Robert Quok, Richest Malaysian Back Home


All ears: Bai Tian listening to Kuok during their meeting

 

PETALING JAYA: The return of billionaire Robert Kuok to Malaysia sends an important message that the Government is getting advice from highly-respected experts, a move that could instil confidence and optimism among the business community and the public, say economists.

Prof Dr Yeah Kim Leng said it was reassuring that the Government is listening to the views of a tycoon who has a thorough understanding of the history, as well as the economic and business landscapes of Malaysia and the region.

“We now know that whatever new policies or changes introduced would have been passed through or reviewed by Kuok and the panel of experts.

“We are in safe hands. We are able to secure the best advice. It is comforting and reassuring,” the Sunway University Business School economics professor said.

Kuok, 94, was named as a member of the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to help shape policies and programmes to achieve Pakatan Harapan’s 100-day promises.

Headed by former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin, the CEP also includes former Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former Petronas CEO Tan Sri Hassan Marican and renowned economist Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

Kuok, who resides in Hong Kong, returned to Malaysia to attend his first CEP meeting on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters later, he urged Malaysians to trust the council.

Yesterday, a video of Kuok meeting Dr Mahathir was uploaded on Kelab Che Det’s Facebook page.

He was seen saluting Dr Mahathir, saying: “I salute you. You saved the country.”

Socio-Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie said Kuok and the other eminent persons conveyed a message that the Government was bent on making Malaysia better, more competitive and credible.

“Kuok is a prominent and respected entrepreneur. We can tap into his vast experiences in the corporate world. This will benefit Malaysia,” he said.

Lee expected Kuok to give his fair advice to the Government on how to ensure foreign investors would pour in to place Malaysia in the top of the list for investments.

Meanwhile, on the Government’s decision to review projects approved by the previous government – of which a substantial number of projects involved Chinese private and government-linked entities – Dr Yeah said Kuok could serve as the bridge between both countries.

“Some of the mega projects will likely see a need for a third party to intervene. Kuok will be an excellent intermediary.

“Investors will be more comforted if we have a intermediary that is able to facilitate discussion or smoothen out frictions if there is any,” he said, adding that this was to ensure the ties remained strong and not derailed should there be any hard decisions that needed to be taken.

Separately, China’s ambassador to Malaysia Bai Tian met with Kuok yesterday.

In an official statement, Bai spoke highly of the 94-year-old billionaire’s contributions to the development of Malaysia and the progress of China-Malaysia relations.

“He expects that Kuok would continue to contribute to the future development of China-Malaysia cooperation,” the statement said.

During the meeting, both of them agreed that friendly cooperation between China and Malaysia is in the fundamental interests of the two countries and their people.

“They believe that, as an important country along the 21st century maritime silk road under the Belt and Road Initiative, Malaysia could further benefit from mutually-beneficial and win-win cooperation with China.

“They recall the sound development of bilateral relations during Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s last service as Prime Minister, and are both confident that during the term of the new government, China-Malaysia relations will achieve greater progress,” it added. – The Star

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Robert Kuok to arrive in Malaysia next week

Robert Kuok to arrive in Malaysia next week

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RM7bil to bail out 1MDB, CEO Arul Kanda utterly dishonest & untrustworthy said Finance Minister


PUTRAJAYA: On top of paying RM6.98bil to bail out 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), the Government is now facing the prospect of forking out an additional RM953mil to service the company’s debts by November.

“I have been informed that besides the RM142.75mil due at the end of this month, another RM810.21mil worth of interest is due between the months of September and November in 2018,” Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng told reporters after being briefed by ministry officers.

Lim, who was shocked at the revelation, added that the ministry had been bailing out 1MDB by servicing its debts since April 2017, which included payments for International Petroleum Investment Corp’s (IPIC) settlement agreement amounting to RM5.05bil.

“This confirms the public suspicion that 1MDB had essentially deceived Malaysians by claiming that hit had paid via ‘successful rationalisation exercise’.

“It has been the ministry that has bailed out 1MDB,” he said.

He also said the previous government had conducted an exercise of deception with regard to 1MDB and even misrepresented the financial situation to Parliament.

Lim said 1MDB’s chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy, and directors Datuk Kamal Mohd Ali and Datuk Norazman Ayob will be grilled to determine the company’s state of affairs and its ability to service its debts.

He said officers from the ministry would conduct a detailed study on 1MDB’s debts and liabilities aimed at resolving the “crisis created by the scandal”.

“We will also submit our findings to the 1MDB task force formed by the Prime Minister,” Lim said.

Asked what was the full extent of 1MDB’s debts and liabilities, Lim said this would only be known with full access to files and accounts which had been previously barred or blocked to auditors.

He added 1MDB had contributed to the nation’s debts. – The Star

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New MACC chief breaks down in recounting what he went through (full story)


PUTRAJAYA: Newly appointed Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull broke down when he recounted his time running away from Malaysian authorities to the United States.

This came in 2015 after his former boss Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed at the MACC decided to indict former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak over the RM2.6bil that was found in his personal bank account.

Shukri said that the commission had well-founded basis to initiate an investigation into SRC International, a subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which had been accused of transferring millions of ringgit into Najib’s private account.

According to Shukri, Abu Kassim asked him whether he was ready for the consequences of indicting a sitting prime minister, which could have led to their dismissal.
“I said ‘no problem’, because I was willing to do it for the country,” Shukri told a press conference at the MACC headquarters here on Tuesday.

However, on the day in July 2015 when Abu Kassim was going to do indict Najib, former Attorney-General Gani Patail was removed from his position.

The announcement came along with the reshuffling of the Cabinet that also saw the sacking of the Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, who had also raised questions about 1MDB.

With all these sackings foremost in his mind, Shukri left for Washington on July 31, 2015, to bring up the 1MDB issue with US authorities.

Wary, he released misleading information that he was headed to Saudi Arabia, and he heard that people were waiting to arrest him in Jeddah.

Shukri said that before he left for Washington, he faced tremendous pressure.

“The witnesses I interviewed had been taken away.

“I was threatened to be fired, was told to retire early and was even threatened to be sent to the training division,” he said.

The trip to Washington had its own drama.

“I noticed someone was following me (in Washington). My team in the United States took pictures of the man who was following me.

“I sent the pictures to MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki, and asked him to send it to the then Inspector-General Police,” he said, adding that he made it clear that he knew that men were following him.

Shukri said he felt unsafe in Washington and decided to go to New York, where he met up with a friend who worked in the New York Police Department (NYPD).

“I got protection from the NYPD and they provided me with three bodyguards,” he said.

Shukri said he then returned to Washington.

It was in recounting this episode during his Tuesday press conference that Shukri broke down in tears, saying he felt guilty when he was told that his men who were working for him had been incarcerated.

“I felt helpless and was frustrated for failing to protect my men.

“I cried in front of the mat salleh (Caucasians). My men and I had been accused of conspiring to topple the (Barisan Nasional) government,” he said.

Shukri finally retired in August 2016 at the age of 56. During his farewell speech, he hit out at an “individual” who had alleged that he was involved in a conspiracy to topple Najib and his administration.

Abu Kassim, who was appointed MACC chief in 2010, was also replaced by Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad in 2016.

Shukri served at the anti-graft body for 32 years before he retired. He first joined the then Anti-Corruption Agency in 1984 as investigations officer after graduating from Universiti Kebangsaan Malay­sia.

He rose up the ranks and served as ACA director in Perlis, Kelantan and Sabah.

Upon his return to the headquarters in July 2006, he was promoted to the post of assistant investigations director and two months later, was promoted yet again to be the director of investigations.

In 2010, he took on the position of MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations), which he held till his retirement.

Pakatan Harapan appointed Shukri to head the MACC when it took over Putrajaya after GE14.

He clocked in for work at 10.29am on Monday (May 21), having received his appointment letter just about an hour before reporting for duty.

This story was amended to correct some dates. By ashley tang The Star

 

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Huge landslide in Tg Bungah hill


Disaster zone: An aerial view of the recent landslide in Tanjung Bungah, Penang.
An aerial view of the brown water flowing into the sea from Sungai Kelian.

GEORGE TOWN: Nobody knew a natural disaster was waiting to happen until Sungai Kelian in Tanjung Bungah turned brown and silty.

The sudden profusion of laterite mud flowing out to sea was caused by a landslide even bigger than the one that killed 11 people at a Tanjung Bungah construction site last year.

But it was so far uphill – 231m above sea level – that Penang Island City Council (MBPP) had to use a drone to find it.

As it was a natural landslide, residents are now worried about the fragility of slopes in the Tanjung Bungah hill range and want tighter scrutiny on the many development projects slated for their neighbourhood all the way to Batu Ferringhi.
MBPP issued a statement on Sunday after discovering the landslide on Bukit Batu Ferringhi, in the forest reserve about 1.5km uphill of a disused Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) intake station.

PBAPP chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa clarified that the station had not been in use since 1999, after the Teluk Bahang Dam was completed.

An MBPP engineer said the landslide was about 40m long and 20m wide, but geo-technical experts were unable to reach the site to determine what happened because there are no jungle trails to reach it.

A group called Nelayan Tanjung Tokong shared a video on Facebook last Thursday, showing the russet brown water flowing into the sea from Sungai Kelian and expressed concern.

Tanjung Bungah Residents Asso­ciation chairman Meenakshi Ra­­man said it was worrying because the landslide happened without any human disturbance.

“It shows the hills in the vicinity are ecologically fragile, and we don’t want any untoward incidents to happen again.

“We hope the authorities will tell us what is being done to prevent further landslides,” she said yesterday.

Former Tanjung Bungah assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu said he knew the area well and believed that the landslide took place near the source of Sungai Kelian.

“I have always stressed on how sensitive the hill slopes here are. There are many underground springs in the hills,” he said.

State Works, Utilities and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said the landslide happened in the middle of a forest reserve and experts need time to study the slope to understand how it gave way.

He gave an assurance that the mud washing down the river would clear up in due course without long-term damage.

Zairil also stressed that no deve­lopment had been approved near the landslide area.

“The state government’s guidelines on hill slope development are tighter than those used by the Federal Government. We will not approve developments without pro­per compliance,” he added.

Penang Drainage and Irrigation Department director Mohd Azmin Hussin said that it would be difficult to transport machinery to the source of the landslide for mitigation works.

“There are no access roads and the team will have to hike to the site,” he said. – The Star

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Putting in place a new Malaysian order


Robert Kuok attends CEP meeting

THE winds of change have been sweeping through the country in the past fortnight at breathtaking speed.

First, the incredible election results that very few predicted correctly. Then the post-election drama until Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed was sworn in for a historic second time as PM. Followed by many decisions and measures announced daily as Mahathir hit the ground running, or rather sprinting.

The liberation of Anwar Ibrahim “from prison to palace” and from palace to padang for the night rally last Wednesday completed the key milestones in the quick journey from the old discredited order to the new world being born.

Mahathir was not only the man of the hour, masterfully guiding the ship to the harbour, avoiding the last dangers, but also a man in a hurry, laying the foundations for recovering the economy, reforms to key institutions, and getting to the bottom of the 1MDB sacndal.

Quite a few have aptly quoted Shakespeare to describe what happened: “There is a tide in the affairs of men which when taken at the flood leads on to fortune.”

There is another saying, when a revolution has taken place but there is chaos afterwards and the future is uncertain: “The old world is dying but the new cannot be born.”

What is most remarkable about the first post-election days is not how quickly the old era is passing away but how rapidly the new order is being built.

The reconciliation of the two giants of Malaysian politics, Mahathir and Anwar, paved the way to this remarkable new chapter.

When they fell out two decades ago, their story was worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy. Destiny or will or both have provided them a second chance to get it right this time, and if they do, Malaysia itself will have the opportunity to have a bright future.

It will always be remembered that the sacrifices made by Anwar and his family through his three jail terms and the reformasi movement he generated brought the country to where it is.

Equally, history will record that Mahathir not only laid the foundation of the country’s recent economic development and progressive foreign policy in his long stint as PM but also that he returned to “save Malaysia” from the lowest depths the country had descended into.

If reformasi has been the war cry, implementing a true reform agenda is now the prerogative.

Mahathir has now embarked full scale on reform – Anwar says his role is to keep it on the right track.

Understandably, the PM’s first priority is the economy. The new government has been acting to ensure that as far as possible its new policies should not lead to confidence erosion by investors and fund managers.

Removing the GST, Pakatan Harapan’s main election promise, is the number one political prerogative. Concerns that this will lead to a RM40bil revenue shortfall are being countered by expectations of increased revenue from renewal of a sales tax, the hike in oil prices to the current US$80 (RM318) a barrel, and savings from a planned reduction of wastage in government expenditure. The GST removal on June 1 should also lead to price reductions, a boost to consumer spending and the economy as a whole, and thus generate extra state revenue.

The new government will have to deal with the explosive jump in government debt in recent years. In a mere six years between 2011 and 2017, government debt rose 51% from RM456bil to RM687bil, while government-guaranteed debt jumped 94% from RM117bil to RM227bil.

Added together, the federal and federal-guaranteed debt went from RM573bil to RM914bil. It might be more if the debts of other entities are included.

This massive jump in debt may partly explain how the previous government was able to splurge on many projects and on welfare schemes, in failed efforts to win over the public and in schemes that mainly benefited the powerful and their cronies.

The commercial viability and social value of many of the loan-fuelled expenses are questionable.

An audit should be done on sources and uses of the loans, and how to reduce the damage by cutting loss-making projects and improving the performance of those that can be saved.

Recent years also saw the opening up of financial sectors, leading to high foreign participation in government debt and in the stock market, as capital surged into emerging markets like Malaysia in search of higher yield.

There are benefits in good years, but the country also becomes more vulnerable when global trends turn negative, as is happening since higher interest rates in the United States are prompting capital to flow back.

Dealing with the boom-and-bust cycle in capital flows will be a challenge for the new government.

Beyond economics and institutional reforms, there are other pressing issues the new government should focus on.

One of them is the environment. There are crises developing, on water resources and supply, floods, damage to forests and watersheds, hillside collapse and erosion, deterioration of the coastal environment and of course climate change.

Environmental damage harms social life and the economy. Floods and water shortage affect production, and fish prices have shot up due to overfishing and sea pollution.

Priority must thus be put on revamping environment-related policies and on strengthening the Environment Ministry. They have been neglected for far too long.

–  By Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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Jobs ahead for Pakatan’s first 100 days fiscal reform


Dr Mahathir moves swiftly to inject confidence and stability into the market

WHEN the results of the 14th general election were finally formalised early Thursday morning, showing that Pakatan Harapan had won and would form the new government, there was a sense of excitement among its voters over the reforms promised by the incoming administration.

At the same time, that wave of buoyancy was tinged with worries of uncertainty. Malaysia was taking a path not traversed and for financial markets, anxiety is something they have never digested well.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad since then has moved swiftly to inject confidence and stability among investors and the population.

His swearing in as PM and the announcement of key ministries in the Cabinet will help in soothing nervy investors ahead of Monday when the stock market opens.

Strong track record: Dr Mahathir at the swearing in ceremony as the 7th Prime Minister. He expects the stock market to see its capitalisation increase over time. — Bernama
Strong track record: Dr Mahathir at the
swearing in ceremony as the 7th Prime Minister. He expects the stock
market to see its capitalisation increase over time. — Bernama

The early movements of the stock market will be closely watched and that is something Dr Mahathir too has quickly sought to assuage. He tried calming anxious investors by saying he expects the stock market to see its capitalisation increase over time. He also assured businesses and investors that Malaysia remains business-friendly and the economy is among his top priorities.

Hints of what businesses and investors can expect are laid out in Pakatan’s manifesto and its to-do list within the first 100 days. Central among the pledges is the confirmation that the unpopular goods and services tax (GST) will be cancelled and replaced with a sales and services tax (SST).

The other measures it intends to carry out in the initial period is to reduce the cost of living, stabilise the price of petrol and introduce targeted petrol subsidies, abolish unnecessary debts that have been imposed on Felda settlers, introduce EPF contributions for housewives, equalise the minimum wage nationally and start the processes to increase the minimum wage, postpone the repayment of the National Higher Education Fund Corp or PTPTN for all graduates whose salaries are below RM4,000 per month and abolish the blacklisting policy.

It also plans to set up a Royal Commissions of Inquiry into 1Malaysia Development Bhd, Felda, Mara and Tabung Haji and reform the governance of these bodies. A Special cabinet committee to properly enforce the Malaysia Agreement 1963 will be set up. There are plans to introduce the Skim Peduli Sihat with RM500 worth of funding for the B40 (low-income) group for basic treatment in registered private clinics, and initiate a comprehensive review of all mega-projects that have been awarded to foreign countries.

What impact the measures will have on government finances is another source of uncertainty but Socio-Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie feels it’s too early to assess any impact. “We will have to wait and see if Pakatan will table a new budget. The current estimates are based on the old budget, but I believe the Pakatan budget will continue with fiscal consolidation,” he says.

Pakatan’s alternative budget projects for a smaller fiscal deficit of 2.04%.

AmBank Group Research chief economist Anthony Dass says there needs to be some clarification on the new government’s policy and strategy without risking the ratings.

“Removing the GST and introducing the SST and other subsidies will act positively on the economy, as they help to improve the disposable income of households, and thus, spending. This will help buffer any shortfalls from the GST. Besides prudent financial management as we have seen in Selangor and Penang, a more transparent public procurement system or tendering process will improve competition and lower margins for players and ease budget strains,” he says.

Improving disposable income: Central among the pledges is the confirmation that the unpopular GST will be cancelled and replaced with the SST.
Improving disposable income: Central among the
pledges is the confirmation that the unpopular GST will be cancelled
and replaced with the SST
.

Fiscal implications

Among the to-do list for its first 100 days in office, it is the promise to repeal the GST that has rating agencies worried.

“We are closely following the developments around some campaign promises that could have a negative impact on market sentiment and trigger volatility in the financial markets. These dynamics will take time to unfold and a lot will depend on what the new Government unveils in the coming weeks and months,” says Moody’s Investors Service Financial Institutions Group vice-president Simon Chen in a statement.

“If investor sentiment worsens materially, we will see increasing risks of capital outflows and a further weakening of the ringgit, that could in turn dampen private-sector consumption and operating conditions for banks in Malaysia.”

He did, however, say that Malaysia has weathered challenging periods, in particular, during the 1MDB scandal.

Fitch Ratings in a statement says the May 9 results means a higher likelihood of fiscal and economic policy change.

“The extent to which the new government’s agenda will shift major policy is uncertain, but the Pakatan victory and its policy platform indicate a much greater potential for change. In the meantime, Fitch will monitor the new Government’s policy agenda as it evolves,” it says.

It views policy slippage leading to deterioration in fiscal discipline and higher government debt or deficits as a negative rating sensitivity.

“Among the most notable proposals is the replacement of the GST – a value-added tax launched in 2015 – with the narrower SST that had preceded it. The GST has become a key source of government revenue, accounting for 18% of total revenue equivalent to just over 3% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017.

“By comparison, the SST accounted for only 8% of total revenue and 1.6% of the GDP in its last year, 2014. As such, absent offsetting measures, the replacement of the GST would result in a correspondingly higher deficit,” it says.

Lee: We will have to wait and see if Pakatan will table a new budget.
Lee: We will have to wait and see if Pakatan will table a new budget.

Fitch points to another significant proposal, which is to reinstate some of the fuel subsidies. It says that if fuel subsidies were to be reinstated, they could offset some potential budgetary gains from rising oil and commodity prices.

Maybank Investment Bank in a report says that the removal of the GST will mean a projected revenue loss of RM44bil based on the current budget estimates. It says that even if the GST is replaced by the SST, which brought in RM17bil in 2014, there could be a prospective loss of RM27bil in government revenue and that could lift the budget deficit by 1.9 percentage points.

The report, however, does point to Pakatan’s alternative budget released in October 2017, which says that abolishing the GST will stimulate the economy and raise other tax revenues by boosting consumer and business activities. It says tax revenues will rise from better economic growth, higher receipts of corporate income tax, real property gains tax and other sources of income.

Government expenditure is also expected to drop by cutting certain allocations such as for the Prime Minister’s Office that can help buffer the cost of the GST removal.

It says that operating expenditure could be improved by having open tenders and the rationalisation in non-critical spending from supplies and services, which accounts for 14.4% of operating expenditure, grants and transfers to state governments and statutory bodies (9%) and the others’ category (7.8%), which consists of grants to statutory funds, public corporations and international organisations as well as insurance claims and gratuities.

Higher oil prices, however, are a revenue source for the Pakatan government and can help mitigate the loss of income from the removal of the GST. Maybank’s analysis shows that for every US$10 rise in the crude oil price, government revenue will rise by between RM7bil and RM8bil. That increase will have to be balanced out by the Pakatan manifesto’s pledge to give higher royalties to Sabah and Sarawak, and petrol subsidies.

Growth direction

Fiscal consolidation will mean there will likely be an impact on economic growth, as government expenditure plays an important role in generating growth. Economists are, however, optimistic that consumption boost from lower prices from the removal of the GST will help buffer any shortfall from spending.

They feel that the policies that will be rolled out in the coming months will be positive for the market and economy.

“We reiterate our -2.8% budget deficit to GDP for 2018 with the GDP to grow around 5.5%, supported by domestic demand and exports on the back of a stronger global GDP,” says Dass.

“We foresee better management in the operating expenditure with a more transparent procurement system or tendering process and efficiency in development expenditure projects and targets.”

Maybank is keeping its 2018 growth target at 5.3%, pending details on Pakatan’s economic policies.

“We are neutral to positive on the consumer spending growth outlook, based on Budget 2018 and Pakatan’s GE14 manifesto on measures to address living costs and boost disposable income. The main issue on the growth outlook now is investment, as businesses adopt a ‘wait-and-see’ stance and amid potential government reviews of several China-linked infrastructure projects and investments,” it says.

The investment climate, though, will be crucial in generating higher economic growth for the new government.

Lee says investor-friendly policies are important and the next three to six months will be important after Cabinet positions are filled and their work starts.

“Dr Mahathir’s strong track record, added with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the prime minister-in-waiting and the maturity of Malaysians as reflected in this GE, augur well for the country. These are positive signs on the business and consumer confidence,” says Dass.

“This will help the investment mood to improve and the pick-up in capital expenditure.”

By jagdev singh sidhu, The Star
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Back to the future for Malaysia


Earth-shattering news: The aftershocks of the
general election are not over by any means. Voter turnout declined by
8.84 percentage points from 84.8 in 2013 to 76 this time around.

MOST Malaysians, including myself, went to bed in the early hours of Thursday morning after hearing the news that the Pakatan Harapan coalition of four parties had won a simple majority of 113 seats out of the 222 parliamentary seats contested in the 14th General Election.

It was earth-shattering news that the Barisan Nasional that had ruled Malaysia for 61 years is now in opposition.

The 92-year-old Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has just been sworn in as the seventh Prime Minister of Malaysia, after having served 22 years as the fourth Prime Minister from 1981 to 2003.

In 2016, Dr Mahathir quit Umno and came out with the former Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to form Parti Pribumi.

The Pakatan coalition comprises Parti Primbumi, Parti Keadilan Rakyat led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s wife Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, DAP and Parti Amanah Negara. The last comprises a faction that split off from PAS.

Going forth, there will be a period of political crossovers in which each party tries to bolster its majority at the parliamentary and state levels.

The aftershocks of the general election are not over by any means. My preliminary analysis of the published and available data on the elections showed that voter turnout declined by 8.84 percentage points from 84.8% in 2013 to 76% this time around.

Despite this, the total votes cast in the Parliamentary election were 11.93 million, or roughly 671,000 more than 2013. Out of this, Pakatan got 5.24 million or an increase of 1.25 million votes (over the votes cast for PKR and DAP in 2013) to 43.9% of total votes cast.

In essence, Barisan had a swing against it of just under one million votes to 4.24 million or 35.53% of the total votes cast.

In addition to the rejection of the past government on issues that include the 1MDB scandal, three key trends can be discerned from this year’s general election, which was orderly and surprisingly quiet on polling day, since there were few of the usual rumbustious rallies that followed past elections.

The Malaysian electorate has become mature, learning to be cautious and yet bold in voting for change.

First, it was clear that the urban voters swung decisively to the Pakatan coalition. This trend was clear for quite some time, as the urban population increased with the rural-urban drift.

Umno has traditionally depended on the rural vote for its support, but relied on its urban partners, the MCA, MIC and Gerakan to bolster the urban vote.

This time around, the MCA, MIC and Gerakan were almost wiped out at the polls, with the MCA and MIC party leaders losing their seats and Gerakan winning no seats at all.

This meant that the decisive gains were achieved in the more densely populated states in the West coast of Peninsular Malaysia, particularly with stronger majorities in Penang and Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Johor.

The last was the birthplace and stronghold of Umno, but this time round, even the veteran MP for Johor Baru Tan Sri Shahrir Samad lost heavily.

What was pivotal was the voting in Sabah and Sarawak, which together carried 56 Parliamentary seats and were considered safe “deposits” on which Barisan could rely to carry a majority.

In the end, Pakatan and its ally, Warisan took 24 parliament seats.

Secondly, PAS, the Islamic party that focuses largely on religion, dropped a net of three Parliamentary seats, but took back Terengganu, so that it once again controls two states (Kelantan and Terengganu).

It was clear that the breakaway faction Amanah was not able to draw away sufficient hardcore votes to weaken PAS.

The PAS support amounted to 2.01 million or 16.88% of total votes cast, an increase compared with 1.63 million votes or 14.78% in 2013.

What the rise of Pakatan means is that the urban Malay voters had elected for a change of government and improvements in economic livelihood rather than voting along religious affiliations.

The non-Malay vote, on the other hand, were put off by PAS push for hudud laws and were uncomfortable with Umno’s flirting with PAS on areas touching on religion.

Third, what this general election has done is to bring more new faces and talent into the political arena.

One of the weaknesses of multi-party politics is that under conditions of uncertainty, the tendency was to rely on recycled politicians, rather than experiment with younger professionals.

The new government has the opportunity to engage in generational renewal by bringing in younger leaders from more diverse backgrounds into positions of authority on change at all levels.

Time is of the essence, as Dr Mahathir has promised to stay on as Prime Minister for two years, before passing the baton to Anwar who will be 73 by then.

Nothing would signal more the restoration of the rule of law than the immediate release of Anwar from jail.

To safeguard his legacy, Dr Mahathir has now an unique and historic opportunity to address many of the issues that festered when he was Prime Minister for the first time. If the rule of law has weakened, it was partly because of the controversial steps he took to intervene in the legal institutions in the 1980s.

He needs to strengthen the very institutions that protect the rule of law which he now upholds.

On the economic front, he has inherited an economy that has grown by 5.9% last year, but as the saying goes, the GDP numbers look good, but the people feel bad.

With oil prices back up to over US$70 per barrel, and Malaysia as a net energy exporter, the economic winds are favourable for making the necessary tough reforms.

Cutting GST may be popular, but one has to look closely at the fiscal situation more prudently for the long haul.

How to create good jobs in an age of robotics, even as more youth enter the labour force, is a pressing challenge not just for Malaysia, but throughout the developing world.

On the foreign affairs front, Malaysia will have to navigate between the growing tensions between the United States and China.

Given his feisty style, Dr Mahathir has not been known to mince his words about what he thinks about the South China Sea or for that matter, where Malaysia stands as a leading voice in the South.

In her unique way, Malaysia has voted for a generational change, but with the oldest leader managing that transition. Most new governments find very short political honeymoons, as expectations are now high on delivery. It is always easier to oppose than to propose and implement.

How smoothly that transition occurs will have huge impact not only on Malaysians, but the region as a whole.

By Andrew Sheng who writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.
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