By SK English Team
Bagan MP and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng proposed in Parliament on Tuesday that a RM800 per month unemployment aid be given to those retrenched during the current economic crisis.
“I know it has never been done before but for a period of three to six months, RM800 per month should be given to each person who is retrenched,” urged Guan Eng, who is chief minister of one of the worst-hit states, Penang.
Based on government statistics and taking into account under-reporting of retrenchment, he said the total pay-out would not amount to much.
“This will only come to RM1.6 million a month and over six months, about RM10 million,” said Guan Eng, who based his calculation on an estimate of 20,000 retrenchments per month.
Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim warned Parliament to be proactive, saying the number of retrenched may soon cross the one million mark.
“Even though this fact is denied, Singapore itself has laid off 500,000 workers and 300,000 are from Malaysia,” the Permatang Pauh MP said.
Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Najib Abdul Razak had said workers laid off from Oct 2008 to Jan 2009 was 10,277 while the number of those retrenched under voluntary separation schemes 4,207.
Mini-budget to be tabled on March 10, GDP growth forecast to be trimmed
Najib admitted the government’s projected 3.5 per cent economic growth for 2009 would have to be lowered, as predicted by private forecasters months ago, but did not say by how much.
Despite taking into account the RM7 billion stimulus package he unveiled on Nov 4 last year, but only began implementing last month, Najib told Parliament that “the projected 3.5 per cent growth no longer reflects the current status of the economy.”
He also confirmed news reports that he would be tabling a mini budget on March 10, but refused to reveal details. Najib, however, conceded that the amount might be more than the first package to arrest the decline in growth momentum.
“The trend began in Oct 2008, when key economic trends such as national exports dropped at -2.6 percent and then -4.9 in November and -14.9 percent in December,” he said.
“Besides that, the Industrial Production Index also fell to -2.8 in Oct, -8.2 in Nov and -15.5 percent in December.”
Many private research houses have forecast a GDP growth of between zero and 1.5 percent in 2009. While they advised pump-priming measures, they also warned against improper implementation and outright leakage of funds into questionable projects - given the country’s already balloning budget deficit.
In the Open Budget Index 2008 - a survey of 85 countries conducted by the Center of Public Policy Studies - Malaysia scored a measly 35 points. The index grades how open each country’s budget books and disclosure information are.
The result was an eye-opener, falling far below Sri Lanka’s 64 points, Indonesia’s 54, the Philippines’ 48 points and Thailand’s 40 points.
“The government has to make details of the budget clear to the public and foreign investors, including its spending pattern and the project tendering system,” said Ramon Navaratnam, chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Studies.
“The government could even take a more proactive role to release it to the foreign investors by approaching them, as this would boost confidence among them and attract more investments into the nation.”