Setting the tone with Selangorku
Writer: Tricia Yeoh
Published: Fri, 30 Sep 2011
Selangor was one of the first governments in Malaysia to have officially celebrated Malaysia Day on Sept 16 in 2009, which was followed thereafter by the federal government in 2010 when it was declared a public holiday.
This year, Selangor launched its version of an agenda in conjunction with Malaysia Day, called “Selangorku”, or “My Selangor”. The project took about a year to complete, having been initiated when I was then Research Officer at the Selangor Menteri Besar’s office. Although I have since moved on, it was indeed a gratifying moment knowing the agenda has finally
been launched. The original objective of having an agenda was to set a direction for the Selangor state. After having been in the state government for more than two years (at the time the project was conceived in 2010), it was timely for Selangor to go through an evaluation process of its numerous policy reform measures, activities and programmes according to each portfolio and sector.
This was conducted via a series of town hall meetings held in each of the 12 local and municipal councils across the state, inviting stakeholders from a range of professions in public, private, and non-governmental sectors to provide their perspectives and recommendations of what ought to be done in Selangor.
The sessions were conducted in mini-group roundtable discussions, facilitated by moderators. The topics centred upon governance (transparency and accountability), social issues (among them youth, crime and women’s issues), and infra- structure/public services (local council basic services such as roads, lights, drains and so on).
Apart from going to the ground, the Selangor team met with specific groups to obtain their views on the direction of the state based on the government’s achievements or failures, as well as to share their opinions generally. These groups included institutes of higher learning, investors, the services and manufacturing sector, non-governmental organisations, and selected academicians.
Finally, the team held one-on-one personal interviews with each of the exco members to ask what they felt were their most prominent policies and programmes that ought to be highlighted.
These were collated, taking into consideration the contents of other Selangor-related documents such as the Halatuju Selangor document, various Selangor budgets, speeches, individual gazetted local council plans, the State Structural Plan, as well as some national documents that would invariably affect
Selangor itself like the 10th Malaysia Plan. Of course, the public is often not overly concerned about
the details that go into any sort of policy document, hence some key points have been focused upon within brochures. These include the Selangor government’s commitment to holding local elections, the first of which is planned to be held in the Petaling Jaya City Council in 2012 as a pilot project.
As civil society has long lobbied for the return of local council elections, this move would perhaps sit favourably among urban dwellers. According to the Selangorku document, local governments must be fully responsible to the people, and it is the rakyat who “should have the right to elect new leadership.” Democracy truly has to begin at the local level, and electing the best councillors who will care for neighbourhoods and residential areas is the best way to demonstrate this.
The second priority area is for the state government to develop affordable housing for families with low household income (be- tween RM2,500 and RM5,000) – again something a responsible state should take up. As inflation rises, many are finding it increasingly difficult to be new house buyers and owners.
Third, the Selangorku document looks at facilitating collaboration with residents and the private sector to finance private security, with a pilot project hopefully within Subang Jaya. Although crime is one of the National Key Result Areas (NKRA) at the federal government level, it makes more sense for a more decentralised process of administering security to take place.
State and local governments, for example, have greater access and frequent interaction with resident associations. Both governments have, however, relied on higher numbers of Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras to help monitor crime.
Fourth is an interesting proposal, where although the federal government and its National Minimum Wage Council have agreed upon a minimum wage, it has not yet been implemented. The Pakatan Rakyat, which has a policy on minimum wage, has taken a stand through the Selangor government to implement a minimum wage of RM1,500 for all state subsidiaries effective Jan 1, 2012.
If successfully carried out, other Pakatan states ought to emulate this step for the sake of consistency.
Finally, the agenda outlines infrastructure as another key area, to ensure good maintenance of roads, drains, and bridges that are under local council supervision. Ultimately, the basic service delivery of local councils is what will matter most to the everyday citizen.
It seems a positive step for the state government to have emerged with its own policy agenda, setting the direction it is currently in and seeking to work towards. One problem the state has faced, however, is a consistent criticism of the lack of public- ity and communication of its numerous work efforts. And indeed, there have been a whole lot of initiatives undertaken, but with minimal awareness among those living in Selangor. Unfortunately, output does not seem to have matched the amount of input invested into these numerous programmes.
The launch of the Selangorku agenda has been one such way of tackling this problem of undercommunicated policies. It is hoped that the existing team within the government (at all levels, including the exco offices and other state assemblypersons) will be able to widely publicise this important document that, as I understand it, will set the tone for the upcoming elections. This is done through examples of what the state government has already done, and through what it is currently executing and will execute in the future.
With a roadmap in hand, the state can push forward confidently with a bold agenda – which, of course, must be equally matched with actual and smooth execution, the final and most crucial determinant of public opinion.