The 15th Malaysian general election is scheduled to be held on 19th November 2022. According to media report, there will be 945 candidates vying for 222 Parliamentary seats throughout the country, making it the biggest number ever. Additionally, there are 441 candidates that will fight for 117 state assembly seats in Perak, Pahang, Perlis and N66 Bugaya, Sabah. If you are 18 and above, which makes you automatically eligible to vote this year, please fulfill your responsibility to your country and vote. As always, choose wisely and make sure you do not spoil your vote. Hence, take some time to read all the instructions and don’t forget to bring along your IC.
On 14th of November 2022, the caretaker Prime Minister of Malaysia, YAB Dato’ Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, announced that 18th & 19th November 2022 are declared as public holidays under Section 8 of the Holidays Act 1951 to facilitate Malaysians to vote on the polling day. The state of Sabah has also followed suit by announcing that November 18 and November 19 will be public holidays in Sabah. The state of Sarawak meanwhile declared one day Public Holiday on the eve of the election (18th November 2022).
Additionally, to those who are required to work (normally shift workers on service, health or retail industry), Section 25(1) of the Election Offences Act provides that: Employers are required to provide time-off (unrecorded and without any salary deduction) for employees to cast their votes.
Hence, there’s little excuse for you not to vote this time.
Malaysia inherited the British’s Westminster system when we became independent. Without going to the hassle of examining our constitution, we can say that the new government would come from a party or coalition which has the biggest support in the Parliament, i.e winning the most seats in the general election.
Presently, we can say that Barisan Nasional is the incumbent government, notwithstanding that they had to rely on support from Bersatu and PAS when they formed the government in August last year. This time however, PAS & Bersatu will go up against Barisan Nasional under Perikatan Nasional banner. Whereas the other biggest coalition will be in the form of Pakatan Harapan who won the last general election before their government collapsed due to squabbles within.
There’re also Sabah based parties, Warisan, Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA), etc. competing in the upcoming election but unlikely to pose any strong challenge. GTA & Warisan might be able to win a few seats and be a king maker due to the personal strength of some of their leaders.
Note that past history shows that there could be another hung Parliament issue post election, where nobody attains the majority. Scenario is very likely again. There’s been talk that BN and PN might form another coalition like they did last year just to prevent PH from forming a government. Anyone can comment on this? 😀
Another interesting factor is the recent amendment to the Federal Constitution. On July 28 2022, Malaysian lawmakers on both sides unanimously passed a landmark Bill to curb party hopping and hopefully will set off a period of political stability. The law came into effect on 5th October 2022. This would prevent any member of Parliament from switching party as it will trigger a recall election or by-election. MPs elected as independents will also lose their seats should they formally join any party under the new legislation.
Therefore any form of ‘lompat katak‘ would be done collectively this time and not individually. Example, as I stated above BN + PN. Or, perhaps PH + PN. Only God knows.
The timing of the election seems to be in favour of the incumbent government, at least if we look into economic point of view, in particular the GDP. Bank Negara on 11th November released the country’s report card showing Malaysia 3Q GDP grows 14.2% YoY, on the back of continued expansion of domestic demand.
It’s a huge grow and surely will be used by the incumbent government as the key card to draw in some votes.
Inflation hits very hard this year in the wake of strong USD against other currencies in the world. CPI was at +4.7% YoY in August but has gone down to +4.5% YoY September 2022. Food inflation increased at a slower rate of 6.8% in September as compared to August 2022 (7.2%). The CPI has a huge effect on the people especially those under M40 & B40 bracket.
Pretty sure, many are still unhappy and this will be a good point for the opposition to play for the GE.
The unemployment rate in Malaysia was very high last year at 4.61% (a 0.11% increase from 2020). Based on new data released by the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), the rate is now at 3.6%, which is again good for the incumbent government. Nonetheless, it is quite natural as we are recovering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially during Movement Control Order which totally left the economic stagnant. Another thing that we need to be cautioned with is the issue of underemployment or labour underutilization due to the government’s policy on gig economy, in which according to the World Bank, the gig workers in Malaysia comprise approximately 26% of the workforce.
There are concern of not enough jobs that commensurate with graduates’ qualification or skilled-jobs opening in the labour market.
Since our trade invoices is 80%-90% in USD, the continued strength of USD will further drive the inflation. The MYR hit 4.75 low this month (November). As the US adopts a hawkish monetary policy, in which it has lifted the federal funds rate to a range of 3.75% to 4% this year, it is quite inevitable that MYR will slip further and we can look at possible higher inflation and recession next year.
We also need to manage our finance carefully to service the government debt and liabilities, which is as of June 2022 is estimated to be at RM1.42 trillion. The Federal government debts account for 61 per cent of debt-to-GDP, at RM1.04 trillion up from RM979.8 billion in 2021. Total debt and liabilities are about 82 per cent of GDP. The Covid 19 pandemic and corruption, in particular the 1MBD fiasco which exposed taxpayers to the fund’s massive debt.
While Malaysia’s debt to GDP ratio may seem low compare to other nations, for example Japan, it must be noted that our debt service ratio to revenue has reached 16.3% in 2021 and rising to 18% in 2022. In short, every almost 20 cents of every ringgit that Malaysia earns will be utilised to cover interest payments on direct federal government debt. Furthermore, it isn’t right to compare our debt with the likes of Japan and Singapore, when our total reserves only stand at $116.92 billion in 2021, whereas Singapore and Japan is at $1,405,748.99 billion and $425,097.84 respectively. Additionally, Singapore’s debts not only fund general government operations but to facilitate investment needs. They incur little debt service charge (less than 0.5% of revenue 2020) and the investment returns make up around one-fifth of its government’s annual income.
While Malaysia won’t turn into another Sri Lanka in the near future, we are not managing our finance efficiently. The government need to reduce the proportion of revenue spent on debt servicing so that more money can go to more productive use, including supporting economic and human development.
This is where the main contenders need to address the voters how they are going to tackle the issue. What are the monetary and fiscal policies that they are going to adopt to drive the country forward?
Whichever party that forms the government post GE15 should also look at our tax system which appears to be regressive and does not benefit the poor, which also brings us to another topic, i.e unequal distribution of wealth in this country. We shall look further on this when we discuss poverty issue under other consideration heading below.
Reducing tax and increasing subsidies are just populist solutions that perhaps work in the rural area.
It is important to look at other related indicators such as poverty rate, crime index and the number of bankruptcy cases in this country. While the highly expensive BlackPink’s VIP tickets concert were sold out within minutes, suggesting our standard of living have improved, we also need to look around and see how many people are struggling just to make ends meet.
Looking at the statistical data provided by DOSM, we can see that Malaysia’s household income inequality Gini coefficient declined from 0.513 in 1970 to 0.399 in 2016 and increased to 0.407 in 2019. It does look nice on the surface, however, the gap between the T20 (the top 20% of households by income) and the M40 (the next 40% of households) rose from RM6,000 to RM10,000, while the T20/B40 gap rose from RM8,000 to RM14,000 from 1995 to 2016 before adjusting for inflation. Despite the declining Gini inequality coefficient for income distribution, the absolute earnings gap between the top quintile and others nearly doubled in the two decades up to 2016. There’s something wrong with our policy that continues to discriminate the poor.
Putting aside the data and looking around us, the struggles of some people under B40 category is real. I live in Sabah, where the poverty rate is among the highest. It saddens me to see how so many people still sleep on the street and begging for money on the busy traffics, no matter whether they are locals or not. Humanity come first because we all are humans.
We really need to prioritise our efforts on the 70% of the population (those under B40 upwards to M40). A study by Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) found that lower income households spent nearly 95% of their income on everyday expenditures, particularly on necessities, leaving them vulnerable with little savings against economic shocks or emergencies. The average lower-income households has only a shocking RM76 a month to spare, after household expenses are deducted. Whereas, on the savings side, 6.1 million members of EPF have less than RM10,000 currently in their savings and a staggering 79% of them have less than RM1,000 left consequently.
Now what does this leave us? Most probably to other socio-economic problems such as crimes, in particular corruption.
There was a time in my life when everyone felt safe going anywhere alone. Today, staying at home also doesn’t feel safe. How things change and time flies.
I always believe that people are not born stupid or bad. Many people do the things they do for a reason. Having said that, there’s no excuse for greed or inhumanity towards other.
Crime rate in Malaysia has been decreasing in the last 2 years, which is a good point for incumbent government. Nonetheless, we may argue also it might be due to our enforcement agencies being more efficient in combating crimes. Hence, we just need to look around our neighbourhood and decide how safe we feel today.
Looking at the stats above, we can see that most crimes in this country is theft related. 14,040 involved house break-in cases. This type of crime in normally associated with poverty, lack of education and unemployment. Note that more than 90% drug addicts are those with SPM qualification and below.
According to Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) by the Transparency International, Malaysia is ranked 62 in the world out of 180 countries. Not bad? But we should strive to be better and eliminate this form of crimes. In 2020, MACC recorded 998 corruption cases. It is one of the diseases that effected our progress towards a better and prosperous nation. Corruption erodes the trust we have in the public sector to act in our best interests. It also wastes our taxes or rates that have been earmarked for important community projects – meaning we have to put up with poor quality services or infrastructure, or we miss out altogether.
Why curbing income inequality and poverty are very high on my priority and it should be yours too?
Poverty leads to people being deprived of quality education, poor healthcare and to some extent, basic amenities.
After so many years, we are still talking about kids carrying heavy school bags on their shoulder, students unable to master the basic of language and maths and worst of all, access to education. There are many education reforms and blueprint prepared but none really goes to the root of the problems. The efficiency isn’t there. Do you know that there is a school in Sabah that has more teachers/staff than the students?
The way forward is to provide easy access to education, especially to the poor. If I’m the Minister of Education, I will drop the uniform requirements in many areas where the poverty level is high, have more boarding schools for them and provide them with zero cost education. The development of soft skills and critical thinking must also be focused upon plus emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic at the primary school level. Only then, can the kids compete fairly.
Additionally, we also need to address the healthcare issues especially in the public hospitals. There are still not many people who can afford treatment in private hospital and had to face the long queue and wait for months for an appointment.
Other than that, whichever party or coalition that forms the government must also think about basic amenities for the people, public transportation and basic infrastructure for the public. Note that many of our workforce are staying far away from the city where they work. Day to day cost to commute have already eaten a huge chunk of their income as properties in the urban areas are very expensive. Therefore, public transportation must be tip top and not as what happened to RapidKL recently. It’s their basic needs and mere lip service of giving away free tickets is insufficient. A long term plan must be in placed.
There are so many other considerations that can be discussed here. But what I’m trying to say is when you become a government, you also need to consider the welfare of the people and not just look at GDPs and revenue perspective only. You are there to serve the nation/people and not to impress certain parties only. You are certainly not there to make yourself wealthy.
Casting Your Vote – Key Considerations
Despite all that have been written above and your political inclinations, perhaps you may want to consider a two-pronged filtration system before you cast your vote.
- 1st Consideration/Filtration – Candidate
- 2nd Consideration/Filtration – Party/Coalition
Under first consideration, you should pick a candidate who is clean and have a good track record in your community. Candidate who has a criminal court case, especially those who has been asked to enter defense by the court, should be red-flagged. Exception only to those who has been acquitted by the court.
My personal view on this is that a leader should put the interest of the people above his. A leader with integrity will strive to clear his name first by setting aside the charges against him in the court of law. When a leader is asked to enter into a defence, then there is a prima facie case against him. It does not prove his/her guilt but there’s a possibility of him/her committing the offence. Afterall, it’s a MUST to be a ‘Yang Berhormat‘ to serve the people. A good leader would trust his people to serve the nation on his/her behalf in these circumstances. Furthermore, I would like to believe our judiciary is free from any influence. It is an integral part of our system and we should trust the judiciary to do their part or else the system will collapse.
So the first part of the filtration system is about integrity of the candidates. There are many factors that you should take into consideration. Example: A leader should be humble at all time, does not unreasonably accumulate extraordinary wealth within a short time and involved with unscrupulous people or project. It would be better if he/she also has good brain and have a good understanding of economics and business (Tips: Ask them on the above issues and see how they respond).
Of course, you won’t get a perfect candidate, but you should be able to narrow down the number. Ok, now go and ask the candidate how he/she will handle issues in his/her area. If you can’t ask personally, look at the pamphlet, brochures, etc. and see if the candidate is willing to take up such issues.
The second part is to look at the party or coalition that the candidate is representing. Note that my priority is candidate above party. Why? I don’t care if the party has better things to offer. If they field a shitty candidate, then they deserve to be penalised for their stupidity.
A good party or coalition should be focusing on their strength and not others. What are the things they can offer in term of improving socio-economic in the country and how they will deliver it. Their manifesto must be believable and can be implemented. Must be based on facts and not fiction.
Perhaps, if you have time you can prepare a score card for them. Give points over issues like Economy, Social Protection & Welfare, Education and Reskilling, Housing, Democracy and Governance, Health & Elderly Care, Environment & Climate Change, etc. Give points based on their track records (if they have been in the government) and manifesto. Avoid party or coalition that promote hate and racism. Last but not least, think hard and trust your heart when making your choice. Whoever you pick is your right and you have played your part in keeping the democracy alive in this country.
Warm regards and happy voting.
ISMAIL N is the Chief Blogger/Blog Owner. An HR practitioner in his normal daily life & a casual blogger in his free time. Addicted to coffee, Man Utd, K-Drama/K-Pop. Semi-retired Pokemon Go trainer (TL50). Most easily accessed via his Twitter account.