FOR a multi-racial country like Malaysia and in a healthy democracy, an election manifesto of political parties serves as an indicator of commitment made by party to voters. It helps the people to make informed choices about which party to vote, whom to vote for and whom not to.
Manifestos outline details of the contested parties’ priorities and policies on a wide range of issues as well as specific action points that they will pursue in case they form the government over next five years.
It is very important for the voters to hold parties accountable to promises made during the campaign. Voting for that party and candidate means that the voter is effectively endorsing that election manifesto and giving them a mandate to govern.
Manifestos usually cover a wide range of political, economic, social and business issues as well as some broad explanations as to executing and delivering the outcome and things that are good for Malaysia and voters. The issues include the following:
> Federal budget: Responsible and fiscal discipline. Good governance to minimise wastage and contain leakages. Fiscal and debt sustainability remains the key policy priority.
> Reforms: Political, institutional, economic reforms, including fiscal governance, labour market, product market and easing of doing business as well as conducive business regulatory.
> Economy: A national reset for a better Malaysia – sustainable and quality development, better governance, better jobs and income for Malaysians as well as good policies based on needs and income.
In the near-term, concerns about weakening economic growth and business investment prospects due to the risk of global recession in 2023. Responsive short-term measures to counteract the disruptive impact of global growth slowdown and extreme financial volatility on domestic demand.
> Inflation and high cost of living: Measures to mitigate the impact of rising prices and high cost of living on the vulnerable households; price controls versus targeted subsidies to rechannel resources for more productive purposes and sectors.
> Education, jobs and skillset: Quality education and training should be prioritised. Jobs and skills for youth, promoting entrepreneurial culture; productivity-linked wages for employees; enhance technical and vocational education and training; support investment in skills, life-long learning and reforming the apprenticeship; more flexible training; greater investment and innovation in key areas of life-long learning.
> Social and community services: A vibrant, inclusive, self-confident community. A society that strives to reduce income inequality and help ensure the equality of opportunities for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion and background. Relook at our social protection system and ensure that social safety nets are comprehensive to mitigate the vulnerable people from the impact of economic and financial shocks.
> Housing: The housing problem is one of affordability. Housing costs have risen to an unacceptable level because of building materials, compliance costs and statutory contributions. The problem needs to be tackled from both demand and supply sides and by helping builders and buyers meet housing costs. Home buyers should be helped to pay for housing by income support to meet rental payments and by expanded schemes to help first-time buyers.
> Business environment: Enhance public delivery services and efficiency; reduce regulatory and compliance costs; enhance competitive tax regime and cost of doing business. Provide clear strategies for all key economic segments and industries (vertical and horizontal).
> Healthcare: An affordable and efficient national healthcare system that covers everything from prevention to long term care.
> Environment and climate change: Protection and enhancement of the natural environment is an essential part of this, and it also has a role to play in achieving zero-carbon.
Political stability is an important driver of economic growth and private investment. Political stability encompasses many aspects, including the strength of institutions and the rule of law as well as good governance.
We must always have good sense and strong political will must prevail to reset our national development agenda. A stable political condition will enhance the confidence of both domestic and foreign investors in terms of policies continuity and the country’s sustainable development path.
While credible macroeconomic management and political stability are essential to ensure a sustained economic growth, it is important to see policy continuity and meaningful reforms as well as avoid policy flip-flops. Thus, the government must continue to implement credible economic policies as well as institutional and political reforms, as well as ensure fiscal discipline and responsibility, political stability and institutional quality.
Diversity is our strength which brings Malaysians together. An inclusive Malaysia is crucial to rebuilding trust towards the government and among Malaysians.
The government should focus on promoting an inclusive Malaysia to ensure that growth and development are shared among Malaysians.
While populist measures will help the vulnerable households, it is an unsustainable policy measure and not a permanent solution. Policies should focus on empowering them to be competitive and not become over-dependent on cash assistance. Good policies should be continued and further enhanced.
It is of utmost importance to strengthen monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to ensure that policies are implemented effectively and efficiently in achieving the outcomes.
Lee Heng Guie is Socio-Economic Research Centre executive director. The views expressed here are the writer’s own.