Monday, April 09, 2012

Is Dap the New Labour?


Dap is a member of the Socialist International (SI) which is an association of political parties and associations seeking to establish democratic socialism. Democratic socialism seeks to become a counter weight to corporate capitalism with the aim to ensure that no one is marginalized or excluded from the process of societal transformation and development.

It recognizes the impact of social and economic structural transformation on the society.  According to SI, the social cost of these transformations - unemployment, regional decline, destruction of communities - has affected not only the very poor but also working people in general.

The process of development in the name of modernisation has brought additional challenges to the society. It has often benefited the haves but marginalized the haves-not. Some of the side effects are profound e.g. rising inflation, escalating property prices through speculation and the creation of a new class of urban poor. These side effects are man-made.
 
Some of these signs are evident in Malaysia. Refsa, a research arm linked to Dap, revealed that more than 74% of the total Malaysian workforce received up to only Form 5 education (11 years). More than 86% of our total workforce earn less than RM3,000 a month. Some observers even called for it to be made an urban poverty line.

It means corporate capitalism, if not managed and controlled, will exacerbate the situation. The rich will become richer and the poor will end up poorer. This is where good public policy and responsible governance comes in. A good government has to ensure that our human resources who are being tapped and utilized by the capitalists to achieve their profit targets and business objectives are aptly rewarded and not being marginalized by the contribution they brought to development.

Hence, the debate on Bayan Mutiara should not be subjected to merely the issue of transparency or price. It questions the policy direction and ideological orientation of the Dap and its continuous commitment to democratic socialism.

At the Malay Mail debate on Bayan Mutiara, the party’s publicity chief Tony Pua rebutted an allegation on the sale of Bayan Mutiara land that it was below market valuation. He said the state government, led by his party, had helped to unlock the value of the land by selling it at RM240 per sqft which was supposedly RM40 above market rate.

Who is the state government helping to unlock the value for? Is it for the state, the capitalist or the average people? Average Penangites are facing tremendous pressure to own or keep a home due to escalating property prices pushed up by corporate capitalism and unhealthy speculation. By unlocking the land value means pushing the land price to follow the unreasonable speculation induced level. Is this a fair deal to average Penangites?

An important tenet of democratic socialism is the promotion of justice and equality. It strives for the end of all discrimination against individuals, and the equality of rights and opportunities. It demands compensation for physical, mental and social inequalities, and freedom from dependence on either the owners of the means of production or the holders of political power.

However, in the Bayan Mutiara case the Dap-led state government has acted precisely in ‘the government’s knows best’ mode. It has decided arbitrarily on the sale of Bayan Mutiara land to fund the affordable housing scheme on the mainland.

How can this be consistent with the promotion of justice and equality if average Penangites are not being able to own, share and enjoy the homes and facilities to be built on the Bayan Mutiara land?

Can the state government guarantee that the new mega city, Penang World City (PWC), would be able to meet the aspirations of the average Penangites and fulfil the requirements of a sustainable development which is inclusive and value added to the state’s socio-economic transformation?

What is Dap’s vision for the PWC? How can the PWCT create jobs and opportunities for the average people?

Will the average people be one day pushed out from the island due to unreasonable escalation of property prices and inflation?

The development of PWC is not without its risks which are associated to the highly fragile global economy. Most of the developed economies, which are Malaysia’s most important trading partners, such as US, Europe, Middle East and Japan are facing unprecedented political and economic challenges since post World War II.

It is believed that Tropicana Ivory Sdn. Bhd. (TISB) will be taking over the Bayan Mutiara land in phases in accordance to the payment schedule. Since the project will be dependent on foreigners to purchase a big chunk of the development, it is not insulated from the impact of a global economic slowdown.

What will happen should TISB fails to complete the project? Did the state government conduct any scenario planning to avoid and prevent the project from being abandoned half way? Does the state government have a back-up plan if the project is being abandoned?

In the face of criticism, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had announced it is mandatory for TISB to ensure 30 percent of residential property built must be low-medium cost (LMC) valued at between RM72,500 to RM220,000. TISB had earlier announced its intention to build 15 percent of residential property valued at between RM300,000 to RM500,000 at every phase.

It is pertinent for TISB to identify precisely where it is going to build the 30 percent LMC residential property at every phase before being given all necessary approvals to start construction.

Even if the 30 percent quota for LMC has been honoured, does the state government have any plan(s) to help ensure that those who cannot afford the down payment or qualify for a bank loan can own a place too?

So far, the Dap’s policy direction has been both contradictory and populist. At the federal level, it has been vocal against Barisan Nasional’s record on poverty, inequality and elitism. Its leaders have been vocal in promoting good public transport system, minimum wage, free education and other issues related to the lower-average income classes.

Apart from giving out social grants ranging from RM100 to RM1000 in Penang, the chief minister had promised to give out RM1000 to all Malaysians should Pakatan win federal power.

On the other hand, when it comes to protecting the interest of the larger society especially the poor the party has made pro-corporate decisions which may drive up inflation and property prices in the state.

Critics have accused the state government of sugar coating its decision to sell state owned prime land by announcing that proceed from the sale would be used to build low cost residential property. They had pointed out the chief minister had said there is enough surplus in the state’s coffer to fund the low cost housing scheme when the latter presented a RM500 million cheque to Penang Development Corporation.

Its publicity chief Tony Pua had said in the debate that the state government would not mind selling the land to any Barisan Nasional crony who can afford to pay the highest bid for the land. 

Furthermore, the state government had announced its plan to fund the building of four mega infrastructure projects totalling almost RM8 billion through land swap. There is little the party can do to justify its democratic socialism credentials if such massive amount of funds is going to be used to help private vehicle owners.

How is the transport policy going to help those who have to rely on public transport for mobility and help to eradicate inequality?

Dap leaders must not be seen as willing to castigate and penalise the poor and disadvantaged, while at the same time promoting policies which increase their misery and hardship.

Dap's desire to embrace the market and to promote commercialism in the state, without being inclusive, may create unprecedented levels of affluence for the rich and big business but will do nothing to help the most needy and vulnerable.

Dap must stop being the New Labour and embolden the growing division between the social classes; the rich and powerful on one side (island) and the poor and disadvantaged on other (mainland).

Instead, the party should be focusing on propositions to make wealth distribution more equitable and the poor getting better access to services and assistance which can help to alleviate their living standard. 

14 comments:

najib manaukau said...

What do the DAP leaders like the mad dog LKS and his son know about labour movement ?
Mad dog LKS just want to ensure that his son becomes the CM as long as anyone , including lusty AI and the opposition party support the leadership of his son.
Just ask him to go back to Malacca to stand as a candidate in the coming GE and the Malaysians will see the true colour of this mad dog !

TOKZ said...

LIM GUAN ENG always stressed that DAP is a 'multiracial' party but LIM GUAN ENG himself DOESN'T even dare to stand as a candidate in his own hometown be it in Batu Pahat or Melaka. He ONLY dare to stay as a candidate in Penang becos' he knew he need the Chinese votes to make him a WINNER.

Well, if DAP is indeed a 'mutiracial' party, then, why be afraid to stand as a candidate outside Penang whereby you don't need to depend HEAVILY on Chinese votes??? LIM GUAN ENG only dare to stand as a candidate in PENANG clearly showed DAP is purely a 100000% CINA punya parti.

No wonder political analysts forecast LIM GUAN ENG will LOSE badly if he does contest in any constituency outside Penang becos' DAP doesn't have a HOME if there aren't any Chinese.

Multiracila party, huh??? Come 'on...get real, will ya?

Khoo Kay Peng said...

Najib,

Name calling and rude remarks are not welcomed on this blog.

Despite some policy disagreement, we should still respect the Dap leaders as individuals and elected representatives.

Learn to debate civilly.

v8 said...

Thanks for the well written article. Balancing economical growth and social welfare is always a slippery slope for any labour government.

It may still be premature to be critical of DAP considering that the alternative being a highly incompetent opposition. Hence, DAP may have had to compromise its values in order to gain support of the general public (those in support of capitalism and those in support of socialism) or perhaps, they are still on a very steep learning curve.

The challenge is then to form a worthy opposition (competent and clean) to the DAP government in Penang that champions itself as a non-labour/liberal party to act as a balance check. What do you think?

@TOKZ: In my honest opinion, the racial divide in Malaysia is still very much apparent and for many reasons, many are still indifferent towards issues that are cross-cultural. Until then, it would be very difficult for anyone non-chinese to view DAP as a multi-racial party.

Clement said...

Kay Peng,

The present Penang ruling coalition is not an ideological-based coalition. To judge them based on the perspective of Socialism and Social Democrat would be unfair, for the government, as well as the electoral.

Next, as a political subscriber of Classical Liberalism, definitely I would not happy to see the present ruling coalition introducing and implementing socialism policy. Therefore, I have my reservation on your analyst due to my political biasness.

However, I would like to offer my points of view, as a Libertarian, on this issue.

Firstly, it was a 41.5 hectare of land. Definitely, only sizeable developers would be able to take up the piece of land. Perhaps, the State Government should subdivide the piece of land, and with proper infrastructures like roads and drainage system, this will enhance the total value of the land, at the same time it allows the participation from the small and medium size developer.

This is the free market mechanism which Liberalism advocates for.

Secondly, there was a direct negotiation or novation between the State Government and the successful bidders after the tender was closed. So, whether was it an open tender per se, I leave this to readers.

Undoubtedly, this open tender system has discrepancies. Otherwise, there is no need of novation of the agreement after the tender closed. And certainly, it was unfair to unsuccessful bidders. They would have secured the winning bid and then renegotiate the agreement.

These went against the free market which Liberalism advocates for.

Thirdly, should Penang Development Corporation (PDC) take up the project instead of giving it to private developers?

As a Libertarian, I see no harms the project was taken up by private developers, but not one exclusive developer. Further, I am not in the position to comment whether PDC has the capacity to develop the project or not. Even if PDC has the capacity, it is much of business decision. The government should not just award the project to PDC without an open tender which PDC bid and won it.

Fourthly, to build low-medium cost housing scheme in a prime area, economically may not be feasible. It is just like we have a fast food restaurant within a 6-stars J.W. Marriot hotel.

Eventually, the low-medium cost housing would appreciate and become medium cost housing at the expense of slow appreciation of the luxury property in the same prime area.

At the same time, we can’t ignore the level of amenities within the area. Would the low-medium households afford to pay for the amenities in the prime area, since it is surrounded by the luxury housing scheme?

We have to consider this instead of blindly insist the build of low-medium cost housing.

Thanks for allowing me to give some inputs on this.

Clement Ong

Clement said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
najib manaukau said...

Kay Peng,
Are you suggesting I must hide my true feeling and not call a spade a spade especially when many of us are ashamed of being represented by them on parliament ? I do not believe in talking about modesty with people like them, what would they know about modesty ?
As much as I want to have the present regime changed but the change must be people of our choice !

Anonymous said...

There is nothing wrong for a socialist party to operate in the market economy. Look at Singapore, one of world's most socialist countries (through HDB) and yet is a great capitalist country. Not only it rooted the poverty in the society it has become one of the richest countries in the world.

Anonymous said...

You must be influenced by KTK the Phd Ex-Chief Minister of Penang...... You want the government to study all possibilities and look at all scenarios before a decision is made is like KTK time. Dr MM has mentioned once that Penang had the most Phd Exco in Malaysia yet they could not get things done as these Phd ministers like to "study" projects, people complain also want to study....that's why Penang Hill was not developed due to complain. This is like the Esop's story about the Father, Son & the poor donkey.

Anyway, LGE, DAP & PR is doing very well in Penang, you not to worry.

BRONCO

Khoo Kay Peng said...

Anon 4am,

Confusing, Singapore is one of the world's most socialist countries just because of HDB?

Honestly, there's no way a country can be both a great capitalist and a hardcore socialist.

Second, urban poverty is a problem now. A great number of Singaporean citizens are affected by soaring property prices and cost of living. They could be considered middle income by our level but not in Singapore.

The government is taking measures after signs of losing electoral support in the last GE to fix the housing market by imposing higher stamping duty for non-PR and PR. PR pay higher prices for education, medical etc.

My argument is there must be right intervention by the government.

Another thinking point, you will not find the Singaporean government selling a 103 acres land to a single private developer?

Khoo Kay Peng said...

Clement,

Points welcomed! I agree with your point on allowing more parties to participate in the Bayan Mutiara land. For two reasons, the government could come out with a masterplan outlining its vision for socio-economic transformation. Second, it would have lower the development risks of BM.

However, it takes a moral and ideological stand to argue on whether we should mix LMC with luxury property in PWC. My question is why should the average and lower group be excluded? Poverty is after all a side effect of capitalism.

It was not my intention to include an ideological dimension to judge the Dap. They are a member of the SI. Their membership would have futile if they do not embrace the essence of democratic socialism.

Just like your ex party Gerakan, it has abandoned its non-sectarian ideology to join the BN and it was consumed and transformed by the latter into a race-based party.

Khoo Kay Peng said...

Bronco,

Where were you when KTK was in power? He did precisely the same, zero consideration of the side effect and impact on some developments.

The results? Dangerous hilltop development, land reclamation works which destroyed the coastline of Penang, George Town turning into a ghost town and many more.

Did you hear people say, success is in the planning? Which developed country would allow a development project without thorough EIA and social impact study?

Anonymous said...

Having that piece of precious sea front land develope as a luxury commercial development project that cater to wealthy individual buyer and corporate entity can substantially hike the price of the state land above market rate, private developer can factor in higher profit margin to afford paying higher bid, if it is only limited to low and mid income housing project, the bid price will have a lot lower for the state's coffer, even it means the decision is going against its democratic socialism agenda. The reality on the ground is much complicated than it seem to be in the face of equality in wealth distribution and prosperity in this tiny island state.

Charles F Moreira said...

Very well said, Khoo Kay Peng.

If the DAP does not practice the democratic socialism it claims to believe in then leave the Socialist International and call itself libertarian or Neo-Liberal instead. If it has no ideology then don't call itself anything.

While the BN makes no bones about being a party of capitalists, we don't need a "New BN" masquerading as "democratic socialist" and a "people's party."

The New Labour party of Tony Blair dropped Clause 4 of the Labour Party Manifesto which reads:-

"To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service."

Tony Blair had his New Labour sucked up to the capitalists and were just a kinder version of the Conservative (Tory) Party by throwing a few concessions to the workers and poor. It also continued with the neo-liberal, libertarian, moneterist policies introduced by Thatcher and did not repeal the laws introduced restricting the power of the labour unions.

George Galloway of the Respect party just thrashed New Labour in Bradford West even though the New Labour Candidate was a Pakistani and West Bradford has a huge Muslim population.

The Independent article follows:-

Respect celebrates while Labour reflects after shocking Bradford result

George Galloway and the Respect Party were celebrating an astounding victory this morning after taking the seat of Bradford West in a by-election last night, beating Labour by over 10,000 votes.

Supporters mobbed the anti-war campaigner as he left the sports hall in West Bradford where results were announced, causing him to initially retreat back inside. Chants of “Respect” and “we love you George” greeted him as he reappeared.

In what he described on stage as "the most sensational result in British by-election history bar none" Mr Galloway received 55.89 per cent of the vote with 18,341, compared to Labour’s Imran Hussain, who won 8,201 votes – a 24.99 per cent share. Conservatives secured just 8.37 per cent, with 2,746 votes.

More:-

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/respect-celebrates-while-labour-reflects-after-shocking-bradford-result-7601290.html

Also watch this video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BP2ywccOZ7Y

If DAP is indeed social democratic as it claims then provide affordable public housing ON PENANG ISLAND, protect the ecology and environment of Penang against rape by greedy capitalist property developers, improve the public transport system in Penang and don't engage in any mega projects.

Basically DAP should not be the New BN