For the first time in 2008, the federal opposition pact entered the state of Selangor as the ruling government in Malaysian history. The federal opposition pact was not chosen on the basis of experience (they had none)-they were chosen purely for the message of hope and change they symbolised as a movement. Messenger and message were inseparable and the federal opposition pact was a mirror in which millions of Malaysians saw their aspirations reflected: transparency and accountability.
With the federal opposition pact governing the state of Selangor from 2008 until recently, policy competition became a thing to watch. This was one of the major gains for Malaysia as a democracy. In 2008, the federal opposition pact took Selangor in the midst of a global financial crisis when governments everywhere were pumping huge sums into their respective economies. The federal government of Malaysia did the same thing. The result was that the national debt as a percentage of GDP surged to 52.8 per cent. In response to this, the Selangor government helmed by the federal opposition pact has sought to successfully balance austerity measures and spending on people-centric policies.
As a measure of austerity to counteract the effects of unchecked federal government spending at the national level, the Selangor government since 2008 seized upon the opportunity to improve the management of state resources, efficient collection of overdue arrears and stricter use of state assets. This resulted in the Selangor government registering its highest state reserves in 30 years in 2017-a record-breaking RM 3.24 billion up from RM 1.4 billion in 2008 an increase of 153.4%. According to Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, the increase in state reserves was due to good governance centred on the principles of integrity, accountability, openness and transparency, and not because of the previous federal government administration of Selangor. “The records of the Selangor state government prove that between 1999 and 2007, Selangor-state reserves declined by 22.6% that is from RM 1.79 billion to RM 1.38 billion. This means that for a period of nine years of federal government administration, the Selangor state reserves declined by about RM 405 million,” explained Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali in his concluding speech on the Selangor State Budget 2017 on the 3rd of November 2017.
The Selangor state government also improved their reserves by placing a strong emphasis on developing the state economy on a higher-level plane in recognition of the demand for high-quality performance-based services. For 2016, Selangor’s GDP rose to RM 251.6 billion making up 22.7 percent of the national GDP compared to RM 240 billion or 22.6% for the previous year. This achievement was followed in 2017 where the services sector in Selangor contributed 59.7% to the state GDP while the manufacturing sector contributed 28.8%. As a result, Selangor maintained its position as the prime destination for investors.
Selangor continues to attract major and high technology investments from developed nations. The overall investment potential to being negotiated is expected to be finalised at a value of up to RM 404.5 million involving the aerospace, automotive, as well as electrical and electronic industries. For 2018, the Selangor state government will allocate a total of RM 25 million for activities and programs planned by Invest Selangor including investment missions.
Among the exciting foreign investments lined up by the Selangor state government include IKEA Supply (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd., a Swedish company which will build a regional distribution and supply chain centre for the Asia Pacific region in Pulau Indah with a gross development value of RM 1 billion. This centre is the third largest in the world after Chicago and Düsseldorf.
Last month, the Selangor government succeeded in drawing the interest of the Boston-based conglomerate General Electric International via GE Engine Services Malaysia which is involved in Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul (MRO) activities to extend their new investment worth RM 200 million in order to enhance its facilities capabilities for the maintenance of leap engines in Subang. This investment will make the centre into the first ever such facility for leap engine maintenance outside Cincinnati. This will further attract new investments from international airlines to invest in Subang. In addition, Baker Hughes (BHGE), a company owned by General Electric International will build an MRO facility for the maintenance of oil and gas turbines valued at RM 200 million in Klang. This centre will provide services to the Asia Pacific market.
Besides Selangor’s confidence of its capability and integrity in delivering high-performance based services to support the infrastructure of foreign investments, the Selangor government has been increasingly dedicating financial resources to the democratisation process, which includes empowerment of communities and maintenance of transparency and accountability standards which were not done by the previous federal government administration of Selangor. In 2016, Selangor introduced the Smart Selangor Initiative which will cover 12 domains such as Governance, Waste Management, Digital Infrastructure, Transport and Mobility, Energy, Water, Healthcare, Education, Food and Agriculture, Disaster Management, Building, and Security. According to Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, whose speech was read by State Education, Human Capital Development, Science, Technology and Innovation committee Chairman Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, the blueprint is a roadmap towards a more sustainable economic growth for Selangor.
“This strategic pivot will bring about key transformational outcomes to realise Selangor’s smart state aspirations by 2025 and place Selangor as the premier business, travel and living destination, in Southeast Asia. The blueprint is a living implementation framework which will be reviewed periodically to adapt to fast moving smart city dynamics, technologies, and the evolving needs of citizens, businesses and investors.”
Some of these initiatives include:-
KISS to empower mothers in Selangor to manage the family finances,
Skim Peduli Sihat (Healthcare Scheme) for the lower income group who are in need of primary healthcare,
Rumah Selangorku and Skim Smart Sewa (Smart Leasing Scheme) to gain access to quality, comfortable and affordable housing,
Bas Smart Selangorku to encourage the use of public transport that is cheap, fast and comfortable and
IKTISASS for other vocational educational support. It was on the basis of this philosophy that the Selangor government hoped to propel individuals to better themselves through the equipping of knowledge, training and skills development to enhance their capabilities.
A New Hope
It has been 10 years since the federal opposition pact took control of the Selangor government and shaped the lives of the people of Selangor through initiatives that helped them better themselves and enhance their capabilities. What matters more is that these initiatives contributed to the growth of the Selangor economy when most other states in Malaysia have fared much worse.
Yet there is something that seems unassailable, and it goes a long way toward explaining the steady rise in the federal opposition’s pact approval ratings as Malaysians prepare for the upcoming general elections. Despite the initial inexperience, the federal opposition pact has led the way in Selangor by giving a full measure of scandal-free service, a rarity in modern Malaysian politics. As was true at the beginning, it remains true to the end: what the federal opposition pact contributed as the Selangor government contributed from 2008 to 2018 mattered at least as much as the aspirations they reflected of ordinary Malaysians. And from start to finish, for the last 10 years, the Selangor government has lived up to these aspirations by remaining transparent and accountable.