View issues with Tan Seng Giaw

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Can the Consumer Ministry control inflation due to petrol price hike?

DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong Dr Tan Seng Giaw urges the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Mohd Shafie Updal to use the allocation on consumerism effectively, to curb unreasonable increase in the price of goods.

Dr Tan comments on the increase in petrol, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)for the third time in the last few months.

Today, the price of petrol and diesel goes up by 30 sen per litre and that of LPG by 30 sen per kilogramme, that is, petrol RM1.92, diesel RM1.581 and LPG RM1.75. The Government deliberately reduces subsidy on petrol products. Last year, the subsidy amounted to RM7.41 billion and related tax exemption RM7.85 billion.

Petrol price among our neighbours such as Thailand and Singapore is RM2.52 and RM4.15 respectively. Smuggling of petrol products to neighbouring countries is rampant.

However, the substantial hike of 30 sen increases the burden on the people, results in inflation and affects all sectors.

The responsibility of the Consumer Ministry is huge. It aims to control inflation and inculcate awareness of consumerism through law enforcement and education. Allocation for consumerism is nearly RM100 million a year. Its efficiency is unsatisfactory. Recently, it has additional over two hundred staff members. It has to buck up.

The increase in petrol price gives the minister extra pressure. We hope that he will not just cry out loud to defend his position in Parliament, but also come up with a definite strategy to stop the chain effects on goods.

Petronas earns billions annually. We wish the company is more transparent. It should never misuse the profits. Instead, it should concentrate on meaningful fields such as education and employment.

We shall raise the problems of the general effects of the petrol price increase in the March Parliament. We would like to know how effective are the measures taken by the Consumer Ministry to fight inflation.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Will GST or VAT ever be implemented?

DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong Dr Tan Seng Giaw calls on the Government to step up the education process of making the people understand the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST) or Value-Added Tax (VAT) and other measures to modernize our tax system.

On 21 February, 2006, the Government postponed the implementation of GST until further notice. Dr Tan believes that this procrastination reflects the relative lack of effective planning, infrastructure and public education on the outdated tax system in general and GST in particular. That business is sluggish is an important factor in the postponement.

The Finance Ministry and The Inland Revenue Board(IRB) are still too preoccupied with the mentality of direct tax. The concept of indirect tax such as GST takes time to sink in. Our neighbours such as Singapore and Thailand have had VAT for some years.

Nearly 20 years ago, the then Finance Minister Tun Daim mentioned VAT in one of his budgets. For some reasons, the subject had been dropped until the 2005 budget at the end of 2004. We have been reminding the Minister and IRB that there have not been adequate education of the public on GST and that the details of the tax are scarcely known.

Now, the ministry says that GST will not be implemented on 1 January, 2007 as initially scheduled, to refine further the proposed model and to ensure that businesses are ready to implement the new system.

Granted, the Government sets up a tax review panel on GST and has consultations with certain people. We can see that infrastructure and education are inadequate. Is Customs able to cope? Will it and IRB be handling those who claim exemption from GST, say at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), professionally?

In the modern world, there will be more indirect taxes such as GST. The Government dithers. Despite the forecast of continued economic growth, business is not good. Delaying the implementation of GST is inevitable.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Let us have countdown on the MRR2 repair project

DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong calls on the Public Works Department (JKR) to have a countdown and quality control on the repair and water-proofing project at the Kepong flyover (Middle Ring Road 2, MRR2).

Dr Tan visits the MRR2 regularly, finding that the progress of the works has been slow since 7 February, 2006, when Bumi Hiway Consortium and Halcrow Group have begun to water-proof the extensive cracks with a special chemical from England.

MRR2 has 33 crossbeams, out of which 31 are cracked. It is unusual in that these cracks were first noticed in 2000 and by the end of 2004, an extraordinary chemical, ettringite, was found by Halcrow. By January, 2005, Halcrow recommended immediate water-proofing with specific chemical to be supervised by the company. Apparently, there was disgreement in the JKR on how to manage these cracks. The decision to repair the cracks was made a year later.

The Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu took the issue to the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on 2 Febraury, 2006. Abdullah announced the closure of MRR2 to all traffic the next day.

We can see scaffolding with green netting, showing that works is being carried out. But, the public feel that the progress is slow.

Samy says that it may take three to four months to complete the project. After water-proofing for one month, that is on 7 March, 2006, he intends to bring the matter to the Prime Minister again. So, how many times is he going to bring the project to Abdullah?

The Works Minister has said many things about MRR2 and his intention to close, to repair and to solve the conundrum has overwhelmed the people. Only the February 2, 2006 meeting with the Prime Minister has resulted in an action. Hence, it will be more convincing if JKR can put up large boards depicting the period of repair of MRR2 and the countdown. If it takes three months to complete the repair project, then, it would be from 7 February, 2006 to 2 May, 2006 (12 weeks or 84 days). A countdown to three months from 7 February means that there are another 74 days left. There must be quality control, the relative lack of which has caused much headache.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Does it take one year to get the repair works on MRR2 approved?

DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong Dr Tan Seng Giaw calls on the Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu to explain why it takes over a year for the repair works on the Kepong flyover (MRR2) to be approved. How many authorities must the Public Works Department (JKR) go through?

The briefing on the MRR2 saga to the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was on 2 February, 2006. Abdullah announced the closure and the implementation of the water-proofing works the following day. Why does it require the Prime Minister to unravel the Gordian knot?

Dr Tan would like the Works Minister to reveal the mystery of his statement that the delay in carrying out repair work was due to the long process of getting approvals from the various authorities. Was it due to bureaucracy, red-tape or JKR internal factor?

If JKR has to go through the long process of getting approvals for over a year, how long will it take non-governmental agencies or individuals?

The British consultant, Halcrow Group, recommended that JKR water-proof the cracked MRR2 immediately. Nearly a year later, for the third time since the end of 2004 the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, asked the Director-General (DG) of JKR to enlighten Parliament on the MRR2 saga on 9 December, 2005. On that very day, the newly-appointed DG Dr Wahid promised to ask the contractor Bumi Hiway, Sukmin and KKM to reply whether it wanted to undertake the repair within two weeks, failing which a new contractor would be appointed. On 2 February, 2006, the PM came into the picture.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Can we have a full report of the Kepong flyover (MRR2) saga?

DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong Dr Tan Seng Giaw calls for a full report of the MRR2 saga, consistent with the principles of the National Integrity Plan. We need transparency and accountability which are also important for the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The Kepong flyover that is part of the Middle Ring Road 2(MRR2) has been closed for repair since 3 February, 2006. Up to 150,000 motorists use it everyday. The project, that cost over RM300 million, began in 1999. By 2000, cracks appeared in 31 out of 33 crossbeams. At least eight foreign consultants had been appointed for the project. At the end of 2004, the British consultant, Halcrow Group, found a chemical compound ettringite in the cracks. Ettringite forms under special conditons such as a temperature of 70 degree Celcius. It requires plenty of water to expand, causing further cracks. In January, 2005, Halcrow recommended that the Public Works Department (JKR) water-proof the cracks immediately. But, JKR dithered. Why?

On 2nd February, 2006, the Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu and JKR engineers briefed the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Next day, the PM announced the closure of the flyover.

As there are alternative roads for motorists, so far traffic around MRR2 is not congested. We see traffic police.

The contractor, Bumihiway Consortium, undertakes the repair works, estimated at RM18 million. It will take three to four months. During this period, there should be a squad of traffic police to direct the traffic. The squad should be aided by the City Hall Kuala Lumpur and the Transport Ministry to ensure a smooth flow of traffic.

The Economic Planning Unit (EPU) in the Prime Minister's Department plans projects such as MRR2. The Ministry of Finance appoints contractors and finance the projects. JKR provides minimal supervision. Can MRR2 saga be avoided? There should be a full report of the saga, revealing where things had gone wrong and those responsible.