Gear up for less subsidy, says Najib


  • Nation
  • Sunday, 06 Mar 2005

BY MUGUNTAN VANAR AND RUBEN SARIO

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysians must be prepared to lose subsidies gradually and pay more for fuel and certain services like health and education. 

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the Government was losing heavily because of the fuel subsidy, escalating health costs and poor repayment of higher education loans. 

However, he said, the changes would be made gradually so as not to shock the people. 

“We have to condition the minds of the people first before doing any review,” he said when launching the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club retreat attended by about 130 MPs and senators at the Nexus Karambunai Resort here.  

“These are among the financial challenges we have to deal with,” Najib said in explaining that for fuel, the Government was losing RM5bil in subsidies and forgoing RM8bil to RM9bil in taxes. 

Najib later said at a press conference that the Government had no intention of completely removing the fuel subsidy but was studying how to adjust it without burdening the people. 

“With any subsidy, it is the people who finally have to pay for it,” he said, adding that those who deserved the fuel subsidy would get it but that abuses must be avoided. 

Najib said the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry had imposed a quota system for diesel retailers which saved the Government RM600mil, adding that the government policy on the matter was right but not efficiently implemented. 

On a review of the healthcare system, Najib said the Government was considering a scheme that would provide quality service on a sustainable basis amid increasing costs and demands. 

“The question now is whether we can continue with the present situation or have some sort of scheme,” Najib said, adding that he would explain more about the healthcare system review soon. 

He said a review of the higher education loan system was also needed as the number of graduates repaying their loans was small. 

“Ideally, the outflow and inflow of these loans should be balanced. If these loans are not repaid, we will have to review the management of the loan system,” he added. 

Najib said the duration of the upcoming Ninth Malaysia Plan would be a critical period for the country as it was in the last lap of reaching Malaysia’s target of becoming a developed country by 2020. 

He said the country’s agenda in the next phase was to develop its human resources after it successfully implemented its “brick and mortar development” between 1990 and this year. 

On political challenges, Najib said Barisan’s elected leaders must ensure that the people’s support for the ruling coalition was maintained, more so after the party's overwhelming victory in last year’s general election.  

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