There is growing concern at the increased unemployment rate in Malaysia announced by the Department of Statistics at 3.3% in October 2013, up 0.2 percentage point from the 3.1% in September this year. October 2013 saw an increase of the unemployed by 19,100 persons to 462,300 persons, and there was a drop of employed persons by 98,500 to 13.70 million people.
Despite the rise in unemployment rate in Malaysia, Penang continues to see not just full employment but a shortage of at least 20,000 workers. Penang’s recent successes in securing several critical foreign direct investments, which will be followed by important announcements next month, will fulfil the pro-growth and pro-jobs objectives of the Penang PR state government.
The budget-based administration implemented by PR since 2008 has led to a healthy budget surplus every year, increase in state’s assets by 50% to RM 1.2 billion and a reduction in state debt by a record 95%. Again, investments was a record RM 36.1 billion for 5 years from 2008-2012, which is nearly double that compared to RM18.7 billion from 2003-7. This was achieved through fighting corruption, establishing integrity in public service and open competitive tenders.
Moving towards outcome-based administration in the second term of government, focuses on getting value-for-money for government expenditure that will not only assist in reducing maintenance costs but also ensure better quality in the public delivery of services. This will go a long way towards achieving a cleaner, greener, safer and healthier Penang.
However the poor, the weak and those who need help are not forgotten. Penang is not only the first state to give cash contributions to ordinary citizens as part of the anti-corruption dividend but also the first state in Malaysian history to wipe out corruption. Adopting the unconditional cash transfer or UCT model of topping up all families whose monthly household incomes are below the poverty line of RM 790 per month, Penang is free from poverty.
First-time buyers and middle-income groups seeking to buy houses will benefit from the 3-prong housing democracy strategy of:-
- Compelling private developers to build a fixed percentage of affordable housing(above RM72,500 but below RM250,000 on the mainland and below RM400,000 on the island) and public housing(below RM72,500);
- Building 20,000 units of affordable housing through Penang Development Corporation(PDC); and
- Implementing new housing rules after 1 February 2014 of a 10 year restrictions on resale on public housing and 5-year restriction on affordable housing, an approval fee of 3% on foreign transactions and a 2% approval fee of all sales made within 3 years from signing of the Sales & Purchase Agreement.
Just as Christmas is celebrated to give life to all, Penang can only prosper if everyone regardless of race or religion can enjoy the fruits of success together.
Penang is also proud to offer fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and expression. As the art and cultural capital of Malaysia, Penang celebrates the right to live with dignity in an inclusive society. As Nelson Mandela said, “.For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
- LIM GUAN ENG IS THE PENANG CHIEF MINISTER