General elections may be held in February 1986

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the official opening of the two-day DAP Tamil Seminar held at Si-Rusa Inn, Part Dickson, on Saturday, 16th Nov. 1985 at 4pm

General elections may be held in February 1986

Although the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, refused to give any hints about the next general elections, it is clear from the government preparations and the activeties of the top UMNO leaders that there would be early general elections, and one possible date is February 1986.

Yesterday’s function by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, where at a meeting of the Peninsular Malaysia Penghulu-Penggawa Union delegates, he announced the doubling of the government allocations for kampong projects such as electricity and water supply and roads and bridges from this year is openly and definitively an election gimmick.

This is not to say that I disagree with Datuk Musa Hitam about increased allocation for socio-economic development to help the kampong people to close the gap existing between rural and urban areas in view of the increased hardships of the poor. But the question that begs answer is why the Deputy Prime Minister and the Barisan Nasional should discover only on Nov. 15 – 45 days before the end of 1985 – that the hardships of the kampongs require double allocation with immediate effect. If this is not pure electioneering, then I do not know what is.

I want to ask Datuk Musa Hitam why he had not discovered that the new villagers and estate workers also need immediate allocation for their socio-economic needs, for 1985, as well as for 1986. When is Datuk Musa going to announce a similar allocation increase for new villagers and estate workers – or is Datuk Musa only catering for the UMNO voters and supporters?

Bottom falling out of the 1986 Budget

There are many political and economic reasons compelling the Prime Minister to call early general elections. The worsening economic situation is one of them. Despite Daim Zainuddin’s election budget of Oct. 25, internal and external economic conditions worsened so seriously in the three weeks after the budget that the bottom is threatening to fall out of the 1986 Budget!

For next year’s budget, the Government is going to recklessly increase petroleum production from 430,000 barrels a day to 510,000 bpd, banking on a price of US$26 per barrel (which is lower than the 1985 average of $US27.50 per barrel). But after the Budget, there was the shocking news and forecast ice war of a oil price war because of the breakdown of the OPEC cartel which could bring the petroleum price to below US$20 per barrel.

If petroleum price falls to US$20 per barrel, Malaysia will have a shortfall of $2,290 million shortfall in petroleum export value

If the petroleum price should fall to US$20 per barrel in the world market, Malaysia will suffer a shortfall of $2,290 million in petroleum export valui as that budgeted by the Finance Minister. As a result, although for 1986, the government would be violating its National Oil Depletion Policy designed to conserve our petroleum resources for future generations by increasing petroleum production by 18.6 per cent as compared to 1985, petroleum earnings would fall y some 12 percent. We would therefore reach the tragic stage that the more we produce, we less we earn!

On the tin front, the prospect is very bleak. There is still no light at the end of the tunnel, with the collapse of the London Metal Exchange, with the virtual bankruptcy of the tin buffer stock manager. Since the tin crisis on the eve of Daim Zainuddin’s budget on Oct. 24, about 130 or half the gravel pump and open cast tin mines in Perak have suspended operations, while one out of the 14 dredges have suspended operations. Some 5,000 mining workers have been thrown out of work, and the supporting industries like hardware shops, foundries and other businesses badly affected.

Malaysian economic growth next year expected to be half that forecast by Daim

The prices of our other major commodities like rubber and palm oil are not spectacular, and as result, there is general skepticism that the Finance Minister’s forecast of 6% economic growth next year is more ‘election-oriented’.

Only a few days back, an international economist invited to address various organizations in Malaysia such as the Institute of Banks, the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, David Kern, said a realistic view of Malaysia’s growth rate next year would be something in the order of 3.0 to 3.5 per cent, and not the 6 per cent forecast by Daim Zainuddin.

There are therefore compelling economic reasons for holding early general elections before the Malaysian people face even greater economic hardships in the protracted economic downturn.

There are also many compelling political reasons for holding early general elections, which I do not propose to discuss here. For this reason, DAP branches and members must be prepared for next general elections to be held in February.