KUALA LUMPUR, April 2 — As Barisan Nasional (BN) prepares to unveil its manifesto for the upcoming election, Malaysians talk about what government policies they want for a better life.
Filtering out the media hype and noise, elections, and by that extension democracy, have and will always be about the person on the street.
From the father of two who taps rubber so his children can get a university degree, the single factory worker mother saving up for a home to call her own, or the young urban dweller who wants better public transit, these are real people with real struggles.
So Malay Mail spoke to 30 Malaysians around the country — professionals, civil servants, blue collar workers, farmers, business owners — and asked them what they wanted or expected in return for their vote in the 14th general election.
As expected, the diversity in expectations was astounding — some had lofty ideals like free speech, while there were those who just wanted simple things like better roads. And naturally, many wanted a stronger economy and better standards of living.
Here’s what they had to say:
Shaminah Junid, 27, mother — Subang Jaya
I want improved healthcare. Our local clinics are poor and not enough money to buy certain medications for serious illnesses. I’m not talking in terms of our doctors’ skills though. We have amazing doctors. I’m talking about facilities. Everything’s dated. I went through hell throughout my pregnancy going to the ‘klinik kesihatan’ for my checkups.
Lina Farid, 27, copywriter — Kajang
I (don't like the) Anti-Fake News Bill, which will probably lead to an authoritarian government. They should stop imposing these laws on us. Seems like we may become like China on day
And what about higher income? It's too low for the cost of living now. Housing? Can it be like Singapore? Every Malaysian will get a house.
Chin Lin Zhan, 24, Management consultant analyst — Putrajaya
When I started my first employment, I found traffic to be a real mood killer. The negative health effects of traffic have been well-documented and we can solve health, mental and environmental issues through improvements of the roads system. I’d like the next government to be more aggressive on embracing technologies like Artificial Intelligence to improve traffic. I want Malaysia to be the leader of this movement and harness the digital potential in traffic management.
Lokman Ahmad Yaacob, 34, civil servant — Johor Baru
The BN government must provide better structured national healthcare services for Malaysians and improved welfare for the poor or elderly nationwide. Overall, healthcare in government facilities is not as good as before as patients now need to purchase high-costing items and poor people are still on our streets.
Mock Ahmad, 32, motorcycle sales advisor — Batu Pahat
The BN government must make a serious effort in reducing the import and excise taxes of imported vehicles to make them affordable. Restructuring and tweaking the current rates would help the end consumer and also make Malaysia more competitive. At present, our taxes on vehicles are high compared to other Asean-bloc countries.
Mohamad Nadzri Mohd Yasin, 26, motorcycle technician —Tebrau
For the next GE, the BN government should look at maintaining the current road infrastructure, both for highways and also state roads. With the current increase in vehicles, the damage to roads are a yearly affair. The government must increase their road maintenance allocation and the usage of better quality materials.
Umi Nadrah Abd Wahab, 33, sales administrator — Tebrau
The BN government needs to seriously look into the water supply issues in Felda settlements nationwide. The problem has been a persistent and long standing issue for most Felda settlers. It is strange that the Felda settlements that are affected are located near natural water catchment areas.
Margaret Er, 59, tour guide — Johor Baru
If BN manages to retain the country as the next government, they should prioritise improving or boosting the economy by placing several measures. We should be able to do better as a developing country.
Edwin Tan Tjin Shuen, 21, law student — Perak
The policy that our state should focus on should be one of revamping the English subject curriculum. The literature module is extremely shallow as compared to six years back.
As for a more macro policy, our state should focus on having more proactive campaigns to teach its citizens how to invest in stocks, considering that it is a good way to earn a passive income.
GL Mavesha Shalny, 28, tuition teacher — Manjoi, Tambun
I hope the government will extend the maternity leave to six months for both government and private sector. The current 90 days’ maternity leave is not enough for the mothers to take care of their babies.
Hajar Anira Nik Alnuve, 29, cashier — Ayer Kuning, Tapah
I want the government to abolish the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Most of the people are suffering due to the tax implementation. Everyone has to pay GST no matter if they are employed or unemployed. When they buy something, it has GST.
R. Ramesh, 43, taxi driver — Chenderiang, Tapah
If Barisan Nasional became the federal government, I want them to give more business opportunities to the minorities in the country. Most of the Indians, especially the ones who are unemployed, face difficulties to start a business. They could not get the fund or loan to start their business as they don’t have much resources.
Muhamad Azhar Tajuddin, 33, civil servant — Hulu Kinta, Tambun
I want the government to give free education for all the students who are pursuing tertiary educations. If countries like Germany, France and Sweden could do it, then I believe we also could do it.
Liu Fat, 69, photo studio owner — Ayer Kuning, Tapah
I want the government to provide quality health services, which have sufficient medical supplies. Some government clinics don't have certain type of medicines. Sometimes, we have to wait about one or two months to get the supplies. Not everyone can afford to buy those medicines in private pharmacy.
Balasingan Rishnan, 67, retiree — Serkam, Jasin
I hope the government would do more to help small businesses in rural areas and distribute financial help more evenly across all races. There is less work opportunity in rural areas. So if the government could provide more, it would really help.
Aziz Abdul Ghani, 43, business owner — Serkam, Jasin
I want to see more development programmes focusing on the youth in semi-urban and rural areas so that the kids would have a better sense of future planning, instead of wasting their youth away jumping from one menial job to another. Give rural kids the same opportunity that urban kids get.
Teh Yil Seng, 68, mechanic — Sg Rambai, Jasin
I wish the government would lower the goods and services tax on motor vehicles spare parts because it is really taking a toll on my already dying business. Operating a workshop at a semi-rural area is challenging. When there is a high GST, it makes things hard because clients here do not understand and still would want to bargain prices, so I have to charge really low for service.
Abu Bakar Osman, 63, retiree — Gemas, Tampin
If you ask me, there’s nothing I would particularly wish in this kampung. Maybe the government can help draft some programme for our small time entrepreneurs here. We have good young minds here. If there’s a programme that can tap their potentials, it could work wonders.
Seripah Manap, 60, principal at a religious school — Tampin
All my seven children who are considered the younger generation here are also satisfied with BN. I don’t have any particular wish. I like my life here.
Serena Chan Wai Ling, 19, law student — Seremban
Most people around me who have already turned 21 and above aren’t bothered with voting in elections, hence, not registering to vote. I believe there should be a policy making it mandatory for people who have just turned 21 to vote for the first time.
I believe minimum wages should be set according to areas in Malaysia. KL is obviously a great example for a place that has a higher living cost than, say, Kelantan for instance. The higher the living cost in an area, the higher the minimum wage should be set at.
Wong Pey Herng, 29, marketing officer for investment company — Penampang
Come up with better solutions for a collapsing economy, treat east Malaysia fairly, build more infrastructure, attract more investors to east Malaysia. Other than that, where is the proof of abolishing the cabotage policy? Price of goods is still more expensive than west Malaysia.
I’d prefer BR1M (Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia) money went to building schools, invest in healthcare and education. Educated citizens will be able to better help in shaping up the economy.
Dinoza Mahruf, 41, entrepreneur — Kota Kinabalu
I want more platforms for youths to be able to better contribute to the economy and enter into the working environment. There needs to be more effort to equip them with useful and real world relevant skills. Currently there are platforms like E-usahawan and E-rezeki, for people to earn money from online businesses. It’s a good start but it can’t stop there.
Euphrasia Fung, 35, hotelier — Kota Kinabalu
I think the government should focus on improving the basic infrastructure of the country like having consistent clean water supply, electricity and public transportation. Let's not talk about the kampungs; even in the city there is no consistency for water and electricity supply for 365 days. Without proper basic necessities and infrastructures in proper place, there is no point talking about other things.
Ronnie Ting, 31, coffee shop owner — Penampang
I think the government needs to realise that Sabah and Sarawak are different from West Malaysia. The income difference is wide and prices of most things — cars, housing, necessary goods — are more expensive, but the average income is lower. As a business owner, we were severely affected by the implementation of GST and even though many items are excluded, we still end up paying up to 30 per cent more for most things. Please do something to regulate prices better.
Agnes Tugong, 32, private sector employee — Lundu
I would like the federal government to reduce, if it can't abolish, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) because it causes burdens to the people, including those in the rural areas. I would also ask the government to re-introduce subsidies on cooking oil and petroleum products to bring down the cost of living, which is also experienced by the rural communities.
Christopher Bishop, 46, private sector employee — Kuching
I would like to see the eroded state's rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 to be restored to us as soon as possible. Though the negotiations have started over the last three to four years, the progress has been slow. I would like to see Sarawak having autonomy over education, health, and internal security.
Bobby William, 50, former government servant — Kampung Temudok, Sri Aman
I would like the BN government to complete the construction of Sri Hospital. The progress has been rather slow. I recall Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had made the announcement to build a new hospital for Sri Aman in 2008, but so far not much has been done. I would also like to see the stateless people in the remote areas of Sarawak be given the citizenship. It is not their fault that they are stateless.
Achong Tenggu, 49, farmer — Kampung Telagus, Balai Ringgin, Sri Aman
I want the federal ministry of rural and regional development to provide treated water supply to my longhouse and other surrounding longhouses. This is a basic thing we want because all this while, we are depending on water from the gravity feed. We hope that the BN federal government would consider our request which we have submitted a long time ago.
Aderly Gon, 47, farmer — Betong town
I don't have much to request from the BN government, but we do ask the government to respect our rights to elect our own community leaders, like the longhouse headmen. We don't want the government to replace our elected headmen with those picked by the government officers. This has been going on for years, causing split in the longhouses because the people don't accept the government-appointed headmen.