Daim should allow for immediate  refund of the RM24 television license fee for those who had paid some RM40 million  between April 1 to Oct. 29 this year

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): The First Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin, announced in his 2000 budget yesterday the abolition of television licenses since 1 April this year, resulting in a revenue loss of RM43 million annually to the government.

The abolition of television licences is one of the budgetary proposals of the  Barisan Alternative's "Budget 2000 - the Barisan Alternatif's Strategy for Recovery, Development and Justice" made public two days earlier.

This is "one up" for the  alternative Budget of the Opposition alliance as it had compelled Daim to make a last-minute incorporation of this proposal.

Such a last-minute incorporation  is the reason  why the revenue change as a result of the abolition of television licenses is  not shown in the Estimates of Malaysia's Federal Revenue 2000, which shows all the revenue estimates as a result of the tax changes proposed in the 2000 Budget.

However, in order to avoid the charge of "copying" from the Barisan Alternative Budget 2000, Daim has come out with the fiction that the government had abolished television licences since April 1 this year.

This is untrue.  Yesterday was the first time Malaysians heard that television licences have been abolished since April 1, and even the Information Ministry is not aware of it, as between April 1 to yesterday, Malaysians had  been paying the RM24 television license which were collected with the issue of official receipts.

I was in Ipoh last night and I have here the official receipt for the  renewal of the television license of the former DAP Perak State Assemblywoman, Loke Swee Chin, and the official receipt shows that RM24 was paid in Taman Ipoh Post Office on 9th August 1999 for the renewal of television license from 15th August 1999 to 15th August 2000.

It is most regrettable that to forestall the Barisan Alternative from claiming credit for proposing in its alternative budget the abolition of television license, Daim had to commit the dishonesty of claiming that the government had abolished television licences since 1 April.

In his budget speech yesterday, Daim had declared that the Barisan Nasional government was a responsible government and had never misled the people. It is most unfortunate that Daim's claim was unable to withstand public scrutiny as his 2000 Budget itself is not free from attempts to mislead the people.

To the Barisan Alternative, the question of claiming credit is not important. Now,  what Daim should do is to allow for the immediate refund of the RM24 television license for those who had paid between April 1 and yesterday, which I estimate to be around RM40 million.

The Barisan Alternative Budget 2000 had also proposed raising personal income tax exemption to RM12,000.  Daim had only acted partially on the Barisan Alternative's proposal, raising the personal income tax exemption from RM5,000 to RM8,000 - still short of another RM4,000 as suggested by the Barisan Alternative.

It is regrettable that Daim had not acted on the Barisan Alternative's budgetary proposal for allowing 100% tax deduction on educational expenses, although  he increased the relief on education insurance from a maximum of RM2,000 to RM3,000 and allowed EPF contributors to withdraw a portion of their EPF contribution for the purpose of tertiary education.

But these are inadequate measures for a government which is fully committed to enhance the quality of life and the competitiveness of the nation on the world marketplace by giving top priority to education in the country.

The  2,000 Budget is an election budget with a lot of "goodies" for everyone.   DAP agrees that an expansionary deficit budget is necessary to stimulate economic recovery, but huge deficits budgetted would go towards mega-projects and bail-out of crony companies as there are no signs that the government is prepared to undertake far-reaching economic and financial reforms necessary to ensure robust and sustainable economic recovery and growth.

This is one reason why the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange Composite Index ended lower at the end of trading yesterday, down by 7.33 points to settle at 742.87, despite the presentation of the 2000 Budget.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong