A sin to play politics with Budget, former MOF sec-gen says

Tan Sri Mohd. Sheriff Mohd Kassim

PETALING JAYA: A former top civil servant has said that it would be a sin to scuttle the federal budget because of politics, as it is vital for business confidence in the country.

Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim said that the Budget was the professional work of treasury civil servants based on consensus among three central economic agencies – the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), the Treasury, and Bank Negara Malaysia – on the near and medium-term economic outlook.

Sheriff, who was the Finance Ministry secretary-general from 1991-1993 and a former EPU director-general, said that with these forecasts, the officers would calculate revenue and borrowing resources available for spending.

They would also look into the implications of the Budget on the fiscal deficit/Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio, the balance of payments, and the effects of all these on the stability of the financial system.

“As Malaysia's economy is highly dependent on the private sector, the Budget must not rock the financial system as it is so vital for business confidence.

“Finance ministers, being politicians, like to spend. But it’s the job of civil servants to tell them there are limits.

“My experience before was that our political bosses respect our views because they would find out from their close friends in business and in the private sector that the views of the economists are the same, whether in the government or outside, ” he said in a statement on Monday (Oct 26).

Sherrif, who is also a founding member of the G25 civil society organisation, said that civil servants had close consultations with private sector representatives when making forecasts, and conducted annual dialogues to get feedback from business sectors and social groups on what was expected from the Budget.

“They usually came out with a long shopping list. The Treasury would evaluate what made sense to us, ” he said.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Friday (Oct 23) had requested the proclamation of emergency under Article 150(1) and Proclamation of Emergency (Essential Powers 2020) Ordinance pursuant to Article 150 (2B) of the Federal Constitution to combat the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

However, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta'in Billah on Sunday (Oct 25) decided that there is no need to declare a state of emergency in the country.

Sultan Abdullah stressed that Budget 2021 to be tabled in Parliament on Nov 6 was very important to the people to combat Covid-19 and to restore the nation’s economy.

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