By Azeem Abu Bakar

Finally, we have been served with the manifestoes of Barisan Nasional, Pakatan Harapan and PAS. What is the verdict?

This article does not suggest which is better but puts forward two considerations when analysing the promises, in order for us to come to our own conclusions.

If one were to read the long versions of the BN and PH manifestoes, you will notice that BN focuses on development while PH’s puts emphasis on reforms.

PH chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as we know it, is primarily focused on one thing — reforms. The rest of the promises in the PH manifesto are merely stated in principle, rather than in specific or measurable targets.

Felda debts

Both BN and PH promise to reduce Felda settlers’ debts.

BN specifically explains that it will abolish debts relating to the purchase of Felda Global Ventures Holdings Berhad (FGV) shares and provide grants to reduce the debts up to 70%.

PH keeps the target open-ended.

Although some are already satisfied with promises on principle, it will make it difficult to demand accountability when expectations are not satisfied later on.

Policy reforms

Notice that the policy on reforms in the BN manifesto is not as elaborate as that in PH.

One would have hoped for concrete measures to address the issue of reforms, beyond regulations on political funding.

However, like their manifesto on Felda, most of the other initiatives, namely for women, the armed forces, the bottom 40% low-income group, 40% middle-income group, children, students and those with special needs, have details on the type of mechanism that will be used and measurable targets in place.

BN also has a manifesto for each state and another specifically for the youths.

For those who seek certainty and a robust framework to govern the nation, the BN manifesto seems to tick all the boxes. However, if one believes that the issue of reforms takes priority over assured stability, then the PH manifesto is naturally preferred.

This brings us to the next question — to what extent can BN and PH deliver on their manifestoes, may it be development-centic or reform-centric? One will have to look at their track record to find out.

Ability to deliver

BN’s manifesto promises an abundance of development initiatives. How have they fared in this area?

After building the MRT, LRT3, Pan Borneo Highway, Rapid Pengerang, Exchange 106, Second Penang Bridge, Kota Iskandar, Rural Transformation Centres (RTC), Urban Transformation Centres (UTC) and Perumahan Rakyat 1Malaysia (PR1MA) homes, it is difficult to repudiate the BN government’s ability to deliver on catalytic development projects.

These mega infrastructure projects not only provide convenience to the Malaysians but also help spur the economy by providing millions of jobs and create billions of ringgit worth of subcontracts for small and medium enterprises (SME).

On the other hand, the Penang state government continues to struggle in getting one tunnel up and running. Selangor, on the other hand, is still unable to ensure uninterrupted water supply in the state.

Corruption

Despite BN’s development initiatives looking promising, many consider them coming short on reforms.

The question is, will PH fare any better in guaranteeing reforms? Consider this. Currently, PKR and DAP are refuting the corruption allegations surrounding the RM1.18 billion Ijok land sale, RM20.54 billion Penang tunnel and associated works, sale of a bungalow house on Jalan Pinhorn and a deal involving land at Taman Manggis.

However, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s arrest of a Datuk, who allegedly received kickbacks of RM19 million to cover up the tunnel case, and the detention of five company heads, for receiving allegedly illicit transfers of more than RM200 million in cash from the Ijok deal, have brought the denials by the Penang and Selangor state governments into question.

Due to these corruption allegations, persuading BN supporters to reject the present government and favour the scandal-plagued DAP and PKR, is getting nowhere.

Governance

When it comes to governance, perhaps choosing PAS makes more sense than PH. In the past five years, 21 PH leaders were investigated by MACC for corruption while PAS had a clean record.

In conclusion, although BN has the capability to deliver on its development-centric manifesto, it needs to address the issue of reforms more strongly like PH.

Nevertheless, PAS is likely to be more capable of guaranteeing reforms than BN or PH as they have yet to be implicated in any significant governance issues.

Ultimately, voters should not be forced to choose between development or reforms as they deserve nothing less than a full commitment from the next government on both aspects.

In the coming weeks, running up to the general election, we have to continue to evaluate the robustness of their plans and ability to deliver, to ensure we elect a government that can take us #ForwardTogether as a nation.

Azeem Abu Bakar is the secretary- general of the Organisation for National Empowerment

Originally published on Free Malaysia Today on Sunday April 8, 2018.

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