(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): Yesterday, Minister for Housing and Local Government, Datuk Dr. Ting Chew Peh moved the first reading of the Control of Rent (Repeal) Bill 1997 which will abolish the 1966 Rent Control Act, starting from September 1 this year.
What I find most shocking is that the government proposes to debate the Control of Rent (Repeal) Bill 1997 tomorrow without giving Members of Parliament or the one million people who would be affected by the decontrol law the opportunity for study, public feedback and consultation.
The government had spent more than 20 years to study the rent decontrol process and there can be no justification for not giving Members of Parliament, and even more important, the one million people who would be adversely affected by the repeal of the Rent Control Act, a minimum time of three months to study the implications of the government rent decontrol Bill and the opportunity to make proposals before the second reading of the Control of Rent (Repeal) Bill 1997.
There can be no question that the Control of Rent (Repeal) Bill 1997 should not be debated tomorrow, giving MPs hardly 48 hours’ notice and the one million people who would be affected no notice whatsoever!
In fact, the second reading debate of the Control of Rent (Repeal) Bill 1997 should be deferred to the next meeting of Parliament, which is scheduled to meet for 11 days from July 14 to 31. This will give MPs and the one million people who will be affected by the Control of Rent (Repeal) Bill 1997 three months to study the rent decontrol proposals and to give their views and suggestions.
The Ministry of Housing and Local Government proposes the rent decontrol process to begin on September 1, providing for a 27-month transition period culminating in a full repeal by 31st December 1999.
Apart from proposing the deferment of the second reading of the Bill to the July meeting of Parliament, the DAP has two other proposals:
There are 36,467 buildings in Peninsular Malaysia which are protected by the Rent Control Act 1966, with one-third of them in Penang. The other states with a high number of controlled premises are Johore (5,659), Perak (5,531), Malacca (4,135), Federal Territory (2,500) and Negri Sembilan (2,003).
The Federal and State Governments had more than two decades to make the decontrol process as painless as possible by ensuring that alternative affordable low-cost housing are available to the affected residents of rent control premises, but their failure is no justification for them to evade their social responsibility to the affected residents to minimise socio-economic dislocations and hardships.
Although a Rent Decontrol Tribunal is being proposed to deal with the problems and complaints arising from the repeal of the Rent Control Act 1966, it lacks the real powers to minimise socio-economic dislocations and hardships to the people affected, as the single biggest issue of alternative affordable housing close to their place of livelihood is beyond the powers or jurisdiction of the Tribunal.
The Minister for Housing and Local Government, Datuk Dr. Ting Chew Peh, had said that state governments could utilise the RM2 billion low-cost housing development revolving fund to build houses for those affected by the repeal of the Rent Control Act 1966.
It is clear that the it would not be possible for the government to ensure that the construction of houses for the one million people affected by the rent decontrol process could be completed in the 27-month timetable between Sept. 1997 and 1st January 2000.
The extension of the decontrol transition period from 27 months to five years would give the government more time to minimise socio-economic dislocations and hardships to the people affected and to ensure that there could be alternative affordable housing close to their place of livelihood for the one million people affected.