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Press Conference Statement by Lim Guan Eng in Petaling Jaya on Monday, 21st January 2008:

Economic freedom will be an equally important election issue as political freedom – the freedom of equal economic and social opportunities, freedom to enjoy an equitable share of economic growth as well as freedom from corruption

DAP announces the publishing of our economy pamphlet following BN’s stubborn refusal to address the economic hardships faced by a growing number of Malaysian consumers and businessmen from rising inflation that reduces their real wages and purchasing power. For this reason this pamphlet revolves around the basic principle of socio-economic justice that, “All benefits and burdens should be enjoyed and borne equally.”

In the course of our visits nation-wide, Malaysians from all races are complaining about rising prices and their inability to make ends meet. Apart from the basic commodities like milk powder and flour or industrial products like steel, timber and cement; even items as diverse as car battery and onions have doubled in price. Businessmen also complain that to get steel or cement, they have to pay an extra “incentive” of a few hundred ringgit.

How ridiculous the economic hardship can be seen by the recent cooking oil shortage despite Malaysia being the largest oil producer and exporter with 14.4 million tones in 2006 comprising more than 50% of the world exports. BN should feel ashamed that Malaysians are angry why Singapore without a single oil palm tree has no shortage of cooking oil?

BN has chosen to ignore the economic hardships faced by the people caused by rising inflation with lies that inflation rate is only 2% this year when it is running at more than 20%. The people must use the opportunity of the general elections to make BN wake up and listen to our voices to demands that the government share Petronas huge profits or follow Singapore’s example of giving cash to financially-strapped families.

With the international oil of price rising to nearly US$100 per barrel, the government must share the RM 70 - 80 billion annual profits of Petronas with the people. Fuel subsidies cost the country around RM 32 billion in 2006 and as much as RM 40 billion annually this year or next year if the international price of oil reaches US$100 per barrel.

Savings from fuel subsidies should be transferred to low and middle-income earners in the form of cash grants. DAP had suggested that those earning less than RM 3,000 per month be given an annual grant of RM 3,000 and families with a combined income of RM 6,000 per month be given RM6,000 annually. Such a scheme would cost between RM 30-40 billion, the same amount of fuel subsidies spent.

Every RM 4 spent on development projects is only worth RM1, with the remaining RM 3 lost to corruption, waste and inefficiency

Furthermore, giving this RM 30-40 billion to Malaysians would mean that this amount is spending locally, a form of fiscal stimulus that will generate local business and move the economy forwards. Better the money spent in the local market than wasted by the few cronies overseas. We must stress effort and ability instead of privilege and entitlement which has only engendered corruption. Corruption is one of the main causes of inflation.

US Morgan Stanley had estimated in 2004 that over the last two decades corruption cost Malaysia US$100 billion (RM 380 billion). With Petronas earning more than RM 500 billion since it was established in 1974, one can imagine how much was stolen and that only RM 120 billon or 24% of the RM 500 billion in Petronas profits were channeled to the people with the remaining 76% or RM 380 billion stolen by corrupt officials.

In other words for every RM 4 spent on development projects, the value of work done is only RM 1 with the remaining RM 3 lost to corruption, waste, inefficiencies and leakages. The actual loss may be higher as the scandal of repairing Chinese primary schools in Muar showed that RM 30,000 was spent when the value of work done was only RM 3,000/-.

Equal opportunity is not just giving everyone the right to study, the right to work, right to spend what is earned, and 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. No one is fated to be poor just as no one is entitled to wealth. Social justice gives everyone the opportunity to improve their standard of living.

Seeking economic freedom will be an equally important election issue as political freedom - the freedom of equal economic and social opportunities, freedom to enjoy and equitable share of economic growth as well as freedom of corruption.

* Lim Guan Eng, DAP Secretary-General


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