Anwar's first year: Performance and underperformance

Anwar Ibrahim's ascension to the country's highest office last year was accompanied by a rise in expectations of his reformist government. But after a year his administration lost its luster.

Editor's Note: This article is the 6th most viewed commentary on Fulcrum in 2023. It was originally published on 27 November 2023.

The problem with high expectations is that they are rarely met. In the case of Anwar Ibrahim, these expectations were long overdue. After all, Anwar spent decades as a student, in jail and on the opposition benches. The dramatic condemnation came with the 2022 general elections, which offered an opportunity to „fix” a promise that had been reneged on for years. When Anwar was sworn in as Malaysia's tenth prime minister a year ago, national anticipation that he would finally fulfill a lifelong ambition brought high hopes.

Anwar was happy at that moment. The most accomplished statesman of his generation and the foremost orator of any, he set a political course that sought a rupture with the traditions of the past, ushering in a new era of honesty, compassion and innovation. He brought all his talents to bear on the center stage of Malaysian politics, sometimes rendering his entire cabinet anonymous and irrelevant.

For a while, solo acting looked promising. Although his coalition did not win a majority in the general election, Anwar managed to cobble together a „unity government” with former enemies. More importantly, he managed to hold on despite the opposition's continued attempts to topple him. Anwar's greatest achievement to date is the rare political stability Malaysia now enjoys after chaotic changes in government.

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In response to criticism that there was no clear economic strategy, Anwar Madani launched the Economic Framework. It was well received and encouraged the development of sectoral economic maps that excited investors. More recently, Anwar's effusive one-man routine has been boosted globally by his staunch defense of Palestine. allegedly threatened.

But now that he has been Prime Minister for a year, there are signs that people are starting to tire of this scumbag. Despite greater clarity in economic management through various long-term plans, Malaysians continue to blame the challenging cost-of-living crisis. While core inflation remains subdued, the ringgit Worst performing currency In Asia this year after the Japanese yen. The stock market remains anemic, and GDP growth is moderate due to external factors and the slow pace of internal reforms. New attempts Targeting only a small sample of Malaysians to boost the incomes of the poor – it doesn't move the needle nationally. Citing the economy as their top concern, Malaysians recently gave their leader a painful score in an observational poll, pulling Anwar back. Pedestrian approval numbers.

(Anwar) has alienated his support base and lost much of the reformist sheen that defined his rise to power. While political stability has been his biggest achievement in the past year, he remains overly cautious and has sometimes used it as an excuse to backtrack on promised reforms.

To be fair to Anwar, much of his predicament is inherited and imposed. Tight financial conditions have prevented him from leading efforts to ease the financial woes faced by Malaysians. This is due to the incivility of the past and the necessary cost measures during epidemics. China's slowdown has hit one of Malaysia's key economic engines, manufacturing exports. The US Federal Reserve's interest rate hikes have been aggressive, causing the rate spread in Malaysia to widen. Bank Negara Malaysia has rightly pursued a more measured tightening of monetary policy. However, this has contributed to downward pressure on the ringgit, further eroding people's purchasing power.

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So, while Anwar can reasonably attribute his current fortunes and the nation's extension to bad timing and external drivers, this excuse is wearing thin for a variety of reasons.

To begin with, lowered expectations inevitably hurt populists again. In protest, Anwar and his party promised a number of benefits, from lower petrol prices to canceling student loans. They realize that these are actions that cannot be accomplished now.

The maestro has also lost his band. Recently, the Crown Prince of Johor issued a A rare condemnation Anwar called upon the Prime Minister and his team to do more for the welfare of the people. It was a reminder that Anwar's cabinet was mostly dull. Initially, the prime minister was given a broad mandate to accommodate candidates from across his various partners in the coalition government. However, a year of poor performance forced him to admit that he needed to change the deck.

Finally, Anwar's problem may be Anwar himself. He was so engrossed in his efficient prime ministership that he forgot why at least half the country had waited half his life for his ascension. In six state elections in August, Anwar was stymied by an opposition coalition dominated by Parti Islam Semalasia (PAS). Subsequently, Anwar has spent much of his capital on more Conservative sentiments.

As a result, he alienated his support base and lost the reformist sheen that defined his rise to power. While political stability has been his biggest achievement in the past year, he remains overly cautious and has sometimes used it as an excuse to backtrack on promised reforms. In September, the High Court acquitted his deputy prime minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, of 47 corruption charges. Zahid is the leader of the United Malay National Organisation, a major party in the unity government. A massive scandal involving undelivered warships has been swept under the carpet. Despite Anwar's own demands while in opposition, the prime minister did not provide equal constituency funding to opposition MPs. As Anwar continues to hold both posts, his coalition's key promise to separate the roles of prime minister and finance minister to ensure accountability remains unfulfilled.

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Still, Anwar has time. Political stability means he has four clear years before the next general election. He must quickly arrest the slide by removing deadwood in the cabinet, appointing a second finance minister who is technically competent to implement tough reforms, focus on implementation and gain the support of the majority Malay community. Boss. In short, Malaysia needs less effective leadership and more substantive performance. If he fails, there will be no applause, no encore.

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