KUALA LUMPUR (SIN CHEW DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - In the recently completed by-election in Sungai Kandis on 5 August 2018, we saw the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition through Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) retain the seat with lower majority compared to the result the party received in the 14th general elections in May.
This is due to the lower turnout from 85 per cent to only 49.8 per cent out of 50,800 registered voters in Sungai Kandis.
PKR won with lower votes from 23,998 votes (in GE14) to 15,427.
There was actually nothing surprising from the result.
Lower turnout happened as many voters had expected the outcome and decided not to cast their votes.
This also gives the indication that people are not wavering in their supports for PH federal and state governments since GE14.
Does this show that PH government has performed well in the first 100 days of their administration?
This is something very difficult to answer.
Thus, this article will analyse the performance of PH government within the first 100 days.
During GE14, the PH coalition promised in its 194-page manifesto that they would within 10 days ensure the following 10 items would be resolved and implemented:
1. Abolish the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
2. Investigate scandal-plagued institutions.
3. Introduce Employees Provident Fund (EPF) scheme for housewives.
4. Re-introduce fuel subsidies for targeted groups.
5. Standardise and increase the minimum wage.
6. Postpone repayment to the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) for those earning below RM4,000 (S$1,341).
7. Re-look the award of mega projects to foreign contractors.
8. Set up a task force to study how to return autonomy promised to Sabah and Sarawak, as set out in the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
9. Abolish Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) settlers' debts.
10. Introduce national healthcare assistance initiative.
The government established the Council of Eminent Persons to advise the government particularly in achieving all ten promises in the manifesto.
It is obvious that the government puts some efforts to achieve them.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, for instance, scrapped the country's 6 per cent GST and now is planning to reintroduce the Sales and Services Tax (SST).
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng admitted in the Parliament that GST was more efficient compared to SST in terms of managing and collecting tax, but GST was so unpopular and controversial in pre-GE14 period.
Hence, the PH government has to reintroduce SST because it is the will of the people, but they will try to overcome the weaknesses in SST's practices.
The PH government has also taken several actions politically and legally in resolving scandals involving entities such as state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and Felda.
This effort is aimed at rectifying Malaysia's reputation in the world and bringing back confidence among investors to the Malaysian market which is getting more transparent and accountable now.
The government has also reassessed some mega projects. The list includes the RM55 billion East Coast Rail Link, designed to connect townships such as Port Klang, the Gombak Integrated Transport Terminal, Kuantan, Kuala Terengganu, Kota Bharu and Tumpat. The project is to be continued but the cost should be reduced after negotiating with Chinese partners of this project.
The Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high speed rail (HSR) project has been postponed and put under review subject to discussion between the governments of Malaysia and Singapore.
Yet Tun Dr. Mahathir admittedly announced that the PH government requires more time to fulfill all PH manifesto especially the 100 days pledges.
In fact, Tun Mahathir never expected that PH could win so convincingly in GE14.
With the government's financial constraint and debt declared at about RMone trillion, it is tough for the government to fulfill their 100 days pledges.
However, Tun Mahathir said some of PH's pledges have been successfully implemented, including PTPTN loan and GST.
The PH government has formed the five-member Committee on Institutional Reforms comprising prominent legal minds to look into institutional reforms of the country.
Its formation was announced by the government-appointed Council of Eminent Persons.
The committee members will report to the council. This committee will study and definitely bring changes to the country where reform will take place in the judiciary, the police and the anti-corruption agency, and many government ministries and agencies.
The PH government has done some restructuring of the government's agencies and will propose to abolish and amend many laws.
Many political appointees appointed by the previous BN government were also removed in order to avoid any sabotage, besides reducing the financial burden for hiring these people who were openly against the PH government.
The reform agenda will obviously take time to be realised.
Malaysians can see clearly that there is a change in media reporting in the country.
The PH government has pledged to protect media freedom in Malaysia.
Previously known to be BN's closely-linked media outlets, TV3, RTM, and New Straits Times are now reporting news on all sides more freely.
Astro Awani, for instance, is free to dedicate air-time to many PH leaders and opposition BN leaders as well.
In fact, for the first time Umno election in July televised live the presidential debate.
It is obvious that the print and broadcasting media are getting more open unlike before when they were more restricted to BN coverage with no positive and very limited negative coverage to PH.
The PH government through the education ministry has also pledged to open up the universities in order to allow more students and staff to practice freedom of expression and political freedom.
Dr Maszlee Malik, Minister of Education, recogniaes the importance of a robust civil society, a strong opposition, free media self-regulated by a press council, shadow cabinets, and independent student unions and trade unions.
He has promised more academic freedom by repealing the oppressive Universities and University Colleges Act.
Tun Mahathir's visits to Japan and Indonesia as the first two countries he has visited after being sworn in as the 7th Prime Minister of Malaysia, have provided a significant perspective to Malaysia's foreign policy.
The PH government keeps reminding the world that Malaysia is a trading nation, meaning Malaysia has to befriend all nations in the world for her political stability and economic prosperity.
Malaysia continues to maintain good relations with its biggest trading partners such as the United States, China, European Union and Asean nations.
However, Malaysia does not want any country to become too dominant in Malaysia's economy, which may later threaten its sovereignty.
Malaysia invited Japan to assist the country in recovering her economic strength in facing the global economy and attracting investments. As the biggest market in Southeast Asia, Indonesia will definitely be Malaysia's strategic partner.
In 2015, President of Indonesia Jokowi (Joko Widodo) visited Malaysia and particularly Proton.
There was an arrangement for a new car project called Asean Car through Proton-Indonesia's joint venture.
This project has been revived under the PH government and now President Jokowi renews his commitment to proceed with the project.
In general, we cannot expect the new PH government to fulfill all its commitments as stated in the manifesto on time.
With lack of experience from many newly appointed ministers, plus some ministers were only appointed as late as July, they definitely need more time to familiarise themselves with their new jobs.
Clearly in their personal capacity and financial constraints faced by the government, it is expected that 100 days will not be enough for them to fulfill all their pledges.
Is it a failure? People would think that it is an acceptable failure.
The most important thing is that the PH government is committed to giving the best service to the rakyat especially in resolving many issues such as combating corruption, eradicating poverty, tackling unemployment and propagating growth and development.
As rational citizens, we ought to give time to the PH government to perform.
If they fail to do so, then as responsible citizens we can start constructively criticising them.
For many of us, as shown in the Sungai Kandis by-election, people will continue to support the PH government as long as they perform at their very best for the common good and serve the people's interests.
The writer is a Professor at the School of International Studies, Universiti Utara Malaysia. Sin Chew Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.