KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 20 ― The National Service programme will be halted this year to cut RM400 million from from federal spending, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced today when revising Budget 2015 amid declining global oil prices.
He also said grants to government-linked corporations (GLCs), federal statutory bodies and government trust funds will be reviewed, resulting in savings of RM3.2 billion.
“The National Service programme will be frozen in 2015, which will give us savings of RM400 million, so as to enable a review and improvement of the programme,” Najib said in an address telecast live.
The National Service programme has had an eventful history since its introduction in 2003.
The Malay Mail reported in September 2013 that 23 deaths at National Service camps nationwide have occurred so far, mainly caused by drowning or health problems, aside from rape cases and fights.
The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition pact had proposed back in October 2013 a moratorium on the National Service programme in a bid to slash the budget deficit to 3 per cent of the gross domestic product by 2014.
Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said today that a revamped National Service programme will unveiled later to emphasise skills-building for youths who did not go to university.
“They’ll be given special training,” Khairy tweeted after Najib’s announcement.
Former Higher Education deputy minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said, however, that the National Service programme should be abolished altogether.
“It did not follow its original goal. The results compared to the cost are questionable,” Saifuddin tweeted.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein tweeted his “guarantee” to National Service stakeholders that the deferment of the government programme would not affect the positions of camp operators and trainers.
The government budget was revised today in light of drastically reduced earnings from oil and gas as Malaysia is an oil exporter.
Najib said the amended budget would be based on a projected crude oil price of US$55 (RM197.6) per barrel this year, compared to the US$100 per barrel used in the Budget 2015 announced last October.