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LETTER | Expectations, progress and reforms post-GE15

LETTER | We, the members of G25, welcome the encouraging signs of growing political stability in the country following the GE15. We hope that this will help Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister to carry out the party’s pledges in its election campaign manifesto. 

We propose that the PM start with “the low-lying fruits” - the reinstatement of the financial and administrative procedures aimed at protecting public interests, especially regarding government contracts and procurements.

Some have defended the decision to deviate from the regulatory instructions on the argument that they were too bureaucratic and time-consuming. Others have justified the deviations as necessary in implementing the NEP objective of creating a Malay commercial and industrial community and in restructuring the society.

As much progress has been achieved over the last fifty years in achieving the twin objectives under the NEP, it is now time to return to the proper procedures for implementing government projects.

By earnestly eradicating the serious menace of corruption at all levels of administration and adopting high standards of governance, it will not only save the country from frequent scandals but will also strengthen the private sector and foreign investor confidence in doing business with the government and its GLCs. 

We, therefore, call upon the KSN to issue a circular to all KSUs of federal ministries and to all state secretaries that the government expects all the administrative and financial regulations to be strictly applied and complied with under their respective jurisdictions.  

Next on the list of “low-lying fruits” are the institutional reforms which were initiated during the previous government based on the MOU that the previous PM had signed with the opposition. Anwar was then the opposition leader. Now that he is in power as the PM, he should complete the reforms initiated earlier. 

One of them is on political financing to regulate a transparent system for political parties and individual politicians to raise funds for their political activities. Next, the empowering of the parliamentary select committees to make them the watchdogs of the cabinet so that the ministers are always under scrutiny in their official functions as well as in their private lives.

A further reform which was agreed to earlier is the separation of the powers of the Attorney-General’s Chambers to create an independent office of the public prosecutor, like the justice system in the UK and other Commonwealth countries. In this regard, we welcome the announcement of Law Minister Azalina Othman Said on Dec 7, 2022, that they have already taken the first steps to initiate this separation through their meeting on Dec 6, 2022 with the AGC and are hopeful that the cooperation between her office and the AGC on this reform will bear fruit soon.  

We would like to see these reforms which have been agreed to in the previous government be immediately brought to parliament for legislation. There is no reason or excuse to delay them.  We, therefore, call upon the PM to show political leadership in pushing them through Parliament.

G25 is also concerned about the issues impacting on human resource development, especially in the education and health sectors. Although Malaysia spends more as a percentage of GDP on these two sectors than most other developing countries, there is great concern whether the country is getting value for the money spent. 

In education, the lack of quality education is the main problem that needs serious attention. Empowering and building teachers and their teaching competencies must be given the importance it deserves. Teachers must be supported the right way so that they can build a positive learning environment for their students.

With better data and analyses that are being done and tracked, this would enable better management and strategies that can be employed to build on their capacity. Those who are still not able to reach the benchmark should be given the option for early retirement or a strict exit policy needs to be introduced.

The school curriculum and time allocated for core subjects must be reviewed. For example, the primary school curriculum has many hours of religious education, leaving less time for STEM subjects. In primary school, the average time spent on religious studies is seven and a half hours a week compared to the sciences at five hours a week and math at six hours a week.

Making a few of the religious subjects a part of an afterschool curriculum will allow more time spent on STEM subjects during the day, while allowing Muslim students the option of attending the remaining religious subjects after school. 

Disadvantaged students from both the rural and urban poor are the most at risk of lagging behind and worse, dropping out of school altogether. The Covid-19 aftermath of learning losses is putting them further behind when the intervention programmes are delayed or severely lacking.

With a weak foundation at the primary level, they would trail behind in their secondary and tertiary years and would not have a chance in the job market in the future. With weak overall performance, especially in English, that employers would demand of them, they would soon become misfits in society. 

Although there was a Malaysia Education Blueprint Report 2013-2025, which highlights the best practices from other countries, the weaknesses lie in its implementation. In order to improve, the implementation plans must be given priority by the Ministry of Education.

We call upon the prime minister to bring this report up to the attention of the cabinet so that there is a consensus among ministers to bring about the necessary changes.

In the health sector, the government medical service is losing a lot of nurses and doctors to neighbouring countries because of more attractive salaries abroad. Specialists are not well rewarded, causing them to leave out of frustration.

The government should introduce the necessary changes to retain talent within the country. There should be attractive career paths in the government medical and health services, in the universities and in research institutions to create a healthy environment for the top professionals to remain in their scientific, research and academic careers so that the country does not lose them to other countries. 

The government should realise that for the country to move forward with new ideas and innovations, there is a need to invest more in R&D institutions. Studies show that Malaysia spends less as a percentage of GDP on R&D than most other countries at comparable levels of development.

This needs to be rectified to keep Malaysia on the move with the rapidly changing technologies and scientific innovations. 

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.