Two staples of Pakatan Rakyat rhetoric are that Barisan Nasional bribes its way into power by giving the rakyat ‘goodies’ and that the governing pact has endangered the country’s financial well-being by overspending. It is a testament to Pakatan’s peculiar talents that their manifesto manages to be both a series of open bribes and to be a solid pledge to bankrupt Malaysia once and for all.
It is also a testament to their talents that they claim modern Malaysia is inherently unjust and promise to dismantle it piece-by-piece, yet base all of their programmes and spending promises on the prosperity modern Malaysia provides.
Criticism of Pakatan Rakyat to the side, the Opposition pact have managed to cobble together a manifesto – a vague, bribe-laden, implausible manifesto, to be sure – in advance of GE13. The enormous effort of bringing together the three disparate parties into something that could resemble a coherent series of policy positions is no small accomplishment.
The result, unfortunately, is a mess.
The manifesto, at a remove, appears to be an attempt to reconcile the several strands of the DAP’s and PAS’ long-standing desires while still treating PKR as relevant. Thus, in addition to a host of old DAP aspirations and a non-specific salve to PAS (“reform Islamic and religious institutions”), the manifesto adopts formally Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s off-hand promises of the last few years (cheap or free petrol, lower electricity tariffs, scrapped toll payments, subsidised car prices, free education, etc.).
When Pakatan Rakyat announced their new manifesto, they claimed it would be “at a high level” rather than dealing with specifics. This is Pakatan code for “we do not wish to be bound by any of these promises,” and Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, who recently informed a court that PKR does not believe that its manifestos are enforceable, was indeed in attendance for this unveiling.
Yet the manifesto is not without specifics, though somewhat worryingly, these all involve attempts to raise costs or slow Malaysia’s economic growth.
Thus, the Lynas rare earth plant in Kuantan would be shut down, a promise to their grassroots that Pakatan have made for some time, in the name of environmental sustainability. One might note that every, single international and domestic agency concerned with such things has given the plant high marks for environmental safety, or that a Pakatan Government would be required to pay an enormous sum to Lynas under the terms of the contract, but the Opposition seems unconcerned with these matters in general.
The Automated Enforcement System for traffic violations – which has already contributed to a significant decline in roadway fatalities – would go right out, allowing Pakatan voters the freedom to violate the traffic laws, increase the opportunity for police to demand bribes, and increase the number of road fatalities. This, Pakatan Rakyat assures us, is “people friendly.”
In addition to the cheap petrol, cheap electricity, free tertiary education, cheap cars, etc., the Armed Forces Fund board would see an increase in funding from the Government, from 15 to 20 per cent, in what appears to be a fairly straightforward bribe aimed at military personnel. The state oil royalty would be raised from 5 to 20 per cent.
The minimum wage – which Pakatan first demanded, then when the Government enacted one, claimed it would destroy businesses – would of course be raised to RM1,000, because we have returned to the part of the cycle where Pakatan claims that the Government is not doing enough, rather than is doing the wrong thing. The manifesto returns to “high level” vagueness when it seeks to explain how this would cause every household to have an income of no less than RM4,000 per month – a very clear number given in the manifesto – when the smaller minimum wage, just several months ago, was supposed to cause millions to lose work and businesses to close.
Presumably to pay for these significant expenses, the taxable income ceiling at the 26 per cent rate would be raised to include those who earn a minimum of RM400,000 annually, above the current RM250,000. This would of course deprive a Pakatan Government of even more revenue, but Rafizi Ramli announced this, and we all know he can count, so it must be correct.
There is of course more. Rafizi promised that Pakatan would “end monopolies”, though he presumably does not include Petronas in this group of monopolies (he was not clear which monopolies would end or how), because otherwise there would be no one to hand out increased oil royalties to the states. Petronas’ RAPID project in Johor would be “reviewed”, which is Pakatan Rakyat code for “bullied but allowed to live”.
The Malaysian economy’s ability to integrate foreign workers – a key reason the economy outperforms Japan’s and others with locked labour markets – is also targeted, as Pakatan would attempt to eliminate foreign workers in favour of local ones. Exactly how this would not increase costs both for every industry in which those foreign workers are established and the Government in somehow training domestic labour to take over those positions is also at a “high level”.
Pakatan Rakyat have long promised – delicately, in light of Article 153 of the constitution – to undo race-based subsidies. Najib’s Government has worked to accomplish needs-based, rather than race-based, policies through the 1Malaysia concept and various related programmes under the 1Malaysia umbrella.
As reported by The Choice, Rafizi said Pakatan would “disband 1Malaysia Development Bhd.” So in place of this popular programme’s needs-based efforts, Pakatan Rakyat would offer….needs-based policies.
Pakatan Rakyat’s manifesto is an effort to reproduce Barisan Nasional’s successes and most popular programmes, while adding new costs and open bribes to the Government’s ledger, and at the same time dismantling the economic base on which Malaysia has grown and upon which the Government has produced budgets and spending described by international experts as responsible.
The manifesto is an exercise in silliness, a promise of everything in return for nothing.
It is not credible.