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The Reform Train running out of steam

  • The ruling coalition is repeatedly distorting the rule of the game in order to win the election, but GE14 is only a short-term event. What is way more important is the future of this country!

By LIM SUE GOAN
Sin Chew Daily

It is no secret that Umno is dictating the BN government's polices and directions, putting all other component parties in a very embarrassing situation.

Prior to this, these parties openly protested the redelineation report for failing to reflect the country's multicultural society. Unfortunately they later opted to go against their own principles to fully back the report.

We can't talk about breakneck advancement when the country's politics has gone this far back.

A total of 108 local Chinese professionals signed a joint declaration before the 14th general elections to urge young Malaysians to stand up against mediocrity and help the nation move forward boldly.

Indeed, we must take the country out of the current doldrums whereby our competitiveness is being slowly eroded while we lack a clear economic vision to kickstart Industry 4.0, artificial intelligence and other cutting edge technologies.

Ironically, the 2017 national transformation program report highlighted some exceptional achievements of the country in many areas. Perhaps the officials drafting the report should step out of their cozy, air-conditioned offices to listen to what the people in the street have to say.

While announcing the Bank Negara annual report for 2017, governor Muhammad Ibrahim highlighted some of the weaknesses in our economy, including the fact many low-income individuals do not make enough to meet the minimal needs for a decent living, or the so-called "living wage".

With Malaysian companies overly dependent on cheap foreign labor, it is utterly essential to look into economic structure reform. Household debts now run as high as 84.3% of the country's GDP, and slightly more than half of household debts (52%) are housing mortgages.

The country is also plagued by a host of other problems. Every now and then, I hear of instances of young Malaysians emigrating. The continuous outflow of our talented people will invariably cast a gloomy outlook for our ambitious 2050 national transformation program (TN50).

That said, it is unrealistic to pin our hopes on the coming general elections or political leaders to lead us to true reforms. On the contrary, it is very likely that things will go further backward after the elections!

For instance, the Ant-Fake News Bill is poised to restrict the freedom of press. Due to a lack of explicit definition for fake news, even a piece of information with a mere 5% of falsehood could be categorized as fake news.

It is impossible for print media to do investigative reporting, as the authorities will not normally confirm the authenticity of an information source. The lack of transparency on the part of the government has further constricted the scope of newspapers, forcing the media to apply self-censorship much to the joy of corrupt public office holders.

The Anti-Fake News Bill should be used to rein in uncontrolled spread of unverified rumors and misinformation, but unfortunately it is now exploited by the authorities to control press freedom.

This country will not move forward without press freedom. Media organizations, human rights groups and the civil society are against the bill not because they condone fake news but because the bill has negative implications on the entire media industry.

GE14 is only a short-term event. What is far more important is the future of this country!

Another incident that has impacted the country's democratic system is the redelineation report hastily adopted by the Parliament last week. The report not only destroys the justifiability for individual constituencies but will also aggravate the existing ethnic polarization.

The ruling coalition is repeatedly distorting the rule of the game in order to win the election, undermining the democratic system in the end and forcing our posterity to pay a tremendous price for their folly and greed.

Worryingly, the authorities are turning a dear ear to the public's views, as they are brimming with unusual self-confidence now. They believe they will win the election for sure.

This phenomenon is a far cry from their attitude back in 2013, when BN leaders took on the image as reformers, promising to amend the Printing Presses and Publications Act and abolishing the requirement for annual renewal of newspaper permits.

Meanwhile, Pakatan Harapan also has not promised much to take the country to meaningful reforms. There is no way for us to hope that a PH administration will abolish the New Economic Policy and do away with racial quotas or streamline the country's bloated civil service sector.

Even Tun Mahathir admits that his PH allies are being excessively socialist and it is not economically feasible to abolish all highway tolls. This shows that indeed PH lacks a uniform philosophy when it comes to running the government.

To really transform this country, we must weed out obsolete political leaders and parties which are dislodged from the reality. We must let new generation leaders to take over in order to see the prospect for change.

 

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