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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Think tank tells how PH can restore the spirit of federalism


IDEAS says a review of the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution is recommended for the decentralisation of key policy functions.

PETALING JAYA: A think tank has mooted a review of the Federal Constitution and the restoration of local council elections as ways that the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led government can honour its manifesto pledge to restore the spirit of federalism in the country.
In its policy paper released today, the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) said although Malaysia was formed as a federalism, it became increasingly centralised over the years in administrative and fiscal practices.
The paper is titled “Reviving the Spirit of Federalism: Decentralisation Policy Options for a New Malaysia” and is authored by IDEAS fellow Tricia Yeoh.
A number of key recommendations were contained in the policy, including a review of the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution to decentralise key policy functions.
“This ‘decentralisation review’ would be timely under the new federal government, and will also demonstrate policy commitment to the promises contained within the PH manifesto to revive the spirit of federalism,” it said.
It added that PH had in its manifesto vowed to give state governments the authority to govern public transportation, social welfare, social services, agriculture, and environmental protection.
“Other policy functions such as education may also be worth exploring, in addition to these policy functions as described in the manifesto.”
Another policy recommendation is for states to form their own civil service, similar to the practice in Johor which allows the state to recruit, train, pay and promote its own civil servants.
This includes senior civil servants such as the state secretary, state financial officer, legal adviser and heads of key departments such as the state economic planning units.
“Smaller states like Perlis and Kedah that may not have the capability to pay their own civil servants can either form joint civil service agencies, or continue to rely on a scaled-down version of the federal civil service.”
This recommendation, IDEAS said, would give states greater autonomy in hiring and firing their own civil servants.
It also said the restoration of local council elections is vital to realise democratic governance in its “true form” through greater transparency, accountability, competence and elective representation at the grassroots level.
IDEAS also proposed that states receive the proceeds of consumption tax so that they can enjoy greater access to financial resources, which would be key to funding state-run operational functions.
“For real decentralisation to take place meaningfully, there must also be the financial ability for states to do so.
“Second, with greater autonomy, states would no longer have to depend on natural resources as their sole source of income,” it said.
administrative appointments to prevent disagreements or conflicts arising from these appointments.
“If either party disagrees with the nominated individual, the appointment should not take place. Another individual should be put forward as the recommended name for the said position.”
IDEAS said it hoped the parliamentary select committee on federal-state relations would consider its recommendations and initiate public discussions with interested parties on the matter. - FMT

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