Malaysia’s Vision 2030: Can it help Pakatan win support? Implementation is key, say observers

Ida Lim
The possibility of PH benefitting from the SPV 2030 hinges on its execution, analysts opined. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 10 — The Pakatan Harapan administration’s new roadmap for Malaysia via Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV) could possibly help the coalition draw in support from voters for the next general election, if its positive effects kick in and are felt by Malaysians, analysts said.

Ibrahim Suffian, who heads independent pollster Merdeka Center, said the possibility of PH benefitting from the SPV 2030 hinges on its execution, citing examples of how the coalition had governed Selangor and Penang previously before winning federal power.

“Going by what was done on a smaller scale by Selangor and Penang prior to 2018, I think PH can win over a segment of the public if the policy delivers material improvement in people’s lives i.e. among lower-middle and lower income segments, if the programs are sizable. Young people too.

“The challenge is to direct resources toward this segment in a way that encourages productivity and resilience,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.

Ibrahim said SPV 2030 could also draw in broad support for PH beyond certain segments of the Malaysian population, saying: “If successful it will expand support from lower middle and low income segment, but the resultant improvement in the mood could lead to a rise of general sentiments overall for PH.”

As for the Bumiputera community, Ibrahim said the SPV done well could help garner support for PH.

“If done in a timely and material fashion, SPV could be a morale boost for the Bumiputera community except for those that are hardcore supporters of UMNo and PAS. This is because SPV, if well implemented, will have a stronger appeal among those that are economically motivated.”

While acknowledging the long-term nature of the 10-year roadmap, Ibrahim noted the need to address current concerns if PH wants to benefit politically: “SPV is a long-term plan so of course things will be done gradually, but to gain political mileage, programmes that touch on voters’ immediate needs has to be touched in sooner rather than later.”

Good but the proof is in the pudding

Political scientist Prof Jayum A. Jawan said the SPV 2030 is a good policy, but noted such a policy alone would not help PH win more voter support if it is not implemented fairly to help all Malaysians regardless of ethnicity.

“The policy, SPV2030 is a good policy. It is irrelevant whether it is framed by one man, a small group of men, or in mass consultation with the populace. A policy is accepted not because it is good but because it impacted the society effectively and fairly.

“The success of this policy is critical to Pakatan’s survivability. And the success of the policy to impact the society rests upon the federal bureaucracy that has the duty to implement them. This is going to be a major challenge to implement the policy in a multi-ethnic society where the federal bureaucracy is not always seen as transparent and fair,” the Universiti Putra Malaysia academic told Malay Mail when contacted.

Noting that a policy is a statement that describes targets, goals and programmes, Jayum said the “policy is good but better when the people whom the policy meant to benefit get what the policy promises them”.

Jayum said what is crucial is the proper implementation of the policy by ministries which are the ones that would determine the output reaches the intended target groups, but expressed doubt that federal ministries which he said are dominated by an ethnic group would be able to be multiracial in outlook and action.

“Sometimes ministries do things on their own (i.e. redefine them before delivering) and this is when things may not get to their intended target,” he argued.

“Pakatan Harapan’s multi-party, multi-ethnic ruling coalition will need more than just a good policy statement to win a second term as the ruling coalition,” he said, underscoring the importance of SPV 2030’s proper execution.

Jayum had highlighted two major issues that stand out from the many factors that currently stand in the way of PH continuing on to the next term, including PH’s failure to fulfill election promises when their supporters had wanted to see change.

The second major issue is the allegedly fragile state of the ruling PH coalition with “tell-tale signs” such as lack of discipline with many leaders making contradictory remarks, ministers with performances falling short of voters’ expectations and too much internal politics “in anticipation of a ‘change’ of national leadership that may or may not happen at all”, Jayum said.

Research firm Ilham Centre’s executive director Azlan Zainal believed that SPV 2030 would influence only some of the voters especially urban voters, as other factors are more dominant in terms of how the majority of Malaysians would vote.

“Yes, certainly the SPV 2030 would help PH in the coming elections although it is still new, in power for over one year, because it proves PH is very serious in developing Malaysia in the coming 10 years.

“However, the impact is very minimal and will only have an impact on some of the cerdik pantai (intellectual) and youths,” he told Malay Mail.

Since the SPV 2030 document has specific chapters devoted to the Bumiputera community, he believed that they would accept the roadmap.

Azlan also alluded to lessons that could be taken from the country’s similar policy which was aimed at promoting unity and tackling poverty, saying: “The biggest factor for the failure of the New Economic Policy 1990 was that it failed in its implementation although the intentions and objectives outlined are very good”.

“The success of SPV 2030 certainly depends on the success of its implementation and its translation into Budget for 2020 and the years to come and the 12th Malaysia Plan later.

“However, if PH fails to implement SPV 2030, it is not certain that voters would punish PH in the coming elections. This is because its impact is very minimal in influencing how voters vote,” he concluded.

Contest of ideas: Race vs ringgit

Think-tank Penang Institute executive director Datuk Ooi Kee Beng highlighted PH’s SPV 2030 as a “clear attempt to shift Malaysian policy-making towards a stronger articulation of the class problems in society today”, contrasting it with the approach taken by PH’s rivals.

“While Umno and PAS continue with ethnicity-based policy thinking, PH is attempting to put in place a new public discourse focused on socio-economic matters rather than racial divides,” he said.

With this shift of focus through SPV 2030, Ooi predicts an opening up of avenues for ministers from PH to overshadow the “fixation” with the issues of race and religion.

“Since the young voter population will now be enormous, and they tend to be swing voters, policy discussions that are about ringgit and sen, and about figures and charts, will be a breath of fresh air, and should appeal to the young,” he said.

Ooi noted that the SPV provides for an alternative space for discussion about the difficulties faced by the population, but said it will depend on the public and online influencers to develop public discourses in that direction.

Ooi said the battle for all Malaysians from now on will be between the ideas of socio-economics and race and religion, between providing opportunities and defending privilege, as well as between technocratic governance and race-based representation.

Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, however described the SPV 2030 as “just an empty vision” like Malaysia’s previous roadmap of Vision 2020.

“No feeling one way or the other as people are quite anesthetized from such political grand-visioning,” he said when asked how he thought the Bumiputera community would react to SPV 2030.

As Malaysia draws closer to 2020 which was when Vision 2020 was due to be achieved, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad last Saturday unveiled the SPV 2030 with the aim of restructuring Malaysia’s economy and enabling decent living standards for all Malaysians regardless of ethnicity, social class and location.

The next general elections must be held in 2023 at the latest.

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