2015 May Day Message by DAP Secretary-General and MP for Bagan Lim Guan Eng in Kuala Lumpur on 30.04.2015
14.2 million Malaysian labour force have lost faith in the federal government as they are caught in a vicious cycle of debt, rising prices, unfair low wages and public financial losses caused by inefficiency, wastage and corruption. There were 13.7 million Malaysian workers employed and 455,000 unemployed as at February 2015, resulting in an increase in the unemployment rate to 3.2%.
As May Day approaches, Malaysian workers have little to look forward to. Despite all the hype by Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak about the successes of BN’s economic transformation programme, they are impressive only for spinning the facts and hiding the harsh reality that these rosy statistics of 6% economic growth in 2014 means very little to ordinary Malaysians who remain mired in household debt and a widening income gap.
How come then Malaysian ringgit and our capital markets were the worst performers in Asia in 2014 despite the 6% economic growth? Malaysian capital markets plunged by 6% last year as compared to Thailand stock markets rising by 15% last year despite recording a growth rate of a mere 1% in 2014. As for the ringgit, our currency has dropped precipitously against all currencies, resulting in imported inflation. The heartless imposition of 6% GST on 1 April 2015 only worsened rising prices.
What is the point of transforming Malaysia into a high-income advanced economy by 2020, when EPF data shows that 62% of Malaysian workers earn below RM2,000 a month? This corresponds to the Department of Statistic’s latest report, which shows that median monthly wage of Malaysians is RM1,700. With so many Malaysians earning such a low income, any talk of a high-income society is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
Another problem afflicting Malaysians is the extremely high household debt to GDP ratio of 87.9%, or RM940.4 billion as at end-2014. This alarming ratio is the highest in Asia and is proof that Malaysians are caught in a vicious cycle of debt and low wages. As cost of living escalates, especially with the newly implemented GST, Malaysians will struggle to make ends meet as wages are not rising in tandem with productivity. In the end, not only do they borrow more, they also end up using more of their income to service their debt.
The recent public uproar over the EPF’s proposal to raise the full withdrawal age limit to 60 from 55 clearly shows that Malaysians no longer have any faith or confidence in the Federal Government’s ability to manage their money. Although the proposal is not without its merits, the fact is that the Federal Government’s recent track record of mismanagement and lack of transparency, especially in light of the RM42 billion 1MDB scandal, raises much concerns over what our sovereign wealth is being used for.
More worrying is the fact that EPF’s own data reveals that 90% of Malaysians nearing retirement age do not have enough funds to sustain a basic lifestyle for more than 5 years. 68% of EPF members aged 54 have less than RM50,000 in savings, which is a far cry from the RM198,600 recommended minimum savings.
Whilst the BN Federal Government struggles to manage the economy burdened by corruption, leakages and debt, the PR Penang State Government has not only managed to record a budget surplus of RM453 million from 2008 to 2013, we have also turned this surplus into an anti-corruption dividend through social welfare programmes to the tune of RM287 million to help the needy and other vulnerable groups. As a result, the present PR Penang state government has managed to reduce its income inequality with a Gini Coefficient of 0.37 from 0.42 before, the best in the country in reducing income inequality.
It is clear that Malaysians need a lifeline when the BN Federal Government offers no salvation. Instead, only a PR government with a proven track record can fulfil the aspirations of the people and ensure a competent, accountable and transparent government that will not only ensure economic growth but also equitable distribution.
Lim Guan Eng