Why Malaysia’s new government cannot meet its 100-days deadline
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Why Malaysia’s new government cannot meet its 100-days deadline

NEARLY 100 days have gone by since Malaysia’s new government was elected into power in May.

Since then, the administration led by world’s oldest prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been working feverishly to deliver on the 10 promises it said it would fulfil within a hundred days of coming to power.

But with just days left on the clock, it is clear Dr Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan (Coalition of Hope) government won’t be making that deadline.

This was highlighted on Wednesday when local human rights group Suaram released the government’s report card, which showed the government has only managed to deliver 20 percent of the 100-day promises made in its manifesto.

Responding Thursday, Dr Mahathir said progress has been hindered by a slew of factors.

“The manifesto was written on the basis of what we knew about what the (then) government was doing,” Dr Mahathir told reporters after launching the Cardiac Vascular Sentral (CVS) medical centre in Kuala Lumpur.

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The prime minister said prior to the May 9 election, the then-opposition pact he led was not aware of the total sum of the government’s borrowings.

Within weeks of taking power, Dr Mahathir’s administration claimed that the previous Barisan Nasional (National Front) government headed by Najib Razak had amassed a federal debt total (including contingent liabilities) of over RM1 trillion (US$250 billion), some 30 percent more than the figure reported by Najib’s administration.

“But when we took over, we found that the situation was much worse. Much more money was borrowed and the machinery of the government has been subverted,” he said.

“We find ourselves working in an environment that is not really dedicated to what we want to do. So we need to remove people.”

A month before the May 9 contest, Pakatan Harapan unveiled a manifesto containing 10 key pledges that it promised Malaysians it would fulfil within 100 days of coming to power.

These include: abolish the Goods and Services Tax (GST); reintroduce fuel subsidies; eliminate unnecessary debts forced on Felda settlers; introduce the Employees Provident Fund scheme for housewives; standardise minimum wage across the country; restructure government-funded student loan repayments; set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into all scandals; restore the autonomous rights of the states of Sabah and Sarawak; introduce the ‘Skim Peduli Sihat’ healthcare scheme for lower-income earners; and review all government mega projects.

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Pakatan Harapan’s 100-day promises. Source: Pakatan Harapan.

The government has so far managed to abolish the Goods and Services Tax (GST), “stabilise” petrol prices, and restructure government-funded student loan repayments. Its new savings scheme for housewives has also been rolled out, officially kicking off for registration on Wednesday.

SEE ALSO: The jury’s still out on freedom of expression in ‘New Malaysia’ 

However, the government has still fallen short on most of the remaining promises, including equalising minimum wage, abolishing “unnecessary” debts of plantation settlers and setting up the Royal Commissions of Inquiry (RCI) on various corruption scandals from the Najib era, among others.

Council of Elders

When 93-year-old Dr Mahathir returned to the government’s seat in May (he was Malaysia’s prime minister for 22 years from 1981 to 2003), the leader formed a consultative group called the Council of Eminent Persons consisting his lieutenant and former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin and former central bank governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, among other prominent individuals.

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Malaysia’s new government advisor Daim Zainuddin, center, arrives at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to meet with Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing, China Wednesday, July 18, 2018. Source: Reuters

The group was tasked with playing an advisory role in the first 100 days of the new government’s formation but now, Dr Mahathir says it would need more time to resolve the nation’s woes.

Asked about wide speculation over the disbandment of the council this weekend, Dr Mahathir said the rumours were untrue and that he never mentioned that it would only exist for 100 days.

“They (the council) think they have come to the end, but I have not decided (on it),” he said, adding there was no timeline on the matter.

“I still need their services.”

On solving the country’s financial problems in the current five-year term, Dr Mahathir said he was unsure whether it was possible.

“But I think most of the problems would be resolved within that period of time,” he said.