A manifesto for all
Writer: Lee Choon Fai
Published: Fri, 08 Mar 2013
HOT on the campaign trail for the coming general election, the Pakatan Rakyat coalition launched their election manifesto on Feb 26 to show what they have in store for Malaysia if they come to power in Putrajaya.
Call it what you want, but one cannot deny that its call for thorough reform in many fields stood out well and some say that it is what almost half the voters wanted during the last general election.Since its launch, the manifesto has received mixed reactions, ranging from visionary and ambitious to others panning it as an unrealistic plan which will lead the country to ruin.
PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli said the manifesto was inspired by the common folk and aims to improve quality of life of the people.
“The people are the inspiration (of the manifesto); the main difference between all BN policy pronouncements and ours is that ours articulate the concerns of the people,” said Rafizi.
He said that is why the manifesto is focused on four main areas, namely the people’s well-being, the fraternity of the people, the economy, and government.
PAS Research Unit head Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said the manifesto cuts across all sections of Malaysians to reflect PR’s strategy of empowering the people.
In short, he said most of the policies that are outlined are needs-based as compared to BN’s New Economic Policy (NEP) of affirmative action, which has been abused.
“It cuts across all sections of the people and is needs-based compared to BN’s approach, emphasising the unending 30% equity of NEP.
“For decades, it was severely abused and subverted by rent-seeking behaviour of cronies working hand in glove with the political elites,” said Dzulkefly, who is also Kuala Selangor member of Parliament.
Due to the massive reform plans being proposed by the manifesto, reluctance from some quarters is expected but Rafizi said it is probably a “minority opinion” which can be won over by reasoned arguments backed with facts and figures.
However, he said the coalition must also be prepared to face stiff resistance from parties with vested interest in the status quo.
Dzulkefly agreed that there will surely be resistance from benefactors of the current system, but believes that it will be taken care of in due time if there is a political will to do so.
“We have seen it in (PR-controlled) state governments and surely it is not always easy; it must first come with an attitude and political willingness to change,” said Dzulkefly.
One of the main criticisms from the ruling coalition is that the manifesto will bring economic ruin to the country if PR raises the current minimum wage of RM900 to RM1,100.
Small-Medium Industries (SMI) and Entrepreneurs (SME) have complained about the RM900 minimum wage set by the Federal government.
Rafizi said the difficulties were due to BN overlooking the potential financial impact on businesses and failing to provide the necessary financial support to mitigate the effects.
He said that implementing minimum wage is never an easy task but it needs to be done to uplift workers’ wages, which will in turn improve the domestic economy and move the country towards its vision of a high-income nation.
“The key to a successful implementation of a minimum wage policy is that it cannot be a unilateral decision imposed on one party.
“It is a win-win tripartite partnership between workers, employers, and the government; which is why we absolutely abhor the way BN absconded all responsibility when it was implemented.
“The point is, the government must carry its share of financial burden and not leave it all to the employers. Our manifesto spells this out clearly, (while) BN has failed miserably,” said Rafizi.
Dzulkefly said PR has thoroughly thought out their minimum wage policy’s financial, environmental and labour impact.
To address it, the coalition will be setting up an RM2 billion minimum wage facilitation fund to help SMEs and SMIs bear the financial burden until they can achieve automation and phase out foreign workers.
Rafizi elaborated that key financial and social support such as a payroll subsidy will be given to qualified employers who applied for the scheme for a given period of time until they can sustain themselves.
The policy is part of a bigger picture to alleviate the people’s financial burden by increasing wages while lowering prices of goods and services.
Rafizi said this can be achieved by setting up a Competition Commission which will have the authority to abolish monopolies and enforce the coalition’s anti-monopoly policies.
It is expected that it will increase competition between industry players which will result in lower prices for goods and services.
Likewise, a PR government will also be leading by example and exit “Non-national strategic businesses” so the sector can be left to entrepreneurs to run.
“Competing with the government is counter-productive and does not cultivate a strong entrepreneur class,” said Rafizi.
Secondly, Dzulkefly said the way subsidies are being channeled will be restructured to reach consumers directly the people be the primary benefactors.
It was claimed in the manifesto that subsidies such as those for gas are being given to large power-production companies, who despite receiving government assistance sell electricity to Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) at higher rates.
Other measures such as lowering petrol prices can be achieved by better distribution of national oil revenue income while water tariffs can be lowered and regulated by maintaining government control over water industries.
“Broadly, the manifesto aims to help the bottom 50% to have a bit more income on their hands,” said Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong.
Liew said the bottom 50% will be spending more if they have more disposable income, driving domestic consumption which will benefit the economy in the long run.
“If more money is being spent, then it will contribute to consumption; overall the economy will grow as a result and everyone is happy,” said Liew.
In line with the string of reforms, the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) will also be reformed to provide better security and restore public confidence in the force.
Rafizi said this will include changing the police’s standard operating procedures (SOP), logistics, reallocation of resources, and the setting up of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconducts Commission (IPCMC).
Weighing in on the IPCMC, Rafizi said changes to the way the police do things is perhaps the most vital part of the reforms.
“This is more important than any resource allocation that can be added up to PDRM’s existing force; professionalism is key to its efficiency and only total reform can increase the force’s professionalism,” said Rafizi.
Other institutions of law such as the Malaysian Anti-Corrution Agency (MACC) and Attorney-General’s (AG) Chambers will also be shaken-up to ensure their independence.
It will be done via a three-pronged approach; amending laws to close loopholes, reforming the organisations’ SOP, training, and attitude, and finally a change in leadership to garner public confidence.
A no-nonsense anti-corruption policy which treats corruption as a major problem to be rid of instead of just managing it, dubbed “Debaran”will also include a complete shake up of MACC, from head to toe.
On the subject of law, Liew said the scrapping of the Automated Enforcement System (AES) and the revocation of summonses was due to it not being effective in its purpose of reducing accidents.
“The problem with AES is that it has changed nothing; unless the whole system can be reviewed then you are just helping the cronies,” said Liew.
This is due to speeding being only one of a myriad of reasons why accidents happen and the bigger picture is not being looked at.
“It assumes speeding is the only problem without taking other factors into account; AES is actually enriching cronies without truly focusing on road safety,” said Liew.
In the AES’s place, Rafizi said PR will be using a more comprehensive plan to enhance road safety such as changing drivers’ attitude, culture on the road, and improving infrastructure.
While agreeing that it is also important to curb speeding, he said it is not the be all and end all of reducing road accidents.
“Any punitive measures for speed reduction will not be the main thrust, (it will be) more of a compliment; in that sense it is a totally different approach compared to BN’s AES,” said Rafizi.
As a staunch supporter of the Bersih movement, a PR government will also implement all of the eight demands of electoral reform by Bersih, including the restoration of the media’s independence.
Rafizi said this is especially important as a free media is one of the pre-requisite of a modern, civil, and democratic society.
Under the manifesto, laws restricting media freedom such as the Printing Presses and Publishing Act (PPPA), the Sedition Act, and the Official Secrets Act will be repealed and the responsibility of maintaining an independent media will rest upon practitioners.
“We believe that media practitioners will embrace the heavy responsibility that comes with media freedom; so our manifesto talks about returning the responsibility to practitioners,” said Rafizi.
He added that after the restrictive laws are repealed, there will be a period of competition between agencies followed by consolidation but will eventually the country will have a strong, established, and independent media.
“Media practitioners and media leadership are the best people to manage this transition, without the need of laws and heavy regulation from the government,” said Rafizi.
Finally, Dzulkefly seeks to allay concerns that certain communities have been left out by the manifesto and said the coalition will follow up with supplements.
He said the manifesto must be read along with other PR policy documents such as the Common Policy Framework, the Orange Book, and the Sarawak Declaration.
“We are in the process of addressing these ‘glaring areas’ that we were accused of being oblivious about. In all honesty, we have not forgotten the disabled community, marginalised Indians, fishermen etc.
“We will be issuing supplements to cater for detailing needs and emphasis in our various policy documents,” said Dzulkefly.