be closely monitored by Malaysian Competition Commission.
  6. No Arul Kanda in Khazanah or any other GLCs.

Corruption

  1. Independent investigations into 1MDB and all of its related cases.
  2. Ensure fair trials for all 1MDB actors.
  3. Closing down of 1MDB and SRC.
  4. Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to be placed under the Parliament to strengthen its independence.

Social services

  1. Basic income of RM200 monthly for Malaysians aged 60 and above. This could be an experiment for a universal basic income scheme.
  2. Baby bonus of RM1,000 for the first two children. This is to address ageing demography in Malaysia.
  3. Citizenship bonus upon birth for all Malaysians, to be invested at PNB funds. Quantum to be decided.
  4. Zero cash handling for BR1M. Government to set up bank accounts for those without one.
  5. BR1M requirements to be tightened but individual payments enlarged.
  6. Central creches to encourage higher labor participation rate, especially among women. Mandatory preschools could double-up as central creches for older young children.
  7. Stronger affirmative actions for Orang Aslis and other non-Malay natives. Government agencies managing Orang Asli affairs to be led by Orang Aslis only.
  8. Ancestral land of Orang Aslis and those belonging to Sabah and Sarawak native communities to be protected fully.
  9. Temporary unemployment benefits, possibly lasting 3-6 months. I think Perkeso can be reformed to manage this. Such benefits also is an automatic stabilizer in the economy, so less need for discretionary fiscal stimulus in times of recession.

Education

  1. Malay remains as the medium of exchange in national schools.
  2. Malay and English remain compulsory.
  3. Offer non-native languages to all students in national schools (this includes major Asean languages: Thai, Khmer, Vietnamese, Tagalog and Burmese).
  4. Reduce the role of religion in national schools to sustain diversity, and limit it to religious classes only.
  5. Moral classes to be reorganized into civic classes open to all students.
  6. Work to strengthen the national school system and make it the first choice for most Malaysians.
  7. Greater autonomy for universities and political freedom from students.
  8. Mandatory preschooling. Free for poor/lower-middle class families.
  9. Mean-tested PTPTN, reserving such funding for poor students only.
  10. Meritocratic process entrance into universities. The process will be tempered with socioeconomic concerns to help create a more equal society. Affirmative action for under-represented communities to be merged with the meritocratic process.
  11. Limit public undergraduate scholarships abroad. More graduate-level scholarships abroad instead.
  12. Mandatory study-abroad for a semester or two for all Malaysian public university students to Asean institutions.
  13. Expand places at public universities.
  14. Automatic partial scholarship for students from poor families attending public universities, in place of PTPTN.

Health

  1. No raising of patent protection period.
  2. Increase access to generics.

Homes

  1. Limit ownership of residential properties by foreigners.
  2. Additional ad valorem tax on foreign-owned residential properties.
  3. No expiry on real property tax gains on foreigners.
  4. RPGT on Malaysians to be lengthened to 10 years.
  5. Tax relief for residential rental payments for Malaysians earning below a certain threshold and landlord up to a certain threshold. This will be combined with the negative-income tax structure.
  6. Stronger protection for renters.
  7. High-quality affordable public housing for rents in cities and its suburbs especially for the young. This is to encourage the young to remain in the cities. Having the young in will keep the cities lively.

Islam

  1. No raising of punishment for Islamic laws violations.
  2. Conversion of minors requires approval by both parents.
  3. Reduce conflict between civil and shariah courts by defining the division of powers more clearly.
  4. Reduce barriers to marriage. Make marriage classes optional.
  5. Reduce religious authority’s ability to spy and conduct raids.
  6. Remove religious identification on the national identity card.

Discrimination

  1. Institute a law to address discrimination in the private sector with a focus on race, religion, political belief and gender.
  2. Minimum mandatory 30 days paternity leave to address gender pay gap and change societal expectations on gender.

National service

  1. Reorganize into a voluntary 1-year military service, with possible merger with the Wataniah regiment.
  2. Strip party politics from the program.

The press

  1. RTM to be made more independent and remodelled after the BBC.
  2. No licensing of blogs.
  3. A media ombudsman to handle public complaints against the press.
  4. Pass Freedom of Information Act.
  5. Reform Official Secret Act to reduce abuse.

Civil liberties

  1. Limit the police’s ability to restrict peaceful assemblies.
  2. Address discrimination against religious minority.
  3. Sosma to be limited towards terror activities only.
  4. Sedition Act to be scaled down.
  5. Tighter requirements for book banning.
  6. Stronger privacy and data protections law and enforcement.

Environment

  1. Limit reclamation projects in Johor, Malacca and Penang. Stronger national requirement for reclamation proposal.
  2. Reduce fragmentation of jungle, especially in Peninsular Malaysia. Possible jungle crossings over highways and roads.
  3. National park status for Belum-Temengor.
  4. No logging within a certain distance from river banks.
  5. No development within a certain distance from the beach.
  6. Stop new hill development above a certain height.
  7. Arm wildlife officers/enforcers and increase punishment for wildlife violations.
  8. Yearly federal payments to states for maintenance of primary jungle coverage. Part of the payments to be reserved for replanting purposes to negate previous jungle loss. Audit to be made twice a year on jungle coverage.
  9. Reduce logging permits and raise the cost of the permits.
  10. Introduce carbon tax.
  11. Total ban on sand exports.
  12. Rehabilitation funds for land ravaged by illegal bauxite mining in Pahang.
  13. Limit dams construction.
  14. Work with Singapore to open up water flow under the Causeway.
  15. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  16. Raise fuel efficiency of vehicles.

Public transport and transport infrastructure

  1. Cashless payments to be opened for others and not limited to TnG at all train stations, buses as well as highways.
  2. TnG will be forced to provide no-fee reloading access points at all train stations, or contract will not be renewed/early termination if possible.
  3. Inquiry to be conducted on why TnG was chosen over RapidKL’s native cashless payments method, and why MRT is unable to process RapidKL’s native cashless payment method.
  4. Reassess the need for MRT3 due to low ridership for MRT1. MRT2 to continue as planned.
  5. HSR to continue as planned with open tender. Reduce the number of stops.
  6. JB-Woodlands rail link to be constructed.
  7. No tunnel for Penang.
  8. Federal support for trams in George Town.
  9. Cancel the ECRL but build a Kuantan-KL double-tracking electrified line. Upgrade the existing East Coast line, with at least electrification.
  10. Continue with the Pan-Borneo Highway.
  11. Mavcom to be funded directly by the government instead of revenue from airport/passenger taxes to avoid the Commission’s conflict of interest as a regulator and a taxing authority.
  12. Daily float of retail petrol.
  13. Tax vehicle fuel. Proceeds will be used to subsidize public transport.
  14. Renegotiate highway contracts to limit toll hikes as well as possible compensation to contractors.
  15. Mandatory deregistration of vehicles after 15-20 years on the road.
  16. Much, much higher road tax and excise duties on luxury vehicles.
  17. No new port in Malacca.
  18. Construct the Labuan-Sabah bridge.

Monarchy and state rulers

  1. Head of states are banned from participating in business. Existing holdings to be divested and placed in trust fund managed by the state for rulers’ welfare.
  2. Title awards by all states and by the federal government to be significantly limited.

Immigration and border control

  1. Abolition of road charges but maintain VEP. VEP to be expanded to all entry points.
  2. Work towards visa-free status for all Asean citizens.
  3. No airport tax equalization or hike.
  4. Work towards the lifting of curfew in eastern Sabah.

Security and defense

  1. Cut any role in the Yemen war.
  2. No unilateral declaration of curfew by the PM under the NSC Act. The government must compensate any loss of property by innocent victims.
  3. Establis IPCMC.
  4. Establish Asean security forces.
  5. Upgrade facilities in the Spratlys.

Asean

  1. Strengthen Asean roles in the region.
  2. Work towards to a common Asean position on the South China Sea.
  3. Work towards an Asia-Pacific free trade area.
  4. Work towards the establishment of an Asean parliament, with representatives elected by Asean citizens.
  5. Create Asean scholarships for non-Malaysian Asean citizens at Malaysian universities to encourage integration between Asean countries.
  6. Resolve border dispute with Asean neighbors.
  7. Accession of Timor Leste into Asean as a full member by 2025.

Internet and communication

  1. Enforce net neutrality. Internet service providers are not allowed to bundle connection services with other services.
  2. MCMC to focus on service quality and technology adoption. No power to censor the internet unilaterally without consultation with other authorities like Suhakam and the courts.
  3. Work to diminish Telekom Malaysia’s monopoly as an ISP with a view to cut down on internet access cost.

Kuala Lumpur

  1. Less power for Minister for Federal Territories. Federal government’s decision must be approved by an elected mayor.
  2. No new development for Bukit Gasing and Bukit Nanas.
  3. Stronger actions against indiscriminate parking. Malls and hotels will be held responsible for illegal parkers outside of its compound to force drivers and property/business owners be more responsible towards their surroundings.
  4. More working pedestrian lights and on-grade crossings.
  5. Open the relevant KL train stations for free crossing by pedestrians.
  6. Wider use of Balisha beacons instead of crossing lights for non-major roads.
  7. Enforce pedestrian-first rules versus road vehicles.
  8. More pedestrian crossings, and stronger enforcement/punishment against vehicles for not stopping at crossings.
  9. Introduction of congestion charges. Income set for public transport funding.
  10. Limit the city hall’s ability to close access to  Dataran Merdeka or any public space except for emergency purposes.
  11. Maintain green space, and increase large tree counts in the city.

Foreign labor

  1. Hiring of foreign labor to be simplified to cut off the middle men and corruption.
  2. Reduce human rights abuse faced by foreign workers.
  3. Set up mandatory savings(EPF?) for foreign workers in Malaysia to equalize hiring costs between Malaysians and foreign workers. Withdrawal allowed upon return to home country only or emergencies.
  4. Clear attainable pathway to citizenship for foreigners, with minimum 10 years residency, no criminal records, Malay language proficiency as some of of them prerequisites. May have to set a yearly quota for socioeconomic and political factors.

Miscellaneous

  1. Stronger anti-trust body, focusing on the food, vehicles, properties, construction material, banking, internet, medicine, payments and GLCs.
  2. Stronger commitment to open tender. No direct award above a certain threshold.
  3. Bigger equalization funds for Sabah and Sarawak.
  4. The government to release all public data on the internet in machine-friendly format.
  5. Abolish the death sentence.
  6. Limit outrider count for government officials and rulers. No outriders for private citizens. Outriders cannot be hired.
  7. No duration increase in patent/copyright protection.
  8. Jos soli citizenship.

I will add more if I have the time.

287 pages