PETALING JAYA: In a targeted budget that still prioritised spending to keep economic growth up, the Pakatan Harapan government has pledged to restore the country’s finances.
At the same time, the government will make sure that the people can get better jobs, higher wages, and have more money in their pockets.
This was the gist of Pakatan Harapan’s maiden budget, which Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng tabled at the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.
He said the country’s finances, which had been damaged by the previous administration, can be restored in three years as long as the government remains clean, people-centric and focused on carrying out reforms.
“Let our love for our country unite us, our challenges make us stronger and our confidence awaken Malaysia as an Asian Tiger all over again,” said Lim, referring to the country’s strong economic position in the early 1990s which earned the country such a nickname.
In his two-and-a-half-hour speech, Lim outlined the country’s spending plan for next year.
The spending proposals dispelled concerns that it will be an austerity budget and instead looked to reset many of the foundations of the country by prioritising reforms, spending for the new economy while taking care of those in need.
Themed “A Resurgent Malaysia, A Dynamic Economy, A Prosperous Society”, the 2019 Budget is divided into three focus areas containing 12 key strategies.
The three focus areas are implementing institutional reforms, ensuring socioeconomic well-being of Malaysians and fostering an entrepreneurial economy.
Lim said the worrying financial position inherited from the previous government due to a RM1 trillion debt, due to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal and many lopsided projects such as the RM9.6bil Trans Sabah Gas Pipeline and the Multi-Product Pipeline where RM8.3bil was paid despite less than 10% of the construction being completed.
“This is the high price that Malaysians have to pay as a result of becoming a global kleptocracy,” Lim said, adding the Prime Minister has also asked Malaysians to be ready and prepared for sacrifices for the nation in order to restore the country’s fiscal health.
The fiscal consolidation was evident in the Budget and there will be new laws to ensure spending in the future will be efficient and transparent.
“We shall implement institutional reforms that promote transparent fiscal discipline which will not only prevent repeats of such malfeasance, but also ensure overall macroeconomic stability and the sustainability of our economic growth,” he said.
There was spending on important segments like education and health, but Lim too spoke of the need for cost management and getting the bang for the buck from budgetary allocations.
One example of such a manner was the review of contracts where the government looked to shave around 10% from RM19bil worth of contracts that have already been signed.
Understanding the need for the country to be competitive, large allocations were also made to foster the digital economy while Lim too spoke on the need for the government to get less involved in business to not crowd out the private sector for business opportunities.
The bottom 40 got the bulk of the focus from the government when it came to delivering goodies where they could benefit.
Measures include putting more cash in the pockets of the needy by having flat rate transportation fares and also to get more affordable housing being built and having those that need such dwelling to own a home.
Lim said there was no doubt that the new Malaysia under the leadership of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has caught the imagination of the rakyat and the world.
A good sign of external confidence in the Prime Minister and Malaysia, said Lim, was the offer by the Japanese government to guarantee 200 billion yen (RM7.4bil) of 10-year bonds at a low indicative coupon rate of 0.65%.
Lim thanked the Japanese government for guaranteeing the bond, which will be issued before March next year, and also paid tribute to Malaysians who continue to work and believe in each other despite their racial and religious backgrounds and differences.
Referring to the individuals involved in the 1MDB and other financial scandals left behind by the previous government, Lim said they must return the stolen money and should receive severe punishment.
“Now, Malaysians dare to dream again of our country that belongs to the people and that the future of our children will never be stolen again,” he said.
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