red arrow 

 red arrow 



Budget debate speech by Chong Eng in Parliament on Thursday, 21th October 2010:

Do not neglect women and other unfortunate groups in economic transformation

I was attracted by a paragraph in YAB's budget speech:

"Success demands drastic changes, not incremental. It requires a quantum leap. The choice before us is clear. Change is not an option but an imperative. We must change or risk being left behind."

I agree that change is no longer a choice but an imperative. We must change or risk being left behind.

Unfortunately, the change in YAB's speech is only on economic aspect and to achieve high income economy. In this rhetoric, those who are already left behind now do not receive any focus.

The group I meant was women, OKU, our children in the villages, orang asli and pribumi.

Malaysia's ranking in the Global Gender Gap Index (CGI) fell from 92 in 2007 to 96 in 2008 and was had further deteriorated to 101 in 2010. The gender gap in the sub-index of political and economic empowerment remains high at 0.57 in 2007. The scale for the gender gap is from zero (0) to one (1) with zero meaning no gender inequality.

Therefore, although I welcome the Government's effort in allocating RM30 million to increase women's role as entrepreneurs, I regret that the Government has no action to overcome the wide gender gap in political sector and in decision making.

53 years after Merdeka, the number of women parliamentarian in Malaysia is still hovering around 10%. In the Cabinet, there have never been more than 3 women ministers at one time. And women state assembly members have never exceeded 10%, with 4.8% in 1999 and 8% in 2008.

In the civil service the PM said that the number of women in key position of the public sector has increased to 30.5% but what about the most senior positions of decision makers in JUSA B, JUSA A and so forth? In the highest level, women are not more than 15%.

Malaysia ratified CEDAW or the United Nation Convention On the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and Beijing Platform For Action in 1995. Therefore the Government has a commitment towards these international instruments to achieve at least 30% women at all levels of decision making.

In 2000, Malaysia also joined the global community to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) by 2015. The third goal in MDGs is to promote gender equality and women empowerment.

Two important instruments proposed by the United Nation to achieve 30% women in all levels of decision making is Gender Mainstreaming and Gender Responsive Budget. Unfortunately, these agendas do not get any coverage at all in the Prime Minister's budget speech. I doubt the sincerity of the Barisan Nasional Government who is merely paying lips service to Malaysian women in their so-called transformation program.

In the transformation program, where is the change of attitude and the action plan to achieve gender equality and at least 30% of women decision makers? Women are already left behind by 53 years of BN's imbalanced development program and unfair one-sided economic policies, will we reap any benefit from the latest budget rhetorics?

I therefore urge the Government to immediately implement best practices to mainstream gender, especially as done by other countries, for example an election system based on representation as in Indonesia, and gender quota which was proven effective in countries such as Australia, South Africa, England and Taiwan.

The title of the Prime Minister's budget speech is "Transformation towards A High Income Developed Country". But what is the use of this transformation to the women, or the OKU? The fact is that only those who have jobs have incomes. Many OKU are not even able to find decent jobs. More than 50% of women work at home and are not receiving any income. To these people, high income does not add any significant meaning to their lives.

I would like to ask if the Government has any action plan to increase job opportunities for OKU? What is the transformation for them? And what is the quantum leap for women who sacrificed their lives for the family and society? Before we immersed further in the empty promises of change by Barisan Nasional, let me give a more "down to earth" and do-able proposal, that is to create laws to safeguard welfare and the social security of home makers including through EPF and SOCSO contribution. The question is whether BN will take such practical measures instead of talking about quantum leaps?

The female labour participation rate (LFPR) have not improved in the last 20 years at 46%. What is the mega leap that the Government will offer to improve women's participation in the labour market?

A report by the OECD in 2007 showed that empowering women and achieving gender equality have positive effect towards the economy (Prof. Louka T. Katseli (2007), Gender Equality Can Boast Economic Growth). Therefore, I hope in our process of transformation, we must not forget to carry along the less fortunate groups, the OKU and women. I request the Government to announce to this august hall what are the concrete programs to achieve the targeted 55% of women labour force participation rate by 2015 and to convince us that Barisan Nasional will not go on marginalizing women.

Developing Human Capital

Infrastructure and facilities in all schools regardless of streams have to be improved. In this age and day, there should not be a school in Malaysia without pipe water or electricity. And the cost of these utilities must be borned by the government for all schools, including SRJKC and SRJKT.

In terms of building and developing schools, the Government should not make SRJKC and SRJKT political toys to be played with during elections to get votes. Instead the construction of these schools and their development should be based on the needs of the society. And as the provider of education, the Government is obligated to bear the cost of constructing and maintening maintaining these schools, not pushing the responsibilities to students and parents to raise funds as is practiced now.

Speaking of construction, I would like to highlight the case of SK Gunung in Alor Setar where recently a classroom during lessons caved in and causing injury to a teacher and 10 students. A year four student was hospitalized for fractured leg. What are the actions taken so far in this most unfortunate incident? It was reported that the building was renovated in recent years. How can such thing happen to newly refurbished buildings. Of course this is not the first case of public buildings collapsing and leaking in Malaysia. But the question is what is the Government's action to prevent such incidents? Especially because it involves our lives and lives of our children? Will the government review the contractors involved in the constructions and blacklist such contractors if it was found to be their fault?

Attracting Talents to Malaysia

The Government has also announced the formation of Talent Corporation to attract Malaysia talents overseas to return home. Although such move is much welcomed; it will not succeed if the basic policies of the Government are not reviewed and the Government cannot guarantee fair treatments to all Malaysians.

What is really needed is not to reach outside the country first. But to make changes within. This include to create a condusive environment for all Malaysians to achieve success in this country regardless of their race, religion and gender. This include equal opportunity to enter into public universities, fair allocation of scholarships, equal allocation to all types of schools, creating an environment for more high income jobs. I urge the Government therefore to look into all these right now to retain local talents before looking outside the country to go "shop" for talents overseas.

Related to this, I also urge the Government to recognize the United Examination Certificate and to give allocation to independent Chinese schools, non profit colleges such as Han Chiang College, New Era College and Southern College. By doing this, we are sharpening existing local talents in the country!

In addition, the Government should give recognition to degrees and certificates from universities in China, Taiwan, HongKong, India and Rusia. Many developed countries gave recognitions to these universities so there is no reason why Malaysia should not since a number of our graduates come from these institutions. Doing this will only broaden the talent base of Malaysia.

In order to widen the access to quality education, we should also invite top universities in the world to open up campuses and branches here in the country. For example, so far we have Monash University, KL campus. That way, our students do not need to spend more money going overseas to get world class education.

Social Program must be Based on Needs

The Government is allocating RM111 million to PERMATA program but only RM100 millino to various programs to empower the Orang Asli and Pribumi. This community is one of the most marginalized group in Malaysia. They are being left out in all aspect of social and economic development. The Government should give special attention to the plights of the Orang Asli including to address the issue of malnutrition and high drop out rate from schools of Orang Asli children.

I welcome the move of the Government to acknowledge the role of NGOs in resolving social ills. The RM70 million allocation from the budget therefore should be channeled through transparent process to NGOs with proven record of excellence and should not be an opportunity to distribute free money. Social problems are not politically biased and affect every Malaysians regardless of race, religion and gender. Therefore any programs from the allocations must be bi-partisan and beyond politics.

This RM70million was proposed to be used to address social problems such as baby dumping, mat rempit and gangterism. This is treating the symptom of the problem. What we need is prevention. The government should also allocate fundings to create better family support system, such as child care centres, family crisis centre and to increase the number of qualified social workers.

The Government should also give serious attention to sexual crimes against children. Sexual crimes is on a rampant increase in Malaysia, with a 100% increase from 2005 to 2009, from 2427 to 4238. Almost 50% of these cases involved minors below 16 years old. Here once again, prevention is definitely much better than cure. Our children need to be taught which are good and bad touches, how to reject bad touch from strangers or even family members and if they become victims of abuse, how to report to the relevant persons. There should also be more facilities to help the victims and families to overcome the trauma of sexual crimes.

And finally, in order to strengthen the opportunity for parents to work part time or flexi hours, tax incentive should be given to employers who implement such working arrangement. At the same time, the tax exemption announced by the Prime Minister should include goods such as milk powder, baby formula, educational toys and equipment, especially for down syndrome and autistic children.

* Chong Eng, DAP Wanita Chairperson & MP for Bukit Mertajam



Valid HTML 4.0 Transitional