Expert says focus must now be on ensuring efficient delivery of spending plan
KUALA LUMPUR : Budget 2022 – the first tabled under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s watch – has earned the plaudits of political observers who described it as all-encompassing, but also pointed to the agreement with the opposition.
More than anything else, they said this is a clear reflection of how important last month’s historic memorandum of understanding (MoU) inked between the government and Pakatan Harapan (PH) is proving to become.
Speaking to The Vibes, National Professors Council senior fellow Prof Jeniri Amir said the MoU has demonstrated that it goes beyond just ensuring political stability – and if upheld, could be of extreme benefit to the rakyat and country.
“This is the way forward for democracy, that there should be negotiations and openness from the government to consider input from all quarters. They should consider whatever positive and pragmatic proposals.
The bottom line is, this is good for the country and has reduced politicking. In the past 60 years or so, we have been penalising the rakyat by not listening to the opposite bench. So, this is a good start.”
Jeniri said with the general election expected to be held soon, and with Ismail Sabri’s position not secure – considering the slim majority he commands in the Dewan Rakyat – the government may have been pressured into including the opposition’s suggestions in the budget.
Regardless, he said since many PH demands have been met – and as opinions were also obtained from the public – this could similarly pressure the opposition into supporting the bill.
One key point that Jeniri said the government must focus on now is ensuring efficient delivery of the budget, something that past administrations have time and again failed to live up to.
“But all in all, I can say this budget is considered excellent. Everybody seems to be getting something and we should be happy. I believe this is the best the government can do, considering the financial situation we are in.”
Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz on Friday tabled the RM332.1 billion budget for next year, the biggest yet in the country’s history.
He announced a slew of tax incentives, financial aid, and other people-centric programmes for various segments of the society, including those usually overlooked in the government’s annual budget.
Women are given greater emphasis – including the requirement for all public-listed companies to appoint at least one female director; an allocation of RM13 million to empower the police’s Sexual, Women and Child Investigations Division; and a monthly distribution of basic feminine hygiene kits to 130,000 teenage girls from the B40 community.
Budget 2022 unlike previous ones
Universiti Malaya academician Prof Awang Azman Awang Pawi said much of the incentives announced by the government had similarities to the 12 proposals outlined by PH under its shadow budget.
He said they include a RM4 billion allocation to battle Covid-19, support for the recovery of vulnerable sectors, and aid for women and children – indicating the government’s willingness to adopt the opposition’s suggestions.
“This is unlike previous budgets, where the ruling government typically shuts its doors to proposals from opponents.
“And this is the kind of effect we want to see from an MoU. People usually only look at the political impact, but its influence on the economy and the people is significant, too.”
Awang Azman said he hopes this will serve as a lesson to future governments to listen to all sides for input, regardless of political affiliation.
The academic said while the budget would give an advantage to Ismail Sabri’s administration heading into the next general election, PH could also use this to its advantage.
I feel PH can also take credit for this, and I believe the public knows that the opposition coalition has contributed to the budget.
“So, of course they will bank on this as one of their ammunitions when campaigning for the election, that they deserve their spot back in Putrajaya,” he said.
Inclusive or overly ambitious?
Meanwhile, Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said politically speaking, Budget 2022 does appear to be looking like an election budget.
This is going by the abundance of incentives announced for the masses, particularly for women, as well as those most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“These are hard-hit communities. The government is surely hoping the budget will have the incidental effect of the rakyat liking them.
“If we are kind, we can call (the budget) inclusive. If we are not so kind, we can call it overly ambitious, because it appears they are trying to cover too many things,” he said.
On whether the budget is able to attract foreign direct investments, Oh said the government should have focused more on the ease of doing business, instead of tax incentives and deductions.
By : Amar Shah Mohsen – THE VIBES