Three critical issues to Malaysia’s economic and national well-being which must be addressed by the 2001 Budget

Media statement
by Lim Kit Siang 

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin said yesterday that the 2001 Budget he would present to Parliament on Friday would offer a "little" good news for the man in the street.

What is more important is that the 2001 Budget should address three critical issues to Malaysia’s economic and national well-being not only in the first decade of the new millennium but the future as well.

These three critical issues are:

(1) Restore and enhance’s Malaysia global competitiveness

For more than a month, the government has acted like an ostrich with its head in the sand with regard to the 2000 global competitiveness ranking by Swiss-based  World Economic Forum (WEF) showing a catastrophic collapse in Malaysia’s international competitiveness rating,  falling by nine notches in the past year or 16 places in the past three years.

Malaysia slipped to 25th position from 16th last year, a fall of nine notches. Since 1997, when Malaysia was ranked in the 9th position, the country’s international competitiveness ranking had fallen disastrously by 16 places.

Malaysia, with all the  hype about the Multimedia Super Corridor, should have fared better in the rating as the  2000 competitiveness  rating attached significantly greater weight  than before to technology as a key driver of  sustained economic growth.

Or as the WEF president, Professor Klaus Schwab had  explained:

The WEF has explained that its  2000 Growth Competitiveness Ranking is largely comparable to its previous Competitiveness Ranking. This revised index aims to measure the factors that contribute to the future growth of an economy, measured as the rate of change of GDP per person. These factors explain why some countries are improving their prosperity faster than others. In 2000, the United States ranks first, a high-income country where the economy grows fast. Singapore is second, after the United States, in a reversal of last year's rankings where the US ranked second, after Singapore. Luxembourg (3), the Netherlands (4), Ireland (5), Finland (6) are followed by Canada (7), Hong Kong SAR (8), the United Kingdom (9) and Switzerland (10). In this index, Japan places in 21st position - a high-level current income country but with sluggish economic growth.

(2) Salvage Malaysia’s international reputation on corruption

Last month, Malaysia plunged from 32nd to 36th position in the Transparency International’s 2000 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) - continuing Malaysia’s annual freefall in the international corruption ranking since its first  introduction in 1995, except for one year.

Malaysia was  placed 23rd in 1995, 26th place in 1996,  and  32nd in 1997, 29th in 1998, 32nd in 1999 and 36th in 2000. It is noteworthy that the only time when there was an improvement in Malaysia’s ranking in the international Corruption Perception Index as compared to the previous year was for the year 1998, largely because of the anti-corruption campaign led by the then Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim the previous year.

(3) Prepare Malaysia for the challenges of globalisation

One of the most crucial factors determining whether a country is ready to face the challenges of globalisation is whether it is a quality state run by a government with institutions and laws and rules that foreign and local investors can trust.  No country can succeed in globalisation with a rotten judiciary, a corrupt government or lack of good institutions whether the result of systematic erosion, subversion or other factors. This is why it is a sad commentary on the deterioration of good governance and the development of a good quality state in Malaysia that such blatant discriminatory actions like the hijacking of the Teregganu state oil royalty by the Federal government has not been debated in Parliament yet.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman