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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Not yet time for GE14

Writer believes Umno leaders will need a little more time to fix the economy and politics before finalising the date for the next general election.
COMMENT
general-election
By Lim Sue Goan
More and more people are believing that the next general election (GE14) will not be held this year, because Umno leaders are still troubled by a host of political and economic issues while the general public still lack a “feel good” sense.
Among the political headaches include the strong backlash from follow-up developments of the 1MDB scandal, the FGV crisis that will hurt the fundamental support base of Felda settlers, and the ambiguous attitudes of Malay voters.
The United States Department of Justice’s (DoJ) latest court filing has been detrimental to Umno in two ways: the RM2.6 billion and the mention of “wife of Malaysian Official 1” for a total of 13 times.
Umno leaders are now attempting to describe the DoJ’s action as intervention by foreign forces and as a political conspiracy linked to the opposition.
The Malay media only reported the Umno ministers’ denial and counter-attacks, and we have no way of knowing how much actual information has reached the village folks.
However, urban folks are more open to a variety of information sources and the DoJ’s move is poised to leave a negative mark on Barisan Nasional’s electoral preparations in cities and towns.
Meanwhile, the Felda Global Ventures (FGV) issue will not likely be resolved in a short time by replacing the chairman.
Prime Minister Najib Razak appointed Telekom Malaysia chairman Sulaiman Mahbob as FGV acting chairman, while former FGV chairman Isa Samad is now acting chairman of the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD).
Obviously, this is a form of political compromise, as the Umno leadership is concerned about possible backlash from the grassroots by removing Isa, given the fact that Isa is the Jempol MP in Negeri Sembilan.
Such an arrangement will avert a possible conflict, but what should come first is the feelings of the people and not pushing the problem from one institution to another.
What about the destiny of the four senior FGV executives? Will FGV’s business improve within a year?
MACC must also clarify on the allegations of internal corruption within FGV as well as CEO Zakaria Arshad’s accusation against the board of directors.
The biggest problem in the country’s economy lies with the fact that the people do not feel the robust economic expansion (5.6% growth in the first quarter) but are instead burdened by the constant rising prices that have taken a heavy toll on the purchasing power of the lower and middle income groups.
The government received a total of RM41.2 billion in GST from consumers’ pockets last year, resulting in a cash crunch in the market.
Shockingly, the customs department’s also wanted to impose GST on more than 60 food items under seven categories with effect from July 1. Fortunately, the decision has been reversed.
The department may have had the intention of imposing GST on food items as a result of less than satisfactory tax collection this year. Nevertheless, potato, maize, noodles, etc, are everyday items and the department has seriously lacked political sensitivity in this matter.
Even civil servants who have been well taken care of by the government are feeling the pinch, affecting their confidence towards BN.
I personally feel that Umno leaders will need a little more time to fix the economy and politics before finalising the election date.
Firstly, the 60th Merdeka celebration and SEA Games will help dilute the negative sentiment while the mega projects begin to take form, including the MRT and East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) projects which make perfect subjects for BN propaganda.
The visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma in October is also expected to bring some good news, including a possible breakthrough in the KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail project and the participation of 1,500 SMEs in the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ).
Najib is also expected to introduce people-friendly measures when tabling the 2018 Budget on Oct 27.
That said, BN is encountering funding problems in creating that “feel good” atmosphere. It needs cash to launch its political propaganda and implement economic stimulation measures.
Najib is a very cautious, risk-averse man. The loss of more seats by British PM Theresa May in a hastily conducted election should serve as a warning.
Given the fact political and economic developments have not progressed as anticipated, it is very likely that Najib will once again wait until the last minute before dissolving Parliament.
To us, it will be another long wait ahead.
Lim Sue Goan is deputy executive chief editor of Sin Chew Daily.

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