Saying “we are busy cleaning up the previous government’s mess” as an excuse for not fulfilling Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) manifesto promises is getting stale.
Before GE14, manifestos were something only talked about before (and not after) general elections. Things have changed. After GE14, people discuss the manifesto almost every day. This shows that the people of today are attentive towards democracy.
PH’s manifesto committee chairman Rais Hussin stated that the committee consisting of members from the four coalition parties spent eight months developing the manifesto.
The manifesto went through primary and secondary research involving many people, including academicians and NGOs, before being passed on to the PH’s Presidential Council for approval.
However, we note that the people who wrote the manifesto are not the people responsible for fulfilling it. What’s more worrying is whether or not those tasked with fulfilling these promises have read and understood the contents of the manifesto.
The government must realise that the people have already started questioning PH’s credibility since even before they took office.
The game changer
Given the consecutive losses of the PH government in the Cameron Highlands and Semenyih by-elections, drastic action is required if the government wishes to stay in power.
To win the hearts of the people and regain their trust, election promises must be fulfilled.
As part of this effort, it is imperative to create a manifesto monitoring committee. This is to ensure that everyone can see exactly which promises have been fulfilled, are being fulfilled, and will be fulfilled.
A group of Malaysians created “The Harapan Tracker” with the purpose of monitoring the performance of the PH manifesto. The downside of this tracker, however, is that it has no check and balance from other parties.
Thus, the formation of this manifesto monitoring committee must be inclusive, systematic and extensive, as well as include a strong element of check and balance from various parties such as NGOs, professional bodies, activists and representatives from the government as well as the opposition.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are a simple and effective measuring system which can help an organisation track and control the development and success of an endeavour.
Therefore, the time has come for the government to adopt this kind of system to fulfil manifesto promises.
There are two phases in the manifesto. The first phase involves 10 promises in 100 days, while the second phase is 60 promises in five years, based on five pillars:
- Reduce the people’s burden.
- Institutional and political reforms.
- Spur sustainable and equitable economic growth.
- Return Sabah and Sarawak to the status accorded in the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
- Create a Malaysia that is inclusive, moderate and respected globally.
These deliverables must be matched appropriately with the 28 cabinet members, including the prime minister and his deputy, and KPIs must be set accordingly for each of the ministers.
For example, promise No. 10 of the manifesto, which guarantees people’s basic food needs and promises to take care of the welfare of farmers, obviously comes under the responsibility of the agriculture and agro-based industry minister.
Among the KPIs that can be set are the Self-Sufficiency Level (SSL) for rice, which today stands at 70%. The next target for rice SSL could be set at 85%-90% by 2022.
With these manifesto-based KPIs, we can set a strong new direction for the PH government. This will allow Malaysians to track the government’s process and give them an objective basis on which to judge the government.
Civil servants’ cooperation
The civil servants act as the first line of defence when it comes to protecting the rights of the country and the people. A nation’s success is achieved through the hard work and commitment of its high-integrity civil servants.
Cooperation between politicians and civil servants is vital in balancing the structure of the administration.
These administrators and technocrats should also advise politicians in matters of administration, procedure and instruments of control that need to be adhered to.
With the cooperation and input from civil servants, implementation of the manifesto in a systematic, planned and careful way can be achieved. This will benefit various layers of Malaysian society in an inclusive manner.
If there is a recalibration of the manifesto, it needs to be done openly and transparently, without hiding the reasons why the recalibration is necessary.
This is where the manifesto monitoring committee needs to play an important role to respond to keyboard warriors and change the narrative with regards to how this new government is perceived.
Amir Jalal is a Research Associate at EMIR Research, a think tank focused on data-driven policy research, centred around principles of Engagement, Moderation, Innovation and Rigour.