The real Harapan manifesto is Mahathir's

Opinion  |  James Chai
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | With Buku Harapan dominating the headlines again the past week, I am starting to suspect that it is not the Pakatan Harapan’s real manifesto. If you have been trained in law like me, you always look for the unwritten.
Buku Harapan

You may suggest that my suspicion is unfounded because the Harapan manifesto is already so long – how can there be a separate manifesto on top of that? But I am not hinting at an additional manifesto, but an alternative one – the Mahathir manifesto.

Let me explain. My suspicion started during Harapan’s campaign leading up to the historic May 9 election. It was welfare-based and people-centric.

Back then, I found it peculiar that a neoliberal like Dr Mahathir Mohamad would agree with so many things he was previously in principled opposition to – like raising the minimum wage, abolishing the tolls, delaying PTPTN loans, re-examining megaprojects, investigating scandals and other welfare programmes.

I thought to myself, this is too good to be true.

None who have followed Prime Minister Mahathir’s career would consider him an advocate for public welfare. There is always a feeling that he was following in the footsteps of former British PM Margaret Thatcher and former US president Ronald Reagan, who believed that everyone could escape poverty if they pulled themselves up by the bootstraps.

Recently, when Mahathir was asked why the minimum wage was only increased by a meagre RM50, he said he isn’t too keen on wage hikes before productivity is increased.

In 2012, he said implementing a minimum wage would bankrupt the country. He ignored the fact that the percentage of wage increase in the country was severely lagging behind inflation; or the existence of a vicious cycle of low wages, low skill, and low productivity.

This time, he said that the cost of business would be pushed too high if the minimum wage went anywhere higher than the announced RM50 increase. The sum itself is a gesture that satisfies the manifesto, while not offending the business owners too much...

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