Monthly Archives: June 2012

6 posts

Dissecting the ETP Annual Report (Part 2): The mystery of the disappearing entry point projects

(Also published on The Malaysian Insider)

The investments enigma. PEMANDU in its Annual Report claims that investments by the private sector were well above target last year. The headline claim may not withstand scrutiny though. Very large entry point projects (EPPs) appear to have faltered. We highlight just three examples here. If they had indeed faltered, which projects stepped up and more than filled their large shoes?

The shifting sands of LFoundry. PEMANDU gave itself full marks for the completion of construction of this 200mm wafer fab. However, very strangely, elsewhere in the Annual Report, a much less significant RM100 million equipment refurbishment project was showcased instead of this RM1.9 billion fab. The uncharacteristic modesty by PEMANDU led us to do some digging, which suggests that this lab might never have been constructed at all, contrary to PEMANDU’s claim.

What happened to Damansara City 2 and Marina Island Pangkor? These two EPPs announced last year were perhaps the most important in the Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley and Tourism NKEAs. But the ETP Annual Report omits any mention of them, focusing instead on modest “heritage trails” in Kuala Lumpur, and Penang, Klang and Kota Kinabalu as the three ports with the most tourism potential.

PEMANDU’s chimera of perfection. Glossing over issues merely results in a growing gap between reality and delusions of grandeur, and the facade will ultimately come crashing down. Rather than prolonging the charade of infallibility, PEMANDU should be frank and confess to problems, and state the remedial steps it took. This may well help others avoid making similar mistakes and adds much more value to Malaysians.

Some very large EPPs announced in the ETP Updates last year were strangely omitted in the recently released ETP Annual Report 2011.

● These include a RM1.9 billion wafer fab in Kedah, the RM1.9 billion GuocoLand Damansara City 2 project and the RM600 million Marina Island Pangkor Extension .

● Did these EPPs hit problems? If they did, PEMANDU should come clean and transparently explain the issues.

● Problems are part of the business landscape. PEMANDU would add far more value if it shared its experiences in surmounting obstacles instead of glossing over issues.

PEMANDU’s unrealistically perfect world  

PEMANDU in its inaugural Annual Report of the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) claimed many successes including:

1. Economic growth being ahead of its target;

2.72 out of 131 EPPs (entry point projects) taking off;

3. EPP investments totalling RM179 billion, creating RM130 billion of GNI and nearly 314,000 new jobs.

Last week, in Part 1 of our series, we gave PEMANDU an A+ for obfuscation, for being less than clear and truthful about its economic growth targets.

This week, we drill down to Execution — the first E in our DEEDS framework for evaluating the ETP. Acolytes of PEMANDU would surmise that business and economic management is effortless. Hardly a hint of difficulty is ever expressed in PEMANDU’s rhapsodic reports.

Those grounded in reality will not be surprised to learn that REFSA finds at least two major issues with the claim of entry point project successes:

1. Some major EPPs announced during the ETP Updates given by PEMANDU last year were strangely omitted in the Annual Report;

2. A number of projects, including big-ticket projects such as Karambunai Integrated Resort City, Tanjong Agas Oil and Gas Hub and LFoundry Wafer Fab, may not pass muster under close scrutiny.

Let us start with the wafer-thin foundations of the RM1.9 billion LFoundry Wafer Fab project in the Kulim High-Tech Park.

The shifting sands of LFoundry 

The very first entry point project (EPP) stated under the Electrical and Electronics NKEA (National Key Economic Area) is “Executing a smart follower strategy for mature technology fabrication.” In Update 1 on October 25, 2010, PEMANDU said LFoundry Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of German-based Landshut Silicon Foundry GmbH, would undertake this RM1.9 billion project.

Subsequently, the ETP Annual Report proclaimed that the “construction of the 200mm wafer fab” had been completed by December 2011 and PEMANDU gave itself full marks for delivering on this EPP.

Oddly enough, nothing was mentioned in the “Achievements” section of the ETP Annual Report. Instead, a much smaller RM100 million equipment refurbishment and training centre project was highlighted.

We were very surprised that this astounding execution of completing a wafer fab way ahead of schedule and within just 12 months was not trumpeted. And indeed, we would have supported such publicity as well-founded and a wonderful example of Malaysian construction and engineering prowess.

This uncharacteristic coyness of PEMANDU in choosing to highlight a much smaller RM100 million “refurbishment” project instead of a spanking new RM1.9 billion wafer fab plant completed in record time spurred us to do more research. We found that LFoundry in Germany is declaring itself insolvent and going into bankruptcy proceedings! In fact, there is no mention of this project on:

1. L Foundry’s own website; or on

2. Kulim Hi-Tech Park’s list of tenants.

Note that L Foundry’s financial woes had been in the news as far back as November 2011. But this fact was never mentioned in the ETP Annual Report published in April 2012 when PEMANDU took “100 per cent” credit for the achievement in constructing a 200mm wafer fab.

It was only later that Chris Tan, PEMANDU director for the Electrical & Electronics NKEA, revealed the following in the ETP blog:

“…the German partners ran into operational difficulties … and were forced to pull out. The project as originally envisaged was scrapped … MIDA … shifted to Plan B, and facilitated capacity increases via other companies.”

Taking Tan’s comments at face value, PEMANDU’s achievements are even more breathtaking. It surmounted difficulties with the original German partners and managed to find “other companies”‘ and still complete a 200mm wafer fab factory all within 12 months!

The story behind such “remarkable” execution should certainly be shared with all Malaysians. It would indeed help in transforming the economy if PEMANDU were to share its knowledge with all entrepreneurs:

Who are these “other companies” who stepped in and filled the gap so quickly? Please name them so that we may study and emulate their abilities;

Better still, please set up a site office and a case study. How was construction fast-tracked? Our contractors might learn a thing or two about project management.

Or is the truth more prosaic, and the reality is that there is no 200mm 100 per cent completed wafer fab as claimed in the Annual Report?

We conjecture that PEMANDU gave itself full marks for completion on the basis that while the original projected floundered, it still managed to “facilitate capacity increases via other companies”. We could debate this point further — are full marks deserved if the total investment is less than originally targeted? Furthermore, increasing capacity at existing companies is less valuable than introducing a new player who can broaden and deepen the industry.

However, there are other pressing issues — such as missing projects. These are EPPs which were proudly presented during PEMANDU’s numerous ETP Updates in 2010 and last year, but which, very oddly, received no mention in the ETP Annual Report released in April this year.

We shall highlight just two examples — Damansara City 2 and the Marina Island Pangkor extension.

What happened to Damansara City 2?

The Damansara City 2 project by GuocoLand (Malaysia) Berhad was unveiled in the 3rd ETP Progress Update on January 11, 2011. This mixed development comprising retail and office blocks and a hotel and service apartment was by far the largest project mentioned under EPP 7: Creating Iconic Places and Attractions in the Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley NKEA (National Key Economic Area).

We shall set aside the questions of how “transformative” really are property development projects such as this, as well as the process which resulted in GuocoLand’s proposal being granted EPP status and thus, at least implicitly, being more iconic and transformative than, say, the KL Eco City and Icon City projects by SP Setia and Mah Sing, respectively.

What is shocking is that this EPP, which at RM1.9 billion is by far the largest project in EPP7 in the Greater KL/Klang Valley NKEA, receives no mention at all in the ETP Annual Report. There was no status report, and in fact, it was not even mentioned in the “Moving Forward” section. Instead three additional heritage routes and the upgrading of Masjid Jamek were highlighted instead.

Marina Island washed away?

Moving on from the LFoundry and Damansara City 2 projects on the shifting sands of dry land, we come to seaside projects which may have been “washed away”.

The Marina Island Pangkor’s International Resort & Entertainment Extension Project was showcased in the 4th ETP Progress Update on March 8, 2011. This “World-Class Integrated Passenger Seaport Transportation Hub and a World-Class Waterfront Development” which “will position Malaysia well into the future” appears to dovetail nicely with EPP6: Creating a Straits Riviera Cruise Playground in the Tourism NKEA.

Strangely though, no progress update was given in the Annual Report on this huge project which will require RM600 million of investments, and is expected to provide 27,000 jobs and contribute RM9 billion of GNI (Gross National Income) by 2020.

Instead, the ETP Annual Report points out that the Cruise and Ferry Integrated Seaport Infrastructure Blueprint for Malaysia identifies Penang, Klang and Kota Kinabalu as the three ports with “potential to contribute significantly to the Malaysian cruise industry”.

Whatever happened to Marina Island Pangkor? The Blueprint, no doubt, was commissioned by the Economic Planning Unit. But surely PEMANDU in its Annual Report should have stated where this important EPP stands in the overall scheme of things.

Let’s be frank

Uncertainty and adjustments are part and parcel of the business landscape. It is normal for projects to be varied, postponed or even abandoned. Companies do get into financial difficulties. Some go bust. It would be irrational to expect all the entry point projects (EPPs) under the ETP to progress with smooth precision. Problems are to be expected, which good project managers recognise and surmount.

Glossing over and ignoring issues as PEMANDU is wont to do is a terrible approach. Plans, assumptions and forecasts must accommodate changing circumstances. Pretending that all is going perfectly to plan merely results in an escalating divergence between reality and delusions of grandeur, and the facade will ultimately come crashing down.

PEMANDU must be transparent about the EPPs which are facing difficulties. The contribution of these troubled EPPs to investment, GNI and jobs created should be stated clearly and transparently so that shortfalls caused by the affected EPPs and the effects on their respective NKEAs can be addressed and given extra attention moving forward.

In addition, it is also good practice and would be very helpful to other entrepreneurs if PEMANDU were to disclose what went wrong and the remedial steps taken. PEMANDU’s experience and knowledge gained may well help others avoid making similar mistakes.  This kind of transparent evaluation regarding the execution challenges faced by entrepreneurs and entry point projects was sadly lacking in the ETP Annual Report. The pace of private investments is well behind the ETP targets in terms of the share of private to public investments.

In the next instalment of this series which will cover Enterprise, the second E in our DEEDs framework to dissect the ETP Annual Report, we shall uncover more evidence showing why the gaudy investment figures highlighted under the ETP should not be taken at face value.

About this series and DEEDS

Earlier this year, we published a series assessing PEMANDU and the ETP on the goals, plans and targets stated in the ETP Roadmap document. To facilitate constructive discourse and in keeping with the spirit of the alphabet soup of NKEAs, NKRAs, SRIs, EPPs, and GNI surrounding the entire GTP, we evaluated PEMANDU and the ETP on its DEEDS — Data transparency, Execution, Enterprise, Diversity and Socio-Economic Impact. The 8 Focus Papers in this Critique of the ETP Series, together with related infographics and a powerpoint presentation can be found at — REFSA (Research for Social Advancement)

* Dr Ong Kian Ming holds a PhD in Political Science from Duke University and Economics degrees from the University of Cambridge and the London School of Economics. He is attached to UCSI University, which has been named as the project owner of two entry point projects (EPPs). To avoid any potential conflict of interest, he will not make references to or analyse these two EPPs. 

* REFSA (Research for Social Advancement) executive director Teh Chi-Chang holds a first-class degree in Accounting & Financial Analysis from the University of Warwick, an MBA from the University of Cambridge and the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) charter. Prior to joining REFSA, he headed highly-regarded investment research teams covering Malaysia, and was himself highly-ranked as an analyst. 

Read Dr. Ong’s critiques of the ETP in full here.

Questionable foreign-born citizens in voters roll

(Also published on Malaysiakini)

The Election Commission (EC) produced a booklet entitled ‘The Truth Behind the Accusations and Lies towards the Election Commission’ on its website. In this booklet, the EC tried to defend itself against 12 allegations made with regard to the electoral roll.

I have written here and here to show that:

1) The EC has not been consistent in its boundary ‘correction’ exercise.

2) That the EC had deleted 14,577 names in Quarter 2, 2011 because the records of these voters were not active in the National Registration Department (NRD).

3) That the EC should be greatly concerned by the fact that 56 out of the 57 voters registered in the past year in Kampung Melayu Majidee in Johor Bahru did not have house numbers or street names and were foreign-born, meaning the 7th and 8th digits in their IC number is ‘71′.

In this article, I want to show that the EC cannot reassure us that there are no foreigners/non-citizens in the electoral roll because it is the NRD which issues the ICs and not the EC.

Specifically, I want to focus on voters in Selangor without house numbers and street addresses which have been registered by government agencies since the 2008 general election.

NONEWhat I have found thus far is very disturbing because it points to the presence of government agencies (not the EC) which have been actively registering foreign-born ‘citizens’ who do not have house numbers or street names even though they are located in urban constituencies in Selangor.

And instead of investigating these cases or questioning the NRD and these government agencies, the EC has chosen to stay silent.

The EC assigns a code number to each voter registration application so that it can keep track of these applications. These applications are divided into various categories with a specific letter assigned to each category.

For example, applications which come through the post office electronically start with the letter ‘G’, those which come in through the police start with the letter ‘K’ and those which come in through the army start with the letter ‘Z’.

Table 1 below lists the categories belonging to each letter.

NONEThe code number assigned to each new voter registration application is not given to the political parties nor is it publicly displayed during the quarterly electoral roll updates. But this information is recorded by the EC.

In this article, I want to focus on voters in Selangor without house numbers and street names whose applications start with the letter ‘J’, indicating that they have been registered by a government agency which is not the Election Commission.

Informal reports from different sources have indicated that these government agencies include the Jabatan Hal Ehwal Khas (Jasa), a unit under the Ministry of Information and Jabatan Kemajuan Masyarakat (Kemas), a unit under the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development.

The primary reason I chose to focus on applications beginning with the letter ‘J’ is because of the newly-registered voters in the Kampung Melayu Majidee locality in the Johor Bahru constituency, almost all whom do not have house numbers and street names and had application codes beginning with the letter ‘J’.

I choose the state of Selangor because this is expected to be one of the key battleground states which the BN is desperately trying to win back and which Pakatan Rakyat is desperately trying to hold on to.

My methodology was very simple. I managed to obtain a complete electoral roll for Selangor that was updated to Quarter 3 of 2011.

This electoral roll included voter registration application codes for newly-registered voters from 2008 onwards. I filtered out all those applications with Kod 71 in their IC and then narrowed my search to those applications without house numbers and street names.

NONEOut of 506 applications with Kod 71 and without house numbers and street names, 444 or 88% had application codes starting with the letter ‘J’. And almost 80% out of these 506 applications were concentrated in four parliamentary seats – Ampang, Gombak, Kelana Jaya and Serdang.

The EC would of course try to explain this away by saying that they want to empower government agencies to increase voter registration rates across the country. The fact that many of these Kod 71 voters do not have house numbers or addresses is because they live in kampongs without house numbers or street names.

These would not be valid explanations for similar reasons as the Kampung Melayu Majidee case. All of these voters are registered to vote in urban areas and all of them are registered to localities where almost everyone else has a house number and street name.

For example, of the 967 voters registered in the Kampung Sri Gombak Indah locality in the Gombak parliamentary seat, 96% have house numbers and street names. Of those who do not have house numbers or street names, 80% have Kod 71 in their ICs, all of them have voter registration applications starting with the letter ‘J’ (Table 2 below).

What is even more disturbing is that a large number of these applications were submitted at the same time – in March 2011- with the ‘nosiriborang’ numbers running sequentially, meaning that they were most probably registered by the same person from a government agency.


Among these applications, I also found voters with a single name, which raises the question of whether these are similar cases to‘Mismah’, who was alleged to have been recently granted citizenship so that she could be included in the electoral roll. (Table 3 below)


As an additional check, I examined the Quarter 4 (Q4) 2011 electoral roll update to see if there had been new registrations in the localities with a large number of Kod 71 ‘J’ applications without house numbers. My findings confirmed my initial suspicion.

Of those voters in the Q4 2011 update without house numbers, all of them had Kod 71 IC numbers. A sample from Kg Sri Gombak Indah in P98 Gombak is reproduced in Table 4 below.

Unfortunately, I was not able to obtain the registration application code for the Q4 2011 electoral roll update but I am fairly confident that application codes for these voters begin with the letter ‘J’.


Where does this leave us?

Some might say that the small number of voters identified in this article is not a cause for concern given that it is but a small percentage of the 400,000 newly-registered voters in Selangor since the 2008 general elections. This would be a mistake for two reasons.

Firstly, if the NRD can issue ICs to foreign-born ‘citizens’ without proper addresses in urban areas, could it also issue ICs to other individuals with proper house numbers and street names and state codes which do not show that they are not born overseas?

After all, there have been many well-documented cases fitting this description in Sabah under ‘Project IC’ where non-citizens of Indonesian and Filipino descent were given ICs which indicated that they were born in Malaysia.

Could there be a ‘Project IC’ happening right now in Selangor – to give ICs to the many non-citizens who are working in the Klang Valley so that they can vote?

NONESecondly, if there is a concerted effort being carried out by a government agency (or agencies) to register foreign-born ‘citizens’ without proper IC addresses, could this government agency (or agencies) also register other individuals with proper house numbers and street names and state codes which do not show that they are born overseas?

As of Q3 of 2011, new voter applications with the registration code ‘J’ numbered 42,540 in the state of Selangor, many of them in marginal constituencies.

In other words, what I have discovered here are the more obvious cases, using rather strict criteria – no house addresses, code ‘J’ voter applications, Kod 71 in the IC numbers. There could easily be many other cases of non-citizens being given ICs with proper house address and non-71 state codes and they could easily register through other channels including political parties or by going to the post office.

The cases which can be easily detected are probably the tip of the iceberg.

The EC, instead of shifting the focus to harmless caricatures which appear during the campaign period, should instead do a proper audit of these cases and call out the NRD if it was found that many of the ICs were irregularly issued.

Without these steps, we cannot have the assurance that our electoral roll is not being populated by non-citizens.

ONG KIAN MING is a lecturer and political analyst at UCSI University. He is also the Project Director of the Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project (Merap).

Main challenges for a PR government

(Also published on Malaysiakini and The Malaysian Insider)

What happens in the unlikely event that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) wins and maintains control of the federal government after the 13th general election? This is a question which few people have tried to address systematically. In this article, I want to highlight what I think will be the five main challenges facing a PR federal government as a way to contextualise the policy options which such a government will have to address.

I have summarised these five main challenges into five “P”s: (i) Dealing with the “Past” (ii) Distributing “Power” between the federal and state governments (iii) Coming up with a new set of “Plans” in the economic, political and social arenas (iv) Focusing on a smaller number of “Priorities” which can be delivered within 100 days and one year and finally (v) Finding a set of “Procedures” to deal with disagreements within the PR coalition.

(i) Past

Having been in power for 55 years, there are bound to be a whole list of “legacy” issues which a new government has to figure out how to deal with. It would not be practical for a new federal government to conduct a massive witch hunt to weed out all those who have paid bribes to the previous government to obtain contracts, to find evidence to convict all BN politicians who have received bribes or have amassed wealth beyond their means or to sack all civil servants who have been complicit in corrupt dealings involving the previous government. But at the same time, it makes sense for a PR government to outline a clear set of rules with regard to how it will, for example, deal with dubious contracts which the government has signed with private companies. This is important because there is a great temptation for PR to blame the previous BN government for many of the problems that it will face when it is governing. Instead of blaming BN in an ad-hoc manner throughout its first term in government, it would be better for PR to outline a place to clear out the skeletons in the cupboard early in its tenure in power.

PR has already given some indication as to the contracts it will attempt to cancel or renegotiate when it comes to power, namely the contracts with toll operators and independent power producers. There are bound to be many other smaller contracts which are potentially disadvantageous to the government which could be renegotiated or cancelled. The criteria for contract renegotiation or cancellation need to be spelled out as soon as possible as a way of assuring the markets and the many companies which have large contracts with the government.

Similarly, PR needs to figure out the extent to which it wants to change the government procurements process. It will be a tricky balancing act since many of the current contractors have well established relationships with Umno who are also Malay entrepreneurs who will question PR’s commitment to protecting Malay entrepreneurship if they are cut off from these government contracts. At the same time, this also presents an opportunity to introduce open tender processes that could potentially save the government billions of ringgit in expenditure.

More than important than mere contracts is the fate of those who wrongly benefited from the awarding of these contracts and other government-related concessions and favours. To what extent will a PR government go after the likes of Tajudin Ramli, those involved in PKFZ, NFC and Scorpene submarine scandals? Will a PR government try to recover as much revenue as possible and will it try to convict the individuals involved in these scandals as well?

Similar questions surround the fate of BN politicians who may have amassed ill-gotten gains through their government positions. Will PR go after the ill-gotten gains of the individuals in question or will it also go after the individuals in question? Is there a cut-off mark under which some cases may not be investigated?

Here, it may be useful to establish an equivalent of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee established in South Africa after the abolishment of apartheid. In exchange for amnesty, politicians, civil servants and even businessmen who have amassed ill-gotten gains can use this platform to “confess” their past wrongdoing and return a percentage of their wealth to the taxpayer. Similar actions can be taken by individuals who want to blow the whistle on themselves and admit to past wrongdoing, not just in terms of financial gain but also in terms of other past abuses of power including granting citizenship to foreigners to allow them to vote, wrongfully jailing innocent victims, beating up public protestors, just to name a few.

This may be a cathartic experience for the nation for past mistakes to be revealed and for the nation to move on and firmly establish itself as a democratic nation with regular alternations in power. Question is, will a PR government subject itself to the same levels of scrutiny, including admission of past mistakes among those in PR who were formerly high ranking politicians in the BN government?

(ii) Power

The second major challenge to a PR government is in the re-allocation of power between the federal government and the states. Right now, the PR state governments in Kelantan, Kedah, Penang and Selangor say that their hands are tied because of the lack of funding and co-operation from the federal government on key issues including the consolidation of water assets and pricing, the consolidation of wage management, the responsibility for public transportation and road maintenance and the proper allocation of federal funding including the oil royalties paid to Kelantan, Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak.

With a PR government at the federal level, such excuses will no longer be valid. A PR federal government will have to pick the low hanging fruit in terms of distributing power and funds back to the states in areas which are clearly defined to be under state jurisdiction. This may not be as easy as it sounds. Even increasing the oil royalty from 5 per cent to 20 per cent will entail a redistribution of as much as RM10 billion from the federal government to the states. Hard decisions will have to be made with regard to where some of these cuts have to be made at the federal level.

Other issues concerning decentralisation of power from the federal to the state governments, a cornerstone of PR’s promises both in the Buku Jingga (Orange Book) and more recently in the Tawaran Jingga (Orange Offer), will require achieving an internal consensus within PR. The DAP will want to push for the restoration of local council elections, something which PAS and PKR seem lukewarm about. PAS will want to push for the implementation of hudud, especially in the states which it controls, especially Kelantan. Needless to say, the DAP will object to this vehemently.

A PR federal government would also be under some pressure to apply some of these decentralisation measures consistently among the states, including those governed by the BN. For example, it would be inconsistent for the BN to give an increased share of oil royalties to Kelantan but not to the (likely) BN governed states of Terengganu, Sarawak and Sabah. Nor would it be consistent for PR to promise to pass this money back to these states on the condition that voters in these states vote in PR state governments.

It actually makes long-term sense for a PR federal government to decentralise as much as is economically and politically plausible as an insurance policy in the likelihood that it loses control of the federal government in the future. Having greater democracy and decentralised power means that the states and local authorities which PR still controls can have more independence and, hopefully, be more effective as well.

(iii) Plans

While one can question their effectiveness, there is less doubt that Prime Minister Najib Razak has put in place a comprehensive transformation plans to address various shortcomings in the political, economic and social arenas. Most politically aware Malaysians are already familiar with the alphabet soup which is associated with Najib’s transformation programmes — 1 Malaysia, ETP, GTP, NEM, PTP — even if they are unsure about the achievements of these programmes.

PR is not likely to follow in Najib’s footsteps in designing a similar “transformation” programme but it will still need to come up with concrete and well thought out plans of its own in order to shape the country’s political, economic and social agenda according to the vision and philosophy of PR and its leaders.

PR is better placed in some areas to deliver substantive positive change compared to the BN. It would be relatively easy for PR to deliver on promises of reform in terms of political rights and civil liberties by abolishing any laws which allow for detention without trial such as the Security Offences Special Measures Act (SOSMA), abolish the need to have a permit to print a newspaper and to allow political parties to have a presence in university campuses, just to name a few. But PR would also have to resist the temptation of using their power in order to intimidate and threaten the mainstream media newspapers and television which are owned or closely associated with BN parties. Similarly, it also needs to resist the temptation of using RTM1 and 2 as a government mouthpiece.

PR can also deliver significant institutional reform such as making the Election Commission (EC) and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) independent and allowing them to carry out their jobs without political interference. It would also have to tackle the tricky task of reforming the police force including finding new roles for existing Special Branch officers, assuming that their services will no longer be needed or needed less often. It is also needs to strengthen the civil service’s resolve to be professional and accountable rather than to force it to change its political allegiance from BN to PR.

In terms of the economy, PR will have to find new sources of economic growth as well as enhance current sources of growth. Some of this can be realised by the freeing up of certain monopolies so that competitive forces can be released in currently protected sectors. Other initiatives require a longer time period to come to fruition such as increasing the innovation and R&D capacity in the country. One way in which this process can be expedited is to tap on the large Malaysian disapora, some of whom may be interested to come back and invest their time, expertise and money under a new non-BN federal government.

One of the biggest policy areas for PR to tackle would be in education since this is something which almost all Malaysians care about and where there is a widespread consensus that something drastic needs to be done in order to arrest the decline in the standard of public education in the country. PR has said that it would respect the rights of vernacular (Mandarin and Tamil) and religious schools to flourish in the country. It will have its hands full in taking on the civil service as well as some within the PR who do not want to strengthen vernacular and religious education, especially in allowing more Chinese primary and independent secondary schools to be established.

These are only a few of the key policy questions which PR has to address if it comes to power at the federal level. The list can easily be longer. PR’s challenge is to design a strategic plan or plans in order to fulfil a set of political, economic and social goals.

(iv) Priorities

Not all of the plans outlined in Part (iii) can be fulfilled in a short period of time. Some may even take more than one term to deliver the desired results. PR does not have the luxury of taking its time to deliver once it is in control of the federal government. It needs to prioritise its various objectives so that some immediate quick wins can be given the proper focus. Some of PR’s promises in its first 100 days in government have already been outlined in the Buku Jingga such as setting up an RCI on the problem of illegal immigrants in Sabah, providing free wifi to the rural areas in the country and abolishing certain corporate subsidies such as the gas subsidy to the independent power producers (IPPs). These deliverables may have to be adjusted if a PR federal government realises that some of the initiatives may take longer than 100 days to fulfil.

It is important for PR to show it can deliver concrete results and initiatives early in its administration so that it can build momentum for other initiatives later on. Without clear, focused priorities, PR may fall into the trap of wanting to do too much but failing to deliver anything significant in a timely manner.

(v) Procedures

Finally, PR will have to come up with certain procedures, both formal and informal, for dealing with disagreements between the PR component parties on key policy issues. I have already pointed out that local government elections and hudud are two potential flashpoints within the PR. There is no doubt that other controversial disagreements will emerge from within the PR coalition. Unlike in the BN, where Umno can dominate and control major policy directions, the parties within the PR coalition are much more equal in terms of stature and also control of Parliament and state seats. Even though the prime minister from PR, most likely Anwar Ibrahim, will yield considerable power, it would be difficult for him to ride roughshod over his component party members in the same way as Dr Mahathir Mohamad within the BN context.

The PR supreme council needs to be strengthened and proper procedures identified in order to solve conflicts emerging from within PR on issues of national and sub-national importance.


This article has barely scratched the surface of what a PR government may look like and the main challenges which it will face as a new ruling coalition. But hopefully, it has been helpful in outlining the major issues of contention and providing some guidelines as to how these challenges may be addresses so that PR can effectively deliver positive change to the country. — New Mandala

* Ong Kian Ming holds a PhD in political science from Duke University. He is the project director of the Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project (Merap), political analyst and a lecturer at the University College Sedaya International (UCSI).