THERE is nothing magical about a prime minister or president’s 100th day in office. When a new leader is appointed, his very first day should be the 101st day. The action plans should have been crafted at least 100 days prior to taking the oath.
The “100 days” is grounded in history and can be traced back to a timeline when Napoleon Bonaparte (March-July 1815) brought changes so impactful that it shook the entire Europe. Napoleon had escaped his exile, rallied the French army and drove the French King Louis XVIII out, and brought mega level reforms in parliament, domestic and foreign policies and transformed France drastically. Since then, a 100-day retrospective has been used to assess new leaders in the first 100 days of their tenure.
So far, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s 100 days hype has not harnessed much enthusiasm from the already unhappy Malaysian citizenry, given the fact it was not entirely a new government.
It was a reshuffle from the deck of the same ministers, same civil servants who were working in the background and even former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, now sits as the chairman of the National Recovery Council. The “continuity of it all” does not establish any need for another 100 days hype. However, since the prime minister has given the 100-day mandate, it will hopefully alert ministers to realise that they are serving on borrowed time.
Scorecards cannot be produced by the ministers themselves. Neither should it be delivered with the same re-cycled language of “we are planning to or going to plan to...”. We need to re-define the non-negotiable meaning of action plans, with the currency as well as sincerity to protect the people.
In the present Covid-19 pandemic, Malaysians have withstood the greatest test of our lifetimes, in spite of the ongoing ups and downs in politics. Even as I write this, there is a call for a snap election in Malacca to be held within the next 60 days because four state assemblymen, led by Sungai Udang’s Idris Haron, withdrew support from the Barisan Nasional-Perikatan Nasional government. How is this in line with our approach to normalcy?
Politicians have jeopardised the health and lives of the people with campaigning. The weary hospitals have to turn a blind eye to this injustice and be prepared for another wave of Covid-19 patients.
The year 2018 taught us that pledges to fulfil specific promises within the first 100 days was about change for the sake of change. There was not much introspection before a change was made.
One of them was the replacement of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) with an inferior Sales and Services Tax (SST). The GST is an easier process of submission of tax claims and for consumers, and it benefited the government, businesses, and resulted in higher revenue than the SST.
Economists have expressed time and again that while both are regressive taxes, GST is slightly more efficient than the SST. There is a phrase about change, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Prime ministers also have made different pledges for 100 days with personalised messages. The 100-day benchmark has rarely correlated with the success or failure of a prime minister’s time in office. They all start differently and end on different notes at the end of the stint. In fact, they were even remembered for something diametrically opposite.
In 1983, inspiring and ambitious former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pledged the first 100 days to fight corruption and improve the efficiency of the civil service. What eventually happened was that Mahathir turned Malaysia from a rubber-dependent economic backward into a wealthy nation as well as a high-tech Asian tiger.
Americans only used the 100-day assessment when the 32nd president, Franklin Roosevelt, took office in 1933. In a day, Roosevelt drafted the Emergency Banking Act to calm a post-depression financial panic. Within 100 days he instituted the “fireside chat” tradition, called Congress, into a three-month-long special session and passed 15 major legislations.
Conversely, the 35th US president, John F. Kennedy, was not interested in the pressure to work magic in the first 100 days. When he drafted the inaugural address, he had exclaimed to his chief aide Ted Sorensen, “I am sick and tired of planning the 100 days of miracles. Let us write that this won’t be finished in a hundred days or a thousand”.
Donald Trump, the 45th president, was so eager to cross the 100-day threshold that he quickly published a book, The World’s Greatest Ninety-Nine Days, and spoke of his great “achievements”.
The dash to the 100-day finish line becomes more problematic when politicians act as if it actually matters. Right now, we are not concerned about feel-good campaigning, photo opportunities or the advertisement of politicians. There is no need for an announcement on the 100th day. When change happens, we will know for what it is worth. It will be intrinsically felt. We will know.