The DAP Organising Secretary, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, today issued the following statement (29.10.68):
The Chairman of the Government Special Committee to cut down wasteful expenditure, Inche Abdullah bin Ayub, has given details as to how the government proposes to slash unnecessary expenditure, like the strict control of official transport, official air travel by economy class except for ‘very top VIPs’, reduction of overtime, etc.
One would have been more impressed if one had not heard all these proposals umpteenth times before.
If one goes through the old files and Hansards, we will find that these are exactly what the Finance Minister, Tun Tan Siew Sin, had been saying for the last ten years.
The very fact that Tun Tan and his officials had to continue to repeat this government intention to cut down waste for ten years is proof that the Alliance government had failed to do this for ten years. What guarantee is there that the Finance Ministry will succeed this time, where it had failed for ten years?
In March, 1966, in reply to a question by the DAP member of Parliament for Bungsar, Mr. C. V. Devan Nair, Tun Tan Siew Sin dramatically disclosed details of the government’s ten-point drive to hold down government expenditure. Among them were proposals to limit official air travel for officers to economy class and the strict control of official transport.
Yet, two and a half years later, the government had to set up a special committee to propose the very things which were supposed to have been implemented already!
The Alliance government lacks the will and capacity to cut down unnecessary and wasteful expenditure because for 13 years, it had acquired the mentality and habits of waste and extravagance.
The numerous monuments of extravagance like the multi-million dollar Parliament House, Subang International Airport, the National Monument, the Wismaputra and the Angkasapuri are good examples.
The government is only paying lip-service to the need to control unnecessary expenditure, because general election is around the corner, and the Alliance wanted to anticipate opposition criticism.
But there is no intention to cut down waste. If the government wants really to do this, the government Ministers and leaders must set the example.
In the control of the use of official transport, for instance, can the special committee prohibit the use of official cars by Ministers, Assistant Ministers, and Mentri2 Besar for party and private purposes?
Can the special committee slash the numerous overseas trips of Alliance Ministers, many of whom seem to spend more time abroad than inside the country looking after their responsibilities, like Mr. Khaw Khai Boh, who is even now in Mexico enjoying the Olympic fun and games.
Can the special committee veto ‘white elephant’ and useless projects, like the giving of public funds for golf-courses to benefit a handful of rich, or to build a temple to house a MCA branch, as happened in Batu Pahat, Johore?
We must treat the latest government announcement with skepticism, and treat it as another publicity-seeking stunt, which will come to nothing, because we cannot see any Minister setting the example of austerity.
The only effective way to cut down unnecessary and wasteful government expenditure is to have an all-party financial watchdog committee, with power to query officials and expose every item of waste. I have called for the establishment of such a committee before, and unless it is set up, the government will continue to waste public funds, while at the same time paying lip-service to frugality and austerity.
(Lim Kit Siang)
Audited by: Ernest W. & Kieran L. N.