Monday, June 23, 2008

Pakatan Rakyat's 100 Days

Pakatan Rakat (PR) celebrated their 100 days in office recently.

As a resident of Kuala Lumpur or rather Selangor (still confused, there will be another article on this) let me present my views on their performance.

There were many promises by the PR for Selangor during the election campaign. Can't really remember many of those but based on the report card published in one of the dailies, they appeared not to have fulfilled many of the pledges. To be fair, we can't expect them to clean up the mess and offer all kind of goodies within 100 days.

As I have mentioned in one of my previous blogs, they came to power mainly due to people's anger directed to BN and not due to PR's strength or claim that they can govern better. In fact, there was no PR before the election, just a loose coalition comprising enemies of BN.

Each state governed by PR appears not consistent and have their own manifestos. Again, this is fine as different states have different issues. For example, the over-development in Klang Valley and Penang is an issue with the folks in Selangor and Penang while people in Kedah and Perak wants further development.

What appears to be quite consistent in all different state report cards appears to be the freebies offered. All states appear to be giving out something, eg. free rice, one off payments to undergraduates, disabled etc. While this is good to help reduce the burden of the poor and needy, this is not sustainable and if maintained for a long period, may result in public depending solely on state governments to survive, akin some form of Social Security, a huge burden for developed countries such US and some countries in Europe.

PR governed states have yet to come up with any 4 year blue print on what they would do in the next 4 years. There are a lot of talk but nothing on paper, except for the delivery of the freebies. Since I'm in Selangor, I would like to review some of the actions of the state government so far.

1. Free Water

The state government only managed to ink the deal in mid-june, after disagreements with Syabas. While the public rejoiced, it remains a fact that the main beneficiaries are those who live on landed properties. What is conveniently forgotten is that the middle class and the poor mainly resides in flats and medium cost apartments. The state government simply announced that all needed to be done was to get the entire resident to agree to change their water meters to individual meters. It;s easier said than done and till today, we have not seen any effort from the state government to get this initiative (changingof meters) going. Recently, the state government announced that there would be a minimum charge of RM 6.00 , regardless whether we use the water or not. In the end, if one carefully calculates, the poor and needy have yet to benefit from this initiative.

2. Balkis

Much has been said over this, the fact remains that the PR government did the right thing, however legalities over the organisation status is not on their side. Anyways, the state governments spend too much time over this issue.

3. Hillside development

The public, I think are happy over their stance of hillside development. They, however, if sincere, should quickly step in and stop many development projects already approved in various different parts in Selangor. Particularly in Selayang area where the hillside development are massive and have continued despite PM Abdullah's directive to stop, way back in his first term.

4. Pig Farm

In what proving to be a PR disaster to the new state government, PR government however, again did the right thing to proceed with the project despite strong opposition from PAS as well as criticism from UMNO. It's fine to make unpopular decision as people would eventually realise it's benefits. The only thing they would have to be careful would be the implementation, monitoring and enforcement of the project, something that local authorities found lacking all the time.

5. Councillor's

They finally decided upon the councilors, exactly after 3 months in office. After the initial excitement over promises of the appointments of non-politicians, the PR displayed the characteristics no different to BN or any other political party. They only allocated 25% of the seats to public while PKR, DAP and PAS were allocated two third of the seats. Can the 25% really make a difference or can they influence the Politicians to to put Rakyat first in all their endeavors, remains to be seen.
6. Local Authorities

In the first few weeks, all the PR state governments had some form of problems dealing with the government machineries or popularly known as the 'Little Napoleons'. It's understandable as the 'Little Napoleons' are so used to govern their area according to their whims and fancies. It would take time to change. However, the general public sees no change in the attitude or services rendered by them. The PR state assemblymen are behaving exactly like their predecessors, going to the ground (turun padang) and meeting and hearing Rakyat's grouses over garbage collection, broken drains etc. This, while may make them popular, is not their job, full stop. Their job in the state government is to ensure that the state government departments are functioning as it should be. The municipality officials and councilors should 'turun padang' and not the state assemblymen.

7. Maternity and Paternity Leave

A laudable move, however no study has been published over how this move impacts the state productivity, services and economy. A recent letter to editor in a local daily has one parent complaining that there would be a shortage of teachers at any one time if this move is implemented.

8. Communication and Media

Unlike what was feared aftermath the formation of the state government, the mainstream media (MSM) has been giving wide and fair coverage to the PR state governments. Some papers, like the Star, had admitted that they (MSM) have to change to survive and have been seen to provide reasonable amount of coverage, although their stories are mainly focused on the happenings in Selangor and Penang. Even Anwar has appeared for interviews in the MSM. UMNO owned media, however has been selective. PKR had their application to have its own daily approved. Suara Keadilan, their mouth piece, would not survive if they continue to be PKR's propaganda tool with many of their nonsensical half-truths.

9. CAT (competency, accountability, transparency)

This is PR's promise in all 5 states. This promise hit the snag almost immediately with the jostling of positions (especially the EXCO positions) among the coalitions members and finally, they were just political consideration taken into account and nothing to do with competency.

The allocation of councilors in Selangor were also hazy, where there appear to be no transparency on how the councilors, especially the politicians were appointed. There are also nothing mentioned about how their Competency would be measured. End of the day, they proved just that, politicians.

On the other hand, they had pledged to introduce Open Tender policy for all government projects and procurements. This is still to be seen in terms of implementation. In the coming days and months, the public would definitely closely watch whether they stay truthful with their pledges of CAT.

10. PR Coalition

There were initial rift when the PR won the elections and suddenly found that they had to form the state governments. Deciding the Menteri Besar and composition of EXCO members was never easy in all the PR states and it did take some time. It also did reveal the rift between the coalition members. However, everything appeared to be fine later.

Perak appears to be fragile with the fact that the Menteri Besar is from PAS, the party with the least number of seats among the PR members.

PAS has also proven to be the torn in the flesh to their fellow friends in PR. DAP had been regularly irritated by statements and actions of the Islamist Party, while PKR always seen to be silent on the issues of Islamic lifestyle etc. With significant non-Muslims in Perak, Penang and Selangor, it would be a suicide to even bother implementing any of the so-called Islamic lifestyle, however good it may be, as this would mean isolating a significant majority.

11. Fuel Price Hike

PR de-facto leader, Anwar Ibrahim claimed recently that he had the magic fomula to keep the fuel price down. I wonder what the formula is, that even governments around the world, IMF and World Bank unable, so far, to come up with.

PR has also gone to the streets to protest the hike. This is a no-brainer unless they have solutions and force government to accept their idea and suggested solution. Anwar on the other hand keeps quiet and appears to be endorsing the protest despite having the 'magic formula'.

12. The Anwar Factor

Despite holding together a coalition of parties with differing ideologies, Anwar has proven that he's a good negotiator, manager and as you know, politician.

He has yet to contest in any by-election and yet he's still talking about becoming the new Prime Minister. He continues to taunt BN with his claims of massive BN MP cross overs and formation of a new government by Sept 16. He even went on to say MCA MPs will be crossing over soon. Not much time is left for him to prove that he is not day-dreaming. Let's see. Malaysian's will be making a big mistake if they ever do choose him to be the next PM. DAP will have to be more careful dealing with this shrewd politician, or else, as in 1999, they (DAP) would be completely wiped out.

Pak Lah's 100 days

'Flip Flop' government. That would sum up the performance of the Federal Government.

Pledges to clean up the judiciary strengthen the ACA, deferment of several mega projects, further aids to Sabah and Sarawak, continuation of the Economic Corridors and his continued patience in the face of criticism has won him some friends and support as well.

Tun Dr Mahathir's continued convincing attacks, Fuel price Flip Flop , the Hindraf 5 in ISA, SAPP no-confidence motion, lack of transparency of subsidy distribution, Rosmah's alleged involvement in Altantunya's case, loss of Pedra Branca, scrutiny of his allies and family's businesses, continued silence on many issues are proving to be his minus points. He may as well transfer his power this December or PRakyat is favored create history in the next polls.

In general, based on various survey undertaken recently by MSM and online medias, general public are generally satisfied with PR State Government’s performance while at the same time willing to give them more time to fulfill their pledges as they say 'new broom sweeps clean'. To me and many others, apart from the impact due to the fuel hike, nothing much has changed.

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