PUTRAJAYA: Regrets, I’ve had a few; But then again, too few to mention.
That line from Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”, an all-time favourite of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, perhaps sums up the veteran leader’s appraisal of his Pakatan Harapan government ahead of its first year in power tomorrow.
While ministers and ruling politicians have been busy listing out the coalition’s achievements in the past few weeks, Mahathir singles out the end of six decades of Barisan Nasional rule as its biggest success.
The prime minister said the change of government was something Malaysians had been clamouring for in the months before the May 9 elections last year.
“And to a certain extent, we have achieved that objective,” he said during a recent interview with the media as Malaysians remember the historic 14th general election tomorrow.
Mahathir said the government has lived up to its commitment to fight graft, including within the administration.
He claimed that there are now fewer complaints about corruption.
“We don’t get complaints by people saying their applications have been delayed, not unlike before. Before this money would be demanded to get approvals. Now that thing doesn’t happen,” said the 94-year-old who was thrust back into the top office 15 years after he announced his retirement as the fourth prime minister.
Early this year, Transparency International (TI) pushed Malaysia one rank up in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index, placing it at number 61 out of 180 countries.
But Malaysia retained its score of 47% as in the previous year.
Mahathir listed several other achievements of his administration.
This includes the tweaked East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project by China, which was a major campaign issue during the general election campaign on the back of fears of China taking control of the country’s economy.
The massive project was revived in April, with Putrajaya announcing the total costs for the first two phases of the project brought down to RM44 billion, from the original RM65.5 billion.
“We have saved more than RM21 billion and this has not been achieved by anybody else.”
Mahathir said the revival of Bandar Malaysia following two years of uncertainty, is also an achievement.
Despite heavily promoted by former prime minister Najib Razak, PH said the project would be continued as it has significant impact on Malaysia’s economy.
“So all these are achievements made by the government. But of course, we don’t go around shouting about it all the time. But there are achievements nevertheless.”
Mahathir also took to task doomsayers who said the PH coalition, made up of what was an unlikely alliance of political parties with opposing ideologies, would not last.
On the contrary, Mahathir, who chairs the coalition, said it is united.
“That they accepted me as their leader is also an achievement, which people don’t seem to know.”
But the veteran politician admitted hiccups in the past one year, but said critics were the very same people who “created all the problems”.
Topping the list of “hiccups” is the coalition’s pledge to abolish tolls.
Mahathir said the government was not able to remove highway tolls as it realised it had no money to buy off the highways.
The PLUS highway, he said, would cost RM30 billion, before it could become toll-free.
“So the question is do we use the RM30 billion for that or do we use the money for other more important matters?”