More expected from budget


KUCHING: While Budget 2021 is rakyat-centric, Sarawak deserves more allocations for development and education, say experts.

Academy of Sciences Malaysia fellow Datuk Dr Madeline Berma said the RM322.5bil budget was the biggest so far, with large sums allocated to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the people’s well-being.

“The budget addresses the critical needs, pain and discomfort of Malaysians, particularly vulnerable groups such as the B40, disabled and single mothers.

“It also addresses the worst-affected economic sectors like tourism and travel, ” she said.

However, Madeline said she had expected a larger allocation for Sarawak and Sabah, which will receive RM4.5bil and RM5.1bil each for development.

“Not much different to that of Budget 2020, ” she noted.

She would also like to see huge allocations for education to prevent a “lost learning generation” among students experiencing increased online learning as schools and universities are closed during the pandemic.

Sarawak Dayak Graduates Association president Gary Ningkan said it was disappointing that RM4.5bil was allocated to Sarawak out of the RM69bil for development projects in Malaysia.

“People in Sarawak may expect more because when the Federal Government says this budget is the biggest one, the allocation for Sarawak should be proportionately bigger as well, knowing that Sarawak is the third biggest contributor to Malaysia’s GDP, ” he said

He said the RM120mil allocation for rural schools in Sarawak and Sabah was also “rather disappointing” and hoped that the RM750mil for 50 dilapidated schools would mostly involve schools in Sarawak.

In addition, he noted that there were no incentives for parents or teachers to purchase gadgets or computers for online learning.

“We are encouraging online-based teaching, but many Sarawakian students in the rural areas are ill equipped, ” he said.

Overall, however, Ningkan said Budget 2021 was people-centric with many facilities to assist individuals affected by the pandemic, including Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat and reductions in the income tax rate and Employees Provident Fund contribution.

“It is necessary to increase the disposable income of people so that they have more cash to spend, which is crucial in keeping the economy stable.

“However, the rakyat need to be cautious and prudent in their money management. Allowing withdrawals from EPF Account 1 is a double-edged sword.

“This will lighten the financial burden of many individuals, even more so those who have lost their source of income but the public needs to be informed that this is money to be withdrawn from their own retirement fund and it is not a handout, ” he said.

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