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Thursday, October 24, 2013

‘Address corruption before removing subsidies’

G Vinod | October 23, 2013
The opposition wants PM to address the issue of corruption and wastages before removing more subsides as it will only hurt the public more

KUALA LUMPUR: Several opposition members of parliament want Prime Miniser Najib Tun Razak to eradicate corruption before attempting to reduce subsidies given to the rakya.

Subsidy cuts will only hurt the people, not large corporations, PKR MP Wong Chen told FMT when met at Parliament today.

He said this in response to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s plans to impose more subsidy cuts in Budget 2014.

“We cannot touch subsidies to large corporations as they are covered under a long term concession agreement and it is protected under the Official Secrets Act (OSA),” said the Kelana Jaya MP.

Yesterday, Najib, via a blog post titled “Responsible steps in managing subsidies”, said that in view of the bleak global economic outlook, Malaysia was not immune to its effects though it has seen rapid growth.

“I believe it is important for us to rationalise a few current subsidies to hover the global economy of today, including fuel subsidy,” said Najib who is also the Finance Minister.

He also said that though the government has reduced fuel subsidy by 20 sen recently , it still subsidises the RON95 and diesel by 63 sen and 80 sen per litre respectively.

“And the government allocated RM24.8 billion was allocated in 2013 for fuel subsidies,” said Najib.

Wong Chen said that it was obvious that Najib had no choice but to cut subsidies as the latter was having trouble balancing the nation’s financial books.

“But the easier way is to cut corruption instead of cutting subsidies,” he said.

However, the PKR leader was in favour of the government to channel subsidies to targeted groups rather than having a blanket subsidy, such as the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M).

“But any subsidy cuts must be followed by rise in income. I also like to see the government enforce the minimum wage policy,” said Wong Chen.

Stop corruption

Commenting on the matter, DAP MP Sim Tong Him said the government should eradicate corruption first before talking about cutting back on subsidies.

“Of course, I don’t believe we should depend on subsidies forever but much of our revenue went off due to corruption and maintaining white elephant projects.

“On the ground, the people do not believe that the government is doing enough to eliminate corruption,” said the Kota Melaka MP.

He also cited the annual auditor-general’s report, which highlight cases of high level wastage and leakages and is left unchecked for years.

“And on top of that, you are also talking about introducing the goods and services tax (GST), which is I think is not the right time,” said Sim.

Issues around subsidies for long have been haunting the Barisan Nasional government and of late have heated up to speculations that more cuts are due coming this Friday when the 2014 Budget is unveiled.

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