By Amar Shah Mohsen
SHAH ALAM, July 20 — Continuity, excellence and unfinished business — these pretty much encapsulate the argumentation for Dato’ Seri Amirudin Shari to serve another term as Selangor Menteri Besar.
In fact, since the dissolution of the legislative assembly on June 23, there have been silent anticipation, both from within the administration and among the public, that he would be given another shot at leading the country’s most developed state.
Such has been Amirudin’s popularity that a recent survey conducted by Endeavour-MGC found that 71 per cent of Malay voters in the state were satisfied with his performance, while 46 per cent felt he should continue as menteri besar – the highest rating among all candidates.
For many, the logic for retaining Amirudin is simple: Selangor scored some of its finest achievements while he was at the helm.
During this period, the state oversaw significant investments, recorded its highest-ever contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) at 25.5 per cent in 2022, and saw its economy grow by 11.9 per cent the same year.
Additionally, Amirudin’s government also introduced scores of initiatives and welfare programmes for the masses under the Iltizam Selangor Penyayang, benefitting millions in the state.
Any uncertainty over the menteri besar position was finally put to rest when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim confirmed on July 18 that the Sungai Tua incumbent assemblyman would remain as the head of administration in the event of a Harapan victory.
The Pakatan Harapan (Harapan) chairman said this was owing to Selangor’s strong economic performance and track record in attracting investments under Amirudin.
Business to settle
Amirudin has made it clear to the party leadership that he wants another stint in Selangor.
The state Harapan chairman had said in a recent media interview that he wishes to remain the menteri besar to allow him to follow through with the state’s various ongoing development plans and initiatives.
“I believe I have a duty to complete and discharge the plans promised to the people,” he was quoted as saying by Bernama.
Among other things, Amirudin is understood to have expressed his desire to see out the implementation of the five-year First Selangor Plan (RS-1), which he unveiled in July last year, the first of its kind.
The document, which serves as guiding principles for the state in its attempt to reach greater heights, pays special focus towards economic growth, welfare programmes, sustainable development and good governance.
With Selangor also having recorded its highest GDP contribution last year, Amirudin has now set his sights on the state to achieve a 30 per cent annual contribution to the overall country’s economy.
For someone as goal-oriented as Amirudin, it is hard to see him “leaving” his job midway.
Selangor to remain key state
As for observers, the retaining of Amirudin as menteri besar could further propel the state to another level.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) academician Assoc Prof Kartini Aboo Talib predicted that Selangor would continue to play a crucial role in the country’s investment and financial sectors in the next five years, along with the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.
Key to this, she said, would be for Amirudin to focus on ensuring progress and development in the state’s Malay belt, particularly in the upper northern parts of Selangor, rather than just prioritising the central region.
“More infrastructure, facilities and mega projects need to be introduced in the northern areas to redirect the current concentration in the middle and southern regions,” she told Selangor Journal.
Showing cognisance of such needs, Amirudin announced in July last year the development of the Sabak Bernam Development Area (Sabda) as part of RS-1.
The RM1.9 billion project, involving an area of 1,317 hectares, is expected to generate an estimated revenue of RM248 million a year and create 3,600 job opportunities and is projected to increase the state’s GDP output by as much as 30 per cent.
Like Kartini, Universiti Malaya academician Prof Awang Azman Awang Pawi similarly believes the state is expected to record further economic improvements in the coming years under Amirudin’s watch.
Chiefly, he projects Selangor’s GDP contribution to increase within the next half-decade.
“Certainly, to reach 40 or 50 per cent is too much to ask, but I believe that based on the current performance, Selangor can maintain its economic excellence,” he told Selangor Journal.
On what should Amirudin’s focus be in the next five years, Awang Azman said it is incumbent on the menteri besar not to rest on his laurels, particularly considering the successes achieved thus far.
“We know Selangor now contributes 25.5 per cent of the (national) GDP, so it can’t just stop there. It needs to invigorate the economy more.”
Among other things, Awang Azman said Amirudin should focus on improving the delivery and efficiency of state policies.
These include matters concerning the development of affordable housing, traffic congestion and empowering young entrepreneurs.
For the record, Selangor has already taken significant measures to address the aforementioned issues in the past term, including via the implementation of Rumah Selangorku, Smart Selangor free bus service and the Selangor Accelerator Programme that aims to assist startups in the early stage.
However, Awang Azman believes there is still room for improvement.
“Amirudin needs to reevaluate existing policies to look at their efficacies. How far have these initiatives helped targeted groups, and even if they have been successful, how can they be improved?” he added.