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50th Merdeka Anniversary National Misson – to restore the nation’s position when we achieved  Merdeka in 1957 when we were second in Asia after Japan in terms of economic development

Speech at the opening ceremony for the ING Insurance National Convention 2007         
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Genting Highland, Wednesday) : The ING Insurance Agency Force Association Malaysia (INGIAFAM) must be commended for its success in hosting the biggest-ever insurance convention in its history on the occasion of its 25th anniversary with some 2,500 participants. 

I am very impressed by the vim, verve, vitality and vigour exuded by the organizers and participants of this Conference and I have no doubt that if these qualities could be extended to the national stage, Malaysia can hold her proper place in the forefront of nations in this challenging era of globalization. 

The theme of the ING Insurance National Convention 2007, “Honour – Gratitude – Appreciation”, cannot be more appropriate as the nation is celebrating half-a-century of nationhood on its 50th Merdeka Anniversary. The Conference theme, “Honour – Gratitude – Appreciation”, is not confined just to your family, relatives, your work colleagues and customers, but also to the nation, for we are all Malaysian patriots who love this land and  want the best for our country. 

Applying your conference theme “Honour – Gratitutde – Appreciation” to the nation, it is worth pondering how to make the 50th Merdeka Anniversary most meaningful for Malaysia. 

When we achieved Merdeka 50 years ago in 1957, the nation was second in Asia after Japan in terms of economic development. Today, we have lost out to Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong and risks being overtaken by Thailand, Vietnam and even Indonesia. 

The 50th Merdeka Anniversary will be the suitable occasion for the private and public sectors and all Malaysians to commit themselves to a National Mission – to restore the nation’s position when we achieved Merdeka in 1957 when we were second in Asia after Japan in terms of economic development. If we cannot beat Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, at least we must be in the same league with these countries as well as ensure that we can never be overtaken by Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. 

I am deeply honoured and appreciate tremendously the invitation by INGIAFAM to officiate at the opening ceremony of this Convention, as it gives me an educational opportunity to learn about the problems and prospects facing the life insurance industry. 

INGIAFAM and other organizations in the life insurance industry should have a systematic programme to raise awareness among  Members of Parliament from both the government and the opposition about the problems and prospects of the industry in view of its  growing importance to the national economy as well as its role in ensuring the best welfare of Malaysians in the long term for retirement and healthcare, as well as providing protection for individuals and their dependents from financial vulnerabilities arising from death, disability or unemployment and providing for children’s education. 

The government had earlier announced the target in 2005 of 50% of the population having a life insurance policy but the country is still far from the goal as the score is around 38%, which may fall to some 27% if we take into account multiple policies by individual policy holders. Malaysia is very behind other developed countries in this aspect, with Singapore at 96%, Hong Kong 107% and Japan 136%. 

As the 2008 Budget is being finalized, it should incorporate proposals for the life insurance industry which have been canvassed by life insurance agents and professionals  including: 

  1. Allowing the use of EPF to buy insurance as is being practiced in Singapore. Although the recent EPF Amendment Bill passed by Dewan Rakyat provides for the use of EPF monies to buy insurance for critical illnesses, the scope should be expanded for health and education.

  1. Tax relief for EPF and Insurance which at present is listed under the same category and capped at RM6,000 should be separated to allow for RM6,000 relief each  for both EPF and Insurance.  Furthermore, the present tax relief of  RM3,000 for education and health insurance should be increased to RM6,000. In other words, tax relief of RM6,000 for EPF, RM6,000 for life insurance, RM6,000 education/health insurance.

  1. Waiver of tax for the 8% par fund profit to provide better benefits to policy-holders.

  1. Government should facilitate the establishment of private pension funds by providing more incentives and slashing red-tape and bureaucratic obstacles so that private pension funds can play an increasing role to provide sustainable long-term retirement benefits to Malaysians.                                                                    



* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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