Socialist Party of Malaysia: A new progressive deal for Malaysia

By Sivarajan A, Secretary-General, Parti Sosialis Malaysia

May 25, 2022 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Think Left — In the last 2 years, we have been fighting Covid-19 and the pandemic induced economic crisis that followed due to business shutdowns and movement control restrictions. As of November 2020, around 100,000 people have lost their jobs and many more in the informal sector would have lost their income.

The pandemic has exposed the failures of Capitalism the world over and Malaysia has not been spared. Although business shutdowns and movement control orders were imposed across the board to all sectors of the population, but the impact on society varies along class lines. The poor were the most badly hit. Many lost their jobs as SMEs struggled to survive and self-employed micro businesses had to shut down their hard built businesses when cost outran their revenue. They were forced to look for alternate sources of income overnight.

Besides losing their source of livelihood, urban poor staying in 650 sq feet PPR public housing found it impossible to carry out social distancing and situations were exacerbated during isolation as their family members were required to be quarantined.

The Malaysian government in its long standing conviction to the neoliberal path has been detracting from its responsibility of providing basic essential services for the rakyat and promoting privatisation of public services. After three decades of aggressive privatisation, we are left with a weakened public healthcare system, expensive education, workers with dismantled safeguards, an increase in precarious work, unaffordable housing and a widening disparity between the rich and poor.

The pandemic shattered the already weak social security system, throwing poor households and even the M40 into sudden poverty. Some of the hard lessons the pandemic has taught us are;

  1. The Pandemic and its induced economic crisis has hit the B40 the hardest. Despite the indiscriminate attack of the virus amongst the rich and poor, a household’s income and job security often determines if they can remain resilient throughout the pandemic.
  1. Jobs that were thought to be secure just vanished overnight and many were left to fend for themselves, struggling desperately to put food on the table. Without a comprehensive social security system, many fell through the cracks.
  1. We were always told to believe that the private sector is the key driver for economic progress that provides jobs for the rakyat. However, when economic downturn strikes, the companies in the private sector falter, downsize their workforce and freeze new job openings. Many projects were put on hold and unemployment soared to 4.8% as at June, 2021(DOSM). The impact is larger as many have been forced from formal employment into underemployment and informal work.
  1. Although policy makers always pushed for more privatisation of healthcare, health tourism and incentives for private medical care, it has been blatantly proven that it was the public healthcare system that provided care to the rakyat throughout the pandemic. Private healthcare was reluctant to take in Covid patients and moved extremely slowly to relieve the load off of government hospitals.
  1. Sectors of our working people who are often forgotten and marginalised by many are the ones who actually hold up the nation in times of crises. Those that provide essential services such as farmers, cleaners, garbage collectors, lorry drivers, delivery riders play a critical role to keep the supply and services going. We realise that it is not the fund managers, the speculators, the stock marketers and the bourgeois elite that stand out in these trying times.

These hard lessons need to be understood and acted upon so that we don’t make the same mistakes again. These experiences have taught us that we cannot return to business as usual and instead to take efforts to revamp our economic and development model seriously in order to make ourselves more resilient to future crises.

The political and corporate elite who were the least affected economically and socially by the pandemic will not be jolted to offer a progressive alternative for Malaysia. The neoliberal, corporate driven economic model has been accepted by both political coalitions. It was merely a change of guards with minimal attempt for structural change.

PSM believes that the task of ensuring that the basic needs are met for the rakyat is the responsibility of government. The government cannot stop at only extending easy credit to the banks and giving cash incentives for businesses to preserve and/or create jobs. We believe that given the marked loss in aggregate demand, these stimuli will not solve the problem as elaborated above.

Trickle down approach fails to solve core structural problems in our policies. Have the political elite failed to realise that they must step in and supply basic needs and services when the market fails to do so?

In these times of crises, people without income will be marginalised if we rely on market based approaches. The market fails when human need is not backed up by purchasing power. There is a real risk that a significant number of Malaysian families will not be able to provide basic needs – food, shelter and health care for themselves! And that is not acceptable!

As the paradigm shifts towards a progressive people centred action plan, PSM is putting forward a new deal for Malaysia. This new way forward attempts to take Malaysia on a path to dismantle the adverse effects of neoliberalism by enhancing our social security and rebuilding our basic support pillars for the rakyat’s well-being. Our new deal proposals are aptly themed “KEMPEN PEMULIHAN NASIONAL – PEKA NASIB KAMI! RAKYAT MINTA LIMA!

The action plan propounds 5 PILLARS as follows;

  1. Empowering Social Security
  2. Job Guarantee Scheme
  3. Housing as a human right
  4. Reinforcing Public Healthcare
  5. Immediate Action to tackle Climate Crisis.

The ideas being put forward by each pillar are briefly stated as follows;

  1. Empowering Social Security for working people
  1. Introduce a Modified Universal Basic Income
  2. End outsourcing of government services and absorb contract workers as permanent government staff
  3. Amend Labour and Social Security Acts to provide protection for ‘gig’ workers and precarious employment
  4. Reform PERKESO’s Employment Insurance Scheme
  5. Monthly pensions for those above 65 years old
  1. Job Guarantee Scheme For Youth
  1. Green jobs
  2. Increase job opportunities in farming and food production
  3. Constructing more and equipping healthcare facilities better
  4. Jobs in conservation activities, reforestation and restoration of heritage sites
  5. Increase research opportunities in medical and pharmacological fields
  6. Increase social welfare workers to provide direct assistance to the needy
  7. Ground officers to monitor implementation of government programs
  8. Childcare work
  9. Socialisation of housework
  10. Reduce working hours
  11. Compel Government Linked Companies to fund and initiate such job guarantee schemes
  12. Introduce a law against anti-discrimination in employment.
  1. Housing as a human right
  1. Build more rental PPR units for the B20
  2. Decouple public housing from the market
  3. Stop forced evictions of urban pioneers. Offer land to occupiers, not to third parties
  4. Establish a Non-profit trust fund to build houses for the B40
  5. Maintenance of low cost housing apartments to be taken over by local councils
  1. Strengthen Public Healthcare System
  1. Rope in General Practitioners to assist in treating patients with chronic diseases to relieve the burden of Government Hospitals
  2. Use levy collected from migrant workers to pay for their healthcare cost
  3. Government should bear the cost of implants and surgical accessories at Hospitals
  4. Ministry of Health budget needs to be increased
  5. Quality and affordable healthcare is social wage for the rakyat
  1. Immediate Action to tackle Climate Crisis
  1. Work towards 100% renewable energy
  2. Address pollution from Petroleum Industries
  3. Increase public transport infrastructure and ridership
  4. Moratorium on logging and mining in primary reserve forests

The proposals outlined in the document “KEMPEN PEMULIHAN NASIONAL – PEKA NASIB KAMI! RAKYAT MINTA LIMA! requires political will driven by clear class perspective and an anti-neoliberal stance to push for concrete changes. Malaysia’s recovery and progress requires a serious paradigm shift; decoupling itself from neoliberal policies that have clearly failed to safeguard the interest of the rakyat in times of crisis.

The campaign will be launched concurrently on 22nd May, 2022 in Pulau Pinang, Kedah, Perak, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Johor.

Subsequently we will embark on a national campaign tour, to promote the 5 key demands and why Malaysia needs to immediately proceed on an economic path away from the neoliberal model.

The events planned in the coming weeks are as follows

  • Campaign convoy to key cities.
  • Engaging with the rakyat on the 5 pillars.
  • Gathering feedback on local issues and endorsement for the demands.
  • Banners in key areas.
  • Group discussions
  • Solidarity visits to communities involved in struggles
  • Participation sessions with local civil society organisations.

Please look out for upcoming campaign information soon.

You may read the full 5 Pillar proposals [in Malay] here