PETALING JAYA: Barisan Nasional chairman Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s decision to include Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) promises in the ruling coalition’s manifesto reflects the feasibility of such policies, said PKR’s Rafizi Ramli yesterday.The PKR’s director of strategy added that popular policies suggested by the opposition coalition such as lowering the prices of cars and gradual reduction of tolls were economically viable and would not drag the country into bankruptcy because these were also included in the BN manifesto.“I would like to say this to Najib. I think it is a dire mistake to [include] our promises in [their] manifesto... because these promises confirm that our country is in solid financial standing,” he said, adding that it showed BN agreed with PR’s financial calculation.“In these two years, [Najib] has argued that PR programmes cannot be implemented as they will bankrupt the country. But in the space of one day, this [argument] is demolished.“It is an extreme tactical mistake, which we will manipulate to the fullest starting today,” he said at the party headquarters yesterday.The press conference was held in response to the BN manifesto which Najib revealed last Saturday. PR has claimed that many of the popular policies have been copied from its manifesto which was released on Feb 25.Rafizi highlighted 22 items which he said were “copied” from the PR manifesto including reduction of car prices, abolishing cabotage which would standardise prices of essential goods, and people-friendly affordable housing schemes.Although these policies were copied, Rafizi said the manner in which they were incorporated into the BN manifesto left much to be desired as it would not tackle the needs of the people.Rafizi also questioned the lack of a concrete time frame to implement the measures.“BN says it will abolish the toll in stages but they might reduce it by five sen before the 14th general election and say they have fulfilled their promises,” he added.He also said issues surrounding the cost of living would be critical. “Elections are not determined by a list of 70 things but it comes down to three or four issues.”Zooming in on the 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M), the monetary assistance to households that earn less than RM3,000, which has been increased to RM1,200 from RM500, Rafizi said inflation needed to be taken into account and the cash handouts would not improve the economic standing of the households.“This addition is equivalent to RM100 every month for the household and RM50 for singles. This increase comes when there are no suggestions to lower the price of goods,” he said.Besides BR1M for households, BN has also promised RM600 aid to those who are single and earn less than RM2,000.Although admitting that he is still running the numbers, Rafizi said if population growth and inflation are 2% in 10 years from now, a total of RM11 billion will be spent on BR1M come 2023.When asked if PR would abolish the handouts, he said those deserving financial aid such as the handicapped, senior citizens and others would likely to receive them, while the focus would be on increasing the income of the others.
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This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on April 9, 2013.