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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lack of confidence — Lim Sue Goan

MARCH 15 — It was an arbitrary style during the era of Tun Mahathir Mohamad and it was indeed too fierce. However, another extreme has been emerging over the recent few months, causing the delay of important programmes.

With too many of obstructions and both internal and external opposition, the government is lack of confidence. The implementation of coupon system for the people’s rice subsidy programme (Subur) scheduled to be started on 1 Dec last year has been postponed. Also, the crackdown on illegal foreign workers scheduled on 1 Jan and toll adjustment scheduled to be implemented early this year have been postponed. Same as power tariffs and the new fuel mechanism. Even the New Economic Model (NEM) will be announced in two stages. It is now the Goods and Services Tax’s (GST) turn.
The government does not implement any other policy adjustment plan after the liberalisation for 27 service sub-sectors on 22 April and the removal of the requirement for Malays to own 30 per cent equity in some public listed companies on 30 June. Foreign investors are waiting for the government to reform the tax structure, cut subsidies and reduce deficit, so that the national financial condition can be more robust. But the government has repeatedly delayed programmes and plans, affecting the confidence of foreign investors.
The government has to delay a number of important plans because of the strong opposition from the opposition party, civil society, related industries and non-government organisations (NGOs). It has no choice but to delay the implementation as it is afraid of losing votes.
For example, the government has postponed the crackdown on illegal foreign workers because of the opposition from business owners.
As for the GST issue, in addition to the opposition from Pakatan Rakyat, who held seminars throughout the country, other associations are opposing to it, too. But the government has decided to implement it in June 2011. Delaying the presentation of the bill will harm the government’s reputation.
The business sector will never get prepared for the removal of subsidies and protection if the government keeps delaying the implementation of new policies. How are we going to become a high-income country if we continue relying on foreign workers? How can we expect the government to abolish racial policies and fulfil the commitment of opening up if it retreats every time it encounters opposition?
Those who are interest-oriented will ask for more after they have succeeded for once. How many times could the government entertain their opposition?
Reform is always painful. The government cannot expect business owners and entrepreneurs to support reform. The government may sometimes need to adhere to right and appropriate policies.
On the other hand, as it is afraid of losing votes from civil servants, the government is indecisive in whether to strengthen the discipline in the public domain. Even worse, instead of expulsion or suspension, the government introduces the “pool” system to “take in” civil servants who are facing charges, having health problems and low performance.
Political scholars believe that the purpose of the suspension or delay for the implementation of GST is to wait until Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has gained the people’s support in the next general elections. His new economic reform will only be continued after that. But there are still two years to go before the next general elections. Would it be a senseless wait because of power issue?
Perhaps, the BN government has lost the best timing for reform. The government led by Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi gained 90 per cent of seats in the Parliament during the 2004 general elections. It should have started the reform at that time under the basis of strong public will. But BN has missed the chance.
BN has now lost four state power and the advantage of the two-thirds majority in the Parliament. As it is afraid of losing the central power in the next general elections, it becomes overcautious.
How are they going to expect others to have confidence in them since they are lack of confidence themselves?
It is a vicious circle and BN must learn a lesson. —

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or the newspaper. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.


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