Is Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 the roadmap Malaysia has been waiting for?

Shazwan Mustafa Kamal Assistant News Editor
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad reacts after winning GE14 back in May last year. — Reuters pic

COMMENTARY, Oct 5 ― Ever since winning GE14 back in May last year, Pakatan Harapan (PH) has found themselves on the opposite side of the coin.

As an Opposition coalition, PH leaders were trained to zero in on the shortcomings of the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration and capitalising on their weaknesses, be it on a policy or leadership level.

After all, the general election was won not just because of the billion-ringgit 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal, but also ex-prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's role in it.

While Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and PH parties' campaigns played some part, the main concern was and still is the economy.

What really pissed people off during BN's rule was the alleged abuse of power at the highest level.

Politicians and cronies were being enriched and living a lifestyle of excess but on the ground, people were grappling with rising living costs, stagnant wages, poverty and a weakening purchasing power.

This was why the majority of Malaysians voted BN out, because despite the fancy talk about government transformation programmes and the promise to tackle poverty be it on an urban or rural level, many were left feeling that they weren't getting anything out of this deal, this government.

In short, nothing was trickling down to the sections of society that needed it the most. And so, on the heels of this discontent, PH was voted in, with a mandate to help not only undo the “wrongs” of BN, but to also provide holistic solutions for the future.

More than a year has passed since. What has changed?

The roles are now reversed. BN (or whatever is left of the coalition) has tried on the shoes of the Opposition and found them to be quite a neat fit; they ramped up attacks against the PH government, who most times found themselves on the back foot either having had to explain policy decisions or postpone them.

But the conditions that resulted in BN's removal still remain. Unemployment, low-income wages and a widening gap between the bottom 40 per cent households (B40) and the top 20 per cent (T20) are pressing issues that the current government has not been fully able to address.

Why?

Like any good plan for the future, what this government is lacking is a strong national narrative.

Up till today, most of PH's actions and decisions have been seen to be counter measures and/or defensive manoeuvres.

In short, it has been reactive so far, and the danger of doing that is you end up being neither here nor there by trying to please everyone.

What this government needs is a good narrative, a vision for the future, a plan with a proper time frame and set goals, and how to achieve them.

A plan which takes into account all of today's variables, and with a focus on how the country and its current workforce plans on tackling a technologically-driven economy.

Which is why today's unveiling of the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV2030) is possibly one of the most crucial announcements this administration will ever make, perhaps even more important than next week's Budget 2020 speech.

During Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's first run as prime minister, he had Vision 2020 or Wawasan 2020, which was aimed at not only charting a course forward for Malaysia and its people but also became a shared narrative we could collectively identify with.

Like it or hate it, it was a vision and narrative that the government stuck by (they even had an official song for it!) and it was the ideal that Malaysia and its people strove towards: becoming a developed nation by 2020.

All policies and measures were geared towards that end, and even Najib's administration stuck to this (although he eventually introduced National Transformation 2050, or TN50).

What the government will tell you later today is its plans with SPV2030, and how it aims to raise the skills of low-income earners to help the group catch up with more affluent Malaysians.

The government will likely stress on how important it is to not equate development with just economic growth, but also the elimination of the wide income gap between classes and ethnicities.

How Putrajaya goes about achieving this is a question which will need to be answered, but with SPV2030 there is finally a clear narrative for PH, and no longer any need to be on the defence about not having a plan, and for the coalition to shed the image of just being an anti-BN government.

This is a chance for PH to be proactive, to set the tone for how the country should move forward, and to stop the politicking once and for all.

In SPV2030, PH has a real opportunity to make sure that 14th general election accounts for something. But in order to do that, everyone must get with the programme.

On a policy level, all PH lawmakers should fully understand where this administration is going with this long-term plan, and to support the initiative.

And whoever becomes the next PM should also hold the SPV2030 as a roadmap for the future, and his or her administration.

The government must embark on a nationwide campaign to disseminate information regarding SPV2030, and must also take into account the feedback from the public regarding the plan.

I will go out on a limb here and say that the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 is the Pakatan Harapan administration roadmap that Malaysia has been waiting for, because for this one-year-old ruling coalition, it is either do or die.

There is no turning back.

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