Malaysia

For BN, EIU says GE13 already in the bag

Najib is seeking a strong personal mandate to continue pushing his reforms. — File picNajib is seeking a strong personal mandate to continue pushing his reforms. — File picKUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 — The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which is part of the respected London-based magazine, “The Economist”, predicts that the Barisan Nasional (BN) will win the 13th General Election (GE13) based on its successful track record, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s reform agenda and his successful economic leadership.

For international observers, the outcome of the upcoming polls is already clear, that the BN will be victorious, the EIU said.

It also said the opposition Pakatan Rakyat has been making “costly promises” to gain power, and these were a big stumbling block.

On all these counts, Pakatan Rakyat comes a distant second, prompting the EIU to predict BN will be the winner.

The EIU, a think-tank which offers regular country, industry and risk analysis, said that “it is clearly not feasible” for Pakatan to implement all of its campaign promises.

“For example, providing free secondary education would cost the government RM43 billion, while abolishing car duty would cut tax revenue by RM4.6 billion a year,” it said.

The EIU pointed out that Pakatan had broken many of its earlier promises, including financial assistance for pre-school education, for university students, senior citizens and the disabled; free healthcare for those over 65; lower property taxes; and assistance for home buyers.

On all these counts, Pakatan’s populism has remained just hot air.

In Selangor, for example, BN claimed that Pakatan has implemented only 15 per cent of its 31 election pledges, RM2.4 billion worth, made in its 2008 general election manifesto.

“Selangor Mentri Besar (Tan Sri Abdul) Khalid Ibrahim commented that a manifesto is not a promise but conceded that voters may think otherwise,” the EIU noted.

Compared this with BN’s successful track record in fulfilling its promises, and you have a clear difference in approach.

For instance, Najib has promised Penang 20,000 affordable houses and a monorail service to ease traffic congestion, and if BN comes to power in the state, voters can be sure that these plans would be implemented.

“The stakes are high for both (BN and Pakatan)... the bidding war is likely to continue as both sides make preparations for what is being billed as one of the hardest-fought elections in Malaysia’s history,” the report said.

“Both will need to appeal to young, first-time voters, given that nearly three million people in this crucial voting bloc have been added to the electoral register since the last election,” it added.

The EIU claimed the “bulk of this group” was undecided about which party to vote for and could swing the outcome of the election.

Najib needed to win big in order to secure the future of his reform agenda, while on the other hand, Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim wanted to be the first to break the BN’s stranglehold on power.

Meanwhile, Umno is upbeat with only weeks left for the polls, as Najib said the party machinery was in the final stages of its preparations.

“We have received the audit report on our machinery and from there I can say our preparations are satisfying. At the same time, I hope the efforts to strengthen our preparations will continue to be carried out by leaders at the state level,” he told reporters after the Umno supreme council meeting last Friday.

Najib, who is also Umno president and BN chairman, made the selection of winnable candidates the focus of his strategy, making it clear that the BN should field candidates with the best chance of winning, regardless of which BN component party had kept the seats previously.

Another key reason for the ruling coalition’s strong morale is the “gravity defying” growth of 5.2 per cent that the country is enjoying under Najib’s leadership, along with a jump in domestic and foreign investments.

And to top it all, per capita income hit US$9,700 from US$7,500 in 2010.

The EIU agrees with the upward trajectory: “Following an estimated expansion of 5.2 per cent in 2012, we expect GDP to grow at the same rate during the 2013-17 forecast period.”

Growth figures announced yesterday by the Statistics Department showed that the economy accelerated to 6.4 per cent growth in the last quarter of 2012 and supporting the full year growth to expand by 5.6 per cent from 5.1 per cent a year earlier.

Against such a backdrop, the EIU said: “No wonder the writing is on the wall for Pakatan as it tries to cobble together some opposition unity between its squabbling leaders before the polls.” — Bernama

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