Pakatan to focus on structural reforms if voted in

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid, Free Malaysia Today

KEPALA BATAS: Pakatan Rakyat will focus on major structural reforms should they helm federal power in a policy framework drafted to counter claims that it lacks solid alternatives against Barisan Nasional’s reform efforts. In its policy framework themed “Change Now, Save Malaysia”, Pakatan aims to woo voters through a series of overhaul on key institutions to spur economic growth based on equitable wealth distribution.

The policy framework was unveiled at the bloc’s second national convention held here, before some 2,000 delegates.

And for the first 100 days in power, the federal opposition bloc have listed 10  key reform measures which they claim would introduce “overall” changes needed to boost the country’s performance.

Some of the key changes proposed by them are the reform of key institutions like the Elections Commission, the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission, the Attorney General’s Chambers and the police.

Pakatan will also abolish tolls by instructing the state’s investment arm Khazanah Bhd, Employees Providence Fund and others to takeover highway assets.

It also plans on restructuring the subsidy system by slashing subsidies to the private sector and use the fund to help the poor instead.

While the BN-led government aims to reduce its record budget deficit and soaring debt by slashing consumer subsidies on fuel and sugar, the country’s independent power producers are enjoying a RM19 billion worth of “corporate welfare”, they claimed.

Other reform measures include the increase of oil royalties to producing states to 20% from the current 5%, to abolish and open up the Federal Land Reserve Authority (Felda) plantations programme, continuation of its free water programme and free Wi-Fi service in all urban and semi-urban areas.

Social-democratic policies

Under Pakatan’s extended common policy framework, the opposition bloc vowed to heal Malaysia’s economic woes through what they described as “democratic and transparent economy” and increase decentralisation for state economic autonomy.

It also promised to implement needs-based affirmative action policy in place of a racial one, the introduction of a green economy, expanding the social safety net, cheap housing and improved public transportation system.

Just as its Barisan Nasional counterpart, Pakatan will also seek to develop stronger human capital under its social justice initiatives. This will be assisted by its recognition on the need for a total reform in the country’s education system.

This is among the most notable policy from the bloc, a policy that observers say BN lacks in terms of real efforts to back its aim to develop talents amid diving ranking among the nation’s top education institutions.

Under the Najib administration’s palatial Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), the government aims to revitalise the country’s economy by creating an innovative driven and stronger domestic market.

Its critics, however, said most of the initiatives unveiled under the ETP are pump-priming driven with virtually nothing focused on improving education quality although efforts are made to attract the return and retain local talents abroad amid a critical brain drain crisis.

The criticism on the education system is the lack of analytical and critical qualities in students. This, Pakatan leaders claim, is caused by BN’s attempt to a create a “subservient” environment in the higher education sphere and the bloc vows to undo this through qualitative improvement.