TN50: Deal with the Trust Deficit First

With TN50 still in its formative stages, it needs to start off right by letting the rakyat express not just their aspirations, but also voice their genuine concerns and frustrations.

 

The government’s latest long-term vision plan, Transformasi Nasional 2050 or simply TN50, has gained buzz among Malaysians. It is obvious to most observers that the government is using this initiative to reinvigorate support, especially among youths, for an administration beset with scandal after scandal, whether alleged or proven. The rakyat have already begun forming their opinions on TN50 and it is fairly mixed to say the least.

The mainstream media provides the view that most people including the youth have reacted positively to TN50. However, if you get your daily dosage from pro-opposition media, you will find that most are skeptical about it. Critics believe that it is a political gimmick building up to the general elections that are likely to be held after the SEA Games this year. Some also think this is a chance for Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak to erase Tun Dr Mahathir’s legacy of Vision 2020. Others are on the fence, unsure of whether their ideas will be taken onboard or if TN50 is just for Barisan Nasional-friendly supporters, ignoring any constructive ideas and criticisms from those not aligned with them.

In any normal period of time by any government, TN50 would sound like a great vision to have. The idea of having future policies built by the stakeholders of tomorrow is a dream for any policymaker. However, these are not normal times. Barisan Nasional may be on course to win yet another general election with the fractured federal opposition no closer to taking the reign in Putrajaya. Yet the ruling coalition continues to suffer from a deep-seated trust deficit with the people it serves.

This did not happen overnight. The trust deficit developed from the way the government has conducted itself especially towards its critics, peaking at the height of the 1MDB scandal. There is also a raft of issues that needs urgent attention and action. Corruption remains a major concern, economic growth is slowing down and unemployment especially among the youth is on the rise. The new media landscape has also changed the way we interact with one another, with news and fake news being spread in echo chambers on social media.

If the government is serious in its efforts to have TN50 reflect the aspirations of the rakyat and become a success, it needs to address the biggest elephant in the room – the trust deficit. Public confidence towards the government affects everything from the proper functioning of government to domestic consumption and investment in the economy. It is imperative that the government restore that trust back in order to get a wider buy-in for TN50.

With TN50 still in its formative stages, it needs to start off right by letting the rakyat express not just their aspirations, but also voice their genuine concerns and frustrations. The roadshows and conventions that are now taking place across the country ought to be the platforms to hear any grouses and develop the initial policies required to deal with the current outstanding issues the country faces.

The government cannot delude itself into thinking that having TN50 will make people forget about issues such as the political scandals, the rising prices of food and necessities, the scarcity of good-paying jobs and the safety of our communities. The first decade from 2020-2030 should focus on solving these issues and rebuilding that trust with the people. Otherwise, whatever policy implemented up until 2050 will be futile.

TN50 is a vision we should embrace, a blank sheet that we should fill with progressive, forward-thinking policies for a brighter and better Malaysia. But TN50 cannot work without the confidence of the rakyat. The people must be able to trust that their government can operate effectively and efficiently in their best interests. Right now, you can feed them with all kinds of feel-good statistics but the reality is, they do not feel good. Now, not later or in 2050, is the time to act expeditiously in rebuilding the rakyat’s trust in the government before TN50 ends up like Vision 2020: just a punch line and nothing more.

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