Is he, really? During his first meeting with bloggers yesterday, Khalid Ibrahim looked a little worn. It has been a trying 12 months since Pakatan Rakyat trounced Barisan Nasional during the 12th General Elections in March 2008 to take over the governing of the country's richest State. It's a first year scarred by scandals, unfortunately - assemblywoman Elizabeth Wong's semi-nude pictures and his own run-in with the empowered Anti-Corrution Commission are two of the latest ones.
Some of the bloggers who attended yesterday's meeting were pro-Pakatan individuals and, by their own admission, remnants or by-products of the Reformasi movement of a decade ago. They gave some good pointers for Khalid, and I was left wondering why the MB has not recruited them to sit on his think-tank. There were no Umno/BN bloggers but the MB's office invited several lawyers, personal bloggers, and three bloggers who used to serve the mainstream media: A. Kadir Jasin, Nuraina A. Samad, and I. Yunus Said, formerly a Berita Harian boss before he went over the TV3, was present but he represented TV Antara, a pro-Pakatan (but NOT Selangor state-owned as earlier reported, my apologies) tv company.
Of course, bloggers aren't bloggers if they aren't critical. Nat Tan complained about the lack of achievements and vision ("What is this state government doing that is different from the last goverment?), Haris Ibrahim likened Khalid's government to a "headless chicken", and Patrick Teoh wondered why there were still pot holes on his road and said the lady at the local council counter was still not smiling. Fahmi Fadzil suggested that the State Government use statistics [quarterly economic growths, forecasts, etc] to inspire the rakyat's confidence.
[Rocky's notes 1/3/08, 11.30pm: Nat wrote in his blog http://jelas.info that he had been (mis)quoted in my blog. Please do go here to read some of the things that Nat actually said during the meeting].
A Kadir Jasin asked about the latest in the "car and cows" scandal. Read h e r e.
I asked Khalid how he'd summarize his first year at the helm. I was hoping he'd focus on the economy. Last Friday, the MoF Najib Tun Razak announced 2008's final quarter's growth of 0.1 per cent, the lowest since 2001. The global eocnomy is buckling. Khalid, however, was still very much in the "politics" mode. He did speak of higher FDI into Selangor in 2008 and a program to deal with retrenched workers but very little besides those (and I did tell him, too, that if his government wishes to take any credit, it should do so only for FDI brought in 18 months since it took over Selangor because that is normally how long it takes a foreign investor to decide on any new investment).
Still, Khalid said: "Looking back, I can say I am better than the previous MB".
I remember in 2003, as Editor of the Malay Mail, I once sat at the same table in the dining hall of of the Selangor MB's Official Residence. Khir Toyo was the MB and we (the newspaper) and the Selangor State government were at loggerheads over the Ulu Kelang Recreation Club: the Malay Mail was defending the field against a hostile takeover by some developers who claimed to have the MB's support. In the end, Khir Toyo did the right thing and as a result the UKRC field is still there today. Buit he still went on to lose the State last year.
If it's left to me, there would be a lot of red ink in Khalid Ibrahim's report card for his first year in office. And in the comment box, I'd write: Room for improvement. But certainly I won't write him off yet because it is too early to do that.
By the same token, I am not ready to agree with him that he is better than his predecessor at this point. Khalid needs to get down to some serious work, especially with the economic storm that's coming to hit all of us, to be the better man.
And before that, he will have to worry about passing the car and the cows test first.
p.s. The dialogue lasted about two hours but there were many of us. I was given the assurance, however, that your questions and views here and in the previous thread here will be conveyed to the Menteri Besar for his action/consideration.
That goes for your Soalan untuk Khalid, too, Shamsul.