A New Malaysia? #3: reform roadblocks with Bridget Welsh & Shamsul AB

August 19, 2018

A New Malaysia? #3: reform roadblocks with Bridget Welsh & Shamsul AB



In this podcast, New Mandala’s editor Liam Gammon talks to Associate Professor Bridget Welsh about how the institutions Pakatan Harapan inherits from BN complicate reform efforts, and ANU’s Dr Ross Tapsell talks to Prof Shamsul AB about the social and ideological constants that GE14 didn’t change.

This podcast was produced with the support of the Malaysia Institute and the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

5 thoughts on “A New Malaysia? #3: reform roadblocks with Bridget Welsh & Shamsul AB

  1. The first 100 days of the new government is, in fact, disappointing. But Pakatan Harapan’s focus on economic reform and the charging of Najib Razak over the 1MDB corruption scandal have bought a little more time for its honeymoon period.

    The Budget will be announced in October, when PH will have to make hard decisions. Then comes the holiday season like Christmas and the Lunar New Year which will be the real barometer for the state of the economy as celebrations, sales and spending begin. Trouble may very well start after these events.

    PH has a perceived indecisiveness problem. It’s facing challenges in leadership issues, party infighting, and ethnic and racial divisiveness. While it proved to be a formidable opposition, being in government requires a more delicate hand and the ability to manage competing demands from different sectors of the electorate.

    The real test is whether PH can bring the full reforms from next year onward. And the biggest problem is that of the transition of leadership. Will Anwar take over from Mahathir in two years? Mahathir has already said he will stay in power if the people want him to. Without Anwar there will be no reform, as Mahathir will revert back to the old racist and crony systems which he started.

    A strong movement to stop Anwar Ibrahim from taking over has already started. Infighting within his party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat, may see a difficult transition as its vice-president Rafizi Ramli faces off with Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali for the post of deputy president. The brewing civil war within the ruling coalition’s largest party has already seen allegations that voting for Azmin would scupper Anwar’s chances of becoming prime minister.

    The ordinary voter is, of course, more preoccupied with bread-and-butter issues. The Malaysian economy is still bad, prices of commodities are still low. The reintroduction of the sales and service tax to replace GST, if properly implemented, may be effective in collection to assist the government in raising revenue to finance government expenditures. However, it will have a knock-on effect on costs to the whole economy. Prices of goods will go up and become a burden to taxpayers.

    Other challenges like issues related to race and religion, which UMNO and PAS will not hesitate to continue to exploit, will exert pressures on PH with its agenda. Anwar Ibrahim is the only charismatic leader that Malaysia would have any chance for any reforms. Or else … Malaysia will revert back to the same old, same old ….

    By the way, I believe the Mahathir’s trip to China will not get any concession from the Chinese on the ECRL project. The Chinese will be polite to him but insist on everything goes by contract. He can stop the project and just pay the fine and reimburse the costs already invested. The ECRL project is not as expensive as exaggerated. The HS2 project in the UK is half as long but costs twice as much. Mahathir wanted to give the ECRL project to the Japanese to benefit his conies, but Najib gave it to the Chinese to benefit his cronies. This is one of the reasons Mahathir went to Japan on August 6. The Chinese will not fall on Mahathir’s trick of playing Japan against China.

    • Same with the HSR to Singapore. First he tells the world that the project is off. Then he back-pedalled and said it is postponed. He inflated the cost to RM110 billion to justify a review. Don’t know where he pluck the figure from – the contract hasn’t even been called, let alone awarded. Estimated total cost about RM50-70 billion. By high-balling the cost, he can then claim too things. One, if the actual cost when contract is awarded is about RM70 billion, he can claim credit for “saving” RM40 billion. Two, he can stop the project and give it to the Japanese. Najib probably already got his gravvy. Now, is Mahathir’s turn to put his snout at the trough.

  2. The political reality is, unless you have an overwhelming electoral victory at the polls and very strong public support, it is difficult to introduce sweeping reforms without provoking a strong right-wing backlash.

    (President Salvador Allende of Chile learned this, to his enormous cost, during his time as leader in the early 1970s. Right-wing forces can also collude with foreign governments to stop reforms e.g. Honduras under Zelaya, Arbenz in Guatemala)

    Nevertheless, one hopes that skilled, courageous reformist politicians will do whatever they can while they hold political power after May 9, 2018.

    • Yes, the early MCA political elites learned that. So did the Gerakan elites.
      Apathy is the end result after half a century. Let the elite Melayu lead us to layu. It is just strange that walking dead second caste zombies actually kiasi. Or perhaps, it is kiasu that is driving current Tun Dr’s second caste administration.

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