• GERAKAN should attend a basic Economics 101 course before it can lecture the Penang State Government

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 17th of October 2016

    GERAKAN should attend a basic Economics 101 course before it can lecture the Penang State Government

    I refer to the Star newspaper report “Ask Rahman Dahlan for help, Penang told”[1] and “Learn economics from Rahman Dahlan, GERAKAN tells Guan Eng”[2] from last week in reference to GERAKAN Secretary General, Liang Teck Meng’s press conference on the GDP per capita figures for Penang. In this press statement, he criticized the Penang state government for the low % growth rate in the state’s GDP per capita figures since 2007. He also suggested that Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng should learn economics from the Minister in charge of the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), Rahman Dahlan. I want to make the following three points in response:

    1) GERAKAN Secretary General should learn how to use the correct figures and calculations

    The calculations in Figure 1 below was used by Liang in order to show that the % growth in GDP per capita for Penang from 2007 to 2015 was the lowest among all the states in the country.

    Figure 1: Liang’s calculations show the absolute and % increase in GDP per capita by state, 2007 to 2015

    I am not sure why Liang used the Department of Statistics (DOS) data from 2011 rather than the updated DOS data from 2014 which is shown in Figure 2 below. I want to highlight, in particular, the GDP per capita figures in 2007 for Terengganu and Sabah were 19,476 and 14,104 which is higher than the 17,284 and 13,067 figures used by Liang.

    Figure 2: GDP per capita by state, 2005 to 2013, Department of Statistics

    When the DOS statistics in Figure 2 were used, the state with the lowest % growth in GDP per capita from 2007 to 2015 was Terengganu (36.2%) followed by Sabah (40%) and not Penang (43%). Indeed, one wonders why Liang didn’t use the starting year at 2008 (rather than 2007) since this was when there was a change in the state government in Penang. If the GDP per state growth rate from 2008 to 2015 was used, then Sabah would be clearly at the bottom of the rankings at 13% followed by Sarawak at 19% and Terengganu at 26% with Penang coming in at 33%.

    2) GERAKAN should praise the Penang state government for leading the state out of a serious economic recession in 2008

    Liang also fails to acknowledge that one of the main reasons why GDP per capita in Penang did not grow, in percentage terms, as fast as some of the other states is due to the 2008 global financial crisis which hit Penang particularly hard. In 2009, Penang’s economy contracted by 10.5% as a result of the 2008 global financial crisis, of which the Penang state government had no control over. Penang’s economy was the worst hit out of all states because of Penang’s much higher exposure to global trade. The overall Malaysian economy only contracted by 1.5% in comparison (See Figure 2 below).

    The Penang State government had to work hard to recover from this serious crisis which it did with impressive results. From 2010 to 2015, Penang’s GDP growth rate was higher than the Malaysian growth rate in all years except for 2012 (See Table 1 below). Penang’s GDP growth rate was also higher than Sabah’s growth rate in all years from 2010 to 2014.

    Figure 3: GDP Growth Rate for Penang, Sabah and Malaysia, 2008 to 2015

    3) GERAKAN should ask Rahman Dahlan why Sabah’s GDP and GDP per capita growth figures rank among the lowest in the country

    The GDP per capita figures post 2008 global financial crisis tell a very different story. The GDP per capita growth rate for Penang from 2010 to 2015 was 33% or an absolute increase of RM11,250 from RM33,597 in 2010 to RM44,847 in 2015. Penang ranked 6th out of all states. In contrast, at the bottom of the pile was Sabah with an absolute increase in GDP per capita of only 11%, from 17,831 in 2010 to 19,734 in 2015. (See Table 2 below)

    At the same time, Penang’s GDP per capita was the 3rd highest in the country in 2015 – after WP Kuala Lumpur at RM94,722 and WP Luan at 58,577 – while Sabah was third from the bottom after Kelantan at RM12,075 and Kedah at RM18,249.

    Rather than asking Lim Guan Eng to take economics lessons from Rahman Dahlan, Liang should ask Rahman Dahlan to explain why the GDP and GDP per capita growth figures for his home state of Sabah ranks at the bottom or near the bottom of the pile.

    It is sad to see GERAKAN, which used to pride itself as being an ‘intelligent’ party, use bad statistics and poor economics to criticize the Penang State government on its economic performance when the facts on paper and the situation on the ground tell a completely different story. If the people in Penang were not satisfied with the performance of the state government, they would not have given the Pakatan state government an overwhelming level of support (67%) during the 2013 general elections.

    I suggest that Liang attend a basic Economics 101 lesson before he issues any further statements on economic issues. I would be happy to give him and his GERAKAN leaders a free lesson.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/10/13/ask-rahman-dahlan-for-help-penang-told/

    [2] https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/358895

  • Is PERMATA expanding its reach just like the Prime Minister’s Department?

    Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 7th of October 2016

    Is PERMATA expanding its reach just like the Prime Minister’s Department?

    My colleague, Liew Chin Tong, MP for Kluang, and Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, Strategy Director for Parti Amanah Negara, highlighted how the budget for the Prime Minister’s Department had doubled from RM10b in 2009 to RM20b in 2016. At the same time, the jurisdiction reach and programs under the Prime Minister’s Department also expanded significantly under Najib’s tenure. Almost any new large scale spending program whether it is PR1MA housing or the Pan-Borneo Expressway was parked under the Prime Minister’s Department.

    It seems that the same kind of over reach has been emulated by the PERMATA program which is also parked under the Prime Minister’s Department. From its initial humble beginnings to provide a conducive learning environment for gifted students aged below 5 years of age, PERMATA has significantly expanded its reach and also the number of programs under its jurisdiction.

    For example, in six years, the number of Permata childcare centers or Pusat Anak Permata Negara (PAPN) has increased to a total of 88 centers in every state around the country.[1]

    Picture 1: Official Visit by the Patron of PERMATA, Datin Seri Rosmah, to the Putrajaya PERMATA center accompanied by the wife of the President of Indonesia, Ibu Iriana Joko Widodo [2]

    A Kolej PERMATA Pintar was built in UKM in order to cater to ‘gifted’ students from ages 9 to 15 at a cost of RM83m (RM20m for Phase 1 and RM63m for Phase 2). Summer camps are run, in collaboration with the Center for Talented Youth, Johns Hopkins University, for some of these gifted children.

    Picture 2: Site Visit to PERMATA Pintar by the Patron of PERMATA

    The PERMATA Seni program was then established in order to identify talented children in the area of arts including singing, dancing and music. A total of RM17.5m was allocated to this program from 2010 to 2014.

    Table 1: Allocation for PERMATA Seni from 2010 to 2014

    Year Allocation (RM million)
    2010 1.5
    2011 4.2
    2012 3.9
    2013 4.2
    2014 3.7
    Total 17.5

    Source: PERMATA website

    Picture 3: Patron of PERMATA at one of the performances of PERMATA SENI

    Perkasa Remaja was then established for the purpose of reaching out to ‘at risk’ youth by introducing them to community-based preventive programs (called PERKASA@community) and through a curative camp-based intervention program (called PERKASA@camp).[3]

    Picture 4: Patron of PERMATA at a closing ceremony for a Perkasa@Remaja camps

    The total allocation for Perkasa Remaja from 2010 to 2014 was RM6.4m.

    Table 2: Allocation for PERKASA Remaja from 2010 to 2014

    Year Allocation (RM million)
    2010 1.4
    2011 0.8
    2012 0.7
    2013 1.4
    2014 2.1
    Total 6.4

    PERMATA Kurnia was established as an outreach initiative for autistic children via an autism center as well as through research and training.[4] An RM10m autism center was built through the PERMATA Kurnia initiative in 2014.

    Picture 5: Opening of the PERMATA Kurnia Autism Center

    PERMATA Insan is an initiative to identify gifted children in the area of Quranic and Islamic studies and is parked under the Islamic Science University of Malaysia (USIM) with the intention of nurturing these talents as future Islamic scholars.

    A total of RM24m was allocated to PERMATA Insan including RM18m for a new building at USIM.

    Table 3: Allocation to PERMATA Insan from 2010 to 2014

    Year Allocation (RM million)
    2010 1.28
    2011 0.8
    2012 0.79
    2013 1.449
    2014 19.6*
    Total 24.0

    (* including RM18m for the building of a PERMATA Insan Center at USIM)

    Picture 6: Visit by PERMATA Patron to the students of PERMATA Insan

    Finally, a speciality children’s hospital called the Hospital Kanak-Kanak PERMATA is currently being constructed. The projected cost of this project Is RM600m and is financed via a build-lease-maintain-transfer (BLMT) Private Finance Initiative (PFI) model. According to PERMATA’s website, this hospital was inspired by its Patron, after she had visited many children’s hospitals around the world.[5] The expected completion date for this hospital is in 2017.

    Picture 7: Ground breaking of the HKK PERMATA attended by the PM and his wife, the Patron of PERMATA

    All in all, a total of RM518m has been allocated to PERMATA for its various programs, out of which RM190m was spent on development expenditure i.e. the building of the various centers and another RM328m was spent on operating expenditure, the majority of which goes towards paying the salaries of teachers at the Permata Negara early children learning centers and the staff at the PERMATA division under the Prime Minister’s Department. (See Table 3 below)

    Table 4: OPEX and DEVEX of PERMATA, 2009 to 2016

    Year Operation Expenditure Development Expenditure Total
    2009                    30,659,637                          20,000,000     50,659,637
    2010                    43,820,262  –     43,820,262
    2011                    38,511,245                          63,926,800   102,438,045
    2012                    30,981,604                            8,000,000     38,981,604
    2013                    39,029,950  –     39,029,950
    2014                    40,360,800                          28,000,000     68,360,800
    2015                    52,000,000                          41,737,500     93,737,500
    2016                    52,298,400                          29,200,000     81,498,400
    Total                  327,661,898                       190,864,300   518,526,198

    Source: PERMATA

    While these initiatives may not be bad initiatives in themselves, the following questions must be raised:

    • Why are the other ministries or departments not stepping in to lead some of these initiatives e.g. the Ministry of Health for the Children’s Hospital and the Ministry of Education for the identification and training of Gifted Children rather than leaving this for PERMATA to drive?
    • To what extent has the various PERMATA programs been able to achieve its goals?
    • What is to stop PERMATA from further expanding into other areas which concern the youth and children and over reaching into more areas?

    In the interest of future sustainability, shouldn’t these programs be parked under existing ministries and / or the relevant government agency or department? Without any checks and balances, PERMATA may continue to expand in the same manner as what has been happening in the Prime Minister’s Department over the past 8 years under the leadership of Prime Minister Najib.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] http://www.programpermata.my/en/negara/centres
    [2] http://www.programpermata.my/en/negara/photo_gallery/lawatan-rasmi-indonesia
    [3] http://www.programpermata.my/en/remaja/about
    [4] http://www.programpermata.my/en/kurnia/about
    [5] http://www.programpermata.my/en/hpkk/about

  • Will the political financing regulations be used selectively against opposition parties and its supporters?

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 3rd of October, 2016

    Will the political financing regulations be used selectively against opposition parties and its supporters?

    The recently released report from the Consultative Committee on Political Financing (JKNMPP) has some recommendations which are not without merit. Indeed, some of these recommendations have been supported by the opposition in the past including the recommendation for state-funding to be provided for the operations of constituency offices of elected Members of Parliament and state legislative members regardless of political affiliation. The recommendation to create a parliamentary standing committee on Political Financing merits consideration but needs to be discussed in the larger context of creating a number of parliamentary standing committees. The recommendation for greater transparency in the awarding of Public Private Partnership contracts has been reiterated countless times by opposition Members of Parliament for many years.

    The recommendation that state-owner enterprises of all types, be it at the federal or state or local levels, and all their subsidiaries be banned from making direct, indirect or in-kind contributions to politicians or political parties is long overdue. In fact, this can be done with a directive from the PM or the chief executive of the state, without necessarily involving additional legislation.

    But one cannot also turn a blind eye to some of the obvious shortcomings of some of the recommendations. Notably, the lack of any limits or caps on the amount which can be donated to political parties or to individual politicians and the lack of any spending limits by a political party or individual tilts an already uneven playing field even more to the favour of the ruling coalition, the Barisan Nasional (BN). There were also no recommendations for public disclosure of assets by politicians, especially those holding government positions.

    But the greatest shortcoming of this report is something which is outside the power and scope of work for this committee. There is nothing to prevent the BN from selectively implementing or modifying the recommendations of the committee in such a way as to enhance its own powers and put greater pressure on opposition parties and its supporters.

    For example, under the proposed Political Donation and Expenditure Act (PDEA), a very powerful “Office of the Controller of Political Donations and Expenditure” will be created. Political parties and politicians must report their political donations to this Controller who will have powers to audit the accounts. In addition, this Controller also has the power to confiscate donations if they are suspected to be from ‘dubious’ sources. We have seen how institutions which are supposed to be independent have been used to benefit the BN. The Elections Commission is the most important example and we have proof of this in the recently proposed 2016 delimitation exercise. We have no assurances that when the pressure in put on this Controller, he or she will not buckle to the needs of the BN leadership.

    Worse still, the proposed PDEA may be modify the recommendations of the JKNMPP by allowing the Controller to ban political parties from taking place in elections because of the non-compliance of one branch in the party with regards to political financing disclosure. A compliant Controller may then be pressured to use his or her power to target opposition political parties.

    Even though the JKNMPP recommends that steps should be taken to criminalise discrimination or victimisation of donors by introducing provisions in existing anti-discrimination laws or the introduction of a complete new law, it would not be surprising if this recommendation is totally ignored by the BN.

    We have too many examples of how laws which are supposed to ‘good’ for democracy and political activity be abused by the BN government. The Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 which was supposed to strengthen the right of assembly in the country, according to the establishment, ended up being used by the current regime to charge NGO activists like Bersih’s Maria Chin and Jannie Lasimbang as well as opposition politicians such as Nik Nazmi and Chong Chien Jen (among many others). Who is to say that this PDEA will not be abused in a similar manner?

    While there are merits in some of the recommendations proposed by the JKNMPP, the current political climate makes it very difficult for opposition parties and politicians to trust that the BN government will NOT implement or modify these recommendations in a selective and biased manner that is in its favour and which is detrimental to opposition parties and the practice of democracy here in Malaysia.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

  • 2016 Delimitation is a blatant attempt by the Election Commission to help UMNO win back control of the Selangor state government and win additional parliament seats in Selangor

    Press Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 21st of September 2016

    2016 Delimitation is a blatant attempt by the Election Commission to help UMNO win back control of the Selangor state government and win additional parliament seats in Selangor

    The 2016 delimitation exercise is a disgusting and partisan attempt by the Election Commission to gerrymander and malapportion parliament and state seats in Selangor in order to help the BN win back additional parliament and state seats.

    At the parliamentary level, the EC has redrawn the boundary lines by shifting pro-Pakatan state seats into pro-Pakatan parliament seats and by doing so, reduce the majority of marginal Pakatan parliament seats. For example, the N25 Kajang state seat has been moved from the P101 Hulu Langat parliament seat to the P102 Bangi parliament seat (the current Serdang parliament seat) resulting in the projected majority for Pakatan falling from 17267 in 2013 to 1046. In another example, the N37 Bukit Lanjan state seat has been moved from the P107 Sungai Buloh (the current Subang parliament seat) to P106 Damansara (the current Petaling Jaya Utara parliament seat) resulting in the projected majority for Pakatan falling from 26719 to 2013 to 3037. The N44 Sungai Pinang seat (renamed as N45 Bandar Baru Klang) has been moved from the P109 Kapar parliament seat to P110 Klang resulting in the projected majority for Pakatan falling from 23790 to 391. At the same time, the projected majorities for the super safe and super big (in terms voters) seats is expected to increase significantly – from 44672 to 73533 in P106 Damansara (the current PJU) and from 24685 to 49335 in P110 Klang. (See Table 1 below)

    Significant gerrymandering has also taken place at the state seat level. Many pro-opposition polling districts (daerah mengundi) have been shifted from marginal Pakatan seats into safe Pakatan seats in order to increase the chance for BN to win back some of the marginal seats. Based on the 2013 general election results, the BN would win back 7 state seats as a result of the 2016 delimitation exercise. These seats are N11 Ijok, N23 Dusun Tua, N43 Sementa, N44 Selat Klang, N46 Pelabuhan Klang, N51 Sijangkang and N53 Morib. At the same time, 6 state seats which were won by Pakatan win more than 54% of the popular vote in GE2013 have become marginal seats as a result of the delimitation exercise i.e. projected to win with less than 54% of the popular vote. These seats are N15 Taman Templer, N29 Seri Serdang, N33 Taman Medan, N38 Paya Jaras, N41 Batu Tiga and N49 Seri Andalas. Finally, 2 Pakatan state seats that were previously considered marginal are now even more marginal after the delimitation exercise namely N17 Gombak Setia and N18 Hulu Kelang (See Table 2 below).

    Selangor provides a clear example of how the Election Commission has abused its power and redrawn the boundary lines in order to benefit one side namely the Barisan Nasional. We must take all the necessary legal steps in order to ensure that this delimitation exercise is not approved.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

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