MO,22/2/2018, KUALA LUMPUR: Voters holding onto Pakatan Harapan’s lofty promises will have to re-evaluate their expectations. Economists and political analysts who had been studying the opposition’s strategy in getting the electorate on their side, said it was clear that the loose coalition had never asked itself the fundamental questions, including how it planned to get the funds to make good on its promises.
Economist Professor Dr Yeah Kim Leng of Sunway University Business School said for Pakatan to even meet its promise of free education, it had to grow the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by at least 40 per cent.
Professor Dr Yeah Kim Leng
GDP growth in 2016 was 4.2 per cent. It expanded by 5.9 per cent last year with a value of about RM1.1736 trillion. “If it plans to provide free education at the school and university levels without boosting GDP by 40 or 50 per cent, the burden will be on the people. “The ruling government will also be forced to impose higher taxes to increase revenue. “It has to look at the budget. The cost of running free schools and universities will be very high… Where will the funds come from?”
Professor Dr Hoo Ke Ping
Political analyst and veteran economist Professor Dr Hoo Ke Ping, who described Pakatan’s promises as “crazy”, said the government would have to spend at least RM5 billion a year to provide free education at public institutions of higher learning. The government, he added, would also be forced to slash funds for critical areas if it decided to provide free education at public institutions of higher learning. “Currently, the government allocates a huge amount from the annual budget for public institutions of higher learning, which is the highest, compared with other countries.
“In comparison, it is not even three per cent in China and four per cent in South Korea.” He said if the opposition won the election and went ahead with its promises, the people could expect massive cuts, including to the salaries of civil servants and infrastructure development. “There will be no 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) and the country might go bankrupt.”
The opposition had previously said it would maintain BR1M. On the promise of a higher minimum wage, Foo said former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad could have implemented it when Malaysia’s economy was flourishing in the 1990s.
POLITICAL ANALYSTS NOT BUYING THE PROMISES
Reacting to Pakatan chairman Dr Mahathir’s admission that Pakatan would not be able to fulfil the promises it had made in its general election manifesto if the coalition came to power, political analysts said people should be fully informed about what they were voting for.
They said the opposition realised that the existing policies that it had questioned must be maintained, adding that Pakatan had to retract a slew of promises that “tricked voters into thinking that everything would be given free of charge”.
The move by the opposition to call its own bluff now rather than later, they said, was so that it would not be held accountable to its promises, adding that it hoped voters would remember its promises as the “real deal”.
These experts, in laying out the “bitter truth” for the voters banking on Pakatan for massive goodies, said they could forget about the opposition doing away with the Goods and Services Tax (GST), providing free early childhood and higher education (at public universities), increasing the minimum wage in the peninsula from RM1,000 to RM1,500 per month and deferring the National Higher Education Fund Corporation loan repayment until the borrower’s salary reached RM4,000 a month.
They also cautioned oil producing states against setting their hopes high of getting the 20 per cent oil royalty, as promised by the opposition.
Malaysians, they added, had better ask the opposition how it would make good on its promise to lower fuel prices, which were dependent on market forces.
Among other promises Pakatan had made in luring the young voters was a marriage incentive of RM500 for youth getting married for the first time.
Associate Professor Dr Ismail Sualman.
Universiti Teknologi Mara Communications and Media Studies Faculty’s Associate Professor Dr Ismail Sualman said Dr Mahathir knew the reality and that the promises made would be impractical. “When a manifesto is drawn up, it should be rational, measurable and achievable within a specific timeframe. “Pakatan Harapan’s promises are neither rational nor suitable… they are merely a populist one.”
Ismail reminded voters of Pakatan being in constant disarray. This, he said, coupled with the loose coalition’s unclear economic and governance plans, would only spell disaster for the country. “The cooperation between Pakatan Harapan’s factions is tenuous. They are sceptical of each other and there is no trust to begin with. “Even their house is not in order. Many in Pakatan, especially PKR members, cannot accept Dr Mahathir.
“You see protests from the grassroots members, who could not stand seeing him potentially becoming the prime minister instead of (Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibra-him.” Universiti Utara Malaysia’s Law, Government and International Studies’ Professor Datuk Zainal Kling said voters must take note of the uncertainties if Pakatan were to rule the country. “They have not ironed out their differences, as well as issues with their ideologies.
“The fundamental question here is simply this: Can they ever get their act together? “At least Barisan Nasional has a proven track record in fulfilling its promises and developing the country. “When it comes to the interest of the various races, everyone is well represented in the ruling coalition.”