Wong Chen was nominated by KEADILAN on 28th October 2022 to contest and defend his Subang Parliament seat in the upcoming 15th General Election. SJ Echo caught up with him for an interview on his past performance and outlook on the future.

SJ Echo: People often confuse the roles of politicians and lump them together; tell us what are the roles and duties of a Member of Parliament.

Wong Chen: : Let me clarify that the primary focus of an MP is on national and international issues, not so much on community or local government matters. All MPs have three primary jobs; (a) policymaking work, (b) pass laws in Parliament, and (c) approve the national budget.

On policymaking, MPs are there to debate in Parliament and serve in special select committees to craft and influence policies on national issues such as the economy, education, health and corruption. The list of policies is very long, so as a result, MPs tend to specialise in a few key topics of their choice. My focus has always been on the economy, international trade, human rights and climate change.

SJ Echo: What are the highlights of your service and performance as the Subang MP in the last term?

Wong Chen: I am a diligent MP; I am proud to report that I have a 99.5% attendance rate in Parliament; I missed just one day of Parliament in 2019 when I was away in the United Nations in New York on the invitation of the UK government.

On policymaking, I served in the Public Accounts Committee in 2018 to 2019. Thereafter I was promoted to be the first ever Chairman of the Special Select Committee on International Relations and Trade. More recently, I became the Deputy Chairman of the powerful Special Select Committee on Finance and Economy. In addition, I served in the bipartisan National Recovery Council, representing the Opposition. On the national budget, I am the fiscal expert for KEADILAN and also serve in the national budget dialogue committee with the minister of finance.

My Parliamentary works extend to the international stage where last year I was selected by international parliamentarians to represent the Asia Pacific region for Science and Technology Working Group of the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU). In addition, I have represented Parliament Malaysia many times in the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA). I am also a member of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).

The highlights of this term have been my promotions to several committees and recognitions of my Parliamentary works at both the national and international stage.

SJ Echo: How about community and local matters?

Wong Chen: We handle and resolve a variety of requests and complaints from our constituents. For this term, we had handled 3,216 files of such requests and complaints. I have to thank my officers for dealing with these professionally and efficiently.

We also receive community development fund and our task is to disburse these grants fairly and transparently.  My focus this term has been on education and providing grants to local schools. To that end, I gave each public school in my area an allocation of RM50,000 in 2019 and another allocation of RM30,000 in 2022. There are 51 public schools in Subang, I am happy to report that all of them received equal allocations, totalling slightly more than RM4 million.

As for community associations, there are about 300 in Subang, and they have received grants totalling RM2 million. We also spent another RM1 million on welfare and Covid-19 aid. This year my office gave RM800,000 to help flood victims and in addition, we managed to secure from the federal government the construction of two earth bunds to prevent floods, costing RM1.6 million. These bunds have been fully completed.

The most important point about our community spending is that we publish our audited accounts for all to see in our twice-yearly newsletters. We have been practising full transparency and accountability in our office accounts since I was elected into office in 2013.

SJ Echo: What gives you the most satisfaction as an MP? What makes you angry?

Wong Chen: As an MP, you get full satisfaction when the government of the day listens to your constructive ideas and implements them. These are rare but recently, I managed to get the minister of finance to implement gender responsive budgeting and give bigger allocations to select committees. There were also other successes such as the passing of anti-hopping law and other reforms stemming from the MoU.

I am also generally glad that my views and opinions on the economy, finance and politics are often picked up by national and international media, including Bloomberg, Reuters, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, the South China Morning Post and the Economist. I have also been invited to speak at multiple international conferences and events as an MP, including the UK, Norway, Australia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Nepal.

On the flip side, when the government of the day ignores your constructive ideas, it can be very frustrating and disheartening. The key is not to give up and not to compromise on core principles.

Lastly, the most satisfying aspect of my work is the opportunity to mentor diverse and brilliant youths under my intensive internship program. Over the two terms, I have mentored close to 130 interns on politics and economics. They are my greatest pride and joy, as they represent the future of Malaysia.

SJ Echo: What other issues would you like to pursue if you are elected again?

Wong Chen: If I am elected again, I would like to pick up on my mission to fight corruption and continue reforming Malaysia’s economy. The national debt is at an unsustainable level and our overall economic system needs better strategic policies with greater transparency. The old crony capitalism model must be dismantled and replaced. In particular, I would focus more on matters of fiscal responsibility and economic reforms. We also need to urgently prepare the economy for climate change.

Thus for the next five years, I would work towards a new economic model for Malaysia to reach net zero within a decade, and then leverage that achievement to restructure our economy based on a much more greener platform.