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by Lim Guan Eng
(Petaling Jaya, Monday):
DAP urges the BN government to distribute RM 5,000 to the 40% of Malaysian households that do not earn the average household monthly income of RM 3,249, who are victims of BN Ďs failure at wealth distribution. According to the Ninth Malaysian Plan (9MP), Malaysiaís measure of income inequality of Gini coefficient has worsened from 0.452 in 1999 to 0.462 in 2004. (A score of 1 is completely unequal whilst 0 is perfectly equal)
The United Nations Human Development Report has consistently placed Malaysia has the country with the worst income inequality between the rich and poor in South East Asia. This is acknowledged by the 9MP that the income share of the bottom 40% of households decreased from 14% in 1999 to 13.5% in 2004 while that of the top 20% of households increased from 50.5% to 51.2%. Clearly this bottom 40% of households do not earn the average household monthly income of RM 3,249.
DAP considers it a failure of BNís economic policy of equitable wealth distribution that such a significant number of Malaysians do not enjoy their rightful share are left out of the economic mainstream. The Singapore governmentís annual budget gives out S$2,000 to poor families and there is no reason why the Malaysian government can not do so.
The question of affordability does not arise when Malaysia enjoys huge oil earnings with Petronas earning RM 70.8 billion last year. If Singapore can afford to share its wealth with its citizens despite not having a single drop of oil, why canít oil exporter Malaysia with our oil resources do the same? Petronas is so wealthy that it can afford to do so. Even if Petronas assumes the responsibility of giving RM5,000 for the bottom 40% households in Malaysia, it would still have tens of billions left over to run its operations.
With such oil resources, it is unacceptable, irresponsible and shameful that civil servants are paid with a basic pay below the poverty line. The 9MP fixes the poverty line at RM 691 per month. There are civil servants with a basic pay of RM 650 per month. There are more in the private sector.
No wonder there is poor governance, corruption and poor service in the government sector if civil servants are paid so low. What is the point of having a booming stockmarket or RM 1 trillion annual trade volume or a feel-good economy when many have not benefited and find difficulty in bearing the financial hardships of inflation, rising prices coupled with no annual bonuses nor real wage increases this year?
DAP can not accept such failure of wealth distribution where only the rich prosper whilst the vast majority are marginalized. RM3,249 is the national average monthly household income. The income disparity is higher in states of Selangor and Federal Territory with average monthly household of RM 5,175 and RM 5,011 respectively in 2004. Does every family in Selangor or Federal Territory earn more than RM 5.000 monthly? Or at an ethnic level, does every Chinese family in Malaysia have an average monthly household income of RM4,437?
Is UMNO afraid of answering the question who amongst the Malays own 45% or RM 325 billion of the RM 715 billion market capitalization of Bursa Malaysia?
BNís government policy has failed to look after the poorer sections of Malaysians. But such failure can be redressed with an enlightened wealth distribution policy. Unfortunately the plight of the poor workers who demand a fair wage of RM 1,500 in urban areas and RM 1,000 in rural areas continues to be ignored. Instead the BN government is still focused on creating UMNO, MCA, MIC and BN millionaires by restructuring the equity structure of Bursa Malaysia by pursuing a 30% bumi equity stake, even though that target has been achieved.
Is UMNO afraid of answering the question who amongst the Malays own the 45% or RM 325 billion out of the total RM 715 billion market capitalization of Bursa Malaysia? Malaysians, especially Malays who do not possess millions of shares or imported vehicles APs, should focus on the important question who the rich Malays are who have benefited.
How many poor Malays or Malaysians can afford to buy RM 9.2 million worth of shares like UMNO Youth Deputy President Khairy Jamaluddin? Or can be like MCA Youth Deputy President Ling Hee Liong who can borrow RM 1.2 billion to control 3 publicly listed companies. How many Malays can be as wealthy as Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Effendi Norwawi transferring RM50 million worth of assets including RM7 million cash in a divorce settlement?
Equal opportunity for all
The focus on economic development should not be on creating millionaires but on uplifting the living standards of every Malaysian. No one is fated to be poor just as no one is entitled to wealth. There must be equal opportunity for all.
Equal opportunity is not just giving everyone the right to study, the right to work, right to spend what is earned, right to own property and have the state as a servant and not as a master but also about our obligation to help the needy. Social justice gives everyone the opportunity to improve their standard of living.
Just as we believe in the power of the market to ensure efficient allocation of resources that improves productivity and effective delivery, we also believe in the important role of the political process in ensuring equity that can guarantee access for all. We must free up the potential of our greatest resource - our human resources- to do the best from our abilities by paying a fair wage. From each according to his abilities to each according to his needs.
* Lim Guan Eng, Secretary-General of DAP