KOTA KINABALU: The subsidies given by the government to the people throughout the country including electricity, fuel and food is expected to exceed RM81bil this year, says Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
He said even though the figure was seen as high, reducing the total subsidy without looking at the needs of the people was not a choice to the government to ensure the people were not burdened especially by the current cost of living.
Therefore, he said the rationalisation of subsidies being implemented by the government was important in ensuring the people were assisted while the country’s economy remained strong.
"Subsidies are an intervention by the government to ease the people’s burden.
"Subsidies for chicken and eggs amounted to RM3.8bil but reducing the subsidies would not an option as it will raise the cost of living to the people, therefore a more resilient policy is needed to reduce (subsidies) which is the rationalisation of subsidies.
"With such a (high) amount of subsidies, no country can survive," he said while launching the Islamic Affairs Management Convention in conjunction with the 2023 Ijtimak Perdana Agensi Agama Seluruh Malaysia (IJPAM) at the Sabah Intrnational Convention Centre here on Wednesday (Oct 4) night.
Also present were Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor; Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Sabah, Sarawak Affairs and Special Functions) Datuk Armizan Bin Mohd Ali; and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs), Datuk Dr Mohd Nai'im Mokhtar.
IJPAM 2023 which began on Sept 30 until Thursday (Oct 5) saw the attendance of 1,837 participants from various Islamic Affairs agencies at federal and state levels throughout the country.
Anwar said through the rationalisation measure, electricity subsidy for 1% of the wealthiest group had been cancelled but 99% of the people were not affected.
The Prime Minister said he recently asked Tabung Haji to review all subsidies for the cost of performing pilgrimage for the rich in which the cost of the subsidy for that group could be used by more needy Muslims.
"I requested this rationalisation from the Muslim community, the richest are not given subsidies to help other pilgrims, it was well received.
"There are 400 pilgrims who are eligible for the subsidy (hajj) but turned down the subsidy to help others pay the cost of hajj," he said.
Anwar said many people repeated his statement in 2008 saying 'today we win, tomorrow the price of oil goes down' which he explained that year the price of oil in this country was higher than oil producing countries like Saudi Arabia.
"Now the cost has increased many times, the price of oil in Saudi Arabia is higher than Malaysia, Brunei is a bit little lower. We will help the people with this subsidy (oil).
"We are explaining this today especially to the people as we are sincere and responsible and there is no need to politicise this issue," he said.
Meanwhile, he said the government's move to provide a subsidy of RM950 per tonne of imported white rice (BPI) to Sabah and Sarawak is important to help the people, especially the poor in the state.
"We will not allow the poor people of Sabah to be burdened by the soaring price of rice.
"There are places where the price of rice is RM45, RM41, RM39 (a 10-kilogramme pack), so with this subsidy we can lower the price to RM31 and reduce the burden and pressure on the people," he said.
He said that for the interior of Sabah and Sarawak, a mechanism to ensure that the price of rice did not increase due to transport costs would be discussed to help the people in those areas.
In the meantime, Anwar thanked the 12 elected representatives and leaders of Pakatan Harapan Sabah who had withdrawn their suit against the federal government over the implementation of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
"Since we took over the government, the Chief Minister (Hajiji) is well aware that I have directed all our efforts to implement what we promised.
"I assure you, close relations and cooperation with my friend Datuk Seri Hajiji we will continue to improve efforts and listen to what other steps stated," he said. - Bernama