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Keep it real, economists tell parties on election manifestos

They say political parties should draw up manifestos capable of providing long-term solutions, not just make promises about financial aid.

Azzman Abdul Jamal
3 minute read
Economists say whoever forms the next government will have to come up with long-term solutions to problems like the cost of living.
Economists say whoever forms the next government will have to come up with long-term solutions to problems like the cost of living.

Economists have urged political parties to ensure that their manifestos for the upcoming polls are both realistic and inclusive, as coalitions kick into election gear ahead of the vote, widely expected to be held in a matter of weeks. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, they said parties would need to take into account the country's current state of finances before announcing their manifestos, so that voters can fairly evaluate the benefits they will receive.

Lee Heng Guie, executive director of the Socio-Economic Research Centre, said it would be inappropriate for parties to make promises about financial assistance such as Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BRIM) or Bantuan Khas Keluarga Malaysia (BKM) simply in order to win the election. 

He said such aid was short-term in nature and would not truly solve the people's problems. 

Instead, he said, parties should draw up manifestos capable of providing long-term solutions such as efforts to increase the people's income or lower the cost of living. 

"Giving financial assistance like the BKM announced in the 2023 budget presentation is good, but efforts to increase the people's income should be the priority," he said. 

In any case, he said, Malaysia's fiscal situation does not encourage the provision of aid like BKM as the country cannot afford to continue spending like that. 

"Even though the BKM has been improved this time around, the government will need RM7.8 billion – a huge expenditure," he added. 

"I would be more supportive if the government spent on efforts to improve skills, which would open up more opportunities for the people to generate a higher income." 

Ahmed Razman Abdul Latiff of the Putra Business School meanwhile said parties should not concentrate solely on efforts to help the B40 or low-income group. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, he said they should also come up with ways to improve the quality of life for those in the M40 or middle-income bracket. 

He added that terms such as B40, M40 and T20 only refer to individuals' income and tell nothing of their spending, leading to an inaccurate picture of their living situation. 

"Because of this, sometimes the M40 are worse off than the B40," he said. 

"Many from the M40 group live in cities, and what they earn is only enough for their food and daily expenses." 

Razman agreed with Lee that parties elected into government should find a way to solve the rising cost of living. 

"The M40 don't need cash aid like the government gives the B40," he said. "They need help from other aspects like incentives. 

"The tax rate reduction of two percentage points announced in the recent budget presentation is one of the best examples of how the government can help this group." 

Amanda Yeo, a research analyst at think tank Emir Research, said while the government was trying to help every segment of society, this was not enough to meet the needs of the M40 group. 

While the budget presentation this time around met expectations, she said, there was still room for improvement. 

"The government has widened the scope of benefits for the community by including new issues such as the rising inflation, food security, and flood problems," she said. 

"But it remains to be seen whether it has the appropriate mechanisms to ensure that this aid reaches those in need."