‘Ranking shows resources don’t benefit masses’

Malaysia’s ranking of 34th among 58 countries in the Revenue Watch Institute (RWI)’s Resource Governance Index 2013 shows that the BN government did not manage well the nation’s abundant resources to benefit the masses, the DAP says.

NONEIts newly-elected Damansara Utama assemblyperson Yeo Bee Yin (left) said this was most pertinent in the area of managing the country’s oil and gas resources, in terms of transparency and transfer of revenue to state governments.

“It is clearly shown (that) the BN government (is) ineffective in governing the natural resources in Malaysia, denying the rakyat and our next generation from enjoying the full benefits of the abundance of this land.” Yeo said.

An oil and gas engineer with an international firm before going into politics, she said Malaysia’s failure to ensure proper governance in these two areas was inexcusable, considering that it trailed less developed countries in Africa and South America.

This is especially so in the area of transparency, where agreements, such as the oil royalty agreements between Petronas and the oil producing states, which are now not publicly accessible.

“If South American countries such as Peru can regularly update their online reporting system on transfers to local governments, I do not see the reason why we cannot disclose more sub-national transfer information in Malaysia,” the Cambridge post-graduate degree holder said.

Having served in the oil industry in Turkmenistan, Yeo said the performance of Petronas as one of the world’s best-run national oil firms does not negate her assertion that the country’s resources are poorly-managed.

“The pertinent question is whether the profits earned are properly distributed and trickle down to the rakyat, instead of being cannibalised by the privileged and politically-connected,” she said.

Open up Petronas’ accounts

Given that Petronas’ revenue runs to hundreds of billions of ringgit annually, Yeo added that legislation must be enacted to ensure transparency and sustainability in the industry, as was done in a place like Norway.

Norway, which ranks number one on the RGI is the “perfect example” she said, as government income from petroleum is placed in a pension fund for future use and to shield the country from short-term petroleum price fluctuations.

Yeo said Petronas should also be subject to public scrutiny through legislation, such as a Freedom of Information Act, which has been adopted in Selangor and Penang, and the abolition of the Official Secrets Act.

According to the Petroleum Development Act 1974, Petronas has exclusive rights to manage Malaysia’s oil and has resources and is only accountable to the prime minister.

The RWI categorises Malaysia as “weak”, just step shy from the lowest category, which is “failing”, and falling behind Indonesia (14th) and the Philippines (23rd).

Malaysia also ranks behind eight African nations – Ghana (15th), Liberia (16th), Zambia (17th), Morocco (25th), Tanzania (27th), Botswana (30th), Gabon (32nd), Guinea (33rd).

Iraq (29th), Azerbaijan (28th), Venezuela (20th) and Kazakhstan (19th) are also ahead of Malaysia in terms of resource governance.

The country’s petroleum sector represents 10 percent of Malaysia’s gross domestic product and accounted for 40 percent of federal government revenue in 2011. – Malaysiakini

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