I think perhaps my biggest, most severe criticism of PR is that they’ve played a largely deconstructionist role in federal affairs and done very little of the opposite. While it’s fine and good to tell us how the Government is getting things wrong, it can get pretty hollow after a while without telling us how PR would do things differently as the Government.
Demolishing a house is just a matter of swinging a wrecking ball hard and fast enough. Building a house is a whole different ball-game altogether.
Well, today would be a perfect day to prove me wrong. PM Najib is set to release the budget for next year at 4pm today. Widely billed as the “election budget” it’s certainly going to contain some goodies for the people, and also elaborate on what the Government will be doing in order to tackle critical issues such as the budget deficit and policies to bring in more foreign direct investment (FDI). The hardest thing i think think the budget will have to deal with is how the Government’s coffers are at the thinnest levels we’ve seen in years, and still dig up enough money to ensure that we can push through the (expensive) reforms and ideas for the next few years.
Regardless of whom is in power, this is going to be the question that will need an answer.
PR hawks will argue that if PR was in power, this would never have happened in the first place. That’s a false argument; that’s like saying, if the gun was never invented, Aminulrasyid would never have been shot. The fact of the matter is that the nation’s finances are in the state that they are — what are you going to do, in exact details, about it?
Motherhood statements that we find in PR’s Common Policy Framework will not cut the mustard in something as important as a national budget. Let’s “remove corruption”, or “eradicate cronyism” or “open tender” are just buzzwords that mean nothing when you’re dealing with actual accounts with actual ringgit in them. They are fine as principals guiding policies, but they aren’t policies in and of themselves. That’s the problem.
PR fanboys will say, “BN has had 50 years in power”, it’s time to kick them out and give someone else a chance. Or, as bad as PR might be, they can’t be as bad as BN has been. Whatever the fanboys will say, it doesn’t remove the fact that unless PR tells us exactly what they would do when we give them power, we will have to logically deduce that they just don’t know any better. To a discerning voter with a critical and rational mind (i know, we might be the minority but our vote counts just as much as the next guy), i can promise you that this is just not good enough.
The last time i brought up the issue of the shadow cabinet, i think many said that (a) PR doesn’t have the resources to support a shadow cabinet (in fact, Tony Pua said this exact same thing) and (b) when the time comes closer to the next GE, then PR will tell us what they plan to do. Well, on (a), fine PR doesn’t have enough resources to support a shadow cabinet, but surely it has enough resources to respond constructively in key issues such as the national budget — if you don’t have the resources to offer a shadow to all of the Government’s policies, at least you should provide a shadow budget. Arguably, there is no bigger annual policy for the nation.
And, on (b), GE is coming fast and coming soon. How much longer shall we wait until we hear from PR? Who their lineup will be, who are we putting into our nation’s Cabinet, who will be PM, Deputy, Finance Minister, Defense Minister; if you can’t give us names, at least tell us the parties of PR that have been promised this or that portfolio. Don’t lie and say this hasn’t been decided yet — no political party in their right mind would enter into a coalition without this having been decided already. What are their immediate policies when they assume those seats?
If you want change, PR, the onus is on you to tell us what that change is going to be. Speaking for myself, it’s not good enough to tell us, “vote us into power first, we’ll tell you later”. To me, that suspiciously sounds like a con man on the street, “Pst, want a winning scratch card. Give me RM50 and you can have it” only to realize afterwards that the scratch card is blank.
Edit: A good article written about the need for a shadow cabinet in Malaysia by The Nutgraph. Provides a lot of extra details about how and why a shadow cabinet should work. Interestingly enough, this was written in Nov 2008. Its 2010 now, we’re almost on GE13, and there is still no movement.