If, for example, both opposing parties make essentially the same promises, then, the interesting question is what is the difference?
The difference will be (1) whether all the promises can be fulfilled at the same time, and (2) the style by which the promises will be fulfilled.
In making similar pledges, whether achievable or not, the conclusion is that there is really no disagreement over the nature of policy anymore. Specifically, both have zeroed in on the voters are individuals - rather than as businessmen or investors or professionals or workers - and the promise is to make life easier for everybody, especially during such trying times.
As economists, we know that in trying to soften the blows on individuals, the brunt of the adjustment will be undertaken by government spending which means that, other things being equal, the government deficit will enlarge. An enlarging government deficit is a contentious issue now and this has got to do with how the central bank is trying to keep its monetary policy in balance - a topic that is very carefully left out by all policy discussions around the world which is being inundated with the quantitative easing (QE) ideology.
Note that it is interesting to observe in reality how, after the endless printing of money, the end of the printing of money - when its creditors refuse to lend any more for a small-country central bank - will result in the collapse of the banks and the evaporation of their customers' deposits in varying degrees.
Unless, of course, the government tries to raise its revenue by raising taxes, other things being equal. If income growth and job creation is an issue, then it is inevitable that income tax will be left alone or cut, and the burden of the government budgetary balance then befalls the consumers. For those who are badly brought up in economic theory, they will suggest an increase in the consumption tax.
If this really is the case, then we are going round one big circle or trying to help the consumers by pushing the consumers. This circle points to the problem of income growth which I think both parties have not been very good at elaborating. Or, if I may think in nastily, that they think that growth can be induced by more government spending which is the last order of business in stimulating growth.
The crux of the matter when the general public raises issues concerning corruption, crime, education and language is really about building the human and social capital of the nation - after having piled up the financial capital with cheap easy credit and empty buildings on government spending. Solving traffic problems is not about commuters only but about the efficiency of logistics. There is a whole discussion on economic efficiency which has been overlooked especially we are talking about elevating ourselves from a middle income nation to a high income nation.
So, are we being stuck in the middle income trap? Are we suffering from mid-life crisis? If the nation is like an individual person, I would say that Malaysia, after 56 years of independence (after some foreign elite), is now suffering from a middle-age spread. Poverty is a thing of the past for most (those who reminisce their poor old days), whilst new forms of poverty are emerging, and those of us with a house or some of us with houses would now wonder what to do with the time on our hand (apart from thinking how clever we all are about solving the problems of our world except those of our own minds). We may even discourage our children from working "too" hard, for "it is not worth it." Our skills extend sideways - how to multiple the same old things we had done, but repeating them in new environments (like overseas). We simply refuse to invest, in putting our resources back into our own system so that we can do the same things better (with less drudgery) or to do new things. We have all become capitalists, putting our money and time into ventures that require other people (modern slaves) to put in the effort and pull in the cash. This is where the services industries are the worst, especially if we venture into casinos, tourism and all forms of services (except quality time with our own family members or friends). In these days of inflation (some would argue "Inflation, what inflation?"), the future of the younger generation is being forfeited so that the old and self-satisfied can rest on their laurels. Instead of building more buildings and more roads, it may be better if projects are being created to put the skills of the young and talented to work. If we create an environment of transitory wealth creation through trading of unproductive products such as bad houses in bad locations, it is no wonder that, after a prolonged period, the young gives up putting an effort and mentally switched off and merely staring at that blinking screen on their palms.
So, which style will prevail after the election results are out?