The Star Online|Malaysia 13th General Election

GE13: BN manifesto gets thumbs-up

PETALING JAYA: One thing is clear from the Barisan Nasional manifesto the Prime Minister has been listening and making notes.

As political analyst Professor Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia pointed out, many of the pledges in A Promise of Hope address the concerns and grouses people have been expressing in the last five years.

“You can see the PM (Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak) knows what people want. A lot of the points in the manifesto are what he has collected from the ground through various media and when he went around to meet the rakyat,” said Prof Shamsul.

Calling it a doable and realistic manifesto, Dr Shamsul said it focused on concrete plans that would have direct impact on the people.

“An example is the proposed increase for BR1M (1Malaysia People's Aid); it has a direct impact on the poor and needy, as opposed to the usual subsidies which benefit everybody, even the rich.”

This contrasts with the 2008 Barisan manifesto themed Security, Peace and Prosperity which stated a broader overview of the coalition's policies.

“The GE13 manifesto provides a clear and definitive plan on how they will achieve their pledges. Even where there are macro-policies and ideas, you can see that there is a workplan and budget behind them,” he said, adding that this was the difference when you have someone well-versed in economics at the helm.

“It's important. A prime minister with an economic sense is more advantageous to the country than a prime minister without an economic sense and who has to rely on his advisers on economic issues,” noted Dr Shamsul.

Ultimately, he added, the new manifesto gave a track record of Barisan's achievements in the last five years.

“It's a detailed list of what they have done, what they will continue to do and what they want to do for the future.

“In a sense, you could put this manifesto up your wall and check five years later if these promises have been kept or not.

“You can't do that with the last manifesto. There was no idea on what had been done and what will be done,” he said.

This was a risk that Najib had taken, said Dr Shamsul, adding: “It shows he wants to be accountable for what he promises to do.”

Unlike the old-style manifesto where governance and civil liberty issues are vaguely pledged in rhetoric language, the new manifesto had broken them into tangible areas, Dr Shamsul opined.

“Human rights issues and environmental problems are not given an overt focus, so some might say that what is mentioned like renewable energy and preservation of our forests, for example, are mere lip service.

“But if you study the manifesto carefully, you can see that there is actually a work plan for the pledges made.”

Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria, secretary-general of human rights watchdog Proham, however, argues that like the earlier manifesto, the 2013 Barisan manifesto didn't address the major concerns of the civil society.

“The manifesto is consistent with the quality of life indicators and development agenda with the ETP and GTP. It is comprehensive and achievable.

“However, issues such as parliamentary democracy, electoral reform, public accountability, human rights, religious freedom, inequality and urban poverty and local government elections are not addressed.

“There is also no new commitment to United Nation conventions or reference to strengthening national unity,” said Dr Denison, urging Barisan to make a stronger statement on them as they were major aspirations of society.

Tricia Yeoh, research director of think-tank Institut Rakyat, agrees that the new manifesto has not addressed the issue of structural change for the country.

“There are many product offerings but no proposal on fundamental structural change, which is what is needed for the country to really move forward. Institutions and systems need to be strengthened, which I don't see in the document,” she said.

For more election stories, please visit The Star's GE13 site