Call for a White Paper on the  RM2.4 billion new development expenditures to be tabled in Parliament before end of current meeting – which should also explain why they are  regarded as Ninth Malaysia Plan and not Eighth Malaysia Plan expenditures?

Parliamentary Opposition Leader and MP for Ipoh Timor
by Lim Kit Siang

(Dewan Rakyat, Tuesday):  One year after the government’s  commitment to end the “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” malaise, Parliament has still to take sure and steady steps to transform itself into a First World Parliament which plays a meaningful and proper role as the highest political and legislative chamber of the land, where the doctrine of the separation of powers among the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary is fully understood, respected and honoured. 

This malady is highlighted by today’s debate on the second supplementary estimates 2004  - RM15 billion for operating and RM597 million for development expenditures.  

Is Parliament just a rubber-stamp of the Executive, to dutifully approve what the government had done and spent last year, while excluded from participating or influencing the actual process of decision-making? 

Yesterday, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is also Finance Minister, announced that the government has identified 26 projects worth RM2.4 billion for immediate implementation to revive the sluggish construction sector and strengthen overall economic growth. 

He said that these projects were initially proposed under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP), but would be expedited and implemented this year instead, to re-energise the construction industry, which has registered a negative growth of 1.9 per cent in 2004 and expected to also post lower growth this year. 

Leaving aside for the moment the merits or demerits of this pump-priming and its effect on the government’s fiscal consolidation efforts, particularly on the budget deficit which is to be kept down to 3.8 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year, the fact that this policy announcement was made outside Parliament at a time when it is in session highlights Parliament’s  irrelevance in the eyes of the Executive. 

If the Executive recognizes the  primacy role that should be played by Parliament, then such a policy announcement should be made in Parliament especially when it is in session, providing  an opportunity for debate on issues including: 

  • why the most extraordinary and unorthodox measure is being adopted to regard this pump-priming exercise as an immediate and pre-implementation of the Ninth Malaysia Plan which will only begin next year, when  the Ninth Malaysia Plan has not been presented to Parliament for approval;
  • why the  RM2.4 billion new development expenditures this year are regarded as Ninth Malaysia Plan and not as a final portion of  Eighth Malaysia Plan expenditures; and
  • whether this is “creative” form of  budgeting to   try to maintain the  “feel good” sentiment that the budget deficit for this year  is being kept down to 3.8 per cent of GDP for this year – which was reiterated by Abdullah only last month in his stirring speech calling for the branding of Malaysia to re-attract foreign investors as Malaysia is not yet a story well told.
  • The details on the 26 new development projects and measures to check abuses of power, misappropriation or wastage of funds, and corruption.

The Government should present  a White Paper on the  RM2.4 billion new development expenditures in Parliament before end of current meeting – which should also explain why they are  regarded as Ninth Malaysia Plan and not Eighth Malaysia Plan expenditures.  Time should also allocated for  debate on the White Paper. 

This contempt for Parliament seems to have  become ingrained among Cabinet Ministers, with them frequently making policy  announcements outside Parliament even  when it is in session - even anticipating answers to questions which MPs have given notice to raise in the House – when the proper place to do so is inside Parliament. 

In this connection, questions have been raised about the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Australia and New Zealand.  DAP commends the Prime Minister for starting a new era  in Malaysia-Australia relations, turning a new page  with the Australian Government after a rocky history of  two decades – making the first Prime Ministerial visit in 21 years.   

Although Malaysia must make clear our disapprobation of any  United States Deputy Sheriff in our region and condemnation of the unilateral and arrogant pre-emptive strike doctrine, these differences should not stand in the way of fostering closer economic, educational, social and cultural ties between the  two countries. 

However, why must the Prime Minister’s visit, accompanied by more than half-a-dozen Cabinet Ministers, be held during a parliamentary meeting, when the Ministers concerned should be in Parliament to discharge their parliamentary responsibilities to account for their Ministerial performance and duties? 

Ministers should ensure that their overseas trips do not clash with the parliamentary time-table, unless this is unavoidable because of internationally-fixed conferences,  as their paramount  duty is  to be in Parliament when it is in session to account for decisions or actions affecting their Ministries.  I hope the Prime Minister will send out a clear directive to all Ministers to this effect.


*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman