Media Conference Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on Thursday, 6th November 2008 at 11 am: 

Najib should rectify the parliamentary faux pas in not amending the 2009 Budget motion to incorporate the supplementary RM7 billion economic stimulus package so that Government and Parliament will not continue to be laughing-stocks in parliamentary annals

Yesterday, the Speaker, Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia made the ruling that Parliament was debating the Abdullah budget presented on August 29, 2008 and not the Najib Budget of an additional RM7 billion economic stimulus package announced during the 2009 Budget winding-up debate on Tuesday, as no changes to the Abdullah Budget had been tabled in the House.

The Speaker is right as MPs could not possibly be debating a revised 2009 Budget incorporating an additional RM7 billion economic stimulus package, when neither the details of the supplementary RM7 billion package have been tabled in the House nor an amendment to the 2009 Budget proposed in Parliament.

The trouble with such an interpretation is that MPs would have to live the fiction of pretending that the RM7 billion economic stimulus package announced by Deputy Prime Minister and the new Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, in his speech winding-up the2009 Budget policy debate had disappeared into thin air within 24 hours and does not exist!

In fact, the nation and Malaysians are being asked to join in his fiction, if Najib persists with this unprecedented solution to the parliamentary faux pax he had committed in failing to follow the correct parliamentary procedure of submitting a proper parliamentary amendment to the 2009 Budget incorporating the new RM7 billion economic stimulus package.

This was why I had likened Najib to the illusionist David Copperfield yesterday when the Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, responded to my query in Parliament and explained that the RM7 billion economic stimulus package announced by Najib on Tuesday was a hypothetical one, as it depended on savings made from the downturn in global fuel prices, and what the government will do with RM7 billion when the situation arises.

I agree with Najib when he announced the RM7 billion package on Tuesday that “extraordinary times require extraordinary measures”, like amending the 2009 Budget with an additional RM7 billion economic package in the face of the worst world economic crisis in 80 years because of the global financial meltdown – but this is no justification in breaking all parliamentary rules and procedures by one day presenting a RM7 billion economic stimulus package and claiming in the next 24 hours that it is just a hypothetical proposal!

Isn’t the entire 2009 Budget of RM207 billion, made up of RM154 billion operating estimates and RM53.7 billion development estimates equally “hypothetical” as being based on on a whole architecture of assumptions about revenues and expenditures which only time can tell whether they will come true?

If so, why then is Parliament debating and passing a “hypothetical” 2009 Budget but is not required to debate and pass a “hypothetical” supplement to the 2009 Budget in the form of the additional RM7 billion economic stimulus package?

This is not a good start for Najib as the new Finance Minister and five-month Prime Minister-in-waiting, as this is not the way a responsible Finance Minister should conducted himself – telling Parliament and nation one thing and saying a completely different thing 24 hours later.

Najib never qualified his announcement on Tuesday that his RM7 billion economic stimulus package was a hypothetical one.

Instead, he wanted Parliament and the nation to take his RM7 billion economic stimulus package seriously, and this was why there was a two-week build-up of an important announcement he would be making in Parliament on Nov. 4.

All the media, whether television, radio or newspapers, treated his RM7 billion package as his important first test as the new Finance Minister and not just as a flight of imagination, with all front-page newspaper headlines yesterday like “RM7b KICK-START – Government responds to global financial crisis” (New Straits Times), “RM7 bil spending – Najib unveils plans to ensure continued growth of economy” (Star), “$PEND, $PEND, $PEND” (Sun), “RM7b rangsang ekonomi” (Utusan Malaysia) and “Dana RM7b rangsang ekonomi – Penjimatan subsidi minyak jana pertumbuhan negara” (Berita Harian).

Are all these just mirages in the desert?

Najib came to Parliament on Tuesday like Santa Claus before Christmas announcing a whole litany of goodies from the RM7 billion economic stimulus package, including

• RM1.2 billion allocations for the construction of 15,000 low-cost and medium-cost houses.

• RM500 million to refurbish police stations and police quarters, as well as army camps and their living quarters.

• RM600 million for small projects under the Public Infrastructure Maintenance (PIAS) for repairing village roads, building of community halls and small bridges.

• RM500 million for the preservation and repair of public amenities such as schools, hospitals and roads.

• RM500 million for upgrading and construction of rural roads and village roads.

• RM200 million to four groups of schools. RM50 million each for fully-aided religious schools, mission schools, Chinese schools and Tamil schools.

• RM300 million for creation of funds and to implement skills training programmes in the Development Corridors.

• RM500 million to strengthen the public transport especially the LRT, Komuter and bus systems in urban areas.

• RM1.5 billion ringgit as investment funds to attract more private sector investors.

• RM400 million to expedite the high-speed broadband project implementation.

• RM200 million to build human capital through various training programmes by various ministries.

• RM100 million for Rakan Muda projects.

• RM200 million to revitalise abandoned housing projects.

• RM200 million for early education for kids.

After raising high hopes from the beneficiaries of the RM7 billion economic stimulus package, is Najib now pouring “cold water” by suggesting that the various allocations announced by him in Parliament on Tuesday are tentative, hypothetical and not meant to be taken seriously?

Parliament and the Barisan Nasional would forfeit all public respect if this be the case.

Najib had committed a grave parliamentary faux pax in not following the proper parliamentary procedure in his first parliamentary outing. He should be man enough to admit his mistake and rectify it and not compound it by claiming that his RM7 billion economic stimulus package is a mere fiction and need not be debated and approved in Parliament.

Then why announce it in Parliament in the first place?

DAP and Pakatan Rakyat MPs are prepared to co-operate with the Barisan Nasional government in the interests of the people and country and we are ready to work with Najib to rectify his parliamentary faux pax.

But he must have the humility and decency to admit his parliamentary faux pas or there will be no way to rectify it.

One solution is for Najib to introduce a motion to amend the 2009 Budget to incorporate the RM7 billion economic stimulus package he announced on Tuesday, so that MPs could debate on both the Abdullah Budget presented on August 29 as well as the RM7 billion supplementary Najib Budget announced on Tuesday.

It is a great disservice to Parliament as well as a most adverse reflection on him if Najib persists in wanting MPs to live a fiction that the RM7 billion economic stimulus package does not exist and need not be debated.

This is the first test of Najib’s quality of leadership five months before he becomes the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia next March.

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor