Monday, October 18, 2010

Budget Talk Again

As I examined the Budget 2011 again, I wondered aloud if Najib really listens to the rakyat! Well, if you had scrutinized his blog and Facebook page, you will read the very many comments as well as suggestions from his readers about what they had wished for in Budget 2011.

According to the Prime Minister, there were three main issues raised – employment, taxes and subsidies, and education. In Najib’s words, “employment was the most frequently discussed with some of you calling for the implementation of a minimum wage policy”. Also, he noted that “comments from the youth requested for increased tax rebates for young families or ways to provide financial assistance in managing the rising cost of living”. As for education, the feedback related to concerns with education quality and the rising cost of education.

Now that we know the contents of the budget, I don’t think anybody can deny that these requests were not entertained at all.

The minimum wage policy is still not on – being deferred again! Only security guards will benefit and Najib had announced that they would be entitled to a minimum wage of between RM500 and RM700 a month, depending on location, effective January 2011. And not forgetting that female civil servants will enjoy longer maternity leave (i.e. 90 days).

In education, a substantial allocation was made to cater for recurring operational expenditure and some new infrastructural spending, but other than this – there is nothing new in the budget that can allay the No. 1 concern of middle-class Malaysians. Education continues to suffer from political meddling and academic standards keep on declining.

The pressing issue of the escalating costs of living is not addressed. We see the ballooning costs of housing, transport, health, food, et cetera – but the government is not concerned. Take housing as one very sore point. Sure, first-time house buyers with income less than RM3,000 can now obtain a 100% loan without a down payment. This is small consolation if the repayment period is prolonged or if the house price is exorbitant. The reality is that current prices are beyond the reach of young professionals who aspire to own a house in KL. In a statement to The Malay Mail on September 29, 2010, National House Buyers Association (HBA) honorary secretary-general Chang Kim Loong said "The present wages of a middle-income household does not commensurate with the current price range of owning a house. Even the current rental yield does not give satisfactory return-on-investment" (Webpage, posted October 01, 2010).

Najib may be optimistic that the country will prosper – but I reckon Malaysians will generally be poorer. The exceptions will be the wealthy, the super-wealthy and those “privileged” people with the political affiliations to gain from the harvest of mega projects contained in the said budget.

Budget 2011 is not reflective of 1Malaysia!

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