Allegations By WSJ That Najib Pursued A Pro-China Foreign Policy To Cover Up The 1MDB Scandal Must Be Investigated

The Wall Street Journal has alleged that officials from China told their Malaysian counterparts that it would use its influence to persuade other countries to drop 1MDB-related investigations in return for stakes in Malaysian railway and pipeline projects for the Belt and Road Initiative.
It was also alleged that China offered to bug the Hong Kong homes and offices of WSJ reporters working on the 1MDB story.

More worryingly, it was also claimed that “secret talks” were held “…to let Chinese navy ships dock at two Malaysian ports”, although this apparently did not come to pass.

The report also noted that the Prime Minister at the time, Najib Razak had voiced support for China’s position in the South China Sea dispute.

If these allegations are true, it would suggest that the actions of the previous administration had seriously compromised Malaysia’s sovereignty and neutrality to protect certain political actors.

These claims must hence be thoroughly investigated, and stern legal action should be taken against the perpetrators if warranted.

Moreover, the government of the People’s Republic of China must come clean over whether these allegations are true or not. Merely denying by saying China does not interfere in the affairs of other countries is not sufficient.

I also hope that the Malaysian government will take positive steps to defend our legitimate rights over the South China Sea in light of these revelations.


Welcoming The Re-Opening Of Purchase Of Submarines

There have been media reports that the authorities have re-opened investigations into the controversial 2002 purchase of the two French Scorpene submarines.

This highly-welcome development vindicates years of work—not only by Pakatan Harapan figures—but also members of the media and civil society, who sought to expose the truth about the deals in the face of great adversity.

If the case has indeed been re-opened, the authorities must carry out the new investigations with all due dispatch and charge any party they believe is guilty of wrongdoing.

Moreover, the Pakatan Harapan government should recommit itself to ensuring greater transparency and accountability when it comes to defence and indeed, all forms of government procurement.

It should identify, publicise and implement measures to ensure that our taxpayer ringgits are not wasted and that our serving men and women are adequately equipped to defend our land.

The sorry, sordid saga of the Scorpene submarines should never be repeated again.


Pakatan Harapan Youth Welcomes Unlimited Rail And Bus Pass Proposal

The Cabinet should accept and implement a proposal by the Ministry of Transport to introduce unlimited “Rapid Rail” and “Integrated Rapid Bus” passes, as well as discounted KTM Komuter services.

The benefits of doing this will be immense, not only in reducing traffic congestion, but also improving mobility, productivity and the environment.

Indeed, it is the stated goal of this government to encourage the use of public transportation—initiatives like unlimited passes and discounted services will make this option attractive. This is the practice in many developed cities.

The proposal was first mooted by the Pakatan Harapan Youth in our Tawaran Harapan Anak Muda manifesto for the last General Elections.

We are aware that the finances of the country are not yet stable and that the government will have to be wise it is spending.

But if there is anything worth spending on, it is this.

Also, the various efforts to improve the efficiency, connectivity, environmental sustainability and user-friendliness of our public transportation system must of course continue.

We can categorise the passes into peak and off-peak passes to increase off-peak usage which is still very low compared to peak usage.

The various providers must up their game, especially if the proposal comes through.

Malaysians will need to work harder to meet the challenging global economic conditions ahead.

It is only right that the government help them to do this—as well as reduce the cost of living—by making public transportation affordable, as well as safe and reliable.


Standardisation Of Minimum Wage Is Positive Move, Must Be Further Improved In The Future

The move by the Federal Government to standardise minimum wage across Malaysia, in line with the Pakatan Harapan manifesto, is commendable.

Even though the increase may be small for now, but this is real progress that we can build on in the foreseeable future.

Moreover, it is an undeniable fact that wages have stagnated in Malaysia, and our aspirations of becoming a high-income nation has been hampered by years of stagnation. We should also not only focus on per-capita income but also look at the inequality of wages between the rich and poor.

At the heart of our cost of living issue is low wages especially for the B40, and it is pertinent that we address this with a holistic solution.

As our economy recovers, we have to increase the minimum wage to RM1500 over five years in line with our manifesto and look into incentivising business-owners — including giving tax breaks — to raise the minimum wage, or go even higher to meet the living wage standard as suggested by Bank Negara.

The government procurement policy should be amended within a reasonable period so that companies giving living wages are given priority.

Its long-term impact will be an increase in incomes, which will lead to increases in expenditure and, more multiplier effects across the economy.

At the same time, the additional B40 incentive will also help make the so-called “3D” (i.e. dirty, dangerous and difficult)—such as construction and plantation—jobs more attractive to locals and reduce dependency on foreign labour. In fact, like other developed countries, this sectors can increase their productivity through automation. For so long, these sectors have been coddled by low wages for foreign workers.

The World Bank noted in a previous analysis that a 10 percent increase in immigration flows have reduced the wages of the least-educated Malaysians by 0.74 percent.

These are issues that we need to tackle, but of course let’s take it step by step. What we need now is the political will to do the right thing for all Malaysians.


Resignation Of Khazanah Board Members


The resignation of all members of Khazanah Nasional to resign to facilitate a smooth and orderly transition under the new government, while regrettable, is a chance for Malaysia’s pre-eminent sovereign wealth fund to start afresh.

The Pakatan Harapan government should take immediate steps to ensure that Khazanah—and indeed, all GLCs and GLICs, both at the federal and state level—remain independent and professionally-run to the highest standards of accountability as well as transparency. This was our promise in Buku Harapan and we should strictly adhere to it.

This will ensure that the mass departure of board members and senior executives from the various GLICs/GLICs and other corporate entities in our country that we have witnessed in the past few months does not occur again.

A certain amount of stability in the leadership of these companies must be ensured given how important they are to Malaysia’s economy.

We must also acknowledge the positive changes instituted in many GLCs under the outgoing Khazanah leadership.

Our goal should be reform, not vengeance.

Malaysia’s GLCs and GLICs should emerge under the new administration as commercially viable, socially responsible entities whose business decisions and staffing are free from interference by vested interests.

It can and should be possible to achieve these objectives.

I hope that, moving forward, the government will take heed of the input from all stakeholders when deciding the fate of the various GLCs and GLICs.

What must prevail, each and every time, is the best interest of these companies as well as the national interest guided by a strong framework of corporate governance.


Focusing On Jobs

New Malaysia’s new Dewan Rakyat is set to be sworn in on 16 July 2018. As the Member of Parliament for Setiawangsa, one of my top priorities is quite simple: jobs, jobs, jobs.

The urgency of this cannot be overstated.

For one thing, Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto pledged to create one million high-quality jobs within five years (including 200,000 for Sabah and Sarawak).

Malaysia’s unemployment rate stands at 3.3 percent. This is relatively low, but this is not something to celebrate when we consider a March 2017 Bank Negara report which found that youth unemployment in 2015 was around 10.7 percent —with 15.3 percent of youths with tertiary education not having jobs.

More worryingly, the same report found that from 2011-2017, the number of low-skilled jobs created doubled to 16 percent from 8 percent in 2002-2010, while highly-skilled jobs shrank to 37 percent from 45 percent in the same period.

70 percent of Malaysia’s workforce have low education levels (SPM and below) and are hence shut out from better-paying jobs. Indeed, 70.4 percent of jobs in Malaysia are in nine sectors which offer median wages of less than MYR1700 a month.

In 2013, Malaysia’s median and mean monthly wages were RM1500 and RM2052 respectively. By 2017, these had grown to RM2160 (up 44 percent) and RM2880 (up 40.35 percent) respectively.

In contrast, labour productivity in 2013 was RM59,622 and grew to RM78,218 (up 31.12 percent) in 2016. Indeed, labour productivity between 2015 and 2016 grew by just 3.5 percent compared to median and mean monthly wage growth of 6.2 percent and 6.3 percent respectively in that same period.

We surely can be doing better on all these counts.

These issues are of course not new to the public discourse.

Indeed, the new Pakatan Harapan government has a long “laundry list” of policy issues that touch on jobs—whether directly or indirectly—to tackle.

Off the top of my head, these include:
•     How do we revamp our education system to meet the Fourth Industrial Revolution? How do we teach crucial skills for the future like coding, STEM, soft skills and problem-solving properly—to all Malaysian children, rich and poor—without taking the joy out of learning?
•     What can be done to retrain long-term unemployed graduates, as well as existing low-skilled, young workers whose careers have stagnated? What can be done to address the on-going problem of youth indebtedness?
•How do we ensure that technical and vocational jobs not only pay well, but are also accorded higher social status than they enjoy currently? In this regard, the formation of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Empowerment Committee under Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar is a step in the right direction.
•     How do we tackle discriminatory practices, encourage work-life balance and better workplace conditions without strangling businesses—especially small- and medium-enterprises—with red tape? How do we break the glass ceiling for women in terms of pay?
•     How do we encourage foreign investment that can create high-quality jobs without compromising our national interests?
•     How do we reduce our reliance on foreign labour without resorting to xenophobic measures? How do we better protect migrant labourers in Malaysia?
•     How do we manage the minimum wage to ensure that it looks out for the interests of both workers and employers?
•     How do we reform, consolidate or improve existing bodies like the National Wages Consultative Council, Human Resources Development Fund and TalentCorp Malaysia
•     Without overregulation, how do we protect the rights and interests of members of the creative industry, freelancers and workers in the so-called “gig economy”?
•     How do we ensure that the solutions proposed for these challenges do not simply degenerate into vehicles for political patronage?

Clearly, creating good, productive jobs for Malaysians is not the exclusive responsibility of any one Ministry or agency.

It not only involves our economic and labour policies but also how we approach education, law enforcement, social issues and geopolitics.

I am sure that our new government has plans and initiatives to address these issues.

Malaysians should rest assured that my parliamentary colleagues and I will not only support, but also scrutinize and monitor these efforts with a fine-tooth comb.

As I said, job creation and skills training—especially for young Malaysians—cannot be allowed to fall prey to political rent-seekers.

In fact, the main challenge moving forward will be political will.

The new government and parliament will need to resist pressure from vested interests opposed to the needed reforms for their several reasons—that much is obvious.

But the Pakatan Harapan must also strive to avoid, or, even better, quickly and comprehensively resolve jurisdictional turf wars as well as genuine ideological differences on how to approach policy questions.

It will not be easy, but it must be done. Communication is always key.

One thing that could be done is for the government to set up an intra-governmental task force on job creation—to plan, coordinate and execute the relevant educational, job creation and skills training initiatives undertaken by the various Ministries and agencies.

Oversight to that task force can also be provided by the creation of a new Parliamentary Select Committee on Jobs, which will of course regularly obtain feedback and insights from both industry as well as civil society groups.

It goes without saying that the executive should also of course regularly consult the legislature, business and non-governmental organisations on this matter.

We cannot and should not lose sight on what many Malaysians need: jobs, jobs, jobs.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD is the Pakatan Harapan and Parti Keadilan Rakyat Youth Leader. He is also the Member of Parliament for Setiawangsa and formerly a Selangor State EXCO. He has written a few books in Malay and English