The Penang state government is willing to work with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Utama Najib Tun Razak and the Federal government to help make Penang and Malaysia a high-income economy that is safe, clean and offers equal opportunity to all. All Malaysians are losers if we forgo democracy in favour of extremism, equal opportunity in favour of cronyism and integrity in favour of corruption.
Differences in views are common in a two-party system. The Prime Minister would concede that Malaysia is now a tow-party democracy following the political tsunami of 8 March 2009. However such diversity should be a source of strength and unity and not be seen as a threat and disunity as there is too much at stake for both Penang and Malaysia. For this reason Penang is willing to support the Prime Minister’s 6 Key Results Areas(KRAs):
1. Widening access to quality and affordable education
2. Crime prevention to reduce crime rate;
3. Fighting corruption;
4. Raising the living standard of the low-income people;
5. Upgrading infrastructure in the rural and interior regions; and
6. Improving public transport
Penang is also willing to be the test-bed for the World Bank’s 4 recommendations in promoting further specialization of the economy; improving the skills base of the labor force; making growth more inclusive and bolstering public finances for Malaysia to become a high-income economy.
Penang hopes for support on specializing the economy by leveraging on our in-built advantages of being the Silicon Valley with high-tech electrical and electronic industries to be both the sweatshop and smartshop of the manufacturing and services factor, free wifi, green state and sustainable lifestyle. Penang intends to improve the skillsets of the labour force by expanding the Penang Skills Development Corporation renowned as the best training and retraining institute in Malaysia, establishing Centres of Excellence for specialized fields and a new 200 acre Education Hub in Balik Pulau.
On making growth inclusive, Penang has provided micro-credit loans to the poor, wiping out hard-core poverty by ensuring each family earns RM 500 monthly, granting water rebates for the lower and middle-class to RM 100 yearly payments to the senior citizens. The state government has also bolstered finances with prudent budgeting that achieved a record surplus budget of RM 88 million in 2008 against an earlier projected deficit of RM 35 million, a RM 123 million turnaround constitutes 26% of the 2008 budget.
Whilst Penang hopes to co-operate and not confront the Federal government in common areas, Penang will remain firm that there must be no discriminatory treatment whether in terms of differing tax rates such as 15% for Iskandar Development Region but 26% for the rest or allocation of heritage conservation funds for Melaka but not for George Town.
As Penang contributes 25% of Malaysia’s volume and value of exports and imports, our success is also Malaysia’s success. Further all 26% of income and corporate taxes flowing from this success goes to the Federal government. We have no time to lose if we are to reduce the gap between the developed eonomies of Korea or Taiwan or even stay ahead of developing countries like Vietnam and Indonesia which have positive and higher growth rates than Malaysia’s current recession.