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Published: Thursday May 27, 2010 MYT 5:04:00 PM
Updated: Thursday May 27, 2010 MYT 6:14:33 PM

Idris Jala: M’sia must cut subsidies, debt by 2019 or risk bankruptcy

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will be bankrupt by 2019 if it does not cut subsidies and rein in borrowings, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala on Thursday.

He said that Malaysia's debt would rise to 100 percent of GDP by 2019 from the current 54% if it did not cut subsidies.

“We do not want to be another Greece,” he said when officiating the Subsidy Lab Open Day here to receive feedback from the public on subsidies.

Some of the recommendations of the subsidy rationalisation lab:

- Reduction of gas subsidy, resulting in an increase in electricity tariffs. However, most households will not be affected as the move will only affect those consuming more than 200kWh.

- Toll rates to increase in mid-2010 as per concession agreement except for highways without alternative toll-free routes.

-Outpatient treatment at public hospitals to be increased from RM1 to RM3. In-patient treatment will also increase, depending on the wards (Class One, Two or Three), from between RM3 and RM80, to between RM6 to RM160.

-Text book loan scheme and tuition subsidy aid to be abolished. Students will also have to pay for public examination fees.

-Foreign students will pay full fees at public universities.

-Local undergraduates and postgraduates to pay more in student fees, ranging from RM300 to RM800.

Meanwhile, Bernama reported Idris as saying that Malaysia was likely to become an oil importer as early as next year at the current rate it was consuming petroleum,

Malaysians continue to be among the highest fuel consumers per capita in the world fuel consumption habits pattern which generally has remained relatively unchanged despite increased oil prices in 2008.

He also said that approximately 70% of the government's liquid petroleum gas (LPG) subsidy went to commercial concerns and not the intended households.

About 30% of the cooking oil subsidy was also abused, he said.

He said the government is proposing to phase out the petrol subsidy gradually in line with its move to strategically position Malaysia's economy on a stronger footing to realise the aspirations of Vision 2020, which is to achieve a developed, high-income nation status.

"Subsidies are an inaccurate representation of trade," Idris said when officiating the Subsidy Lab Open Day here to receive feedback from the public on subsidies.

"In addition, they pose a fiscal burden that emerging economies such as Malaysia should move away from. As such, we desperately need an exit strategy for subsidies, as they are unsustainable," he said.

"In order to save the country, we need to increase our GDP, Malaysians need to be aware we are giving the highest subsidies - 4.6 per cent of GDP even higher than Indonesia (2.7 per cent) & Philippines (0.2 per cent)," said Idris, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU).

Malaysia is one of the most subsidised nations in the world. Its total subsidy of RM74 billion in 2009 is equivalent to RM12,900 per household.

This covers the areas of Social (RM42.8bil), Fuel (RM23.5bil), Infrastructure (RM4.6bil) and Food amounting to RM3.1bil.

"All savings to reduce these savings are intended to reduce our deficit and debt of RM103bil in five years," he said.

Meanwhile, studies by Bank Negara have shown that inflation will rise to four per cent (2011-2012) and three per cent post 2013.

Subsidies only result in market distortion and they drain the government of much needed funds that could be better used for more strategic and pressing development projects for the rakyat, Idris said.

"The time for subsidy rationalisation is now," he said.

"We are reviewing the possibility of introducing a floating price mechanism, mitigation measures and assistance needed to put in place."

"We do not want to end up like Greece with a total debt of EUR300 billion. Our deficit rose to record high of RM47 billion last year."

"If the government continues at the rate of 12 per cent per annum, Malaysia could go bankrupt in 2019 with total debts amounting to RM1,158 billion," he cautioned.

Related Stories:
RM103bil savings from subsidy reduction
Subsidy cuts to boost economy

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