Importance of scrutinising policies

  • Letters
  • Wednesday, 06 Nov 2019

IT is safe to say that the people in government are now learning that what was said and promised before the election seems to be biting them in their collective rears.

A few days ago, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had to eat his words and say that Lynas will be cared for in Malaysia to avoid a very expensive mistake.

And this isn’t the first time the government has had to do a U-turn on policies.

From the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and Jawi lessons to the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), the government has time and time again showed inconsistency when it comes to making promises and coming up with policy – and this is grating the political support of the Pakatan Harapan coalition at the grassroots level.

That said, policy-making needs a long think and continued consideration on its domino effect – one item can cause multiple reactions.

Saying the government has no money or is going bankrupt will impact the stock market and cause investors to lose confidence in the nation’s economic stability. The performance of Bursa Malaysia is a clear result of such pronouncements.

Announcing a rise in the minimum wage “only in cities” will also have the adverse effect of not only causing migration to cities and the abandonment of rural areas but also increase the cost of living in cities.

Furthermore, the targeted petrol subsidy scheme cannot stand with a card system particularly because it creates an opportunity for corruption. We have seen this with diesel allocations to fishermen. How will it be any different than someone putting cards up for sale or even cloning the cards?

The government needs to consider the policies it is advocating not just from a populist point of view but also from a corporate standpoint. From taxation to regulation, every policy needs to be scrutinised with feedback from the general public and corporate sector and also a consideration for the civil service.

Similarly, while the Housing and Local Government Minister believes that lowering the ceiling price for foreign homeowners will somehow trigger an increased demand for housing, what will happen instead is renters being told to leave their houses in semi-urban areas to make way for the secondary market to take root.

And what that will do is lower productivity, increase travelling time to work and impact the public transport network.

Take a look at the smoking ban in restaurants as another example. As a chain smoker, I back such a plan. However, when you don’t have the ability to enforce the regulation, it goes back to having no meaning. Meanwhile, regulations which have meaning and are being enforced, as we have seen in the Transport Ministry taking action on lorry drivers, are also under attack to the point of protests because they were never properly enforced before.

In fact, the Transport Ministry’s heavy-handedness on Grab has caused e-hailing prices to sky-rocket due to lack of drivers, and has made taxis an option once again.

As such, policymakers need to reconsider what they are doing, gather feedback from all stakeholders and come up with either a middle ground or the least damaging result. It should not aim for a popular result to garner support for the next election but one that would guarantee each side is heard and their considerations are taken into account.

Smokers need their smoking areas, vapers need their regulations and products recognised, sweet beverage makers need leeway to reconfigure their products, and private healthcare and pharmacies should have a say in price controls and a change in logistic concessionaires impacting their business.

And if these are not catered to, smokers will smoke wherever they can, vapers will create a black market, and sweet beverage makers, private healthcare and pharmaceutical companies will pull out and look elsewhere in the region for their profits and ease of doing business.

In the end, all of these will impact consumers and all they will do is look at the government and blame it for their troubles. Meanwhile, the Opposition would gather more proof to show that the government is inept, irrelevant and making the country worse off than it was before. Sadly, these accusations are starting to take root.


Petaling Jaya

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