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Manifestos must tackle real issues

 | April 2, 2013

Focusing on the people’s immediate wants and bypassing national issues reflect the BN leadership's lack of vision, wisdom and capabilities.

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A manifesto is a package of offers that a political party promises to deliver if chosen to be the next government.

If the party is elected, then the manifesto should become its action blueprint for the next five years.

We have seen past Barisan Nasional manifestos which made all sorts of promises, but little attention was paid to the nation’s real problems.

Take, for instance, the BN’s manifesto for the 2008 general election. It promised all kinds of goods and services but failed to win the hearts and minds of the voters and this was visible when it lost its traditional two-thirds majority and five states to Pakatan Rakyat.

Focusing on the people’s immediate wants and bypassing national issues reflect the BN leadership’s lack of vision, wisdom and capabilities.

The 2008 BN manifesto, while setting the feel-good mood among the voters, did not guarantee BN votes.

The people are now mature enough not to buy lies and stories.

Since taking over the helm of the government in 2009, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has failed to implement the plans and programmes spelt out in BN’s 2008 election manifesto.

His best shot now is to dish out instant goodies to the people to get their votes.

His government claims that the ETP (Economic Transformation Programme) and the GTP (Government Transformation Programme) are on track to propel Malaysia to becoming a high-income /developed nation by 2020.

But what have these programmes achieved in relation to the national issues?

Manifesto must include real issues

A true manifesto is one that spells out the current real national issues and measures to tackle them.

Secondly, it must be a manifesto committed to delivering the essential goods and services to all races, and thirdly, to dish out the (instant) goodies to the people subject to the funds available.

The manifesto must focus on the national issues such as the national debt, corruption, floods, security, poverty, oil royalty, development of infrastructure especially highways and roads in Sarawak and Sabah and cost of living.

If these major ills can be tackled, both Pakatan Rakyat and BN need not worry about how much goodies they dish out.

I commend the Pakatan manifesto for listing some salient points that touches on critical issues of national interest.

The core issues

A good manifesto should emphasise on the following core issues:

1) The national debt

The national debt is escalating. According to some reports, as at end of 2012 the national debt stood at RM502 billion excluding the unaccounted (hidden) loans obtained by the government.

In the next eight years until 2020, the national debt is expected to reach a trillion ringgit. How can Malaysia be on track to becoming a developed-high income nation by 2020 when its national debt is escalating, corruption rampant and poverty unresolved? Will not such setbacks push our economy to the brink of bankruptcy and collapse?

I recommend that Pakatan include in its manifesto or master plan the introduction of a Islamic finance system.

By adopting the Islamic financial system, national and personal debts can be reduced substantially.

Under the system, all loans from the government creditors such as the EPF should be Syariah compliant, meaning there will be no interest for new loans.

If possible, the current outstanding loans should be converted into interest-free loans too, meaning that the total outstanding loans could be reduced substantially.

In such kind of arrangement, how could the EPF recover its profits to pay dividends to millions of its contributors?

Such a problem can be overcome through the contra-deal between the government and its creditors.

The EPF can participate in the tenders for the construction of government development projects and supplies. The EPF can also participate in joint venture projects with the government or private sector.

Empower the MACC

There is nothing wrong in giving priority to EPF in these contracts as long as the prices are competitive.

This creditor-debtor contra deal is a win-win deal.

2) Corruption

Corruption has become a scourge and a curse in Malaysia where national and state leaders, assisted by their cronies, are indulging in mega corrupt malpractices, freely siphoning off federal and state funds. They are grabbing all major government projects and wealth belonging to the people.

In a recent Transparency International survey on bribery, Malaysia topped the list of 30 countries.

Pakatan must empower the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to effectively tackle corruption cases.

3) Forests, oil and gas resources

The Najib and Taib Mahmud federal and state governments respectively are exploiting the natural resources in order to maximise the ill-gotten money from these operations.

Petronas is continuously looking for new oilfields to produce more revenue for the government.

As these resources are slowly depleting, a conservation approach is imperative so that future generations would not be left high and dry.

4) Floods

Floods cause loss of millions of ringgit in properties and lives. Engineering master plans for land reclamation works, building dykes and filling low lying areas in the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia using soil dredged from the beaches or coastal seabed to create more flood-free lands and reduce these catastrophes, are essential.

These flood-free lands can provide more space for development of townships, and agriculture industry.

Awang Abdillah is a political analyst, writer and FMT columnist.


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