Media Conference Statement by Lim Kit Siang at the DAP/PR Sibu by-election media centre on Tuesday, 11th May 2010:
Can Malaysia go the way of Greece becoming a bankrupt country and can Sarawak be spared if Malaysia is bankrupt?
The SUPP leadership does not want the Sibu voters in the “By-election of the Century” in Sarawak to be concerned about big national issues – and this is the great difference between the DAP and Pakatan Rakyat on the one hand and the SUPP and the Barisan Nasional on the other.
In fact, today I ask the Sibu voters and Sarawak people to ponder one serious question: Can Malaysia go the way of Greece becoming a bankrupt country and if Malaysia is bankrupt, can Sarawak be spared its awful consequences?
There was recently a television documentary regarding Greece 's financial fiasco, enumerating the why's and how's that this historic and beautiful country came to grief.
The diagnosis as to how the great nation of Greece ended as a financial “basket-case” are:
Bureaucracy: Greece's bureaucracy is famous in the whole of Europe ! To open a cafe or pub there are 25 processes to go through! This is a country of rules and regulations.
Bloated civil service: There are 1.05 million civil servants (excluding police and armed forces) . The population of Greece is only 10 million! More than 10% are govt servants! Salary increases every year and benefit for civil servants in Greece is one of the best in Europe! More and more money is needed to upkeep this bloated civil service . The retirement age is 62 yrs old.
Corruption: Greece is the most corrupted nation in the Eurozone. Citizens pay "under table " money to:
Every govt project is awarded to political cronies and at hugely inflated prices! Transparency International compared the prices of the construction costs of stadiums built for the Athens Olympics recently with similar structures in China --500% more expensive than the Chinese , compared to Los Angeles and Sydney -- 50 % more expensive!! All these with tax payers money and borrowings!
Tax evasion: Officially 80% of its citizens are supposed to pay tax but only 37% are doing so. Big businessmen and corporations have refined tax evasion to a fine art (or have the tax men taken some coffee money?)
No transparency in governance: The politicians and bureaucrats falsified economic data and painted a rosy and manageable picture while the economy was rotting away.
Unabated borrowings: Meanwhile, the politicians and bureaucrats continue to issue government bonds to keep afloat, series after series. They were trying to cover up the financial mess they have created creating one big hole to cover up the previous!
Lacking political will power to reform: To keep hold on to political power, politicians are prepared to lie, commit economic and political fraud. If reforms were taken some five years ago, the country need not go bankrupt and its citizens need not suffer so much. Political expediency and greed to political power over-rides everything and hence Greece is now a bankrupt country. Luckily, it is part of the European Union and its currency is EUROs, otherwise Greeks will have to eat grass to survive!
Laid back attitude: Tourism is THE ONLY industry in Greece and over the years the Greeks have had an easy time. Many flocked to see the historical sites and enjoy summer vacation on the islands. But they forgot that not many tourists will return after visiting the sites --there are so many other tourists attractions in the world, maybe more exotic and perhaps cheaper! So once tourism wanes and coupled with higher costs of living, the Greeks could not and refused to adapt and transform - still partying and having a nice time; maybe the Greek Gods will bless them! Greece have no natural resources, no electronics industry, no R & D --no anything! They were so laid-back --cannot see what is coming and crashing down on them. Even now, the civil servants refused to take a pay cut -- the world owes them a living!
Conclusion: The producer of the documentary had hired a taxi driver to go around while doing this documentary. The taxi driver had studied economics for four years in US and this was his parting words:
"My biggest mistake was returning 15 years ago, I should have stayed back in US. My nationalist instinct made me returned. The politicians screwed me. I loved my country but my country did not love me.”
Can Malaysia go the way of Greece?
The people of Sibu, Sarawak and Malaysia can see that many of the factors which had brought down the great historic nation of Greece to its knees, begging for European financial rescue, are already to be found in Malaysia after 53 years of Merdeka in 1957 and 47 years since the formation of Malaysia.
It is not that the Barisan Nasional leaders are not aware of the national crisis facing Malaysia, although they would only admit it in rare moments.
One such rare occasion is the publication of the New Economic Model (NEM) crafted by national and international experts who are not in the Barisan Nasional Cabinet
The report of the New Economic Model warned that “the progress we have made over the past half-century has slowed and economic growth prospects have weakened considerably”.
It said that Malaysia is “caught in a middle income trap – we are not amongst the top performing global economies”.
It also admitted that “Our economic growth has come at considerable environmental cost and has not benefited all segments of the population. The government must confront these realities and make tough decisions.”
Lets look at some of the ill afflicting Malaysia which have been identified by the New Economic Model (NEM):
The NEM gave a stern warning: “We must act now before our position deteriorates any further”.
All these ills of Malaysia sounds very familiar to the ills of Greece! The very same problems of corruption; abuse of power; cronyism instead of meritocracy; brain drain; public confidence in the major institutions of governance like the civil service, the judiciary, police, the anti-corruption agency, election commission; etc.
Have SUPP leadership showed any concern over the unchecked decline of Sibu, Sarawak and Malaysia?
Let the people of Sibu ask the SUPP leadership this question:
“Can Malaysia go the way of Greece becoming a bankrupt country and can Sarawak be spared if Malaysia is bankrupt?”
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor