Academic: 1MDB ‘good entertainment’ but PH must actually govern

Academic Joseph Liow says Pakatan Harapan does not appear to have done much in terms of clear policy discussion with its 100-day deadline for election pledges just around the corner.

(FMT) – With Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) 100-day deadline for implementing its election pledges just around the corner, an academic has advised the new administration to focus on governing the country instead of blaming Barisan Nasional for its woes.

Joseph Liow, who is dean of Nanyang Technological University’s College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, said PH’s efforts to get to the bottom of the 1MDB issue made for “good entertainment”. However, this was not enough, he added.

Apart from scrapping the goods and services tax (GST), PH did not seem to have done much in terms of “clear, succinct policy discussion”, he said.

“Right now, all the energy is on scapegoating. At some point, the PH government actually has to govern,” The Straits Times quoted him as saying at a briefing on post-election Malaysia yesterday.

The GST, which was introduced by the Najib Razak administration in 2015, was zero-rated on June 1.

The PH coalition had listed abolishing the consumption tax as one of its election pledges ahead of the May 9 polls. It said it would be replaced with the sales and services tax (SST), which is slated to take effect next month.

Its other pledges included having targeted petrol subsidies, eliminating the debts of Felda settlers, enabling housewives to contribute to the Employees Provident Fund and streamlining minimum wages.

It also promised to return the status of Sabah and Sarawak according to the Malaysia Agreement 1963, suspend PTPTN higher education fund repayments for those earning below RM4,000, have a healthcare scheme for all, open investigations into scandals, and review mega projects.

OCBC Bank treasury research and strategy head Selena Ling, who was also a panellist at the briefing, said while PH had made headway on some of its pledges, others such as abolishing the debts of Felda farmers and deferring study loan repayments remained unfulfilled.

She attributed this to PH’s focus on its fiscal finances now that it had effectively abolished the GST.

The panellists also warned of more uncertainty in relations between Singapore and Malaysia, given the way in which Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has handled bilateral ties since taking office.

Liow cited Mahathir’s recent remarks on cancelling or postponing the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail project without officially informing Singapore, as well as his comments on the water agreement between the two countries.

“We should not discount the fact that Mahathir has always liked to ‘cucuk’ Singapore,” he was quoted as saying.

“The first 100 days have set the stage perhaps for even more uncertainty in terms of what buttons the Mahathir-led government is going to press in its bilateral relationship with Singapore.”