DAP welcomes Nor Mohamad’s correction of Hilmy Yahya’s shocking error about
the government running out of development funds – which reinforces the case
for increase of additional 4,000 university places to resolve the injustices
of the university student intake controversy
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Sunday): I welcome the clarification by the Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop correcting the statement by the parliamentary secretary to the Finance Ministry, Datuk Hilmy Yahya and his assurance that the government is comfortable and has ample funds to continue development projects.
This is surely a relief after the bleak picture given by the parliamentary secretary to the Finance Ministry, Datuk Hilmy Yahya last Thursday that the government is running out of development funds because ministries are spending their allocations “too fast”, resulting in only RM17 billion from the Eighth Malaysia Plan left for development projects.
Hilmy Yahya said in Parliament House on Thursday that instead of staggering their expenditure over five years, the ministries spend at a faster rate, leaving only RM17 billion from the RM160 billion given at the start of the plan in 2,000.
Nor Mohamed clarified that the Government initially approved RM110 billion under the Eighth Malaysia Plan, but the figure was revised upwards to RM160 million in October last year. Based on expenditures of RM110.6 billion from 2001 to 2003, the Government still has an allocation of RM49.4 billion for the period 2004-2005.
The question is how Hilmy could arrive at a set of figures which is completely different from those of Nor Mohamad – the former saying that there is only RM17 billion left while the latter correcting him that there is still allocation of RM49.4 billion for 2004-2005. A proper explanation is owed to Parliament and the nation for this gross discrepancy committed by Hilmy when the first 2004 supplementary estimates are presented to Parliament early next week.
In any event, the assurance by Nor Mohamed that the government is “comfortable” and has ample funds for development should reinforce the case for the increase of additional 4,000 university places to resolve the injustices of the university student intake controversy by matching last year’s 16% increase of student intake as well as keeping the Barisan Nasional election promise of “Cemerlang, Gemilang, Terbilang”.
Although there is a “happy ending” for the 128 top scorers with the maximum Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 4.0 but initially denied their choice of a medical course after the intervention of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the plight of hundreds and even thousands of student high-achievers who got good CGPA points but not offered the course of their choice or even university places should not be ignored.
For this year, of the 85,966 students who applied for admission into the 14 public universities, 84% qualified for entry based on the minimum requirement of 2.0 CGPA but only 45% were offered places.
This means that some 30,000 who had the requisite CGPA for university selection were denied places, apart from the thousands who had been offered courses which had nothing to do with their STPM subjects, which they have no interest or have not heard about previously.
The Cabinet on Wednesday should set up a Cabinet Committee to ensure that justice is done not only for the 128 top scorers who have now been offered medical places, but also the thousands of student high-achievers who got good CGPA points but not offered the course of their choice or even university places.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader,
Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman