Daim should have used the revised and updated 2000 Budget to introduce living wage for police constables and pensioners and not give "golden handshakes" to failed privatisation projects

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): The Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin, should have used the revised and updated 2000 Budget to introduce a living wage for police constables and pensioners and not give "golden handshakes" to failed privatisation projects.

I am disappointed that Daim had not acted on my earlier proposal for a total overhaul of  the salary structure of the lower ranks of the Royal Malaysian Police to ensure a dedicated, professional and honest police force which is regarded as a friend of the people, as the salary structure of the lower ranks of the police are ridiculously low and do not provide a living wage.
The lowest salary grade  for police constables  is SSB:Y14, with three starting scales, namely  P1 - RM485, P2 - RM520 and  P3 - RM556 - which is not a living wage which will ensure that an honest day’s work would be  rewarded with an honest day’s pay.  The living wage should be an absolute minimum where anyone working full-time will never fall below the poverty line - which is RM460 in Malaysia -  and in the case of the police constables performing an important essential service, far above the poverty line.  This is why I had suggested a 50 per cent upward revision for the lowest salary structures for the police force.

In failing to pay police constables a living wage, the government must bear the responsibility for giving black sheep in the police force the excuse that they would have to resort to corruption to supplement their incomes.

The living wage concept should also apply to the 300,000 pensioners, the majority of whom received between RM250 and RM400 a month which is
below the poverty level of  RM460.

Although the revised 2000 budget clarified that pensioners would also benefit from the 10 per cent pay rise in civil service salaries, it does not really address the problem faced by the majority of pensioners below the poverty line.

In keeping with the "living wage" principle, 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.

The injustice of the government’s failure to introduce a "living wage" for  police constables, pensioners and others in the lowest categories of the civil service becomes most blatant and glaring when after the budget, Daim confirmed that the government is prepared to throw hundreds of millions or even  billions of ringgit of public funds to rescue failed privatisation projects.

Daim said the government had finalised the agreement to take over the ownership of sewage treatment company Indah Water Konsortium Sdn Bhd (IWK) from Prime Utilities Bhd.

IWK, which took over the sewage treatment services in 1994, has been plagued with debts amounting to about RM700 million although the government had pumped money into it to keep the company afloat.

The government became a special shareholder of IWK last year when it pumped in RM925 million in support loans.

One of the questions crying out for answer is why  the Malaysian taxpayers have  to pay for failed privatisation projects in the government's re-nationalisation to bail out crony companies which had been favoured with such privatisation plums

Daim said yesterday that "We have paid and we have signed" the takover agreement of IWK.  It has been reported that IWK's listed parent, Prime Utilities Bhd. would be compensated to the tune of RM200 million for the government’s takeover.

Why is this RM200 million compensation for IWK not in the revised and updated 2000 Budget, and why the Finance Minister was silent in his budget speech yesterday as to why the Malaysian taxpayers should finally bear the burden of the failed sewerage service privatisation project rather than the corporate movers-and-shakers who need not take any "hair cut" but must be compensated for their failures.

Daim should also explain the outcome of government's efforts to bail out Sistem Transit Aliran Ringan Sdn. Bhd. (STAR), which with equity capital of RM700 million has bank loans totaling  RM2.1 billion and government support loans of  RM685 million as well as Projek Usahasama Transit Ringan Automatik (Putra) which is carrying a RM2 billion debt with project costs of about RM5 billion.

It is most inequitable that the government is not prepared to introduce a "living wage" to police constables, pensioners and those in the lowest salary brackets in the civil service while it has no compunction in giving "golden handshakes" for failed privatisation projects.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman