GEORGE TOWN: All top students in the country will be awarded the same overseas scholarships if the Pakatan Rakyat wins control of the federal government, said DAP secretary general and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.
Commenting on the ongoing debate on scholarships for top scorers to pursue their tertiary education, Lim said the pledge to award overseas scholarships equally to all top students was necessary for Malaysia to become a high-income economy with a US$15,000 (RM45,000) per capita income.
He said Malaysia would be sending a wrong message if it is not fair to the best and brightest and allows the brain drain to continue.
“The time has come to invest our resources in the future by spending tens of billions of ringgit on human talent,” Lim said in a statement, critising corruption and white elephant projects.
He said all top SPM scorers should be given overseas Public Service Department (PSD) scholarships and not 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) grants to study in local public and private universities in the interests of fair play, to reward performance based on excellence and demonstrate the country’s commitment to retain its human talent.
Lim was responding to an announcement by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz on Monday that 500 special education grants would be disbursed by 1MDB to the rejected applicants.
The scholarships to public universities would be worth RM7,500 a year and scholarships for study of critical courses in private universities RM15,000 a year, while grants for non-critical courses would be worth RM7,500.
Lim also condemned the BN government for failing to uphold transparency and accountability by making public the detailed results of all those who were awarded overseas scholarships. He said MCA president Datuk Seri Chua Soi Lek has yet to explain why MCA ministers failed to fulfil Chua’s promise that all top SPM scorers would be awarded PSD overseas scholarships.
“Chua would do well to read the article by his predecessor Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat in Malaysiakini that BN’s failure to award overseas PSD scholarships equallyo all SPM top scorers has reflected negatively on BN.
“Instead of responding to MCA’s failure that Ong had criticised, MCA is trying to distract attention by attacking the Penang PR state government for lying that Penang does not have enough money to provide scholarships to top students.
“MCA claims that Penang has vast wealth to spend on overseas scholarships because Penang came out top in investments worth RM 12.2 billion in 2010.
“If MCA cannot differentiate between foreign and domestic investments and revenue, MCA does not deserve to be part of the government. Investments are held by the private sector to spend to generate jobs and economic growth, not revenue for the state government to spend,” he said.
Despite revenue constraints, Lim said the Penang PR had continued to award loans at local public universities to all deserving Penang students equally and had also increased the primary and secondary school grants to poor students.
This article appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, June 8, 2011.