Saturday, October 24, 2009

2010 Budget

Now that the 2010 Budget has been announced, I will make my observations. It seems to me that it contains lots of familiar platitudes, peppered by stylish triteness and popular verbiage. Consider the campy slogan "1 Malaysia, Together We Prosper"). Honest, I feel queasy already! What I am trying to say here is that I didn’t find the Budget arresting or impressive.

When Prime Minister Najib Razak (who is also finance minister) was tabling the Budget yesterday, he made a brave statement that despite the projected reduced revenue, the government is expected to bring down the deficit to 5.6 per cent next year by reducing expenditure (about RM192 billion or about a tenth less than 2009), thus reflecting the government’s responsibility of keeping the country’s finances in good shape.

That is not just challenging but also ambitious. Personally, I am of the view that before we even look at reducing expenditure – we should tackle the leakages and wastages inherent in the disbursement of public funds. Just last Monday, the Auditor-General’s Report 2008 has already highlighted how negligent government institutions are, when spending our money. And we have not yet considered the impact of corruption. Only last month, Transparency International has reported that corruption could cost Malaysia as much as RM10 billion a year. All of this is draining our coffers, money that we can ill-afford to lose. Our budget deficit is already swimming in red ink, and we don’t need these fiscal misadventures to drown us all.

Sure, here and there, there are some small goodies for the rakyat, but I don’t see any major initiatives for the middle class wage-earner. In an economic downturn, this demographic group suffers the most, and they will see their disposable incomes fall conspicuously. I subscribe to the belief that we should help this segment of the population in order to help the country overcome the economic slump. But as in the stimulus packages, sad to say, the middle class is often overlooked.

In any case, the strategies Najib unveiled lacked details, and clarity is also evidently absent in his pronouncements. So we will just have to wait and see how he will translate abundant words into positive action.

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