KUALA LUMPUR, April 22 — Public discontent with the Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration is gradually rising as Malaysians become increasingly distressed with the state of the economy, according to an Invoke survey.
In the survey commissioned by Malay Mail, 62 per cent respondents polled in February said they were dissatisfied with the country’s economic situation, sharply higher from 49 per cent in July 2020.
Those who said they were satisfied consequently declined from 41 per cent in July last year to 32 per cent in February.
“When compared to the 50-50 split that [Barisan Nasional] faced on the eve of [the 14th general election], there can be only one conclusion — PN is in trouble.
“The ruling coalition's attempts to resuscitate the economy have understandably been impacted by the second and third Covid-19 waves.
“However, for as long as the PN government is unable to oversee an economic turnaround, it will be saddled with the stigma of failing to alleviate economic hardship — on a level far surpassing BN’s prior to GE14,’’ said the survey.
The Invoke survey, titled “Uncharted Territory”, polled 7,860 registered voters between December 18, 2020 and February, 21, 2021.
The survey was commissioned with two overall objectives: to gauge voter sentiments six months after the formation of the unelected PN government and to measure resentment over the “subversion of the people’s mandate.’’
PN took over as the federal government after the Pakatan Harapan administration collapsed following the defection of Bersatu, the lynchpin of the current ruling coalition.
Concurrently, the survey also polled 500 voters respectively in six different constituencies: Gombak, Hang Tuah Jaya, Johor Baru, Seremban, Tanjong Malim, and Wangsa Maju.
Aside from dissatisfaction with the current state, the survey also unearthed significant pessimism on the economy going forward.
Fewer than one in three respondents polled in February expected the economy to improve by next year versus 27 per cent who believed otherwise; 43 per cent said they were uncertain.
The decline in confidence was marked compared to July last year, when nearly half of respondents said they were optimistic about Malaysia’s economic prospects. Then, just 17 per cent felt the situation would deteriorate and 38 per cent were unsure.
“A lack of optimism in one thing, but following the MCO2.0 and the Emergency, there was also a sharp increase in the number of voters who outright believed that the economy would not be better over the coming year. This trend continues into February 2021,’’ said the survey.
On January 13, the government announced that it would implement a second movement control order, dubbed MCO2.0, following a spike in Covid-19 cases.
A day earlier, the country was also placed under a state of Emergency on the grounds that the government needed extraordinary measures to tackle the Covid-19 situation.
Separate from the survey, three prominent economists including Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) research adviser Professor Jomo Kwame Sundaram recently warned that the continuation of the Emergency would erode investor confidence in Malaysia.
They also urged the government to shun lockdowns such as the MCO to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, saying such measures caused disproportionately greater harm to the economy than any benefits gained in controlling Covid-19.
In findings that corroborated this advice, 45 per cent of respondents told Invoke in December that they directly knew at least one person who lost their job during the first MCO in March 2020.
In February this or a month after MCO 2.0 was implemented, 43 per cent of respondents said they knew of at least one person who became unemployed as a result, suggesting that the second lockdown was almost as economically devastating as the first despite being more lax.
“Overall, it is telling that at least two-fifth of the national voting population have witnessed the economic ill-effects of the MCO hitting people they care about first-hand. This makes the ongoing economic uncertainty feel a lot more real, and the political stakes much higher,’’ said the survey.
MCO 2.0 had appeared to contain Malaysia’s “third wave” of Covid-19 infections but new cases have begun rising again and have now climbed above the 2,000-case mark just days before May, when the government had targeted for case numbers to drop below 500 daily.