Is Malaysia in trust deficit in managing Covid-19?

The petition by the Singapore doctors come in the wake of the death of a 13-year-old in the US after he received Covid-19 vaccination. - The Straits Times/ANN

PUBLIC trust is one of the country’s important foundations in governing and delivering effective public policy, driving economic growth and achieving better socio-economic progress.

Like never before, in this unprecedented pandemic and economic crises, the government must ensure that the general public do not have doubts about its capacities in implementing effective containment measures, timely economic responses to limit the financial and economic damages and finally, to navigate the country out of this crisis more resilient.

The government’s right decisions should be based on the principles of transparency and effective governance. Without getting public trust and confidence, no policy and no reform will be effective enough to curtail this pandemic, reactivate our economy to normalcy and leave the crisis behind us.

Rebuilding as well as sustaining confidence and trust must be the government’s strategic priority in ensuring domestic recovery and sustainability post-Covid-19 pandemic.

In the mind of the man on the street, there lies many questions about great disconnect between headline statistical numbers painting the health of the economy and the reality on the ground.

The health containment measures, standard operating procedures (SOPs), compliance and enforcement, national vaccination programme and mass testing etc have received mixed reactions and drawn flak, citing the need for more transparency and consistency in the handling of the pandemic as well as the dissemination of granular data.

These are among fundamental flaws widely acknowledged by the general public and businesses in managing the pandemic. This is why we think a quick fix is needed. The government needs to think big and plan ahead with enough engagements with all stakeholders.

What our nation needs is a national strategy for rebuilding confidence and trust. It must be one of the strategies’ priority. We recommend that the strategy action plan for confidence and trust should be built on four strong pillars – communication, integrity, transparency and engagement.

> Communication: Leveraging on prompt, open, clear and transparent public communication to thwart disinformation and policy responses that would undermine trust, amplify fears and despairs, leading to harmful behaviours, confusion and misinterpretation of SOPs during the different phases of movement restrictions.

> Integrity: Integrity and fairness are crucial determinants of building trust in government and public institutions. Hence, the policy-making process must be thoroughly debated and discussed before implementation through ensuring high standards of behaviour in the public sector.

We have to reinforce the credibility of those involved in policy decision making to limit undue influences (rent-seeking behaviour), avoid conflict of interests and safeguard the public interest as the government faces uphill battle to have a fine balance between saving lives and livelihoods.

> Transparency: As the government has fiscal limitation to counteract the pandemic’s impact on the economy, the federal government’s budget resources have to be optimised and re-prioritised between the health containment measures and healthcare facilities and supporting the economic sectors.

Transparency of where and how the taxpayers’ money is being spent is crucial. The government and agencies responsible for the administering of budget allocation, including various stimulus money, must be held accountable for their spending in a transparent and comprehensible way. This means publishing and communicating easily digestible data.

The Finance Ministry’s Economic Stimulus Implementation and Coordination Unit between National Agencies (Laksana) had been closely monitoring the implementation of financial assistances to ensure it reached the intended groups.

Transparency of the tax system and budget spending are critical to building trust in policies and policy outcomes. For many years, the auditor-general’s annual reports have highlighted corruption, waste and “leakages” of public funds. All these need to be tackled to build back trust.

> Engagement: We need to strengthen the open government’s interactive process and get serious about open government as an interactive process that promotes inclusive and participatory to implement responsive policy making through active engagement with the stakeholders. The government has a duty to listen to constructive criticisms and to be consultative.

Promoting public engagement and rebuilding trust is not about putting government data on websites. It is also about giving public’s participation in the process and ensuring that public services are well adapted to the people’s needs.

Lee Heng Guie is executive director of Socio-Economic Research Centre. The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 0
Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!


Next In Business News

Oil prices settle lower on stronger supply outlook
US interest rate outlook
FM Global eyeing more overseas expansion
Cash-rich companies on Bursa
Debt not a drawback as it is an efficient tool for finance, investment
LYC plans to list unit in Singapore
AAX passengers soar on border reopening
A RM1.5 trillion debt hangover
A breath of fresh air

Others Also Read