Unity gov't good for economy, claims expert


Modified 27 Feb 2020, 7:26 am

A unity government is the only viable solution in helping Malaysia quickly refocus its efforts towards addressing the bigger issues at play such as the multiple threats to its economy, says econometrics expert Mahendhiran Nair.

“A unity government will stop all the politicking and put politicians back on the road to salvaging the economy. We need this as we navigate through one of the most challenging times due to the (US-China) trade war, intensive competition from other regional players and Covid-19,” he told Bernama in an interview.

Earlier, Dr Mahathir Mohamad in a televised address had explained that his resignation was due to the amount of politicking taking place even as the country was battling a weak economy and virus scare.

Mahathir said that politicians had become so engrossed over party matters that it blinded them towards pressing issues affecting the nation and its people.

The interim prime minister has said that if permitted, he would try to establish an administration that does not favour any party but prioritises the interests of the country instead.

Unity gov't gives more clout

Mahendhiran said a unity government would give the prime minister a stronger hand to pursue the reform agenda, to rid the country of financial scandals and strengthen the fundamentals of the economy. This would enable it to re-emerge as a “roaring tiger economy”, like in the early 1990s.

He pointed out that the economy had not attained its potential after the last general election, even after Mahathir was appointed the premier for the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

“His position was not as strong as when he was the fourth prime minister. This hindered him from pursuing a stronger and faster reform agenda.

“He has lamented about this, that he had to consult all the parties before taking any bold policy decisions. Often, he would end up under severe criticism from his party members and opposition,” said Mahendhiran, who is also the CEO of Monash Malaysia R&D Sdn Bhd and the Monash University vice-president of R&D.

Compounding the situation was the public’s increasing frustration with the slow progress of the reform agenda, he said. Without a two-thirds majority in the Parliament, it was hard for the prime minister and Harapan to see through key reform agenda.

“I think Mahathir knows that even if someone else took over, he would also become a ‘lame-duck’ prime minister with very little power to lead a much-needed fast and dynamic reform agenda, which is critical in transforming Malaysia into a politically stable and globally competitive economy,” he said.

He believed that everyone was aware that it would take someone of Mahathir’s stature to make a political transformation as such - via a unity government - to get Malaysia to leap into the next stage of development.

Getting the house in order

Mahendhiran further opined that the current political dynamics in Malaysia made it hard for any future prime minister to govern a multiethnic and multireligious Malaysia, and this, in turn, jeopardises efforts to build a stable and globally-competitive economy. The former is critical to ensuring that the latter takes place.

“Perhaps, a positive outcome from all this is a unity government that puts the interest of its people and socio-economic development of the country first.

“There should be less of politicking and other trivial matters that can fragment the nation and stifle its progress. The world is changing fast and the nation needs to keep up and not be hindered by pent-up race and religious issues,” he said.

Despite the economic issues the country is reeling from, Mahendhiran believed that in the long term, a unity government comprising elected representatives from all parties would fare well in the country.

“As long as they seriously pursue the reform agenda and put in place a robust socioeconomic turn-around plan, the long-term prospect for the economy will be on much stronger footing than when Mahathir inherited it after the last general election,” he said.

Is there a provision under the federal constitution that allows an interim prime minister to form a unity government?

Not exactly, says advocate and solicitor Faisal Moideen.

“It’s not directly tied to the constitution. However, Article 43 (2) on the appointment of cabinet members stipulates that they are to be appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the advice of the prime minister. That article doesn’t stipulate that such an appointment must come from the ruling party or ruling coalition.

“Also, the constitution doesn’t expressly recognise or stipulates anything about political parties or composition of coalitions. As long Article 43 is followed, anyone who is from the Dewan Rakyat or Dewan Negara can be appointed into the cabinet,” he said. — Bernama