For the benefit of the people

THE days leading up to the vote on Budget 2021 were filled with political tension. Brinkmanship had meant that Malaysia was on the cusp of arguably the biggest political headache in decades.

In the end, after all the rattling of swords, when it came down to the ayes and nays, the final vote was a slam dunk for the government.

Uncertainty prior to the vote finally gave way to common sense, albeit with some concessions made that soothed the political aim of dissenters.

Budget 2021 will mean people would have the option of extending their moratorium on loans, especially for those worst hit by the economic effects of the pandemic.

People would also be able to dip into their retirement funds for emergency money that will help with the now rather than later.

In fact, the size of the Budget at RM322.5bil meant that the government was looking to reverse the immediacy of the problem at the expense of financial prudency.

The risk of not getting the Budget passed would have been catastrophic on many levels.

Politically, it would ratchet up the simmering issue of stability in the country but more damage would have been inflicted on the nascent recovery Malaysia is undertaking.

The huge spending plans were to ensure Malaysia’s fight against the pandemic would not be interrupted. Any relapse in the fight against the disease would mean stumbles like what we have experienced with

the resumption of the conditional MCO seen in many parts of the country.

No budget is perfect in the measures and spending plans put forward but in ensuring that the government continues to function, the actual winner is the people.

Bi-partisan support in getting the Budget approved showed some semblance of political maturity born of political reality, and given how fragile and fluid the situation currently is, having parties from different sides of the aisle come together is a welcomed revelation.

Checks and balances would certainly be a feature over how Budget 2021 is going to be spent as a tacit approval would not mean a lapse in vigilance. But with the government being transparent over how it has been channelling funds to lift the economy out of the pandemic-induced depth, there is hope for much of that ongoing transparency to continue.

Like all Bills, the question now will be to see it passed through all the different stages and releasing the money to get all the people’s programmes going.It is the largest Budget the country has seen and is forecast to see the fiscal deficit hit 6% of GDP next year.

All around the world, trillions of dollars have been spent and committed towards dragging economies up from the crushing effects of the pandemic.

Livelihoods have been the focus of governments as the welfare of the people, both health and wallet wise, have to take precedence over any other objective in times like these.

With so much money going in various directions, the one feature of the Budget 2021 that struck a chord has been just how many jobs are going to be created from the various measures.

Getting spending up is going to be critical as much of Malaysia’s growth will depend on consumption. Getting people to spend is going to be as important as making sure they have avenues to do so in a Budget that is designed to ensure the country navigates itself towards its long-term objectives.

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