PETALING JAYA, Mar 28: In an exclusive interview with FMT, Lim Guan Eng opened up on his concerns over the economy, country, and disproportionate fines for movement control order offences.

Lim, a former finance minister, is serving his final term as DAP secretary-general.

Here are excerpts from the interview.

Lim said the government needs to spend more to save jobs and businesses so that the economy can grow.

“In this new normal I think the most important ingredient is hope. I think that is a premium. You must give hope to the younger generation that things can be better,” he said.

He added that the RM300 billion spent by the government since the start of the pandemic has not been effective in creating economic growth, especially with the latest RM20 billion Pemerkasa plan.

“What we need is at least RM45 billion. What do you do with that? You must provide a safety net, especially to the growing number of unemployed. You then have to give assistance, in terms of grants to small businesses.”

He called for computer tablets to be given to all students instead of just 150,000, and for an automatic loan moratorium extension to be granted to people in the M40 middle-income and B40 lower-income groups.

Lim sounded the alarm over the country’s high unemployment rates, especially among the younger generation.

He said the Perikatan Nasional-led government should focus on dealing with unemployment instead of producing macroeconomic numbers, such as Malaysia’s credit ratings, budget deficit and the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate.

“The numbers that should really frighten us are unemployment rates. Unemployment hit a record high of 5.3% in May last year,” he said, adding that the most alarming figure was the 13.5% unemployment rate among the young, one of the highest in decades.

Lim warned that the country could lose an entire generation in the workforce if the government did not take action.

Lim also cautioned the government against being overly optimistic on completing the national immunisation programme by the end of this year, citing the relatively low registration rates.

As of March 23, a total of 6.4 million people have registered for the vaccine through the MySejahtera mobile application, out of the country’s 32 million population.

Commenting on Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s proposal to set a registration deadline of June, Lim said it was not feasible unless the government made vaccination mandatory, which only meant imposing more fines.

Lim spoke out against the increased fines for breaching movement control order regulations, saying they were disproportionate.

“Why are you punishing the people? On one hand you’re giving them RM600 one-off or a few thousand ringgit in grants to businesses, but on the other, you’re taking RM10,000 from individuals and RM50,000 from companies in terms of fines.

“You’re taking more than what you’re giving and you are not actually helping to achieve your objective.”

Lim said if the government wanted to punish those responsible for the surge in Covid-19 cases, it should look at underperforming Cabinet ministers.

“Why is it that in the second wave, you see a surge (of cases)? Cabinet ministers were not doing their jobs. Period.

“If they had done their jobs during that time and prevented the surge from spreading, I’m sure we would not have had to go through another round of MCOs (movement control orders). That really hurt the economy.”


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