As the saying goes, the people has decided. The outcome of the 12th general election certainly went beyond the expectation of most Malaysians. In as much as the politicians are wondering what's next, the business community would also be figuring out the implications of the changes brought by the results of the election.
What are the areas the we, business people, should review?
I would be interested to explore the possible changes in the areas of changes in overall national development strategy, policy changes at the federal and state levels, policy implementation issues and hanges in social elements.
Let's have a further look at each of the elements.
Overall national development strategy
With the Barisan National government being returned to power, albeit with just a simple majority, the overall development strategy is not expected to be changed significantly. Furthermore, the corridor development plans which were announced before the election are expected to be followed through, perhaps with further refinement to reflect the changes in the political dynamics. Overall, the thrusts of the corridor development plans would to be retained as most of the strategic thrusts reflect the desire to have balanced development, moving forward.
Policy changes as the federal and state levels
We should expect changes in policy, especially with the changes in the state government in Penang, Kedah, Perak and Selangor. The new state governments are expected to advocate policies which were promised in the general elections, reducing cost of living, free education and fairer distribution of wealth. Being new, there would be some learning curve which the new state governments would be going through.
At the federal level, the government would certainly be reviewing the policies which may have caused the erosion of support from the people. One interesting area is the subsidy of petroleum price, which has grown to be a large portion of the federal government budget. This would be a very challenging issue as the sustainability of the level of subsidy which is popular among the people. The longer the subsidy is retained at the present level, less development expenditure could be incurred, particularly with the increase in the global oil price. Furthermore, the cheaper the price of petroleum the higher the consumption and the faster Malaysia is moving to be a net importer of petroleum.
There will be new faces in the Cabinet as a number of ministers lost their seat in the Parliament. I would expect new ministers may introduce new policies, as what happened in the past, one way or another. This would not be clear until the new cabinet is announced.
Policy implementation issues
As what happened in Kelantan, when the federal and state government are not from the same party, tensions will emerge in state-federal relation, especially in allocation of federal funds. It would be interesting to observe whether the federal government would establish the "federal development department" in the states where Barisan Nasional is not in power. Furthermore, since states have limited sources of income by virtue of the power given by the Constitution, it would be interesting to see how the new state governments exploring new sources of income to finance new initiatives and deliver the promises made in the general election.
The civil servants would also need to adjust to the new policies of the state government. This is also a critical area to observe as changes in policy requires the implementers, the civil servants, to understand and execute. Furthermore, it is expected that there would be changes in heads of certain state controlled organisations such as the state economic development corporations, which are critical in the state economic development.
Changes in social elements
One clear message in the last general election is that the Rakyat wants more transparency in the way the government is ran. This would require governments to make their policies clear and reduce the discretionary powers, especially among the politicians, in their capacities as ministers or head of government agencies. Ultimately, the Rakyat expects the wealth of the nation to be managed in their best interest and those who are corrupts should be kicked out from office instead of being glorified unnecessarily. Definitely, corruption and abuse of power have to be addressed in a more aggressive manner!
Opportunities for Malaysians, in all aspects, should be distributed based on merit to ensure enhanced competitiveness of the country as a whole. At the same time, those who are not well off need to be supported, irrespective of race or beliefs. I would really like to understand how this is managed, by both Barisan Nasional and the new state governments.