Saturday, October 11, 2014

Budget 2015

Budget 2015 is a ho-hum budget. I don’t see any major strategic shifts that will lead to a strong and sustainable financial performance and importantly, Prime Minister Najib Razak failed to address the burning issues of disparities in incomes and social positions. He has conveniently forgotten that the cost of living has been escalating and the disadvantaged are suffering.
Of course if you ask Najib – he is bound to disagree. He is likely to say he is helping the down-and-out! He is giving out more handouts than ever!
BRIM or 1Malaysia People’s Aid has been increased almost 50% to RM950 from RM650 for those households with a monthly income of RM3,000 and below. For those with monthly incomes of between RM3,000 and RM4,000, BR1M would be increased to RM750 from RM450. Rubber smallholders get a one-off special payment of RM500. Fishermen get monthly living allowances of RM250 or RM300 depending on location and a monthly allowance of RM200 for coastal fishermen.
Budget 2015 is expected to incur an estimated expenditure of RM273.94 billion, an increase of RM9.74 billion from the announced 2014 budget of RM264.2. This is not belt-tightening – Najib has not kept his promise to decrease unnecessary expenditure. And of course, he can’t! He is obsessed with giving out handouts.
I also worry because Budget 2015 doesn’t address the country’s needs to build a supportable economic future. One important area is education. Wasn’t it Frederico Gil Sander, a World Bank Senior Economist who said that the poor quality of Malaysia’s education system is very worrisome? I am an educator and I can vouch the truth of what he is saying. Yet, Najib’s Budget 2015 doesn’t even pretend to try to address this concern.
This is not to say that Budget 2015 has completely neglected education. Najib does have goodies for the rakyat: 10% rebate for PTPTN borrowers who consistently make repayments for 12 months until end 2015. 20% discount for borrowers who make lump sum repayments by March 31, 2015. 1Malaysia book voucher assistance worth RM250 for 1.3 million students. And RM100 assistance to 5.4 million primary school students.
As I have said – these are mere “handouts”, period.
But what is alarming is that the Prime Minister’s Department (PMD)’s expenditure continues to grow under Prime Minister Najib Razak’s watch, with spending significantly higher that it sticks out like a sore thumb.
According to estimates by the Treasury, greedy Najib is putting aside RM19.1 billion and that itself is a big jump from this year’s RM16.5 billion. Just imagine! That amount represents 10 percent of total government expenditure for the year. That is the largest absolute increase among all the Ministries, even more than the RM2.03 billion increase in the Ministry of Education’s allocation.
From muftis to the training for the judiciary, kindergartens to national security, nuclear energy to human rights (Suhakam), economic planning and even a television station, there seems to be little that the PMD does not have its fingers in.
Correspondingly, a whopping RM1.24 billion goes to the thousands of staff members on its payroll this year.
To be honest, I don’t believe that allocation will be enough. Next year in one of the parliamentary sessions, I am expecting one of Najib’s PMD ministers to ask for more money – through a supplementary budget.
Budget 2015 doesn’t amount to anything much. A budget must address future needs and Budget 2015, in my opinion, is giving Malaysians the short end of the stick.
I have the honor of meeting University of South Africa's Professor Rachel Barker who is visiting Sunway University on Sunday and again on Wednesday. And if I may add, her husband Rudi is a fun guy!



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