MALAYSIANS have had a bad news/good news week: We reached a landmark 980,000+ cumulative Covid-19 cases. But our vaccination rates are at an all-time high, with 16 million doses reportedly administered, bringing us that much closer to a mostly inoculated population and a subsequent economic reopening.
Of course, we all want the same end, that resumption of normalcy in our lives. But we cannot run away from that fact that this requires political will. Last year, the two words on the lips of quite a few influential politicians and many Malaysians were “unity government”. However, as the past one year has shown, that is a tough ask. As we are reaching a crucial moment in our fight against the pandemic, the last thing we would want is to do is indulge this ask and throw the nation into political turmoil. Nevertheless, the essence of a unity government should not be lost on us – i.e. a stop to political bickering and cooperation from both sides of the aisle to determine a holistic strategy moving forward.
Therefore, the middle ground is bipartisanship. We have seen it happen before with Undi18 when the Federal Constitution was amended to lower the voting age to 18 years old with unanimous backing from both the government backbenchers and Opposition bloc. So it is not an impossible task to achieve. We have already seen steps taken to that end. Recently, it was reported that Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz, who was appointed to the special Cabinet committee to oversee the National Recovery Plan, met with Opposition figures from DAP, PKR and Warisan. Last year, the minister also met with Opposition MPs to discuss Budget 2021 before its tabling.
Instances like these offer a glimmer of hope to Malaysians that our politicians are able to set aside their differences and work together for the betterment of the rakyat. For too long, political battle lines have been deeply drawn and fiercely protected. Now, the enemy is a common one – a deadly virus that could spell worse disaster for the country if we do not stop politicking.
That the National Recovery Council includes industry leaders, subject matter experts and NGOs is also a positive development. It is an indication that a particular political narrative, motive or ideology might not dominate.
Winning this war requires a collective effort. We have placed our better foot forward and there are signs that things are improving. The Malaysian Investment Development Authority said in June that foreign direct investments increased 383% in the first quarter of this year compared with last year. Approved investments for the first four months of this year are up 95.6%.
Fitch and S&P recently reaffirmed Malaysia’s sovereign credit ratings. Echoing this, Moody’s praised our economic track record and handed us an A3 rating with a stable outlook. These reaffirmations by three separate, independent agencies reflect the economy’s resilience amid an uncertain landscape, good medium-term growth prospects, and a stable current account surplus supported by a diversified market and export offerings.
If we want to see these economic improvements continue in the longer term, bipartisanship is our best bet. It allows politicians from both sides of the divide to work together towards common economic and healthcare solutions without coercing political loyalty to any one side. This could be the ultimate formula to our success.