Experts rate year-old Anwar administration


Ravin Palanisamy Noel Achariam Desmond Davidson

Observers say Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s unity government has made inroads in education, health and national unity. – Facebook pic, November 24, 2023.

PRIME Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s unity government continues to work to improve the country a year after coming to power, observers said.

They said in the one year, Anwar’s government has made inroads in education, health and national unity.

But the jury is still out on the status of press freedom under the unity coalition.

Education

Ikram economic prosperity cluster and public policy consultant head Mohammad Abdul Hamid said it is too short of a period for the unity government to make an impact but they are moving in the right direction.

He said the immediate concern is addressing pockets of youth being influenced by extreme teachings of Islam.

“Education has to play a role here. I think this is what the government was intending to achieve when it launched a module on the 40 hadis earlier this year.

“Education continues to receive the highest budget funding. What is proving inadequate is funding for R&D (research & development) to serve the needs of the country’s economic growth and social needs,” he said.

He said the education system needs to be agile and dynamic, keeping up with the realities of modern times.

“Students’ attention span is limited, exacerbated by distractions from social media. Our educators need to be equipped with the necessary tools to address these challenges. Classroom learning is still relevant, but innovations are a must.”

Mohammad added that inequality in education and inclusivity should be urgently addressed.

“Attention must be given to rural schools, urban poor and disabled children. The government must also reduce education gaps in terms of resources and the quality between elite schools (boarding schools) and regular schools, and between schools in the rural and urban areas.

“More should be done to improve social cohesion and national unity through our education system.”

The Malaysian Medical Association says there has been some progress on the issue of contract doctors with the government’s commitment of 12,800 permanent positions over three years, and increased public private collaboration in managing the nation’s health. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 24, 2023.

Health

Malaysian Medical Association Dr Azizan Abdul Aziz said there has been some progress in the health sector under Anwar’s leadership.

However, he said there are several issues that are yet to be resolved.

“There has been some progress on the issue of contract doctors with the government’s commitment of 12,800 permanent positions over three years. We are also seeing increased public private collaboration in managing the nation’s health.

“However, issues like overcrowding, maldistribution of healthcare workers, lack of transparency in selection criteria for permanent posts, rising cases of non-communicable diseases, shortage in specialists, limited rural healthcare services, low remuneration and on-call allowance, burnout, toxic work culture, bullying and brain drain can be addressed more effectively,” the president of the largest doctors group in the country said.

Azizan said most of the issues mentioned are human resource related which need increased engagement with stakeholders and for some of the good suggestions put forward to be adopted and practiced.

Some of the suggestions proposed by the MMA such as ways to improve work culture does not even require allocations to implement, she said.

Azizan also pointed out that they are not seeing any follow-up on the implementation of reforms in line with the Health White Paper.

“Hospitals are still overcrowded, underfunded and healthcare workers are still overworked and underpaid.

“We understand that some of the reforms may require funding and more planning. However, the ministry can identify certain reforms that can be put into practice immediately, without the need for funding or major changes in policy.

“There should be a master plan for reforms with milestones set to ensure we are on track,” she added.

Azizan said the government must follow through with the Health White Paper.

“We aren’t seeing this at the moment. If they are working on it, the public, as taxpayers, should be updated and kept informed,” she said.

In Budget 2024, a hefty RM41.22 billion was allocated to the Health Ministry, which is 10.5% of the total budget announced by Anwar. This is an an increase of RM4.9 billion or 13.5% from the RM36.3 billion that was allocated under Budget 2023.

This is the biggest increase of funding among ministries and is also the biggest percentage of increase for the MOH’s budget since 2014.  

National unity

Former Sabah assemblyman James Ligunjang said there had been changes to national unity under the Anwar administration.

“In terms of national unity, the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led government made efforts to promote inclusivity and bridge the ethnic and religious divides in Malaysia.

“They implemented policies to protect and uphold the rights of all Malaysian citizens, regardless of their background.

“This approach aimed to promote a sense of belonging and unity among Malaysians and reduced any feelings of marginalisation or discrimination.”

Former Sabah assemblyman James Ligunjang says the Pakatan Harapan-led government made efforts to promote inclusivity and bridge the ethnic and religious divides in Malaysia. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 24, 2023.

He said the government also took steps to increase representation and inclusivity in decision-making processes.

“For example, the appointment of a deputy prime minister from the Borneo states and the establishment of the Council of Eminent Persons from various ethnicities, religions, and professions, enabling a broader range of voices and perspectives to be considered.”

However International Islamic University Malaysia’s political science lecturer Tunku Mohar Tunku Mohd Mokhtar said in terms of national unity, it has been difficult for the government to create much impact because of a strong Malay-based opposition.

“Instead of focusing on national unity, the government seems to have to defend the accusation that it ignored or did little for the Malays.”

Press freedom

Gerakan Media Merdeka’s (Geramm) spokesman Radzi Razak hopes that the long-awaited Malaysian Media Council (MMC) will be established next year.

He said that to its credit, the Communications and Digital Ministry is trying to make the MMC a reality.

“As part of the protem committee I could see that they are serious in their engagements.”

The MMC bill is expected to be tabled in parliament in March.

Radzi, however, was not pleased with Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission’s (MCMC) action against news portals without transparency.

Radzi said this had happened in the past year with various portals such as Malaysia Now, TV Pertiwi, Utusan.TV and others being harassed.

“We are not saying MCMC should not do that (take action), but it needs to be transparent. Give reason to what they have done wrong and not just ban them and let people find out later without justification.”

He also said the government should explain what it is doing to prevent the issues of race, religion and royalty (3Rs) from exploitation.

“We realise there is a need to curb some content that encompasses issues like 3Rs, but the government must justify its blocking of websites, especially online news portals.

“Otherwise this government is just like any of the previous governments.”

He added that the government must not stifle media freedom.

“So, the government should do what it takes to ensure the people – especially those who want to believe in the government’s promise of integrity, transparency and support of media freedom – see the changes.”

On press freedom, Sabah’s Ligunjang said the PH-led government was engaged with the media and encouraged open dialogue.

“Press conferences became more frequent, allowing journalists to ask critical questions and hold the government accountable. This shift in attitude towards the press improved transparency and the flow of information.”

He, however, said that despite the positive changes, there have been instances of journalists and media organisations being curtailed.

“There have been notable advancements and changes, however, it is important to continue monitoring and addressing any ongoing challenges to ensure that these positive changes persist and further progress is made.”

Tunku Mohar said while the government guarantees press freedom, some of its actions show otherwise.

“The government must be more balanced and not place too many restrictions on press freedom when it takes action against media outlets that it alleges are spreading disinformation.” –  November 24, 2023.


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Comments


  • Introducing hadith teachings in national schools is not improvement. Removing religion from is.

    Posted 6 months ago by Alphonz Jayaraman · Reply