Need for a caring Budget

Photo: FAIHAN GHANI/The Star

ALL eyes will be on Parliament as it sits at a very crucial time when our nation is confronted with the triple crises of health, economy and political stability. What is of immediate concern is the 2021 Budget which needs parliamentary approval to address the public health crisis and economic woes affecting the rakyat.

What we are hoping for is not a budget that is balanced between revenue and expenditure but one that balances the wellbeing of the people against the vagaries wrought principally by the Covid-19 pandemic. It must be truly caring and people-centric.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc all over the globe in terms of health and economy. Industries and businesses, both big and small, have had to make huge adjustments in terms of their business plans and fund injections.

As such, government revenue, normally raised by taxes and non-tax resources, will be severely affected. Hopefully, this will not in turn affect government spending.

Instead, there should be an increase in allocations to providers of essential services, be it government, quasi-government or the private sector.

Additional incentives and allowances must be considered for frontliners, especially all hospital staff, and police and security personnel.

Consideration of additional allocations must also be given to the welfare (Women, Family and Community Development), Finance, Education and telecommunications (Communications and Multimedia) Ministries.

Provisions must be made for upgrading and extending public health facilities, especially for those in under-serviced areas.

Another important need is to extend and improve Internet coverage especially in rural areas in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. Internet access is becoming an essential service in all aspects of our lives, and is expected to be increasingly so in the years ahead.

To soften the hardship of the people, we are looking towards reintroducing the moratorium on loan repayments and rentals for at least another six months. We are also looking for concessions and reliefs for small businesses and daily-rated workers.

The people must also be assured that their savings in investment instruments are safe.

Safeguards must also be put in place to prevent profiteering and a ceiling be placed on the cost of daily necessities.

NGOs that provide voluntary services to the B40 group and others, such as those with mental health disorders due to Covid-19, must also be supported to increase and extend their level of help.

It will also be useful if the government can offer income tax relief for deserving groups by increasing reliefs for taking care of ageing parents and young children.

The plight of single mothers must also be considered.

We must also not forget the thousands of unemployed people. Incentives should be given to start-ups, entrepreneurs and the like.

The government must take into account the plaintive cry for a reduction in corporate tax for businesses still reeling from the economic downturn.

There is a video making the rounds of a pilot in a global airline company who was laid off and who then took up a job as a bus driver. Incentives must be offered, and training and retraining opportunities given to the thousands who have lost their jobs or have been in the job market for some time now.

Kita Prihatin 2.0 must be extended to 3.0 and more, so long as the current economic downturn exists, as it is expected to.

The net must also be cast wider to include a larger number of people who, through no fault of their own, lost out.

Above all, Budget 2021 must project an image of a government that cares along with the vision of a population that is cared for.

So far, the government has been seen to be responsive to the financial and other challenges faced by the people, and that gives confidence that this will be continued.

The people are hopeful that all MPs, on both sides of the divide, will heed the King’s call to give Budget 2021 a speedy and safe passage through Parliament.

The people need it. They deserve it.



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