*This article is originally published on Independent News Service (INS)
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—Local government elections which would see councillors and mayors elected through public polls would provide an effective means of tackling urban poverty through accountable and transparent management, a think tank has proposed. Bait Al Amanah Founding Director Dr. Abdul Razak Ahmad said there is a growing concern that leadership skills, either in business, in politics or society, are rapidly falling behind the complexity of challenges Malaysia faces. “The best-managed cities are those where local leaders prioritise the needs of their citizens and are able to involve the community in implementing the most realistic solutions and that is why local authority leaders must be elected. So that they could be made accountable for their actions and policies.” he said in his keynote speech at the book launch “Assessing and Addressing Urban Poverty in Malaysia – Social Mobility Through Entrepreneurship”. The book is co-authored by Carmelo Ferlito and Bait Al-Amanah research director Benedict Weerasena with the support of the Embassy of Belgium in Malaysia and outlines a range of measures to tackle the growing problem of urban poverty in the country especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Abdul Razak explained that great leaders are needed to overcome the challenge of urban poverty and that they must be selected democratically and possess competence and are engaging. “I urge the government to start a pilot project to elect mayors and local councillors. Things need to change. Elections provide voters with choices of competing candidates, platforms, and parties. He explained that elections provide a mechanism for holding representatives accountable for their performance in office and allow citizens a degree of control over their elected representatives which is crucial.. “Nothing is more crucial than the centrality of leadership and politics in running effective cities and reducing urban poverty. Good leaders are the ‘drivers of change’ that could deliver people’s security and access to quality services. “Cities need someone who could withstand greater scrutiny, accountability and transparency. Someone who recognizes that an inclusive dialogue involving everyone is very crucial in city management. Because cities belong to citizens,” he said. Local elections were a crucial part of Malaya's political landscape before being abolished in 1965.
Watch the keynote speech presented by Dr. Abdul Razak during the Urban Poverty Book Launch at the Embassy of Belgium in Kuala Lumpur, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uv1OtlrKZJI&t=2s