Dated 29th September 2021
The increase in the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) by 54% from RM260 billion under the 11th Malaysian Plan to RM400 billion, would require the Federal government to borrow an additional RM400 billion over 5 years. Based on expected reduced revenue estimates and increased expenditure requirements, the government has no choice but to tap into the local domestic debt market to fund the RM400 billion development expenditures or RM 80 billion yearly.
With the RM 400 billion increase in government debts, there is concern that the 12MP will be politicised with pro-opposition states being denied and discriminated against in development funding. Further leakages and abuse of power from the practice of crony capitalism, where projects are granted to certain parties without public open tenders and due diligence. The revelation of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim in Parliament that RM2 billion was spent on foreign consultants to prepare the 12MP is one such shocking example.
Instead, the 12MP continues to play the issue of race when poverty and economic development cuts across racial lines and affects every Malaysian. How can the Prime Minister convince the rakyat about the sincerity and commitment to his Malaysia Family concept that is inclusive and unites all Malaysians when he talks of protectionist policies for bumis but not for non-bumis vis-à-vis foreign ownership.
The exemption granted to foreign International Integrated Logistic Services(IILS) from complying with the 51% bumi equity but requiring Malaysian-owned IILs to give up their shares and ownership control, only highlights the extent of such discrimination and injustice. Or are foreigners considered more a bigger part of the Malaysian Family than non-bumi Malaysians.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob also announced that the sale of bumiputera shares or companies to be offered only to other bumiputera consortiums, companies or individuals. Ismail said the holdings and disposal of ownership by bumiputera companies will be regulated by the relevant ministries and agencies as sector regulators.
Does this mean that listed companies in Bursa Malaysia will have two categories of shares whereby non-bumi and foreign owned shares can be transacted openly without restriction, whilst bumi-owned shares only amongst bumis? Many bumis have complained to me that this will make their shares either not being able to be sold for lack of buyers or sold to politically-connected bumi cronies at way below-market rates incurring huge losses for the very same bumis that the government is supposed to protect.
As of 2019 in terms of corporate equity holdings, bumiputera shares was 17.2 %, with non-bumiputera 25% while 45.5 % was held by foreign entities and 12.3 % were nominee shares. If bumi shares are to be ring fenced to “protect” bumi shares, then the failure to do the same for Malaysian owned shares vis-a-vis foreign owned shares raises questions as to why the government is not interested in protecting “Malaysian’ shares.
Should not the government be focused on increasing Malaysian owned equity when foreigners own the biggest chunk at 45.5% of listed corporate equity? Again this raises the question whether non-bumi Malaysians are lesser members of the Malaysian Family compared to foreigners
The government should implement poverty-alleviation or income enhancing policies equally to all regardless of race or religion. There should be no discrimination with a different policy for a poor Chinese or Indian different to another poor Malay or orang asli.
The government appears to be worried that if the figures are differentiated between the Malays and the native population in Sabah and Sarawak as well as orang asli, it will reveal their lower income levels and higher poverty rates compared to the Malays. That is why fighting poverty levels and increasing the income levels should have a clear and concerted programme for orang asli and the native population of Sabah and Sarawak.
What Malaysians want is equal opportunity in education, economy and employment so they can realise their full potential and enjoy success with hard work. Unfortunately the 12MP falls short in inspiring a brighter future for our children where the country remains blighted by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession.
Lim Guan Eng