By Wong Chen

March is going to be a very busy month for me. This month will actually provide a good snapshot of my duties and scope of work as your Member of Parliament.

From 28th February to 24th March, the Malaysian Parliament will be in session. During this same period, my initial two weekends will be focused on my political obligations to my party, which is to campaign for Keadilan in the Johor state elections.

On Parliamentary duties, my Finance and Economy Special Select Committee is set to conduct enquiries and hearings. At the national duty level, I will also be involved in the National Recovery Council, a bipartisan agency set up to plan the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to everything else, I have an international invitation to attend the Inter Parliamentary Union Assembly on 20th to 25th March. The event will be hosted in Bali by the Indonesian Parliament. However, since Parliament will still be in session, I will most likely opt to attend the Assembly via zoom instead.

There is a lot of misperceptions that the primary duty of MPs is to solve community problems such as the state of your tamans, roads, landscaping and drains. These are actually local government issues and as such are strictly under the powers of the councilors and MBSJ. MY office does not have any authority over local governments but we will take in public complaints and put pressure where appropriate, for actions to be carried out. As an example, in the most recent incident in TK4 Kinrara we were alerted by irate residents that a piece of land belonging to JAIS was used as a waste dumping ground and that a foul stench was emanating from it. My officers dutifully contacted MBSJ for a report and an update and then reported back to the complainants. We were very lucky that just two days after my office first received the complaint, MBSJ has started rectification work on the site.

As for the administration of local governments, major land developments and transactions, all other land related matters such as forestry and mines, water disruptions and supply, and matters relating to Islam and other religions; these are all under the powers of the state legislators, the ADUNs. Again, my office has no authority in Selangor state matters but we can put pressure for actions, where appropriate. Overall, I am very happy and satisfied with the performance of the two ADUNS within my Parliamentary constituency, namely YB Ng Sze Han of Kinrara and YB Michelle Ng of Subang Jaya. The duties and scope of MPs are therefore strictly confined to national issues and by extension, international matters too.

So in this second half of this article, allow me to address some international matters. Firstly, let me state the obvious, that Malaysia is not a significant military power. However, in the global stage, we are a sizeable net exporter of goods and services. In fact, we are ranked 21st in the world in terms of exports and 25th in terms of imports. This means that our foreign and international trade policies are extremely important components of our economy.

Now let me address the big issue of the month; the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. How will this invasion impact Malaysia? While this conflict may be 8,000 km away, its repercussions are expected to be global, impacting mostly the European Union (EU). So how does it affect Malaysia’s trade interests? The EU is a major trading partner of Malaysia. The EU is also one of the largest investors in Malaysia. If the EU faces gas supply shortage from Russia in the coming months, its economy will slow down. This will in turn slow down overall trade between Malaysia and the EU.

More worrying, is the prospect of this invasion resulting in a geo-political re-alignment where Russia and China become close allies against the Western democracies. This may then cause a more hostile global trade war to erupt. International trade will thus change and become more complex and nuanced. These changes will present major challenges to Malaysia, since we are a major trading nation and we trade with everyone. These changes may present opportunities but these will be also highly disruptive. Creative destructions, as espoused by Schumpeter may be a good thing but the timing now is a bit off because Malaysia, like the rest of the world, is still trying to manage and hopefully recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

So far, the immediate impact of the invasion has been to push up oil and gas prices as well as palm oil prices. These two are major exports of Malaysia. This development may seem like very good news for Malaysia until we factor in the fact that China will be taking up more Russian gas supply, possibly at the expense of our supplies. Moreover if these high oil and gas prices persist in the medium term, they will drive up manufacturing costs and inflation. Higher inflation in turn, will hurt consumers and the ordinary people.

In the final analysis, this invasion may just push Malaysia and the rest of the world, into dark unchartered economic waters very soon. Malaysia needs to prepare for this challenge now.