2004 Budget delivers the  “feel good” effect with its hamper of “goodies”  to cap Mahathir’s  22-year premiership and in the run-up to next general elections without any new approaches to address the acute,   long-standing and fundamental nation-building, educational and socio-economic problems

Statement (2)
at Bayan Baru, Penang on the  DAP’s 46th National Day Celebrations/Defend Secular Malaysia campaign
by Lim Kit Siang

(PenangSaturday): Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has set a few new records   in his 2004 Budget in Parliament yesterday.  It was  the longest budget ever presented in the nation’s history lasting over three hours. It must have received the most assiduous treatment of the “spin doctors” to achieve  the maximum impact with its hamper of goodies and the creation of a “feel good” effect among the people. 

Mahathir said the government   proposed an amount of RM112.5 billion be appropriated in Budget 2004, “representing a 1.6 per cent reduction compared with an expenditure of RM114.3 billion in 2003”.

This is not strictly correct, as the total expenditure of  RM112.5 billion proposed in the 2004 budget is actually higher than the original allocation of the 2003 Budget of RM109.8 billion, i.e. an increase of  RM2.7 billion.   With several supplementary estimates, the 2003 budgetary expenditures  have risen by RM4.5 billion to RM114.3 billion – which are not the final expenditures for this year as  there is likely to be another one if not two more supplementary estimates for 2003 which would be presented to Parliament for approval next year, which could increase  the original total 2003 budgetary expenditures by at least another 10 per cent  to exceed RM120 billion, especially in view of the looming general elections around the corner. 

Nobody believes that the total 2004 budgetary expenditures could be kept to the RM112.5 billion proposed in Parliament yesterday, although the country is facing a grave and chronic deficit problem, as from past practices it would be no surprise for a hike of  another ten per cent or some RM11.2 billion, bringing the final total of the 2004 budgetary expenditures to the highest-ever level in the country  of around  RM125 billion.  

Although the 2004 Budget delivers to Malaysians the  “feel good” sensation  with its hamper of “goodies”  to cap Mahathir’s 22-year premiership and in the run-up to next general elections, there have been no new approaches to address the acute,  long-standing and fundamental nation-building, educational and socio-economic problems. 

Will Malaysians, in the morning after the 2004 Budget feel more positive and confident about  Malaysia  - that it is more competitive,  investor-friendly and committed to sustainable development; that it  will be an international centre of academic excellence ; restore  a safe and secure environment where people are not haunted by double rise in crime rate and the fear of crime in the streets, public spaces and the privacy of their homes; and Malaysia will develop a culture of zero tolerance for corruption to be ranked among the world’s top-rank least corrupt nations?

If the answers are in the negative, and they must be in the negative, then what has the 2004 Budget achieved, apart from being a  bigger publicity extravaganza than previous budgets?
What is probably most impressive and significant  for Malaysia’s future development in the 2004 Budget are the  lower Internet access charges, including broadband access to promote a high Internet take-up rate in the country (except for the disturbing proposal for the merger of Jaring and TMNet resulting in a monopoly with the globbling up of the former which is not calculated to ensure quality broadband services)  – but this has still to be accompanied by a revolution of the  IT mindset and culture in the  government and important institutions in the country, which is woefully absent in the public service as demonstrated by the disgraceful Parliamentary website.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman