100 Days: It’s report card day

TODAY, Aug 17, marks the 100th day of New Malaysia.

Ever since Merdeka in 1957, Malaya and subsequently Malaysia has only known one federal government – the Alliance – which later expanded to become Barisan Nasional.

But after 61 long years in power, Barisan fell in the 14th general election (GE14) on May 9, 2018.

Malaysians, fed-up and angered by widening inequality, rising prices, corruption and the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal, pushed the coalition out of power.

If GE14 was a reset or new start for Malaysia, the 100 days that followed mark the first chapter in the story of a country reborn.

The term “100 days” typically refers to that initial period of a new government. It is often seen as a “honeymoon” when the new administration, buoyed by voter optimism following its election win, pushes through a series of aggressive policies.

The term “100 days” traces its roots to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd American President.

Roosevelt was elected to office on March 4, 1933, in the aftermath of the Great Depression.

It was the worst global economic downturn in the history of the industrialised world. International trade had plunged by more than 50%. Unemployment in the US had jumped to 25% and in some countries, had gone up to 33%.

Promising to act quickly to save the US economy, Roosevelt led efforts to push through 15 far reaching social, economic, and job-creating bills.

These measures, called the New Deal, were approved by Congress in Roosevelt’s first 100 days in office. They included a law to create a Federal Emergency Relief Administration, which supplied states and localities with federal money to help the jobless.

A Public Works Administration was also set up to create jobs through public construction projects.

A Federal Deposit Insurance Corp was created to protect bank accounts. Roosevelt also pushed for other laws including the Emergency Banking Act, the Farm Credit Act, and the National Industrial Recovery Act.

Experts agree that what Roosevelt accomplished in his first 100 days managed to hold together his country’s economy and provide relief to many Americans affected by the Great Depression.

Subsequent US presidents have since been judged against the standards Roosevelt set in his first 100 days.

The 100-day reference is also not an alien concept in Malaysia. For example, during Dr Mahathir’s first stint as Prime Minister from 1981 to 2003, his first 100 days was well known for his pledge to fight corruption and improve the efficiency of the civil service.

It led to his Bersih, Cekap, Amanah (Clean, Efficient, Trustworthy) policy and government campaign launched in 1982.

In implementing the policy, Dr Mahathir introduced various measures for the civil service, including creating work procedure manuals, introducing the use of punch cards and name tags for public servants.

Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who was Prime Minister from 2003 to 2009, promised soon after taking office to improve the public delivery system, eradicate corruption, enhance transparency and strengthen inter-ethnic harmony.

His successor Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak outlined a broad range of goals. The Centre for Public Policy Studies in an analysis of Najib’s 100 days in July 2009 listed his early pledges.

They included re-establishing Malaysia’s economic stability following the global economic crisis of the previous two years, tackling poverty, and boosting public confidence in the country’s law enforcement agencies.

In an interview with RTM in March 2009, shortly before he became Prime Minister, Najib said he also wanted to make changes in the implementation of the New Economic Policy. This was to ensure that only the group that really needed help would be aided by the government.

The successes of previous administrations during their respective honeymoon periods is open to debate. PH and its supporters may argue that its start is unlike any previous administration. Whether it was the administration of Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, Dr Mahathir, Abdullah or Najib, they were all essentially extensions of the same government with each new PM adding his own personal stamp on it. This time, PH took Putrajaya on the premise that there was something rotten in the the state of Malaysia – to paraphrase Shakespeare – and that it would bring sweeping reforms and changes to a government wrecked by cronysim, corruption and a lack of transparency and accountability. They had to unmake the previous government to build a fresh, new one and they promised significant changes in 100 days.

Since coming to power, Pakatan has lost no time in digging deep and hard all the sins of the previous government and in the process realised that what they had promised was not as easy to implement. Naturally, its critics have been quick to claim that PH has fallen short of its pledges, just as its supporters have promptly defended the new government by saying more time is needed simply because Pakatan had not known the extent and severity of the “damage” made by the previous administration.

Whatever the case, since Pakatan set its 100-day deadline, it must account for its own performance. They owe it to the people to do so.

The coalition’s general election manifesto which it unveiled on March 8, 2018, contains 10 promises within its first 100 days in power.

They include abolishing the Goods and Services Tax and taking steps to reduce the cost of living; abolishing unnecessary debts that have been imposed on Felda settlers and introducing a Skim Peduli Sihat with RM500 worth of funding for the B40 group to get basic medical treatment in private clinics.

This special pullout provides a report card of sorts on the delivery of the PH Government’s 100-day pledges. It offers a review of major developments that have taken place so far. These include the various financial scandals that have been uncovered, the reviews of the previous government’s mega projects, laws abolished and new ones introduced, and major reforms that will also affect including of government-linked companies.

Also included are the voices of the key figures in the country’s new government, Opposition and ordinary Malaysians on their aspirations for New Malaysia.

Source: The Star

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