LETTER | I have to admit that I was both excited and disappointed to hear that Pakatan Harapan will be launching their election manifesto on Mar 8, 2018.
I expected Harapan to be a little different than the ruling coalition with regards to public opinion on their manifesto.
I was hoping they would replicate Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s call for public opinion during the drafting phase of Budget 2018 as well as Transformasi Nasional 50 (TN50) dialogues.
I was expecting Harapan to step up their game by asking the people what they would like to happen in the country.
Nevertheless, I still hope they have consulted many experts and include their names in a credits section at the end of their manifesto.
That would give us an indication of the extent of work done, and remove all doubts of naysayers that it was done by just a handful of individuals plucking figures from the sky.
Whatever it is, I am eager to see what their manifesto is all about. They claim it to be a “pregnant” manifesto. Hope pledges don’t come with clauses and fine print, such as the term limit, which only applies after GE14.
Cost of living
Bersatu’s Rais Hussin said that the rising cost of living would be addressed prodigiously in their manifesto. I hope they tackle this problem realistically and not come up with arbitrary statements.
Cost of living is directly proportionate to property and land-related taxes. The auditor-general’s report shows that the Harapan-led Selangor state government collected RM1.7 billion in land premium and quit rent in 2015, compared to RM700 million in 2008. This is an increase of RM1 billion in property-related tax in Selangor in less than seven years since taking over the state.
In Penang, there has been more than a 20-fold increase in land premiums collected by the state government in less than seven years after taking over in 2008. While other states also experienced an increase in cost of living, it is not as significant as noted in Selangor and Penang.
In Penang, development charges have tripled since 2008 while the drainage contribution fee has increased to RM50,000 per acre now compared to RM10,000 per acre prior to 2008. These charges influence the inflated prices of homes in Penang.
Hence, I hope their manifesto curtails these taxes imposed by their own state coalitions since 2008. This would definitely be an effective way in curbing the rise in cost of living.
As with their previous manifestos, significant mentions would be made about political, electoral, judiciary, defense, education, freedom, democratic reforms et cetera.
I hope they are serious about reforming all of Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s wrongdoings when he was the premier. It would be ironic though to witness Mahathir announcing reforms of his own mess, but blaming it on the current government.
It would be interesting to note their current stand on the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC). Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin has dismissed claims of recognition of the UEC while DAP insists it will be in their manifesto.
If they agree to recognise the UEC, I hope Pakatan would also recognise the AP Exam of India in all universities in Malaysia. The Indian AP exam is a well-recognized exam internationally, and is highly looked upon in many developed countries.
After all, the best brains globally come from India. Silicon Valley and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) relies hugely on the Indian workforce.
On the judiciary, I hope Harapan does not just mention judicial independence. Besides, it would be a serious reform if perpetrators are held accountable even after they leave office.
We have seen the opposition brawl with Mahathir for most of their existence, but suddenly everything is forgiven and forgotten. If that’s the case, it would not be surprising if they embrace Najib and acknowledge they were wrong about him in the future as they have done with Mahathir.
Accountability and responsibility for one’s actions should be independent of political representation. Any wrongdoing should be thoroughly investigated and punished. Otherwise, what would be the difference?
Plans for marginalised communities
Just as Najib is doing, I hope realistic and proper initiatives are mentioned with regards to the Indian community. To date, there has been a very poor representation of Malaysian Indians in Harapan and nothing much is being done to the community Mahathir conveniently marginalised.
I hope they do not do another Gelang Patah Declaration, which is the biggest failure in the country, just to woo voters.
If they are serious about the Malaysian Indian community, I hope they would not rely on Hindraf, which has been a proven flop and does not have any following, or any other obscure parties.
Goods and Services Tax
There will certainly be a mention of the cancellation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Although macroscopically it would be a hit, I hope they do not decide to introduce a new tax system and give it a new name, such as bringing back the Sales and Services Tax (SST).
GST is practiced by all developed nations. In Malaysia, GST replaced the SST, which had weaknesses in the many areas. Replacing GST now with the SST is not a reform at all. It is simply rebranding and renaming.
Pakatan should detail out pragmatic approaches they will embark to increase revenue to replace the GST.
Life after GE14
An election manifesto is a serious matter. It is of no value if things are said just to win an election and then forgotten.
Saifuddin Abdullah, the chief secretary of Harapan, has pledged to honour their manifesto even if they don’t become the government.
Dear sir, where is your shadow cabinet? How about Kampung Buah Pala in Penang? Perhaps, Gelang Patah Declaration for the Indians? These were the items that were tossed to oblivion in the past. I hope there will not be a repeat of this.
It would be thrilling to see what Harapan has to sensibly offer. This could possibly be the last chance for the opposition to oust BN.
After the passing of their top leaders, Karpal Singh and Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, Harapan has no one else credible to lead it.
They have somehow found a lifeline in Mahathir. It is a do-or-die situation for both Harapan and Mahathir.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.