Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi Should Change The Economic Focus From Creating More Bumiputra Millionaires To Creating Wealth That Can Be Enjoyed By All Malaysians To Reduce The Income Disparity Between Rich And Poor In Malaysia

- DAP Federal Territory State Annual Convention

Lim Guan Eng

(Kuala Lumpur, Sunday): DAP urges Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to change the economic focus from the New Economic Policy to the National Devlopment Policy from creating more bumi millionaires to one that creates wealth that can be enjoyed by all Malaysians. This follows the report by the latest United Nations Human Development (UNHDP) Report 2004 showing Malaysia with the worst income disparity between the rich and poor in South East Asia, higher than Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia. 

The most recent declaration of the importance placed by the government on creating bumi millionaires came from newly-elected UMNO Vice-President and Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam in the Melaka State Assembly on 26 October 2004. The Melaka Chief Minister proudly measured the success of his economic management in the state with 10 bumi millionaires created by him which was preferable to creating 100 middle-class bumis with RM 100,000/-. 

The success of BNís economic policy of creating millionaires can be seen when the richest 10% of the population is 22.1 times richer than the poorest 10%. The UNHDP Report 2004 shows the richest 10% in Malaysia controlling 38.4% of our economic income as compared to the poorest 10% controlling only 1.7% of our economic income. This compares with Singaporeís richest 10% controlling 32.8% of economic income as compared to its poorest 10% controlling 1.9 % of economic income. 

The richest 20% in Malaysia control more than half or 54.3% of our economic income as compared to the poorest 20% controlling less than 5% at only 4.4 %. Clearly the UNHDP 2004 Report validates DAPís fears that under the BNís crony capitalism, in relative terms the rich has become richer whilst the poor become poorer. 

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should prove his commitment towards economic justice by focusing on creating and distributing wealth for all. As social democrats, DAP believes in equal opportunities to foster competitiveness and productivity to generate economic growth. More importantly, DAP believes that economic wealth should be distributed to deserving Malaysians who work hard and not to create bumi millionaires who do not create wealth but are beneficiaries of crony capitalism. 

Fighting Corruption

The problems and financial losses suffered by Malaysians as a result of crony capitalism can be seen with the billion ringgit financial scandals and failed government projects. The recent closure RM557.8 million Sultan Ismail Hospital in Johor Baru from fungal infection, the closure of MRR2 Kepong flyover or North-South Highway in Gua Tempurung caused by mudslide, delays in the RM 300 million Matrade building scandal and other failed public projects is only the tip of the iceberg. The public is sick and tired of asking why these incompetent contractors still get paid for such shoddy work?  

Malaysians therefore are not surprised when Transparency International Corruption Perception Index shows that corruption in Malaysia has worsened from No. 37 in 2003 to No. 39 in 2004. Where is the commitment to battle corruption when Karpal Singh who has not stolen or cheated a single cent can be suspended for 6 months in Parliament whilst no action is taken against UMNO MPs suspended from their UMNO membership for 3 years because of involvement in money politics? 

It the Prime Minister is serious about fighting corruption then he should direct the Badan Pencegah Rasuah(BPR) to investigate and take action against money politics in UMNO where one Minister said was the worst in UMNOís history. BPR should act if it does not want to be known as Badan Penutup Rasuah. 

Financial Assistance To The Poor

The government should recognize the problems of Malaysians who are left out by the 8% economic growth. Many Malaysians complain of hard economic times and some businessman even question the 8% economic growth figures when their business has gone down by 30%. Financial assistance must be offered and as a starting point the government should open up some government contracts to all, including non-bumis. 

DAP strongly opposes the suggestion by Petronas president and chief executive officer Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Maricanís that the Government find ways such as giving tax exemption of RM500 to reduce the lower-income group's dependence on subsidies, especially fuel subsidies amounting RM14bil a year. So long as Petronas refuses to respect transparency and accountability by fully publicizing its financial reports and how its profits are utilized for the benefits of Malaysians, 25 million Malaysians would prefer that Petronas subsidises low fuel prices than use the money to save certain financial scandals and BN cronies. 

Tan Sri Mohd Mericanís suggestion of giving RM 500 tax exemptions would not benefit the lower-income groups if they do not have enough income to qualify to pay income tax. Under the present tax structure those earning RM 2,000 monthly do not need to pay any income tax. Tan Sri Mohd Merican should realize that as many as 40% of Malaysian households do not earn enough to pay any income tax. So how does the RM 500 tax exemption assist the poor when they do not even earn enough to pay income tax? 

DAP acknowledges that subsidies is inefficient and distorts the market. However with the highest income disparity between rich and poor in South-East Asia, subsidies can not be completely removed. Otherwise the income disparity between rich and poor will only be greater. If Malaysia wants to improve economic justice then importance must be placed on the interests of the majority Malaysians who are not well-to-do instead of rich millionaire bumis or non-bumis or even rich companies like Petronas.


* Lim Guan Eng, DAP Secretary-General