Bridget Welsh is a Senior Research Associate at the Center for East Asia Democratic Studies of the National Taiwan University. She is based in Southeast Asia, where she works on Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Indonesia and other countries in the region. She is committed to engagement, fostering mutual understanding and empowerment.

Najib misses opportunity in 11MP – Ramesh Chander and Bridget Welsh

Taken from New Mandala As debate in Malaysia’s Parliament draws to a close on the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP) that lays out targets for the country to achieve “developed” nation status by 2020, the focus has primarily centred on the unrealistic assumptions contrived for the macro-economic framework for the blueprint. Little attention has concentrated on the consistency of the assumptions and how the 11MP compares with previous policy frameworks. A close look at the 11MP reveals serious gaps and shortcomings, raising questions about whether the proclaimed milestones of development by 2020 can indeed be achieved. Underlying macro-economic fallacies The 11MP argues that Malaysia will become a “developed” or “high-income” nation by 2020. This is in line with the long-standing Vision 20/20 targets laid out two decades ago. The current plan argues that this transformation will be achieved with the economy growing at an average rate of five to 6% per year over the next five years resulting in the GNI per capita level of US$15,690 by 2020. The macro-economic assumptions underlying this trajectory have been questioned and have not been seen as credible. Scholars have highlighted that the plan begins by failing to acknowledge the shortfalls in projected growth targets...

The PAS purge of the progressives

Taken from Malaysiakini.com The results have definitely spoken – the progressive, national-oriented pro-Pakatan Rakyat faction inside PAS has been wiped out from leadership positions in all of the party organs. The outcome was not unexpected, but the ugliness of the muktamar even surpassed the nastiness of the vicious campaign before the polls. The implications of this outcome will deepen the ongoing divisions of the opposition, effectively severing Pakatan irreparably and empowering Umno. This outcome was exactly what Umno wanted and assisted in with its infiltration of PAS. Ironically the electoral sweep by party leader Abdul Hadi Awang and his ulama hatchet men will feed into the continued leadership crisis within Umno. With Pakatan fractured, schisms and splits within Umno also deepen. In short, the results of the PAS elections have contributed to Malaysia’s ongoing political crisis across the political divide and highlighted the deficit in quality national leadership to address the challenges ordinary Malaysians face. The blame game has already begun. There are many at fault – PAS leaders from both factions, Umno, DAP and more. Labels of ‘losers’ and frustrations are likely to rise, as the noise of Malaysian politics gets louder with internal pettiness that serves to disenchant...

PAS moving to the dark side

Taken from Malaysiakini.com As PAS prepares for the most divisive and decisive muktamar in its history next week, serious questions are being asked about the Islamic party’s direction. The media has focused heavily on the troubled relationship with Pakatan Rakyat, with the frayed relationship between DAP and PAS over hudud taking centre stage. Others have focused their analyses on PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang who has brought the party to its current state. The issues go much deeper than personality and policy differences – they go to the core of PAS as a religious political party, revealing that PAS is losing its moral foundation. The 61st muktamar election will determine whether PAS will move to the dark side, namely further away from the principles and integrity that has given the Islamic party a comparative advantage in winning support from Malaysians. Moral decay The crass fight for power and position within the party and for leadership of the opposition has revealed a pattern among PAS contenders of ignoring the adage “the means is as important as the ends”. In the past two years, we have witnessed lying, deception, personal and physical attacks from PAS that sharply deviate from decency. The gamut...

Pmtg Pauh, Rompin – markers of political future

Taken from Malaysiakini.com The dominant theme of Permatang Pauh and Rompin has been one of negativity. On one level this is not a surprise, given that the circumstances surrounding both by-elections are grim. In one, a man in his prime lost his life in a helicopter crash, and in another a man was put behind bars in an attempt to crush the opposition. Rather than act as a catalyst to bring positive change, the campaigns have been mired in the muck. We have witnessed base gutter politics in Umno’s vulgar sexual innuendo campaigning. We have seen persistent attacks on politicians (including their wives) across the political divide in Malaysia’s ‘destruction’ mode of politics. The prominence of sabotage and division has overshadowed sensibility and dignity. Despite all of this, there are important markers at stake in these contests and in Malaysia’s electoral landscape. Najib needs strong victory The outcome of these by-elections will affect the country’s national leadership. In Permatang Pauh, a victory for PKR’s Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail will likely move her into the opposition leadership position, at least in the short-term. This is despite the obstacles she faces from those within the ranks of Pakatan Rakyat, and even...

Najib’s taxing problem: The politics of Malaysia’s GST

Taken from New Mandala. As Malaysians rally in protest in Kuala Lumpur, it is clear that the April 1st introduction of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) has changed Malaysia’s political landscape. In the last few months the Najib administration has significantly redefined the rights of citizens, reducing freedoms while simultaneously adding to their responsibilities. Valuable analyses have focused on the worrying changes in the rule of law, particularly the political use and legal expansion of sedition and the negative implications of potentially introducing hudud, but less attention has centered on the measure that arguably directly affects more people, the GST. This tax is highly contested and has the potential to serve as a catalyst for further conflict in Malaysia’s already increasingly fractious polity. For Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, the GST has emerged as his policy Achilles Heel that has the potential to undermine his leadership. Politically-Loaded Interpretations There are three interrelated issues that underscore why the GST is so divisive and damaging. This first of which is the polarizing views of the tax itself. Based on the results of Asia Barometer Survey late last year (detailed below), Malaysians were evenly divided over the GST even before it was...
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