Malaysia — Some opposition figures are attacking the Pakatan Harapan government for a lack of aspirations and for continuous confusion in its policy directions.
Diplomats and observers, who say they are giving the Mahathir government another year to get its act together, share this sentiment.
The opposition figures say the Pakatan Harapan coalition took power with a heavy burden left behind by the previous government but it had failed to achieve the two most important objectives vital for a new government. That is removing all confusion and uncertainty in its policy directions.
This week, former Minister of Finance II Johari Abdul Ghani listed three issues that he believes are dragging down the country’s economy.
He says there is the “fundamental” question of leadership transition between Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Mr Anwar Ibrahim, the flip-flopping over government policies and the lack of clarity in the decision-making process.
He says these are impacting investor confidence and adversely affecting the economy.
Mr Johari was an important minister in former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s cabinet and was a strong supporter of the latter’s leadership there and in Umno.
However, after last year’s electoral defeat of Umno that brought down the Barisan Nasional after decades of rule, Mr Johari has taken a more critical stance against Najib.
While that electoral defeat sent him to the sidelines, he seems to have regained a role as an opposition figure and a government critic.
Nevertheless, diplomats and observers share his views on the one- and-a-half year rule of the Pakatan.
A diplomat tells TISG that Pakatan is suffering from the lack of experience in the Cabinet. She says this can be seen from the delivery aspect of each and every minister and his ministry.
She says while the government is arguing that the ministries are bogged down by recalcitrant or unwilling civil servants who find it difficult to work with the Pakatan politicians, the ministers should rise to the occasion.
So far, she adds, none of them has done so and that is the reason why Dr Mahathir gave a 5 rating to the entire Cabinet after a year in power.
A foreign observer says that to be fair, we must have a look at the situation in the government because it took power with a difficult situation on hand.
He says the issue of public debt, corruption and useless mega-infrastructure deals with high fees (with China, for example) is a reason why Pakatan is slow to kick-start its model of governance.
He also ponders on the quality of the overall leadership in Pakatan, which is suffering from the absence of reformists who have seemingly been shunned from government processes.
This, he says, is hurting the image and the quality of the work of Pakatan.
Another observer notes that Dr Mahathir’s rating has seen a steep fall. While he was accepted as the hero who brought down the Barisan Nasional last year, Dr Mahathir fell to the lowest point in his political career with the massive defeat last month in the by-election in Tanjong Pia, Johor.
When asked what it all meant to foreign investors and foreign governments, he says the lack of experience in the Cabinet is crucial as it is the reason Pakatan is underperforming. Then there is the heavy politicking among coalition members, which is ruining its image internationally.
The fat civil service, he says, is uncontrollable. This is what most foreign observers believe. Its ineffectiveness and its close relationship with the previous government is the problem.
He adds that Pakatan will need more time to resolve this trust issue with the civil service.
As for what Pakatan should do, one says Dr Mahathir has to stop pushing the date for the transition, which is unhealthy even though his party and some officials are defending his every move “to stall the transition”.
This, she says, is nefarious to the Pakatan but Dr Mahathir will never listen to advice. Thus, he will do with tenacity what he thinks must be done.
And if Pakatan is doomed eventually, he will say it was not his fault, just as he ricocheted the Tanjong Piai defeat to the DAP.
Most of those who spoke believe Mr Anwar should be given a cabinet role or that Dr Mahathir should retire the soonest possible to give Malaysia Baharu a better chance.