DAP calls for government subsidies to essential foodstuffs, like rice, sugar , flour, to relieve the hardships of the poor

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang,
at the Malacca DAP State Convention held at Malacca Municipal Town Hall on Sunday, 24th Feb.1974 at 10.30 a.m. Lim Kit Siang is also Chairman of Malacca State DAP.

1. DAP calls for government subsidies to essential foodstuffs, like rice, sugar, flour, to relieve the hardships of the poor

Since 1972, inflation has become the No.1 economic problem of the people of Malaysia, whether in the Kampongs, new villages, estates or towns.

Despite government expression of concern and actions, the prices have continued to jump by leaps and bounds. This is borne out by the government’s own figures, as shown by the following annual rate of increase in the government’s Consumer Price Index for the month of June of the recent years:

June 1970- June 1971: 1.4% ; June 1971 – June 1972: 3.4% ; June 1972 – June 1973: 9.9 %.

Since June 1973, using 1967 as a base, the Consumer Price Index has shot up further, month by month, as the following figures show:

June – 115.9 ; July – 118.0 ; August – 119.4 ; September – 121.9 ; October – 123.3 ; November – 126.6.

Housewives and consumers can testify that the months December, January and February have seen prices going up by even higher rates!

Thus in December, the government approved huge increases in the prices of prteol, diesel and fuel oil, leading to a chain increase in the price of a multitude of products and transportation costs.

On January 25, immediately after the Chinese New Year, the government approved another round of price increase for flour and sugar, which kicked off another chain reaction of price increases as in bread, biscuits and the whole multitude of products which use sugar of flour.

Only a few days ago, the government approved the increase in the price of kerosene from 74 cents a gallon to 80 cents.

Wages and incomes have failed to eaten up with prices, which means that to the poor and the low-income, their purchasing power and living standards have fallen.

The most sharp increases have been registered with regard to foodstuffs, as in rice, whether local or imported, sugar, flour, cooking oil, fish, meat, fruits and vegetables.

To alleviate and relieve the hardships on the poor, and in particular, to ensure that the poor are not denied essential foodstuffs because of their spiraling prices, the DAP calls on the government to introduce government subsidies for essential foodstuffs like rice, flour and sugar, to bring them within the economic reach of the poor, who constitute the majority of Malaysians.

2. National Consultative Council and Standing Committee of Officials on Anti-Inflation

Before he left for the Lahore conference of Muslim nations, the Prime Minister, Tun Razak, announced the setting up of a National Consultative Council and a Standing Committee of Officials on Anti-inflation.

This is in addition to the National Advisory Committee for Consumer Protection which the Ministry of Trade and Industry set up to advise the government to protect consumer interests against inflation.

The multiplication of committees is useless and will not have any effect on prices, unless powers are given to one of them to veto individual price increases.

It is for this reason that the government must without delay establish a Fair Prices Tribunal with power to veto any price increase for any commodity without reason, and to which any consumer aggrieved by unfair pricing can lodge complaints. Such a Tribunal should be armed with powers equivalent to a High Court, which can impose fines or jail terms for the big-time profiteers.

3. Guidelines to regulate the acquisition of assets, mergers and takeovers of companies and business in Malaysia

Tun Razak also announced guidelines to regulate the acquisition of assets, mergers and takeovers of companies and businesses in Malaysia by foreigners.

On 10th February, the Perak DAP State Convention in Ipoh adopted a Declaration expressing concern and opposition to the undesirable preponderance of foreign ownership and control of Malaysian economy.

Tun Razak’s regulations on foreign acquisition of assets, mergers and takeovers can be seen as a response to the DAP’s Perak Declaration on foreign ownership and control of Malaysian economy.

These regulations, however, do not touch the crux of the economic problem in Malaysia – which is the predominant ownership and control of the key and most productive sectors of the Malaysian economy by foreigners. These regulations do nothing to remedy the present situation where Malaysian wealth and income benefit foreigners more than they do Malaysians.

The DAP will like to see the progressive reduction in the preponderance and predominance of foreign ownership and control in the key and most productive sectors of Malaysian economy, in agriculture, industry, finance, commerce and banking, and their ownership and control by Malaysians themselves. We therefore call on the Government to work out legislation which will implement this objective.

4. DAP calls for a master plan to regenerate the economy of Malacca

Under the rule of the Alliance State Governments, Malacca has become one of the most economically backward states in Malaysia. This is indeed a far cry from the early days of Malacca when she was the centre and hub of commerce and civilisation in this part of the world.

A look at the per capita Gross Domestic Product for each of the Malaysian states will show how much economic decline Malacca has suffered.

In 1963, the per capita GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for Malacca ranked sixth place, beating five other states, namely, Kedah, Perlis, Trengganu, Penang, Kelantan.

In 1970, the per capita GDP of Malacca has fallen to the 11th place, beating only two other states, namely Trengganu and Kelantan. She has been overtaken by Penang, Kedah and Perlis, and the two states of Sabah and Sarawak who have since joined the Federation.

A comparison of the per capita GDP for States shows that Selangor’s per capita GDP in 1970 was about one-and-a-half times that of the average for Peninsular Malaysia while Malacca was only 69% or two-thirds of the national average.

The second Malaysia Plan and the Mid-Term Review talk about the rectification of imbalance. The economic imbalances between the States must be seriously resolved by the joint efforts of the Federal and Malacca State governments, to ensure that all states share equally in the economic development of the nation.

In this connection, the Federal and Malacca State Governments must devote more funds for Malacca’s economic development. But from figures given by the government, there does not seem to be any special effort on the part of the Federal Government, to bring Malacca to the economic level of other more advanced states.

Thus, as at June 1973, the Federal Government has given only $28 million in development loans, while to other states which are more advanced, like Selangor, Perak, Penang, they have been given three to four times the amount.

On the basis of giving priority to more depressed states, the Federal government must given bigger grants and loans to states like Malacca, so that the economic imbalances between the states can be rectified.

Although several industries have been set up on Malacca, it will be worthwhile to make a study to find out whether such industries will benefit Malacca economically and generate sufficient employment opportunities to enable the newly-employed to lead a decent life.

Unfortunately, the industries which have set up operation in Malacca are those who pay their workers very low wages, treating the workers virtually as wages slaves. Such industries cannot bring economic benefits to the people of Malacca, but only exploitation to the glory and profit of foreign industrialists.

There is an urgent need for a blueprint for economic development of Malacca to ensure that the people of Malacca enjoy a per capita income comparable to those of other states.

The need for such an overall blue print is illustrated by the curious fact that although every state in Peninsular Malaysia, increased their padi production in 1973, for the state of Malacca, where padi production is an important economic activity, padi production fell from 12.6 million gantangs to 10.8 million in 1972 gantangs in 1973.

Yet we hear daily Minister talking about the need to grow more food, and the so-called ‘Green Earth’ campaign to produce more of our own foodstuffs to fight inflation.

Can the Malacca Chief Minister explain the reason for the reduction in padi production in Malacca in 1973, especially when there is supposed increased productivity from double-cropping ?

The DAP wants a new Malacca, which is neither a sleepy hollow where there is economic stagnation and depression, nor a soul-less Malacca where the people of Malacca are exploited and turned into machines and pawns for foreign capitalists to accumulate unprecedented profits. We want balance development where the people of Malacca can lead a decent and fulfilling life,
where their human personality are allowed freest development and growth.

5. DAP’s plans for Malacca in the next general elections

In the 1969 General Elections, the DAP made a modest participation in Malacca, fielding one parliamentary candidate and five state assembly candidates.

We would scored 100% success, if we had got a few hundred votes more in Kota Utara, the seat of Datuk Tan Cheng Swee.

Unfortunately, two of our State Assemblyman betrayed the trust of people, and we had to expel them from the party. Realising their certain expulsion, both of them tried to beat the expulsion by announcing their defection, first to the MCA and later to Parti Gerakan.

The DAP leadership will be very vigilant and careful this time in the selection of candidates for parliamentary and state constituencies, for we do not want to make the mistaken of the past. We will only field candidates whom we are convinced will stand the test of time and temptations and inducements from the ruling circle, and who will cherish the trust and confidence the party and the people have placed on them to be their spokesmen.

In the next general elections, the DAP will be contesting in a bigger way, both at Parliamentary and State levels. Details are now being finalised.