AS previously, the Education Ministry received the largest allocation in the 2020 Budget: RM64.1bil (compared with RM60.2bil in 2019).
It is important to continue investing in education, as it actually means that we are investing in our children’s future, something that is essential if we are to continue developing the nation’s human resources.
With such a big allocation, it is the government’s responsibility to provide quality education and to improve the learning environment of our schools through maintenance and upgrading works – the ministry, after all, has a duty to ensure safe schools.
Repairs need to be carried out at all dilapidated schools, especially those in Sabah and Sarawak. In Sarawak alone, the state Education Department has identified 1,002 schools in various degrees of dilapidation, of which 415 are critical.
In the past few years, there have been accidents reported in schools involving teachers, other staff and students. Some of them were even fatal. A safe school does not only mean one that it is free from disciplinary problems and crimes such as bullying, gangsterism and drug abuse; a safe school should also mean that all the facilities are safe.
I also welcome the budget allocation for social entrepreneurs and community development to help welfare agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) carry out their programmes and activities. Helping senior citizens by repairing and upgrading various welfare institutions, for example, is essential in improving community development.
The Health Ministry has been allocated RM30.6bil. Unfortunately, there’s no allocation specifically earmarked for mental health development, such as community psychiatric rehabilitation centres. The ministry must receive more funds to build such centres to help people deal with various mental problems caused by synthetic drugs; also, psychotropic pills should be listed as critical medicine in view of the increasing numbers of patients who need it.
The ministry must also find ways to encourage mental health personnel to work in rural areas including by offering them incentives while at the same time encouraging them to further their studies.
Apart from supporting mental health NGOs, the Health Ministry should also provide an allocation for mental health first aid-training for teachers, employers and parents. More programmes must also be held in hospitals, schools and other premises to help increase awareness on mental health.
At the same time, the ministry must fund more research into mental health and introduce emergency mental health outreach programmes involving its doctors and services such as ambulances.
The government’s decision to give a special RM200 allowance to firemen is also timely in view of the challenges they are facing, especially those who are involved in fire-fighting operations.
Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah himself expressed his concern for the needs and welfare of firemen, including a critical allowance.
Firemen’s close relationships with the public and various reports on their selfless acts have made them the first choice to contact when the public needs help in various situations, including accidents and natural disasters such as floods and landslides. Firefighters are also frequently involved in search and rescue operations for those who get lost in jungles and in drowning cases. The ability of Fire and Rescue Department members in such operations cannot be disputed. The department also has skilled personnel who often help save pets, capture poisonous animals or destroy hornet and bee nests.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE