Malaysians blame political instability for their woes

by HARIZAH KAMEL / pic by ARIF KARTONO

A NEW study by local think tank EMIR Research found that many Malaysians are attributing their socio-economic setbacks to the country’s ongoing political crisis rather than the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report found that the discussants across various focus group discussions (FGDs) does not attribute the pandemic for their woes as they see it as something unfavourable but temporary.

Political instability, however, was viewed as the main aggravator for their problems as many said the precious time spent on elite politicking could have been used to offer solutions to help the people instead.

“There was a lot of political drama that was happening at the time the FGDs were conducted. There was the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government brought about by the resignation of the then Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamed in February, along with Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin pulling out Bersatu from the PH coalition,” the report read.

The findings were released as part of its latest qualitative research in the form of FGDs that were conducted in July this year titled “Pulse FromThe Ground Qualitative Research Third Quarter 2020”.

President and CEO Datuk Dr Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff said the purpose of the FGDs was to solicit primary data from the ground that resonates with the pulse of the rakyat.

“The FGD, therefore, encapsulates data that comes straight from the citizens’ mouth, honestly and transparently with their anonymity protected,” he said in a statement last Friday.

This finding was supported by a news report on Sept 30, when international rating agency, Fitch Solutions Inc, anticipated that local politics would blunt the country’s economic growth for the next decade.

Combined with slower population growth and reduced fiscal space to cushion against negative future economic shocks, Fitch predicts real GDP growth to be at just 3.4% over the next 10 years compared to 6.4% over the past decade.

However, the study by EMIR Research showed that discussants shared the belief that the country may have witnessed an even severe set of problems if the change of power did not take place in March.

“Many discussants said the country is in better and more capable hands under the current government. This relates to their appraisal of the government’s actions in dealing with the pandemic such as closing the country’s borders, distributing aid packages that include cash-assistance, deferred loan repayments and deducted rentals, among others,” it said.

The study found that fixed financial responsibilities created critical problems for many discussants on all levels, as household incomes shrink dramatically during the Movement Control Order (MCO).

This is where the discussants unanimously praised the government for their swift actions in imposing a moratorium on loan repayments.

It added that while many Malaysians initially expressed discontent over the implementation of the MCO, they later saw it as an opportunity for a new digitalised economy to emerge.

Overall, the discussants said the pandemic has acted as a moment of truth for humanity at large and Malaysia specifically because it exposed many socio-economic weaknesses that the country has.

“These weaknesses include an over-reliance on imports in many industries such as agriculture and an over-dependence on oil exports. They also include the general lack of savings by the public and a general under-preparedness for e-learning and e-commerce,” the report concluded.