Barisan Nasional’s manifesto is a cornerstone in preparing Malaysia for the challenges ahead and positioning it to become one of the top 20 economies in the world, economists said. (NSTP file pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Barisan Nasional’s manifesto is a cornerstone in preparing Malaysia for the challenges ahead and positioning it to become one of the top 20 economies in the world, economists said.

They also described it as realistic, forward-looking, holistic, sustainable, and inclusive.

Asian Research Institute of Banking and Finance director Dr Irwan Shah Zainal Abidin said the manifesto was underpinned with philosophies that is pro-rakyat, pro-growth, pro-business, and more importantly, focused on nation building.

“Special attention must be highlighted on the new category of BR1M. This is an effective measure in dealing with the rise in cost of living and reducing the level of income inequality further.”

He added that the need to increase the minimum wage level was also laudable.

“All in all, what is important is how well the government can implement what is being stipulated in the manifesto.

“In this regard, track record is crucial as to judge whether it can be implemented and delivered optimally to the people.

“BN, under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, certainly has good track record in implementing and delivering policies or what has been promised.”

Citing that BN’s last manifesto had a 99.4 per cent success rate, Irwan Shah said: “The recent launch of the 2017 National Transformation Programme Annual Report, for example, has also shown that all the major indicators, seven National Key Result Areas, 12 National Key Economic Areas and the six Strategic Reform Initiatives, have more than 100 per cent achievement.

“These are testament the current government has the ability and capacity to implement and deliver what is being promised.”

National Council of Professors head of the political, security and international affairs cluster Professor Datuk Seri Dr Mohamed Mustafa Ishak said BN has better policies and plans for the rakyat, underpinned by its proven track record under Najib.

“Opposition doesn’t have any good track record – what they have achieved was riding on the previous BN’s government record. Opposition didn’t start from scratch,” he said today.

Mohamed said BN had done numerous dialogues on the Transformasi Nasional 2050 (TN50) – an initiative for the future of Malaysia in the period 2020 to 2050 of becoming a developed nation in economic development, citizen well-being and innovation.

“Based on this forum, BN has been able to access and have information about what are the aspirations and the needs of the rakyat from all walks of life.

“BN understands fully well what the people want, especially the young generation. BN can capitalise on all the information it has gathered with regards to the TN50 dialogue, as part of the manifesto and embed all the aspirations,” he added. Mohamed said BN ruling has delivered over 90 per cent promises based on its previous manifesto, citing that now it has new plans to execute, given by another mandate from the people.

“The BN manifesto presented recently is something that the people should look into. Problem happens in any government. “As long as the government is responsive and willing to listen to the people, improve and make necessary changes, the country would be able to progress,” he said, adding that most importantly is the economic growth that can continue to sustain job and create more job for the people.

Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd chief economist Dr Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid is hopeful that the fiscal consolidation programme will continue to proceed with the latest manifesto. He added that the government needed every resource to pursue its growth agenda without compromising its finances.

“We know that economic cycle tends to be very volatile. The government would need to set aside sufficient resources to deploy stabilisation policies when the times come. Therefore, spending has to be value for money,” he said.

Afzanizam said growth with quality should be the overriding principle, particularly in creating high quality jobs for the graduates, setting the right atmosphere for entrepreneurial to do business and be mindful on the environmental for the country’s survival. “Some of the measures may seem unpopular but it is the right thing to do for long term sustainability,” he added.

Afzanizam said the government should seriously look into “Waqf” as a means to complement the fiscal policy, citing that persistently use of government transfers would drain government finances and the use of taxes excessively to redistribute wealth could affect the country’s level of competitiveness.

“This is where Waqf initiatives could come in to fill up the void in the fiscal space. Waqf essentially is an act of charity where the donor would donate his or her assets to the trustees whereby in Malaysian case is the religious council,” he said.

Afzanizam said the Waqf asset can be in the form of land, buildings or even cash, noting that these resources can be used to assist the development agenda which can go hand in hand with government’s plans.

“It is in human’s DNA where a sense of giving back to the society would become so prevalent when a person becomes financially well. And we know there is upward social mobility in Malaysian context.

“As such, the integration of Waqf into fiscal policy can be deemed as policy innovation which is very inclusive as the beneficiaries of Waqf is irrespective of race and religion,” he said.

Centre for Health and Social Policy chief executive officer Azrul Mohd Khalib said the BN manifesto touted as an ambitious one as it promised to address problems of upward mobility and the middle income trap.

“These are positive aspects of this manifesto. However, though the nature of a manifesto does not necessarily require an explanation of how the projects contained is going to be funded, it is a valid question. Though people will be excited at the promises contained (just like in the Pakatan Harapan), they will want to know how is this going to be funded or fulfilled,” he said.

Azrul said it was good for BN’s coalition responding to Bank Negara Malaysia's findings with regards to liveable wages for Malaysians to raise the minimum wage.

University Kuala Lumpur associate professor Dr Aimi Zulhazmi Abdul Rashid said the recent BN manifesto was deemed realistic and comprehensive to address the real problem face by the rakyat as well as to stimulate economic growth.

“I’m attracted to the ongoing various infrastructure projects like Pan Borneo Highway, East Coast Rail Link, Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail and Mass Rapid Transit, which would in turn generate our economy,” he said. On the impact of Malaysia’s financial position, Aimi Zulhazmi said the outlined initiatives in the manifesto were not only for social obligation but also for the economic development.

“Those initiatives would generate economy, attract investment and create new jobs as well as business opportunities. Goods and services tax (GST) collection which is transparent and effective would meet its objective, which is to distribute it back to the rakyat prudently.

“With the increased of companies and corporates’ profits, the government would get more revenue and will utilise it for the country’s development,” he said.

Aimi Zulhazmi said the reduction in fiscal deficit would not affect social obligation, citing that it is BN’s main priority. “There is no use in reducing deficit by increasing the tax rate such as GST, if it burdens the rakyat. The country’s deficit still manageable at three per cent, with 2.7 per cent recorded last year.“

Most importantly, the spending has been prudently practised over the years in line with the growth of global economy,” he added. — Additional reporting by Amir Hisyam Rasid.