20 August 2016, E&O Hotel
*YB Zairil Khir Johari, Member of Malaysian Parliament for Bukit Bendera (ETA: 1 pm)
Distinguished Members of the PFF Selection Committee,
PFF Scholars and invited guests.
A very good afternoon to all.
As Chairman of the Penang Future Foundation’s Selection Committee, I am undoubtedly pleased to meet the first batch of PFF Scholars today. These 51 scholars who are present in this ballroom, are part of the 63 recipients selected out of almost a thousand applications received last year. My heartiest congratulations to each of you.
Coming from a select range of fields of study (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Accountancy) in public and private universities as well as diverse backgrounds, our scholars are outstanding and deserving beneficiaries of the Penang Future Foundation scholarship programme. This programme is a Penang State Government initiative which thrives on contributions from private sectors and donors. In this respect, we wish to acknowledge the RM40 Million contribution from the Penang Turf Club. Through this partnership, it enables us to assist young Malaysians, particularly Penangites, to be financially secure as they pursue tertiary education in their chosen fields.
Ladies & gentlemen,
Despite lacking natural resources and bereft of federal government funding, the Penang State Government is focused on making Penang a model of good governance and clean leadership to develop Penang into an entrepreneurial and welfare state. This contrasts with the present governance model of crony capitalism and corruption. Penang has managed to prosper by relying on good and clean governance, building our human talent and relying on the private sector and civil society in a framework of Public Private Partnership (PPP). With the state government provide either the seed money or funding the entire project/initiative, we invite the private sector to invest either in funds or expertise on sustainable development.
Despite being publicly funded, many of these projects/initiatives are run by the private sector or civil society, with minimal or no interference from the state government. The RM20 million Penang Science Café project to give free classes to kids in applied science and robotics, the RM28 million Tech Dome of Penang to rekindle interest in science and technology, the RM 6 million German Dual Vocational Training scheme offering free 42-month advanced diploma courses where students learn on the job and work at factories that is recognised even in Germany, the new RM3 million Penang Digital library, the building of a RM1 billion fish farming on the sea industry out of nothing in 2008, and even the annual George Town Festival showcases the successes of Penang’s entrepreneurial state model.
The Penang State Government is simultaneously continuing its effort to transform Penang into an international and intelligent city that is a location of choice for investors, a destination of choice for tourists and a habitat of choice for residents who desire sustainable living. Penang recorded RM 8.2 billion in investments in 2014, a 110% increase compared to RM 3.9 billion in 2013. For the 8 years period between 2008-2015, Penang recorded an investment of RM 55 billion, a 90% increase compared to the previous 8 years period 2000 to 2007 of RM 29 billion.
Ladies & gentlemen,
Penang is also a welfare state in not forgetting about the poor and disadvantaged. Since 2008, more than RM400 million has been paid out to schools, senior citizens, new born babies, single mothers, the disabled, housewives, taxi drivers, fishermen, trishaw riders, primary, secondary and university students. We devote 12% of our budget annually in cash aid and even guarantee a minimum monthly household income of RM790 by topping up the income of those who earn less than RM790. In other words, if your monthly household income is RM600 per month, the state will pay RM190 every month. Perhaps this is why Penang’s Gini coefficient of income inequality has been reduced from 0.42 in 2009 to 0.364 in 2014, an improvement of 13% over 5 years, as compared to the national average of 0.401.
Our RM500 million public and affordable housing programme of 26,255 units, the largest ever by any State Government in history, has attracted widespread interest as shown by the huge crowd response to our recently held affordable housing expo in Prangin Mall.
The entrepreneurial and welfare state is only possible because we record annual budget surpluses through clean administration. Penang’s CAT administration of Competency, Accountability and Transparency has allowed our reserves to increase from RM850 million to nearly RM1.6 billion in 8 years. Penang’s government debt has been reduced by 90% to only RM69 million – the lowest in Malaysia. Further Penang’s unemployment rate of 1.5% offers many job opportunities.
Ladies & gentlemen,
I’ve mentioned earlier on ‘building our human talent’. The foundation of the Penang State Government’s commitment to this important scholarship initiative lies in a simple truth – Penang pulls its weight and puts its stamp solely on the strength of its people.
Ever mindful of Malaysia’s increasing ‘brain drain’, the State’s ultimate aim lies in transforming Penang into a talent hub. For this purpose, we recognize that the human talent must be appreciated, nurtured and utilized to its fullest potential. We realize that abundance of talent is irrelevant when infinite potential is hampered by, among others, inadequate funding. Similarly, we acknowledge talent is irreplaceable when our talented young stars leave our shores for a better future elsewhere. Hence, Penang Future Foundation is designed not only to provide our youths with ladders of opportunity and escalators to mobility but also as a bridge that links together, our future leaders and Penang’s continuous, unimpeded progress for years to come.
In reaching for the stars, we must not forget to keep our feet planted firmly on the ground. The scholars who are here today would have met and remembered my fellow Selection Committee members from your interview selection process last year. Consisting of distinguished professionals, be it academia or industry, this luncheon is also in appreciation of the following individuals’ commitment towards the Penang Future Foundation:
(a) Dato’ Seri Nazir Ariff,
(b) Dato’ Daisy Ooi (who is unable to be with us today);
(c) Mr. P. Ramakrishnan (who is unable to be with us today); and
(d) Ms. Loo Lee Lian, General Manager of investPenang
as well as our three newly appointed Selection Committee members –
(e) Emeritus Professor Dr. Lim Koon Ong, former Deputy Chancellor from Universiti Sains Malaysia;
(f) Dr. Lim Kim-Hwa, CEO and Head of Economics Studies of Penang Institute. He is also a Fellow in Finance and Financial Reporting from Cambridge University; and
(g) Dato’ Danny Goon.
I also would like to extend my sincere appreciation to each and every co-interviewer who is present for having taken the time off your busy schedules and supported the State in this important initiative. Thank you as well to the hardworking Secretariat members of the Penang Future Foundation for your tireless effort in running the scholarship programme as well as organising today’s luncheon.
Last but not least, I offer my congratulations to three PFF Scholars who have successfully graduated with First-Class honours;
(a) Mr. Tan Kean Tiong, Bachelor of Science in Architecture from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia;
(b) Mr. Cheong Pei Bin, Bachelor of Computer Science from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman; and
(c) Ms. Tan Sheu Yeu, Bachelor of Computer Science (Software Engineering) from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.
I have also been informed that both Tan Kean Tiong and Cheong Pei Bin have entered the working world and are now employed by companies in Penang. We are very proud of your achievements and with several other scholars graduating in the near future, this will mark the first of many milestones for the Penang Future Foundation.
With every opportunity given to you to flourish and grow as capable individuals, it comes with a responsibility for you to excel and perform your role in making Penang better.