Penang State Government Merdeka Day Message By Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng In Komtar, George Town On 31.8.2015.
Malaysians celebrate a bleak Merdeka following plunging confidence in Malaysia’s economy, public integrity and political accountability that has led to an economic and political crisis. Penang is no exception and this is reflected in the performance of the ringgit, which has dropped by 28% over the past year to over 4.2 to 1 US dollar. This effectively means that Malaysians are poorer by 28% in US dollar terms.
Penang has paid the price by dropping back to middle-income status when we are supposed to graduate to high-income economy this year. The World Economic Forum Human Capital Report defined a high-income economy as one whose Gross Domestic Product or GDP per capita reaches USD$12,467 or RM 40,841 based on the exchange rate of RM3.27 for USD$1.
Instead of RM40,841 as the benchmark to achieve high-income status, the 28% drop in the ringgit means that the benchmark has been increased to RM52,000. Penang was expected to achieve a GDP per capita of RM42,251 based on a population of 1,681,922 people and a GDP of RM71,063 million by this year 2015. Penang’s GDP per capita of RM42,251 would have exceeded the benchmark of RM40,841 to become a high-income economy.
However, based on the current exchange rate of a 28% drop in the value of the ringgit, Penang’s 2015 estimated GDP per capita of RM42,251 is still far off from the new revised high-income benchmark of RM52.000. This goes to show the cost to Penangites in terms of price inflation due to the drop in the ringgit, but also Penang missing out from being a high-income economy.
Despite Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s claims that Malaysia’s economy continues to grow by 5% this year, the harsh reality is that business turnover has not grown but instead plummeted drastically since 1 April 2015 due to the implementation of the GST. The Penang state government works for the nation and not for donation like BN, to prove that a clean government can always perform better than a corrupt government.
By adopting a model of clean leadership and good governance, the Penang state government recorded budget surpluses of RM453 million in the 6 years we were in power from 2008-2013. This 6 year result is higher than the RM373 million in budget surpluses BN recorded in the 50 years it ruled Penang from 1957-2007! Clearly the Penang state government has done better in only 6 years compared to what BN did in 50 years.
These surpluses have enabled Penang to carry out many social welfare programmes and cash aid to the needy. These social welfare programmes and cash aid to the needy has helped Penang to reduce income inequality. This is proven by our Gini Coefficient, which is the measure of income inequality where the higher number signifies greater income inequality, reducing from 0.42 before to 0.37 in 2012. This 0.37 by Penang is much superior to our national gini coefficient of 0.42.
Our good governance was received well by international investors. From 2008 to 2014, we managed to achieve RM48.2 billion worth of investments, which is 93% higher than the RM24.9 billion invested from 2001 to 2007. Furthermore, we have also embarked on an ambitious RM27 billion Penang Transport Master Plan project to develop comprehensive public transport infrastructure in Penang.
For this reason the Penang state government will adopt economic measures focusing on tourism, housing construction and public infrastructure works, investment in manufacturing and services to counter the 20% drop in business turnover in Penang due to implementation of GST and nearly 30% depreciation in the Ringgit due to the RM42 Billion 1 MDB scandal.
LIM GUAN ENG