Pakatan Harapan has a long hard road back to restore public trust in government and national institutions although this is also a grave global problem

After nearly 21 months of the historic transition of power in the 14th General Election on May 9, 2018, where PH Government could do no wrong in the first months of power in 2018 but where it could do no right last year, Pakatan Harapan has a long hard road back to restore public trust in government and national institutions although this is also a grave global problem.

A new report released last week found widespread global distrust in societal institutions - defined as government, business, NGOs and the media — despite a strong global economy, a phenomenon it deemed a “trust paradox”.

The report concluded that people’s fears about the future are driving this trend, and proposed institutions prioritize balancing competence with ethical behaviour to rebuild public trust.

The “Trust Barometer 2020” report was conducted by the communications firm Edelman, which has been running the survey for the past 20 years.

The Barometer, which aims to survey trust and credibility around the world, surveyed over 34,000 people in 28 countries.

Despite the strong global economy the report found that, globally, 83% of employees are worried about losing their jobs to reasons including automation, a looming recession, lack of training, cheaper foreign competition, immigration and the gig economy.

The Barometer found that none of the four institutions it asked about — government, business, NGOs and the media — are trusted.

Wealthier, more educated individuals trusted institutions more than the rest of the population, a gap it describes as the “mass-class” trust divide. The report found that this divide reached record levels in a record number of countries.

Sixty one percent of people responded that they felt the pace of change in technology is too fast, and 66% responded that they “worry technology will make it impossible to know if what people are seeing or hearing is real.”

In a similar vein, respondents worried about receiving accurate information. Fifty seven percent agreed that the media they consume is “contaminated with untrustworthy information” and 76% of people said they worry about “fake news being used as a weapon” — a six-point increase from 2018.

There’s also a lack of faith that the government can address these problems. Sixty six percent of respondents said they do not have confidence that “our current leaders will be able to successfully address our country’s challenges”.

Just 46% people said they trust religious leaders, 42% said they trust government leaders and 36% said they trust the very wealthy. On a more positive note, 80% of respondents said they trust scientists, 69% said they trust “people in my local community” and 65% said they trust “citizens of my country.”

The Transparent International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2019 Report which placed Malaysia near the country’s best TI CPI score of 53 out of 100 in 25 years, shows that Malays is on the right track to recover from almost a decade of “global kleptocracy”.

There are those who say they do not want to listen to the 1MDB scandal and the other corruption scandals of the past administration, but I believe the overwhelming majority of Malaysians are not so unreasonable for without the ravages of the past, Malaysia would be able to make a quicker turnaround and achieve greater progress in the past 21 months.

But Malaysia must not rest its laurels on the TI CPI 2019 Report, but must be able to use it as a basis to reach for higher achievements on the anti-corruption front until we are internationally recognised as among the top 30 top world class nations in public integrity.

This is a tall challenge but it is achievable, although it behoves on every Malaysian to make a contribution in this direction – to achieve a more competent and more ethical public service.

Malaysians should also be aware of what is happening in the world, especially the growing deluge of “fake news” and the rise of “deepfake” footage – digitally manipulated video that is increasingly difficult to distinguish from the real thing – blurring the lines between truth and fiction, disputing information and trust.

This phenomenon is one reason why the Doomsday Clock 2020 is 100 seconds to midnight and why the issue took central place in the annual World Economic Forum in Davos this week.

Be that as it may, the long hard road back for the Pakatan Harapan government to restore public trust and confidence must lie in its ability in 2020 to deliver the promises which resulted in the historic decision in the 2018 general election for a peaceful and democratic transition of power for the first time in six decades.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri