A reformist government needs to ensure that its policies make a real difference in the lives of ordinary Malaysians, writes Mustafa K Anuar.
Pakatan Harapan was voted into power because it promised Malaysians at the last general election many things that are supposedly better than what Barisan Nasional had delivered during its many decades of rule.
That’s why it would be prudent for PH to review policies that were crafted and implemented by its predecessor so as to ensure they deliver significant improvements economically, politically, or culturally.
The recent decision by the PH government to vet policies and decisions made by the BN administration – arising from the flak it received from the general public over the introduction of khat in primary four of vernacular schools – is a step in the right direction.
Of course, a policy of the past administration – or certain aspects of it – that has benefited the general public ought to be maintained because change should not be made for the mere sake of change.
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An example of a public policy that was crafted in the past is the school curriculum that has given rise to heavy school bags, literally causing a heavy burden on schoolchildren. This should be addressed squarely by the current administration.
In a sense, the khat controversy has somewhat overshadowed more pressing educational issues such as the heavy bags and school curriculum.
Another case concerns the general welfare of the Orang Asli that was neglected in many ways under the BN administration. In so-called New Malaysia, the PH government must show unwavering commitment and concerted efforts to improve the lives of these indigenous people.
The controversial Lynas rare earths processing plant in Gebeng, Pahang is another example of a decision made by the previous BN government that should be re-assessed by the current administration.
Moreover, it is useful to remind ourselves that it is a throwback to the traumatic years experienced by residents of Papan in Perak who had to live with the effects of toxic waste from the Asian Rare Earth plant in the 1980s. A mistake of the past should serve as a lesson for the future.
In another instance, the Penang ferry service that was downgraded in the past ought to be improved to cater to the needs of daily commuters who travel between the mainland and the island. This measure would highlight the importance of improving the public transport system in reducing traffic congestion and air pollution.
For that matter, certain policies decided by the current administration should also be subjected to periodic review if they do not substantially benefit the general public in the long run. This is also to ensure that these policies do not go off on a tangent.
Ruling politicians also need to be reminded that when a government is given a mandate to run the country, it does not mean that the rakyat have given it a blank cheque to do whatever it wants. It is here that transparency and accountability, the rallying call of PH in the last general election, become vital.
For example, the Ministry of Federal Territories ought to take into consideration the increasingly loud call by concerned Malaysians, particularly Kuala Lumpur residents, to de-gazette the Kuala Lumpur City Plan 2020.
This is because the city plan, which was gazetted in October 2018, is said to have proposals for high-density development projects in the city that would result in the loss of open spaces such as much-needed public parks. In short, the imagined greenery of the city could become a distant dream, if not a living nightmare.
Others examples are the highly controversial “Penang Transport Master Plan” and Penang South Reclamation project that have drawn much criticism from those who are concerned about the financial, social and environmental implications. The grievances of those affected, such as the affected fishermen and residents, should be listened to.
Indeed, a government with a reform agenda needs to ensure that its policies and actions are made with the intention of making a real difference in the lives of ordinary Malaysians.