Malaysia seems to be in a ‘political gap’ – between political leadership and the people’s needs.
Veteran economist Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said continuous bickering among politicians is largely to blame, and real issues are being ignored, making them difficult to resolve.
He added many politicians prefer to make statements on ‘hot button’ issues as it is easier to drum up support that way, rather than coming up with real, tangible solutions to real issues affecting the people.
“It is more difficult to come up with a workable proposal on how to fight inflation, for instance, or how to improve the quality of life, and provide better services to the people,” said Navaratnam.
On Thursday, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia deputy president, Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu, said there was just too much ‘political talk’ in Malaysia, at the expense of the people and their wellbeing.
Ahmad Faizal also said that people wanted to hear solutions to their problems, rather than the daily rhetoric about eradicating corruption.
Navaratnam agreed with Ahmad Faizal and said that while there seems to be a lack of new policies, the government could always take the current policies and modify them accordingly.
“Ahmad Faizal is right. We seem to be preoccupied with politics. But he too, must offer some solutions,” said Navaratnam.
“There must be short-term, and long-term solutions to people’s problems. We must reduce monopolies, abolish approved permits for more sectors, and ensure there is competition.
He added: “We must also phase out and relook policies introduced under the New Economic Policy that is inhibiting production, productivity, and efficiency.”
Navaratnam said policymakers must also think about how to solve problems affecting farmers and fishermen who are having a tough time applying for licences.
“How can they (fishermen and farmers) increase production and productivity if fundamental issues affecting them are not resolved?”
Navaratnam, a former deputy secretary-general of the Treasury, said the approach to government policies is often myopic, and there is a presumption that it’s difficult to make changes.
“It is actually not difficult for the current government and ministries to initiate change. We just need to get, for example, the right ministries, and get them to list down five things that can improve productivity and efficiency, that will ultimately benefit the people.”
“Menu Rahmah is a good initiative, but how long can the people continue to consume Menu Rahmah, without addressing the other associated problems like profiteering, price gouging and food cartels? There must be more radical changes,” he added.
Menu Rahmah is a programme launched by the Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Ministry earlier this year, to provide affordable meals for the hardcore poor. The programme has seen the participation of more than 15,000 eateries nationwide.
Navaratnam added that while the current government appears to be on the right track, it does not seem to be moving fast enough.
“Unfortunately, the Malaysian electorate is also not mature enough to see the difference between politicking and good policies, because everything is being viewed through racially-tainted lenses,” he added.