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Toll, PTPTN loans to feature in PH manifesto 2.0?

While these issues are expected to attract the attention of voters, analysts say Pakatan Harapan might exercise more caution about them this time around.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli & Teoh Yee Shen
3 minute read
A handful of cars pause at the Sungai Besi toll plaza in Kuala Lumpur. The matter of toll collections had featured prominently in Pakatan Harapan's election manifesto for the 2018 polls.
A handful of cars pause at the Sungai Besi toll plaza in Kuala Lumpur. The matter of toll collections had featured prominently in Pakatan Harapan's election manifesto for the 2018 polls.

Pakatan Harapan (PH) is expected to bring up the issues of toll and PTPTN loans again in its manifesto for the 15th general election (GE15), despite its failure to fulfil some of the pledges it made at the previous polls four years ago. 

Nevertheless, political analyst Mazlan Ali said PH would likely exercise more caution in framing its manifesto this time, taking a leaf from its experience in and after GE14. 

"The terms might be different," Mazlan, of Universiti Teknologi Mara, said. 

"They might study whether or not these can be implemented. The previous manifesto looked like it was done without too much thought." 

PH's GE14 manifesto, titled "10 promises in 100 days", had offered among others the abolition of the goods and services tax (GST), targeted petrol subsidies, EPF contributions for housewives, and the postponement of PTPTN refunds for those earning RM4,000 and below. 

The PTPTN refunds and toll collections had attracted the bulk of voters' attention, as the former involved graduates who would previously be blacklisted for missing payments.

The issue of tolls, meanwhile, had had an impact even during the days of Barisan Nasional (BN) rule, when the coalition had tried to woo voters with the abolition of several toll plazas in addition to the construction of a toll-free Pan Borneo Highway and Central Spine Road.

But PH's pledges were later seen as unrealistic, with Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the prime minister at the time, admitting that the manifesto was "not a holy book". 

PH's popularity began to fade several months after the election, on the back of the perception that it had failed to make good on its promises. 

Mahathir himself later said that the manifesto was created as PH did not think that it would be able to form the federal government. 

Maszlee Malik, meanwhile, PH's education minister, said that graduates must continue paying their PTPTN loans regardless of what the manifesto said. 

And PH's works minister Baru Bian had said it was up to the people to "keep dreaming" about the abolition of tolls. 

PH kept its promise to abolish the GST and to introduce the i-Suri scheme for housewives. 

For the toll issue, it lowered the toll rate on the North-South Highway by 18% but extended the concession to the operator from 2038 to 2058.

Political analyst Awang Azman Pawi said the pledges contained in manifestos should be realistic in nature. 

Awang, of Universiti Malaya, said the issues of PTPTN and toll would influence public support for the coalition in question. 

"But they will need to explain their source of income to cover these expenses," he said. 

"Without a realistic explanation, it will be difficult for the people to accept. There might also be a backlash from those who feel they have been cheated." 

During the GE14 campaign, Damansara MP Tony Pua had said that the takeover of toll concessions was estimated at RM6.2 billion compared to the RM400 billion stated by BN.

Liew Wui Chern, a lecturer at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, said the manifestos would function as a guide for the voters on the direction and policies of the future government. 

Although they might not be "holy books", he said, they were nonetheless important as a benchmark for voters to evaluate the performance of the party they chose. 

"There will be changes," he added. "Some might think that the manifesto is useless since it's a policy document, but it shows the direction of political parties and their goals.

"Voters can use the manifesto as a report card to assess how well a party performs, and whether or not they would vote for the same party again in the future." 

Mazlan meanwhile said it might be better for PH to leave out the issues of toll and PTPTN, given that it had previously failed to achieve its pledges on these. 

"Perhaps they should put forth a more general manifesto this time," he added.