Does this government understand that the future is now?

Shankar R. Santhiram, Free Malaysia Today

I wrote a book in 2016 for young executives who want to get promoted. I offered five keys, based on my entrepreneurship, training and consulting work, which could help them with their career advancement.

The first step is to let your results speak for you. My advice for them is to buckle down and get a few victories under their belt immediately. There is nothing quite like results to get people’s attention.

Isn’t this what our strange unity government needs right now; a few victories under their belt?

But our motley crew of bizarre bedfellows seem to be lurching from one crisis to another. With the exception of a handful of ministers, the rest are getting into various imbroglios on a weekly basis.

With power so delicately balanced, no one dares to make any bold changes to sort out the chaos Malaysia is in. Instead, politicians all walk on eggshells and just try not to offend each other.

This is a government of frenemies, and it is obvious that the administration is weak.

Malaysians need a government that shows grit, and makes the changes necessary for the country’s growth. Ordinary citizens who need help and want a better life are only getting news that one new committee is being formed after another, to meet and plan for the future.

Someone needs to tell this government that the future is now.

Our prime minister is warm, erudite and a fabulous narrator of ideas. He also has a wonderful knack of getting people to buy-in to his philosophies. But I sense the mood on the ground is that the time has come for him to “…put his money where his mouth is.”

Initially, he caved in to pressure and appointed some unelected people into ministerial positions, even though they stood and lost in the last general election. Progressive Malaysians, begrudgingly, had to accept this as something forced on him by political chicanery.

Most of us were also shocked that he appointed those who lost, even in his own party, as ministers, and the less said about one of our deputy prime ministers, the better.

But making choices like giving the educational portfolio to a shariah lawyer was an odd one.

Malaysians now know how the minister handled the institutional racism that got highlighted by the debacle in an elite school in Johor Bahru, recently. I think we can all agree that she botched that one up.

Then, it was reported that our health minister went to the UK to meet Malaysian medical experts currently serving there, to discuss healthcare reform. The UK’s National Health Service is itself in tatters.

Why is she talking to Malaysians who are serving there, instead of consulting Malaysians who are actually in Malaysia? Logically, aren’t our internal experts better placed to advise and suggest reforms?

Citizens seem to be noticing this government for all the wrong reasons.

Last week, I defended his decision of appointing his daughter as his senior economics and finance adviser. I still believe it is his right to appoint whoever he wants, especially for political expediency. But attempting to disguise it as unpaid “national service” is a stretch too far, lah.

It’s politics, and let’s call a spade a spade.

This week, he appointed a few more academics, and former technocrats to assist him with rebuilding the economy. Again, these are unpaid positions. I laud the appointees. I am sure they were magnificent academics, and led major conglomerates in the country.

But doesn’t Malaysia need practitioners right now? Don’t we need people who run businesses on the ground, and stellar entrepreneurs who have turned businesses around, to give advice? Don’t we need experts who witness first-hand, the daily difficulties that small- and medium-sized businesses face? Aren’t SMEs the backbone of Malaysia?

The PM also announced that the government will slash the constituency development allowance of members of parliament by nearly 70%, from RM3.8 million to RM1.3 million.

This is rather bewildering. The allowance is not for MPs to jolly around with. It is for the constituencies they represent. It is money meant for the people. If there are concerns about “seepages” from rogue MPs, surely it is incumbent upon the government to set up proper accountability measures, strictly monitor them, and throw the book at errant ones?

One minister even called on the private sector to help MPs develop their constituencies. Our elected government cuts the allocation, but then calls on the private sector to help? I’m glad the SME Association of Malaysia ridiculed the idea by saying it wasn’t the job of their members to help build roads, and bridges.

Malaysia needs real and tangible actions for economic recovery, food safety, business growth, and institutional reforms especially in the civil service. We don’t need the act of establishing more committees.

We are only witnessing appeasement and pandering to political machinations.

I think that if our prime minister, who incidentally is still my current preferred choice for the job, continues to mask decisions behind the “green-wave” phenomenon, or the fragile nature of this unity government, he will, ultimately, be derailed.

He has positioned himself as the champion of much-needed reforms in our nation, and has been vociferously chanting the “reformasi” mantra, since September 1998.

It is time to deliver, right?