Penang State Government 2015 May Day Message by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng in Komtar, George Town On 1.5.2015
The Penang state government’s decision to establish a scholarship fund through the Penang Future Foundation(PFF) will help workers who are affected by rising prices, rising debt and stagnant wages. Malaysians already suffer from the highest personal household debt in Asia at GDP ratio of 87.9%, or RM940.4 billion as at end-2014. Scholarships with a maximum of RM100,000 for the entire course through the PFF, provided to all Malaysians with emphasis to Penangites, to local universities will help bright children of ordinary workers.
Financial assistance from the Federal government has been lacking due to wastage, inefficiencies and malpractices. The RM42 billion ringgit 1MDB scandals and the imposition of the 6% GST has only imposed heavier burdens and hardship on the rakyat in the form depressed stock market values, depreciation of the ringgit and rising prices of goods and services.
Whilst there is no doubt that rising prices is due to GST imposed from 1 April 2015, many do not realised that income values are eroded and diminished due to the stock market and our ringgit being the worst performer in Asia in 2014. Despite the 6% economic growth rate recorded in 2014, our stock market declined by 6%. In contrast the Thailand stock exchange increased its value by 15% despite recording a mere 1% economic growth rate in 2014.
Our ringgit has now plunged to its lowest levels in history. All this can be traced to the 1MDB scandal, which has raised serious questions about our credit rating, ability to pay, current account deficit and commitment to plug leakages such as corruption. Under the prevailing harsher economic climate, it is workers who suffer more and big companies that benefit.
For instance, TENAGA Nasional Bhd’s (TNB) net profit for the second quarter ended February 2015 rose 24% to RM2.16 billion from RM1.73 billion a year earlier. This was attributed to higher electricity sales, lower generation cost due to lower coal price and lower usage of the more expensive liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuel.
Unfortunately TNB’s higher earnings have not benefited the rakyat, apart from lower tariffs for 3 months until 30 June 2015, announced on 11 February 2015 by Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili. The BN Federal government has refused to clarify whether the electricity tariff reduction will be extended beyond 30 June 2015. Clearly the announcement of the tariff reduction is timed for the Permatang Pauh by-election, which votes on 7 May 2015.
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 direct cash grants to the tune of RM287 million to help the needy and other vulnerable groups.
As a result of these people-centric policies, Penang has succeeded best in Malaysia in bridging income inequality, with Penang’s Gini Coefficient improving by 12% in only three years from 0.42 in 2009 to 0.37 in 2012. The Gini coefficient is a measurement intended to represent the income distribution of a nation’s residents, and is the most commonly used measure of inequality.
Now, we are taking another big step to invest in the future by starting the RM20 million Penang Future Foundation scholarship programme in order to help deserving Malaysians to achieve their academic dreams and also to reverse the brain drain problem by ensuring they return to work in Penang after completing their studies.
Lim Guan Eng