Speech by DAP Member for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on the 1975 Supply Bill
I wish firstly to congratulate the new Finance Minister on the presentation of his first budget. He said that the Budget would be used as “an active and dynamic instrument of government’s economic, fiscal and monetary policies, so as to effectively achieve our country’s socio-economic aspirations.”
His predecessor in this final budget speech last year said that the budget was “an instrument for the attainment of the people’s aspirations for a more just and equal society.
Thus, although there is a change of Finance Minister, the public philosophy and declared aims of the Budget have not changed. What is most unfortunate, however, is that also remaining unchanged too is the big gap between declared government aim and the practical results of the budget.
The Finance Minister said that the budget would seek actually to implement the objectives of the Second Malaysia Plan to “eradicate poverty by raising income levels and increase employment opportunities for all Malaysians regardless of race.”
The 1975 Budget, however, appeared to be formulated in a fit of forgetfulness about the Second Malaysia Plan objective to ‘eradicate poverty’ by raising income levels and increase employment opportunities for all Malaysians regardless of race,’ for it does not take the people in that direction.
According to data from the Household Budget Survey of 1957/1958 and the Post Enumeration Survey of 1970, the average household income has increased from $220 per month in 1957 to $275 per month in 1970. This represents a 25% increase in average income over 13 year period under review, and is approximately the same as the per capita GDP growth for the corresponding period. However, these figures give no indication of the actual distribution of income. It should also be noted that the average number of persons per household in the 1957/1958 survey was 4.8 persons and in 1970 this had increased to 5.6 persons.
Available data are very disturbing. In 1957, the top 20% of the households received almost half of total income. The next 20% got their proportionate share of about20%. This left the remaining 30% to be shared among the bottom 60% of the population. By 1970, the situation worsened when the top 20% of the household increased their share 56% of the total household income. The next 20% had somewhat the same as in 1957, while the bottom 60% received only 25% of the total income. In short, both the gap between the average income and inequality have increased substantially between 1957 and 1970.
The Data analysed suggest that the poor may not only have become poorer in the relative sense that the gap between them and the rest widened but also in the absolute sense that their actual incomes seem substantially less now than before.
The Economic Report 1974-75 offers the view that the governments Second Malaysia efforts “must have changed the pattern of income distribution in Malaysia since 1970” although this sanguine view is not backed up by any statistiscal data.
However, it is pertinent to note a statement in the Treasury Report which bears repetition:
“Inequality between the races contributed to only a relatively small proportion of the total inequality of incomes in the country and does not provide a sufficient explanation for the total inequality in the levels of living in Malaysia. Most of the total inequality is apparently due to inequality within sectors and within each race due to occupational differences, as opposed to inequality between sectors and between races. The inequality comparison between races makes the unrealistic assumption that everyone within each race has the same income, viz, the monthly mean income for that race group where as there are large differences in income within each race group. The comparison of mean income by race can be misleading as it tends to understate the ‘poor’ elements within each group.”
This one come, and I hope it will serve, as a refreshing antidote to the simplistic analysis which have often been dished out depicting the problem of poverty in Malaysia as basically a racial problem, where the haves and the haves not are separated strictly by racial differences when n fact poverty transcends race lines.
However one looks at it, it is impossible to see the 1975 Budget as “an annual economic plan”, to borrow the words of the Hon’ble the Finance Minister, to ‘eradicate poverty’. In fact, in does not even relieve the accumulated sufferings and poverty of the poor as a result of the previous budget which had been shockingly oblivious to the plight of the low-income and unemployed.
Taxes were originally devised in order to provide the revenue necessary to pay for functions performed by the State. This is still a major objective, but it should nowadays be one of several aims. Other purposes are redistribution of income or wealth, economic growth and management, discrimination between certain types of goods and services as regards both production and consumption, and encouragement of exports or discouragement of imports.
As the primary objective of the Second Malaysia Plan and the Perspective Plan to 1990 is to eradicate poverty, the taxation policies of the government should be similarly reoriented to have as one of its main purposes the redistribution of income or wealth.
I suggest that future budgets should include a section to state how they seek to further the objective of eradicating poverty and the redistribution of income and wealth by their new fiscal measures.
Let us see how the new set of tax proposals in the 1975 budget contribute to this objective, of redistributing wealth and income to narrow the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots in the country.
There is not very much in the credit side.
Excess Profits Tax on companies and other persons
There is firstly the 5% excess profits tax on companies having chargeable income in excess of 25% of its is shareholders funds or $200,000, whichever is the greater, which is expected to net $15 million on persons with a chargeable income which exceeds $75,000, which is expected to yield $3.5 million.
The purpose of this tax, however, is to “curb inflation by increasing savings”(in the words of the Hondle the Finance Minister) rather than prompted by any sense to redistribute wealth or income.
I suggest that this tax should be used as an active instrument to redistribute wealth or income, and that companies making profits in excess of $1/2 million should be required to pay a 10% excess profits tax.
Road tax on Motor Cycles
In contrast to the $3.5 million from personal excess profits which the Finance Minister is collecting from the rich and the super-income earners drawing more than $7,000 a month, he is extracting %5.5 million from the low-income Malaysians in the form of $10 increase in the road tax on motor cycles raising it from $40 to $50 a year. Why should the ikan yu get off so lightly, while the ikan bilis bear heavier and heavier burdens when they are already sandwiched rising prices and fall in the purchasing power of their incomes?
From the point of view of a fairer distribution of wealth or income, this increase should be abolished. In fact, I am shocked that many local authorities, including the Malacca Municipality, are proposing to introduce licensing for bicycles, which will only had further hardships to the poor and work against the objective of a fairer distribution of income. I therefore take this opportunity to call on all local authorities to desist from such a levy, which penalizes the poor for their poverty, and run contrary to the Second Malaysia Plan objective to abolish poverty.
Separate Income Tax assessment for working Wives
The DAP welcomes the long overdue separate income tax assessment for working wives and the removal of the absurd arrangement whereby a married couple pays more tax then two single persons with the same earnings. We are particularly happy because this had been one of the issues in the DAP 1974 General Elections Manifesto.
However, the income tax laws need a thorough overhaul if it is to serve the objective of creating a more just and equal society through a fairer distribution of wealth and income.
I am told that when compared with other countries like India and Pakistan, the average tax rates applicable to a single person at low levels of income, say below $10,000 per annum, are higher in Malaysia while beyond a level of income equal to $15,000 a year, average tax rates in Malaysia are lower than other countries. IN other words, the lower incomes are taxed at a higher rate while higher incomes are taxed at a lower rate, compared to other income tax structures. This is surely inequitable and not in accordance with the declared objective of creating a fair and just society.
Thus, in removing totally the abatement of income tax in Sabah and Sarawak, as proposed in the present budget, what is introduced is not so much harmonisation of taxes as the extension of an inequitable income tax to our brethrens in Sabah and Sarawak.
Despite the separate assessment for income tax for working wives, therefore, a complete restructuring of the Malaysian income tax laws is urgently needed. Such restricting should provide for an enhanced rate for persons drawing $20,000 and above per year, while those below $15,000 or less should have their income tax burden reduced.
One great injustice is the antiquated income tax reliefs for individuals and their dependants. When explaining the reasons for the $10 increase for the motor cycle road tax from $40 to $50, the Minister of Finance said that the old rate had been in force since 1959.
But income tax reliefs had remained unchanged since 1947 when the Income Tax Laws were first enacted. In fact, the position had worsened.
At present, the income tax relief for an individual is $2,000( and 10% of earned income not exceeding $1,000 in the case of business partnership), $1,000 for the wife, $750 for the first child, $500 each for the second and third children, and $300 each for the fourth and fifth children.
A person who earns $2,000 a year, or roughly $180 a month, in 1947 is very different kettle of fish from a person who earns $2,000 a year or $180 a month.
I have been told by the older generation that a person who earns $180 a month in 1947 is a fairly high-grade and important person, who is equivalent, in purchasing power, to person who is drawing $800 a month or $10,000 a year.
A person who draws a monthly salary of $180 a month in 1947 could not only support a big family, including his aged parents, but also employ two servants. It that time, rice was about 28 to 30 cents a ganting, as compared to $3,60 today; sugar 12 ½ cents a kati as compared to 55 cents today; and a tin of milk 15 cents as compared to 75 cents today.
In other words, a person drawing $105 a month in 1947 belonged to a well-to-do class who can well afford to pay income tax, while a person who draws a salary or income of $185 a month in 1974 belong to the lower and poorer strata in society who have great difficulty in making ends meet, let alone daring to think of employing any servants.
Yet, a person who earns $185 a month today have to begin to pay income tax if he is not married, while a person who draws $180 a month (which is equivalent to about $800 a month income today) need not pay income tax.
This was because in 1947, when the Income Tax Tax was first introduced, the relief for individual was $3,000, with a $2,000 relief for the wife, $750 for the first child, $500 each for the second and third children, $300 each for the fourth and fifth children, and $200 each for the sixth, seventh, eight and ninth children.
It was in 1960 that the rates of reliefs for individuals and the dependants were slashed to the present levels, and in spite of the ravages of inflation on the purchasing power of the incomes of the low-income group, no adjustments have been made to alleviate the burden of the low-income group.
The antiquated income tax relief system is the most glaring injustice in the country’s taxation laws, and which should be updated and increased without any more delay, to keep faith with the government objective to build a more just and equal society.
It is my party’s view that the income tax relief should be increased drastically to provide the low-income group with a sufficient margin of retained earnings to keep falling living standards at bay. The income tax reliefs for individual’s, their wife, and children should be double, if not trebled, as to increase minimally, the relief for individuals to $4,000, the wife’s relief to $2,000 a year, and for the first child, $1,500, the second and third children each $1,000 and the fourth and fifth children each $600.
I need to give one further instance to show the urgency and equity of such income tax reforms. At present, a wage earner will have to spend between $2,500 to $3,500 to pay for his child’s post-secondary education, in private institution (and there are more and more such cases with limited school place like form six classes, and it is only equitable and just that the income tax relief should bear a realistic relation to such expenditures who will in the long run be beneficial to the country.
In fact, I would seriously suggest that there should be a more enlightened and liberal tax rebate for education of the young, and the present restrictive system in this regard should be completely restructured, to embrace all the legitimate educational expenses of dependent children.
Human beings are economic agents and their productive efficiency depends on what has been invested in them to develop and their innate skills and abilities; more than this, their contribution to the social well-being of their fellow citizens depends on their social training and development. When the responsibility for ensuring that the abilities of children are developed to the full rests with parents, and this is becoming more and more so at the post-secondary and tertiary levels of education, there is an overwhelming case for the state to create conditions in which as far as possible the lack of parental income is not an obstacle to the achievement of social objectives.
Another pressing income tax reform is to provide for income tax relief for supporting aged parents in accordance with the Asian way of life.
Call for with drawl of the two months limit on bonus payments
The new limitation on bonus payments to workers to a maximum of two months wages so that deduction is not allowed to employers for excessive bonus payments can only create great hardships to the lowly-paid in the private sector, especially in the Chinese business.
As the Deputy Minister of Finance is aware, there is a widespread practice among Chinese businesses and employers in underpaying their staff, and there are many instances where a clerk having served faithfully for 20 years will receive about 30 per cent of the pay as compared to a government servant. This, however, is made up somewhere by the annual bonus payment, commonly in the region of three, four months, and not unusual too for six months bonus payments or more.
I appreciate the intention behind the income tax officers in wanting this new rule, but the government, especially at this period of general economic hardships of the low0incomes, cannot be blind to adverse consequences it can cause.
By imposing this restriction, the government will with a stroke of the Den slash the annual take-home pay of a large group of workers, without compensatory measures to restore their lost earnings.
It is clear that the Treasury in their zeal for closing income tax loopholes has not fully appreciated the full implications and consequences on the lowly-paid employers in the private businesses and firms, and as it will work economic injustice which runs counter to the Second Malaysia Plan objective to create a fair and just society, I urge the Finance Minister to withdraw this particular proposal and reintroduce it only after the Finance Ministry, together with the Ministry of Labour and Manpower, can work out a scheme whereby no employers in the private sector will suffer a loss of annual take-home pay by its introduction. Otherwise, I fear that this proposal will be a good excuse for the employers to cut down on their wages bill and force workers out of employment.
DAP calls for a Royal Commission on Taxes
It is clear that despite the oft-declared objective of the Second Malaysia Plan to ‘eradicate poverty’, the tax system in the country has not been restructured to play an active and dynamic role to redistribute wealth and income to bring about a more equitable society.
In this connection, I seriously call on the Minister of Finance to introduce a wealth tax, for the excess profits tax, for instance, does not take into account properties and holdings and does nothing, therefore, to redistribute wealth.
The DAP proposes the establishment of a Royal Commission on Taxes which should study and recommend drastic structural changes in the tax system to ensure that it becomes a dynamic and active instrument in bringing about a fairer distribution of wealth and income; propose new taxes which can be levied to shift the taxation burden to the higher income groups as at present only 28% of the total taxation is accounted for by direct taxation. The Royal Commission should in particular recommend restructuring the income tax laws, and reform the income tax reliefs and rates to ensure that income tax should not be levied on any income which is insufficient to provide the recipient with subsistence at a level to sustain health, efficiency and wellbeing, for himself and his family.
Inflation: Corporate greed should be curbed
The Economic Report headed the section on inflation as “inflation higher but slowing down.” It said that the downtrend of the rate of increase of the Consumer Price Index was expected to be generally sustained although some acceleration in food prices could be expected due to the festive season.
The housewives would like to know whether the recent increases in the prices of sugar, flour, tin and powdered milk, bread, and a forthcoming chain of food products with sugar or flour content, is due to the coming ‘festive season’? Furthermore, has the Treasury forgotten the promise given by the Prime Minister before Hari Raya that prices would not be allowed to go up for all festive seasons?
The greatest disappointed to consumers is that they have no voice or influence on the upward march of prices. They are excluded from all discussions and negotiations between government officials and industries on proposed price hikes, as all such discussions are held in conspiratorial atmosphere as if the consumers are the people not to be trusted and outside the pale of public interest. I will like to know whether the public interest is the special prerogative of the government officials and the industrialists, and whether the question of pricing is to protect the interest of the government officials and the industrialists or to serve the interests of the consumers.
The National Consumers Protection Advisory Council is just a white elephant with no role or influence in the question of price movements, for it is never consulted on any proposed price increases, however essential it is. In fact, it is not even concerned itself with the frequent shortages of essential supplies as the result of manipulation by manufacturers preceding a price increase.
Thus, the oil companies have currently cut down their petrol supplies to the petrol stations. From past experience, supply manipulation to create shortages precede pressures on the government to approve upward revision of price. I ask the Prime Minister to give a full statement to this House as to the cause for this cut-down in petrol supplies from the international oil companies, and for an assurance that the government would not permit anymore oil price changes in the country.
The government must do more to fight inflation, especially to curb the corporate greed for profits in disregard of public interest. The government must work out a strategy to stop manufacturers from taking advantage of protective tariffs to develop monopolistic practices and raise prices to levels which are higher or the same as that of imported goods which are subject to high import duties.
The government must introduce tough anti-trust laws to bust monopolities and price-fixing cartels so that Malaysia will cease, in the words of the former Finance Minister, “to be one of the most cartel-ridden countries in the world.”
The government must also permit consumers participation in all future discussions and negotiations on price changes so that the consumers voice and interest can be fully taken into account. The government should pander well the saying, “He who decides a case without hearing the other side… though he decide justly, cannot be considered just.”
In this connection, I will like to ask the Minister of Finance what steps his Ministry would take to ensure that the 5% excess profits tax he his introduced would not be shifted forward in higher prices by firms, and therefore, passed on the poor consumers?
It is old that although unemployment remains as one of the most serious economic problems in the country, it does not rate a separate section in the Ministers budget speech, apart from his statement in page 3 that there would be no mass unemployment during the economic storms ahead.
I would like to ask the Minister of Finance to define what he means by ‘mass unemployment’, whether he does not think that the present rate of unemployment of over 300,000 persons, even before the onslaught of press, for instance, more than 23,000 applications have been received by the police, and more are still coming in, for 700 vacancies for the rank and file and 170 vacancies as probationary inspectors, making the ratio of applicants for constables 23 to one, and for probationary inspectors a ratio of 41 to one. Is this not mass unemployment?
The Economic Report, p.67. stated: “The unemployment rate which was about 7.5% in 1970 and 7.3% in 1973 is estimate to have declined in early 1974 but the anticipation is now reversing and the rate will rise further particularly in certain industries.” I get the feeling that the government is trying to play down the enormity of the unemployment problem. There is no mention about the even greater problem of underemployment.
The Economic Report mentioned the decrease in the number of registered unemployment as compared between Sept. 1974 and the same period last year.
We must bear in mind the result of studies in several countries of the phenomenon that the higher the level of employment the lower the tendency for people to seek work and register with the employment exchange, because of their sense of futility and hopelessness. What should be investigated is whether the employment exchanges have been effective job-finding agencies for the unemployed.
Super-added onto the grave problem of unemployment and underemployment that we have in the country are the current mass retrenchments and layoffs from the timber, electronics, textile and other industries hit by recession.
Tens of thousands of Malaysians have returned from the neighbouring countries like Indonesia and Singapore following their retrenchment.
The government has done nothing for these people. Although we are told that an Code of Industrial Practices is being drawn up to save jobs in the face of recession, and the government has appealed to employers not to retrench workers, I have very grave doubts about the efficacy of such measures to help the workers.
Just as the government has failed to curb the corporate greed for profits by hiking up prices to maintain as high a profit as possible, similarly the government would fail miserably in any moral appeal to the capitalists and industrialists not to retrench workers, The reason is simple and the same for both. Capitalists and industrialist operate on the profit motive, and profits are made either by hiking up prices, cutting down labour costs, including retrenchments.
To require capitalists and industrialist to act social conscience and sense of responsibility to the workers who had helped build up their profits require a legal machinery with enforcement powers.
DAP wants a Retrenchment Board to be set up
The DAP therefore proposes the establishment of a Retrenchment Board to monitor, regulate, control and approve the retrenchment of workers hit by recession, especially to ensure that industries do not use this as an excuse to save labour costs.
Legislation should be introduced requiring every industry intending to retrench workers because of the effects of recession to seek the approval of this Retrenchment Board, giving full details and particulars explaining why they have no other avenues to prevent the retrenchment exercise. The workers involved should be given an opportunity to state their case. No retrenchment should be permitted without the approval of the Board.
If the Board approval for such retrenchment is given, all such retrenched workers should be paid retrenchment allowance depending on their length of service and wages.
A special inter-Ministry unit should be set up to help the retrenched workers find alternative means of livelihood.
In this connection, I suggest that all such retrenched workers should be enlisted into the national ‘Grow More Food’ Campaign by giving land and other assistance to them, for in this way, they will not only be standing on their own feet, but also help the country and people fight the ravages of inflation.
Call for Special Scheme to allot land on a temporary basis to all intending applicants to grow food and plant crops to tide over the stag flationary times.
The Minister of Finance said in his Budget address that the government was giving high priority to the campaign to increase food production, especially in view of the fact that food items, which have a weightage of about 47 per cent in the calculation of the consumer price index, registered an increase of 30 per cent for the first nine months of this year.
He said the government intended to open up another 500,000 acres of land for food cultivation, about half of which will be in Peninsular Malaysia.
The DAP suggests that the government launch a special scheme to allocate land on a temporary basis to all unemployed Malaysians who wish to take to cultivation of food crops, say for a temporary lease of three to five years, to tide over the stagflationary period. We see throughout the country, especially just outside towns, large stretches of land which are not cultivated, or used. According to the Land Capability Classification 1969, there are 3.1 million acres of land already alienated for agriculture but not developed.
Every piece of arable land in and around towns and in the country should be turned into food plots in the next few stagflatory years on the understanding that it is for three to five years. This will also go a long way to ease the congestion in the towns, and relieve the acute urban unemployment and poverty.
To depend on large-scale and time-consuming land settlements like FELDA-style schemes will be of no help in the immediate fight against inflation. I commend this idea for the urgent consideration by the Minister of Finance.
In last year’s budget speech, I pointed out that among the aspects of the economy that have most bearing on the wellbeing of the population and the quality of living is land ownership and rent which unfortunately, was not included among the socio-economic indices of the quality of life in the previous year’s Economic Report.
I am glad that this omission has been somewhat made good in this year’s Economic Report in its section on Quality of Life, I call on the government to take more vigorous and dynamic action to protect the padi farmers from exploitation and to enforce the Padi Cultivators Act of 1967.
Special Ministry needed to help and uplift poverty and backwardness of estate workers
I have raised in this house several times the plight of the estate workers. During the debates on the Mid-Term Review of the Second Malaysia Plan and the 1974 Budget, my colleagues and I in the DAP had expressed concern at the consistently high rate of unemployment among Malaysian and Indians for the last decade. The 1973/74 Economic Report showed that there had been further aggravation of the employment situation of Malaysian Indians, with the following unemployment rates for the different races: Indians 12.3% (as compared to 11% in 1970); Chinese 7% (as compared to 7.4% in 1970); and Malays 6% (as compared to 8% in 1970). We do not have figures for this year, but the 1974/75 Economic Report on Quality of Life of Malaysians showed clearly the seriousness of this problem. Thus in a survey of 3,000 children of seven and eight-year old school children on the ‘weights of children’ between 1969-1972, it was found that the weight of Indian children, almost all of whom were children of estate labourers, were much poorer than the Chinese and Malay children.
Survey on ‘weights of children’ give a major general indicator of the level of welfare prevailing in a country. It provides not only a good indication of the level of health services in the country but indirectly also reflects income levels, environmental influences on food habits, knowledge of nutritional and sanitary needs and also the factors contributing to the child’s physical and mental capacity in the long run.
Coming in the wake of a series of government reports and other findings, including the Murad Report on School Dropouts, about the general backwardness of estate labourers and their children, I call on the government to establish a Ministry for estates, to be responsible for spearheading the economic, educational, social and cultural upliftment of estate workers generally, and Malaysian Indians in particular.
It is a matter of concern that there seemed to have been a change of thinking in the Treasury about the rising public debt and debt servicing, which have been increasing by leaps and bounds. Tun Tan Siew Sin in his budget speech last year announced that the government was inviting both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to send out separate teams to advise the government on the proper limit on the national debt so as to avoid a situation where “it will be very difficult to service our national debt without cutting back on essential services.”
Instead of a follow-up report on the government’s review on the desirable amount of national debt, we have the statement in the Economic Report which declared that the public debt situation was not a cause of major concern for the Federal Government. Does this signify the opening of the floodgates for massive borrowings, both domestic and foreign, in the years ahead? I hope the Minister of Finance can give a policy statement on this when he comes to winding up this debate.
Call for immediate Cabinet decision to raise the status of the Agricultural Institutes and re-open the institutes
I refer to the closure since November 7 of the five agricultural institutes, namely Serdang in Selangor, Air Hitam in Johore, Kuala Lipis in Pahang, Parit in Perak and Bumbong Lima in Seberang Prai, involving about 1,000 students.
The institutes were closed because the students, through their union Kesatuan Pelajar-Pelajar Institut Pertanian Semananjong Malaysia (KPIPSM) tried to rectify certain of their grievances, taking up with the authorities, i.e. now the Ministry of Agriculture.
I have studied their demands and I have found their claims legitimate and justified and should not be summarily dismissed by the government.
In brief, the claims were as follows:
1. Status of the Institutes of Agriculture
They seek a clarification as to the status of the Agricultural Institutes, as to whether it is an institution of higher learning, a training centre, a vocational school, an ordinary school or whatever it is to be.
2. Recognition by government and otherbodies concerned, as up till now only the Ministry of Agricultural recognize the Agriculture Certificate issued by the Institutes, while the private sector and other government agencies do not recognise them.
3. A Just Pay Scheme
Graduates of the Agricultural Institutes, about 99% of whom had the basic qualification of SC/MCE-SPM and after three years course in the institute are only paid on a scale of $230 x 15 – $260/275 x 25 – $700.
This pay scheme is very unreasonable when compared to the pay scheme of other government employees, say of a clerk, who starts from $220 and goes up to $ 725 although he did not have to undergo three years of training, receive a basic pay of more than $400 a month. I am aware that the Institutes were originally conceived for those with L.C.E. qualifications, but as they are now virtually schooled by MCE/SPM students, and the syllabus have been progressively revised upwards, the status and salary scale of the students from the institutes should have been accordingly adjusted.
4. Opportunity for university courses
Various government leaders, including the former Minister of Agriculture had promised that the top 10% of the best students from the Institutes would be given opportunities to proceed to the University Pertanian to do Diploma courses, but this promise was never fulfilled. This is understandbly very frustrating, especially when it is noted that the entrance qualifications for both diploma courses at the University Pertanian and the Institute of Agriculture are SPM/MCE, although in practice, the University diploma courses take the first grades. But three years in the Institutes of Agriculture should more than make up for that difference in SPM/MCE grades.
The students also suffer from many frustrations. As they are all sponsored-students, mostly by state governments, they find that after the completion of their course, they are not given work commensurate with their training. In fact, it is not uncommon that they are assigned jobs of a labour, being paid $4.33 a day, while there are cases here no work was given for six months. As they are bound to their sponsors, they cannot go elsewhere, which ads further to the frustration.
I call on the Minister of Agriculture and the Cabinet to act expeditiously to solve this problem in the agricultural institutes by raising them to the level of Agricultural Colleges offering diplomas, through the tightening of the entry qualifications. This is urgent especially in the wake of a National ‘Grow More Food’ Campaign.