Policy making: ‘Are we there yet?’

0
43

Are we moving towards a progressive culture of policy making or are we being stumped by political rhetoric, wonders Running Out Of Inspiration.

Parliament
MPs in Parliament – Photograph: anwaribrahim.info

I have been following the news – mainstream newspapers, on Philippine’s congressional and senatorial debates especially on its two major issues, the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill and the Sin Tax (ST) Bill. In brief, under Benigno ‘Nonoy’ Aquino III’s administration, the President has taken the bills seriously.

In RH Bill debates, he dares to challenge the church, which plays an essential role in the Christian-populated country. The said bill became an issue of concern due to an uncontrollable population rise that contributed towards rising socio-economic problems in the country. The bill’s amendment will eventually mandate the government to provide necessary tools and information for family planning.

Likewise, the ST Bill has become the President’s “priority” to improve tax collection of two major ‘sin’ products, namely alcohol and tobacco. By increasing taxes, it is estimated that additional revenue of P31bn (from its original P60bn) will be generated for the government. These additional funds can then be channelled to public health via subsidies and facilities where the poor majority will be the main beneficiaries.

At the same time, I am (quite reluctantly) following the mainstream news in Malaysia. Thus far, I cannot identify any major policy debates on improving the welfare of the people. What I have encountered most from news reports are issues pertaining to… (pause). I really cannot think of one!

The ‘pause’ is mainly because in Malaysia we do not have much debate on policy and policy analysis. There is abundant “news” regarding political party propaganda and nationalistic goals to protect the rights of certain groups of people; personal attacks and mockery among power holders, and so on. Hardly do I observe any genuine policy debate.

READ MORE:  MTUC backs Penang Forum's invitation to state government for LRT debate

The Philippines’ GDP still lags behind Malaysia’s GDP growth. But does this reflect mean that their policy makers are less capable and professional than ours? Not quite. Even though we cannot reduce the existence of corrupt and immature politicians in the Philippines, at least in the public sphere – on the news and in the legislative domain – Filipinio legislators are debating concrete policies that concern the tao (people).

Meanwhile in the Malaysian public domain, there is a vacuum; an absolute absence of any policy debate on issues such as health, environment, children and women, public transport, indigenous people, education, and etc. To be fair, these issues are being debated in civil society and by the alternative media but unfortunately not by the legislature. Our public institutions only trumpet political rhetoric which has nothing to do with public welfare and interests.

Are we thus making progress or otherwise? Is GDP the best indicator for the measurement of ‘development’? Whither our policy debate culture?

‘Running Out Of Inspiration’ is the pseudonym of an occasional contributor to TA Online.

Sign Aliran's 'Save our Democracy" petition
Sign Aliran's petition calling for a review of the decision to grant Riza Aziz a DNAA
Thanks for dropping by! The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

Our voluntary writers work hard to keep these articles free for all to read. But we do need funds to support our struggle for Justice, Freedom and Solidarity. To maintain our editorial independence, we do not carry any advertisements; nor do we accept funding from dubious sources. If everyone reading this was to make a donation, our fundraising target for the year would be achieved within a week. So please consider making a donation to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB Bank account number 8004240948.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments