Revised and updated Budget 2000 on Friday should provide for a minimum RM500 pension and increase the lowest rung of police salary by 50 per cent

- Penang DAP State Chap Goh Meh gathering
Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Saturday): The Finance Ministerr, Tun Daim Zainuddin, is scheduled to retable the 2000 Budget in Parliament on Friday, 25th February 2000 at 4 p.m.

I had criticised Daim for his statement that the content of the 2000  budget  on Friday  will  be similar to the one tabled in October last year, as it will be a blot on the government to retable the same budget,  word for word and paragraph for paragraph, as if nothing had happened in the  intervening four months in the country to require an updated and revised 2000 Budget.

If Daim is going to retable the same budget, word for word and proposal for proposal, then Fridayís special parliamentary sitting should be cancelled. This would not only save the expenses of holding a special sitting of Parliament, but spare the country the  fruitless exercise where Daim would be repeating word for word, proposal for proposal what he had said four months ago.

Daimís budget speech when he first presented the 2000 Budget is available on the Finance Ministry website and anyone who is interested to listen to it can access it on the internet.  All Daim should do is to go through the formality before the Dewan Rakyat adjourns on Thursday to move a motion to retable the 2000 Budget, stating that he has nothing to add to his Oct. 29, 1999 budget speech which is already part of official parliamentary record, and set the stage for the budget debate by MPs the following week.

In actual fact, there should be a substantial revision and updating of the 2000 Budget that was presented four months ago, not only as a positive response to the political and economic demands of 44 per cent of the electorate in the recent general election for more equity, justice, accountability and less corruption but also to take into account the many economic developments that have taken place nationally as well as in the international environment.  For instance, three important international meetings took place during this period, the World Trade Organisation Conference in Seattle, the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos and the UNCTAD X in Bangkok.

Daim should get his Finance Ministry officials to do homework to produce an updated and revised 2000 Budget on Friday, which should include the following two proposals:

1. Minimum pension of RM500 for the 300,000 pensioners

The majority of the 300,000 pensioners received between RM250 and RM400 a month which is  below the poverty level of  RM460.

There should be a new deal for the retirees, the majority of whom  retired in the 70s and 80s after serving the government for their whole life, by introducing in 2000 Budget a minimum pension of RM500 for the 300,000 pensioners.

2.  A 50 per cent increase for the lowest salary scale of police constables

Malaysians expect a dedicated,  professional and honest police force to uphold law and order in the country.  One basic condition for such a force is that the police should be paid a decent and fair wage.

The present starting pay for a police constable in the region of RM485 a month is ridiculously low and there should be a 50 per cent increase for the lowest salary scale of police constables, with upward revision for the higher grades.

This proposal should be incorporated in the 2000 Budget  to be tabled on Friday.

Cabinet Ministers do not understand that there  are two types of  budgetary proposals, one which come into immediate effect and another which require legislative action by Parliament

It is not surprising that many people do not understand that there are two types of budgetary proposals but I find it most  shocking  that even Cabinet Ministers do not understand such a distinction.

The first type of budgetary proposals are  those  which can come into effect only after the necessary legislative enactments, whether by way of amendments to existing laws or the passage of new laws, had been effected by Parliament, like the proposed changes to income tax laws.

The second type of budgetary proposals are  implemented immediately because they do not require legislative follow-up action but mere administrative action.

The abolition of television licence fees announced by Daim on October 29, 1999, though backdated to April 1, 1999, is an example of the second type of budgetary proposal which came into instant effect - as all that is needed is administrative action by the government and not legislative action by Parliament.

Another example was Daimís  announcement last October of 10 per cent salary increase  and 50 per cent increase in housing allowance for civil servants, which should have been implemented from 1.1.2000.

The government is being most unfair to the 850,000 civil servants to hold back the implementation of the increases until the 2000 Budget becomes law, which will be sometime in June or July, as previous salary increases had been made when there was no budget debate or when Parliament was not in session.

Another example of budgetary proposals which came into effect on the announcement by the Minister was abolition or reduction of import duties of about 400 food items.  This was made very clear by budgetary papers accompanying Daimís budget speech on October 29, 1999 which said that the abolition or reduction of import duties  came into immediate effect from 4 p.m. on the same day.

It is understandable that the abolition or reduction of import duties of the 400 food items cannot immediately be reflected in their retail prices, but one month should be ample time for the clearance of old stock and new lower retail prices should come into effect on December 1, 1999.

I am shocked that three months after the abolition or reduction of the import duties of these 400 food items, the Minister for Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin still thought that the import duty reduction or abolition had not been implemented and need not yet be reflected in their retail prices.

At the end of last month, for instance, Muhyiddin was still talking about giving traders ample time of one-month to reduce the prices to ensure that consumers get the benefit from the abolition or reduction of import duties of the  food items - when the one-month grace period should be calculated from October 29, 1999 and not from sometime in May or June this year when the 2000 Budget is finally passed.

Daim should give his Cabinet colleagues a proper briefing about the budget.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman