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PH government after one year: Good record – but could be much better

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The government has move more resolutely to serve the public interest so that it can improve on its public ratings, says Ramon Navaratnam.

As we celebrate the first anniversary of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) victory in winning the 2018 general election and forming and running the new federal government, it is natural to ask – how well has the government done?

Many Malaysians, if not most, will say, it has done well under trying circumstances, but it could have done much better!

Most Malaysians, including those in the cabinet, hardly expected PH to win the general election anyway. That is why they boldly drew up an ambitious manifesto, which they now find difficult to fulfil on time.

PH government fighting against great odds

In all fairness to the PH government of today, it did not understandably realise the huge rot that had seeped into the whole administrative system. The rotten challenges were, among others, as follows:

  • Corruption and decay was rife from top to bottom of government – sadly led by some of the top leaders and officials themselves.
  • The bias and consequent professional weakening in the whole civil and public services, caused by about 60 years of one-party dominant rule, took its toll.
  • Blind loyalty had developed in many civil servants to serve party politics – rather than following the time-tested traditional good values of the civil service. Back then, we faithfully served God, king and country, with neutrality, intellectual integrity and a much deeper sense of honesty. Today it may be somewhat different.
  • The ministers in the past were also understandably more experienced. They may have encouraged the growth of many little Napoleons, but they could control them. But today many of the Little Napoleons are resisting the less experienced ministers. So the new PH ministers have now to bring them under stronger control and better manage these Little Napoleons or lose out.
  • Cronies were pervasive before, and their negative influences on the administration have to be more strongly resisted to reduce the rot that set into the administrative system. That is why the destructive practice of money politics has to be severely controlled soon.
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Hence, as the prime minister has repeated many times, the government now faces many challenges in moving forward more speedily and efficiently to improve on its accomplishments.

But, as a former senior civil servant, I know our Administration and Diplomatic Officers (PTD) alumni believe that with the right persuasion and more dignified treatment of the civil service, the government can and will overcome any obstacles to achieve national progress and wellbeing more quickly.

What the government has achieved has to be better publicised. Hence it would be useful if there can be public reports every one to three months about the government’s accomplishments. We also need to give the government a bit more time.

Give PH government another year to overcome poor public ratings

For the above reasons, it is only fair and reasonable to give the new PH government at least another year to achieve more success and at a faster pace . This will help win much more public and voter support for the PH government.

The reliable recent Merdeka Survey has already shown that public and popular rating of the government has been declining. This is not a healthy trend in public opinion, as it could show waning support.

The poor rating could be mainly due to the following reasons:

  • There have been inadequate consultations with the public and with the opposition over, for instance the ratification of the Rome Statute and other international conventions. In fact, some ministries have been criticised for not taking the public and professionals into greater confidence before introducing important policies that could badly affect stakeholders .Thus there is consequent public rejection and resentment, which could have been avoided in the first place. A good example is the teaching of the essential English language for greater progress.
  • On the other hand, some policies that are in the best national and public interest have to be implemented with greater courage and conviction. The public has to be assured that the full truth is told about the alleged enforced disappearance of several Malaysians. Fear is created and confidence suffers by playing down the report by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) on this sensitive security and public safety issue.
  • Foreign labour has been a source of sore concern for Malaysians and especially our labour movement. Even our large numbers of unemployed suffer, due to our past flip-flop labour policies. Can we not come out with more sustainable policies and practices to suit employers, employees  and foreign workers as well?
  • The monthly minimum wage could be raised to RM1,500 much earlier, rather than having to wait and postpone decisions so many times. Income disparities are widening here and all over the world and are causing much frustration and misery to hardworking Malaysian workers. Yet we seem to drag our feet. Unfortunately, the government gives the impression that we and the government which represents us are anti-poor labour and are more supportive of rich capitalists. This is not right nor proper and builds public resentment. It even nurtures social unrest, upheaval and bad anti-social and dangerous elements that would be extremely difficult to control later. Hence, we need to have a minimum wage which is adequate as a living wage as well before it is too late to prevent ugly developments.
  • The cost of living is high and rising. Thus we have to introduce an anti-inflation package to lower the cost of living as soon as possible. The rakyat keep asking how much the government has done so far and why so little has been achieved to lower prices of at least the basic goods and services consumed by the poor. Can, for instance, the supplies of food be increased by more competition and less protection? This act of encouraging more competition alone would help to lower rising prices.
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Move forward resolutely

We can understand the severe challenges faced by the new government after so many recent years of mismanagement, corruption, cronyism and wastage of public funds.

Hence it may be too much to expect a stronger turnaround too soon. But where there is unfair resistance to transformation and change for the better, the government has to be tougher and forge ahead, especially when race, religion and royalty issues are wrongly used to protect narrow vested interests. Racism and religious bigotry should be resisted more strongly.

I am sure we all appeal to the new PH Government to move more resolutely to serve the righteous national and public interest of the rakyat, for which they will get the people’s stronger support and backing for better ratings.

Then we will all as Malaysians be able to help build a better Malaysia for improved ratings and for more peace, prosperity and national unity in the future.

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