Political dishonesty and propaganda cannot cover the hard facts that Penang registered among the lowest gross domestic product (GDP) growth per capita growth for the past eight years, that Penang had lost the top spot for investment for the past five years and that Penang had underperformed the Malaysia average for the period 2008 to 2015.
DAP secretary-general and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had issued a press statement to respond to my press conference last Thursday where I had revealed that Penang registered the lowest state GDP per capita growth among all 15 states and territories in Malaysia for the entire eight-year period between 2008 and 2015.
I had also revealed that Labuan’s GDP per capita had overtaken Penang and that Sarawak, Selangor, Malacca and Negeri Sembilan had now closed the gap with Penang and may soon overtake it.
Guan Eng and Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming had both posted alternative figures which they said were more current than the one I have.
I had taken my 2007 data from the 2011 release by the Department of Statistics.
Based on DAP’s data, Penang was no longer the worst performing state but the third worst performing state for the period 2008 to 2015.
I hope this would make Guan Eng and DAP feel better.
Ong also questioned my economics understanding and asked why I had used 2007 as the base year instead of 2008.
I am surprised by this alleged PhD holder asking such a question.
Using end 2007 year data more accurately reflects the impact of DAP’s rule of Penang as two months later on March 8, 2008, DAP had taken over the state government.
If we use end 2008 data then it ignored ten months of DAP rule and will only take into account for year 2009 onwards.
In any case, if we were to use end 2008 data, Penang would be fourth worse among all 15 states for growth between 2009 and 2015.
Perhaps DAP would be happier with fourth worst instead of third worst or the worst.
In his blog to attack me, Ong also posted a table to show GDP per capita growth between 2010 and 2015 where Penang was “only” overtaken by Labuan, Kuala Lumpur, Perak, Malacca and Johor.
Perhaps Guan Eng would be happier with this.
However, the 2010 data that Ong posted in that table does not appear to be anywhere from Ong’s own “more current” and “more correct” data in his own figures.
For example, Dr Ong’s figure for 2010 for Perak is RM18,207 but his own “more correct” data in his figures for Perak is RM17,341.
Additionally, if you use figures for end of 2010 and 2015, you will be calculating growth for the years 2011 to 2015 and not for 2010 to 2015.
I am surprised at Ong’s sloppiness and am unable to comment further.
In his statement, Guan Eng also did not address my revelation that Penang’s annual administration spending had jumped from RM283 million in 2008 to a whopping RM832 million in 2013 and to RM746 million in 2014.
Guan Eng did not address my concerns that Penang had fallen from first place in terms of attracting investments in 2011 to sixth place in 2012 and now fifth place in 2015.
Since Guan Eng did not rebut this, I will take this as tacit admission from him that I am correct in saying the above.
In his statement, Guan Eng claimed: “Inilah kemampuan kerajaan Pakatan, menukarkan defisit menjadi lebihan, negeri corot menjadi juara, hutang yang tinggi bertukar rendah. Rahsia kejayaan kerajaan Pakatan Pulau Pinang ialah integriti dan urustadbir bersih. Bezakan Pulau Pinang sebagai negeri paling bersih di Malaysia yang dipuji Transparency International dengan kerajaan persekutuan BN yang diberi gelaran kerajaan paling korup dalam dunia.”
Guan Eng is dishonest in using 2007 figures to show Penang had the lowest growth rate for that year among all the states without mentioning that 2007 was the year of the subprime crisis in the USA and the subsequent great global recession – the worst in 70 years.
Penang, as an export and manufacturer hub, would naturally have been affected.
Guan Eng also did not mention that in the year 2006, Penang under the Barisan Nasional (BN) government registered a 10.4% GDP per capita growth.
In fact, the 2006 and 2007 figures of 10.4% and 5.9% on average were higher than Guan Eng’s 2014 and 2015 growth figures.
Guan Eng also did not highlight that his claims of high growth in 2014 and 2015 was due to the weakening of the ringgit, which provided a boost to Penang’s export manufacturers which boosted the state growth which was admitted by Penang Institute to be the main driver of growth.
And yet, Guan Eng and DAP continue to repeatedly criticise this weakening of the ringgit while claiming credit for its positive impact.
The state government-funded Penang Institute also released figures in its July 15, 2016 report by its chief executive officer and head of economics that conclusively showed that Penang had underperformed the entire Malaysia economy for the period 2008 to 2015.
Penang registered average growth of 4.06% while Malaysia registered an average growth of 4.65% during this period.
The same Penang Institute also showed that in 2006 and 2007, under the Penang BN, Penang outperformed Malaysia’s growth and averaged 8.55% growth for these two yeas – outperforming Malaysia by 2.60%.
For the last two years 2014 and 2015 that Guan Eng said was proof that DAP had saved Penang, the average growth was 6.8%.
Therefore, Guan Eng’s claim of DAP having saved Penang since or turn-around Penang since 2007 is an outright lie.
Guan Eng was again being less than honest to say that he had turned Penang from a deficit state to a surplus state.
In the year 2007, under BN, Penang had recorded a surplus where state revenues increased 5% to RM295.86 million and state spending decreased RM17.38 million to RM252.25 million compared to 2006 – therefore it was not a deficit state as Guan Eng had claimed.
Again, Guan Eng is being less than honest by trying to claim that the DAP-led state government had reduced the state debt from high to low without mentioning that it was the federal government which reduced Penang debt by 95%.
The fact is that in 2011, the Penang government gave billions of ringgit in state water assets to the federal government.
In return, the federal government took over an existing RM655 million Penang loan and converted it to a lease payment over 45 years.
Under the loan restructure, the state government has to pay the federal government RM14.56 million every year – which works out to be the exact same amount.
Guan Eng had also conveniently forgotten to mention that the praise from Transparency International was in 2009 made by its Malaysian chapter head then Paul Low, who praised Penang’s initial promises to set up a Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act) and its intention to use open tenders.
Since then, Penang’s FOI act has been found out to be spectacularly ineffective and a mere publicity stunt.
Requests for information are frequently denied and requesters are required to sign a statutory declaration that prohibited them from revealing any information publicly – defeating the purpose of a FOI.
Many NGOs have criticised Penang’s FOI, including a NGO called C4 which last month said it doubted if Penang’s FOI had helped anyone.
As for the promise of open tenders, it was later found out that Penang had relied on requests for proposals (RFP) instead – which is very different from open tenders.
A RFP process allows a vendor to be selected who then participates in direct negotiations.
It is this same RFP process that led to the controversial Taman Manggis and Penang undersea tunnel projects.
Following the isolated praise in the year 2009, Transparency International has not praised Penang since but this had not stopped DAP from continuing to repeat this for the past seven years.
In fact, since 2013, Low is now a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and has been the subject of much criticisms from DAP.
Guan should also stop repeating his propaganda that Malaysia had the most corrupted government in the world when Transparency International’s own Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2015 ranked Malaysia at 54th cleanest out of 168 countries.
Penang had registered the lowest GDP per capita growth, its yearly state spending had almost quadrupled since 2008 or that it has plummeted from first place for investments since 2011 to sixth in 2012 and fifth in 2015.
These are undeniable facts.
Gerakan hopes that DAP and Guan Eng would not unwind or destroy the results of painstaking efforts for Penang over decades by Gerakan and BN while the DAP government continued to deny reality by resorting to deceptive propaganda to hide the true situation which many in Penang now feel on the ground.
I will end my statement by slightly modifying Guan Eng’s last sentence of his statement to now read:
“Mereka yang berbohong semudah bernafas nyata tidak layak memimpin negeri Pulau Pinang.”
Liang Teck Meng