We call on the Malaysian Government to ensure that all civil servants are friendly and reasonable to the people, including hawkers, petty traders and small entrepreneurs, as well as showing prudence in the management of the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) with 10.3 million members

Press Statement
by Tan Seng Giaw

(Petaling Jaya, Friday):  The day before yesterday, the Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced the RM7.3 billion package to stimulate the economy, by boosting private consumption, improving competitiveness and developing new growth areas. Will these measures truly overcome the impact of the Iraq war and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)? Let us hope that the government will implement them effectively, to enable the people to get over this difficult period.

 Giving one million civil servants a half-month bonus and reducing EPF contribution rate by 2% are meant to stimulate consumption, that is, people throwing money about. The Prime Minister thinks the EPF measure can boost consumption by up to RM2 billion a year.

 “It’s a big amount of money. We have seven million employees (103 million EPF members) and if everyone only gets an extra RM10 to spend, it will mean an extra RM70 million into the local economy, he added.

 The 10 measures have effects on banking, finance, motor industry, property, consumers, hawkers, petty traders and small entrepreneurs. They make people think that the Government is preparing for general elections. Nevertheless, we hope people will benefit.

 Reducing the EPF contribution rate makes people anxious. After all, over 10 million people deposit about RM200 billion with EPF for their old-age pensions. Lowering the 2001 dividends to 4.25% causes the public to doubt the management of EPF, suspecting it of rescuing ailing companies such as Renong and PLUS.

 Out of the RM7.3 billion in the package, only RM1.7 billion are fiscal spending, the rest RM5.6 billion are from development banks, mostly the EPF. We hope that the Government look after the EPF better. We are afraid that the friar preaches against stealing and has a goose in his sleeve.

 Now, the ways the Government manages the EPF investment and the reduction in its contribution rate make people worry. They are like a cat on hot bricks. The Government should dispel this worry.

 As government servants get the bonus, the public are concerned with their performance. They expect the former to elevate their efficiency, treating the people well and avoiding irregularities. If government servants treat hawkers, petty traders and small entrepreneurs badly, then the package becomes less meaningful.

 Dr Mahathir must understand that some civil servants resort to various ruses such as bureaucracy and red tape to make life difficult for the public. One misfortune comes on the neck of another. If he can lay a foundation to change this before he ceases to be the Prime Minister in October this year, he would have done a service to Malaysians.

 Should we be able to improve the attitude and efficiency of civil servants and to get rid of irregularities, then this becomes yet another measure to stimulate the economy. Although many government departments have obtained ISO 2000, they must have regular review to improve their services and embrace the international standards. Otherwise, all is not gold that glitters.


* Dr Tan Seng Giaw, DAP National Vice-Chairman and MP for Kepong