KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 1 — While the government budget is usually an annual affair, Budget 2021 which is due to be tabled in Parliament next Friday is actually akin to being the fifth budget for Malaysia this year, Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz said.
In an interview with local daily Sinar Harian, Tengku Zafrul listed the four other initiatives already announced by the government this year to help Malaysians deal with the economic challenges amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This is actually the fifth budget for the country this year due to Covid-19,” he was quoted as saying regarding Budget 2021.
The other four economic stimulus initiatives announced this year are the Prihatin Economic Stimulus Package (Prihatin), Additional Prihatin SME Economic Stimulus Package (Prihatin SME+), National Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana), and the Prihatin Supplementary Initiative Package (Kita Prihatin), which Tengku Zafrul said involved a fiscal injection of over RM55 billion.
Tengku Zafrul noted that the RM55 billion sum was almost equivalent to the RM56 billion allocated for development expenditure in Budget 2020.
“So the budget that is to be tabled is the fifth in a period of eight months,” he said.
Tengku Zafrul noted that there has been many changes in Budget 2020 which was tabled in October 2019 when there was no Covid-19 cases here, before going on to say that Budget 2021 which will be tabled on Friday will also be “dynamic” with the government to make on any additions if required and if the government could afford to do so.
Engagement, data and hope for Budget 2021 to be passed
In the same interview published today, Tengku Zafrul was quoted as saying that this was the first time that the government had gone to the ground to prepare a budget, with visits made to all states in Malaysia and with a survey of more than 11,000 respondents to determine what issues they face and what could be done to help them.
“We are aware that the B40 group has various challenges that are different in urban and rural areas or there are B40 groups which have two or four family members. Businesses also have different issues. What is important is that we understand them and prepare the best solutions possible,” he said.
While noting that the B40 income group’s lifestyle is the most affected by the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tengku Zafrul noted that the M40 or middle income group also faced pressure from loss of jobs or wages being affected and having to borrow money and take on debts besides also being affected psychologically.
“For the B40, they have more job opportunities compared to the M40. Based on data, in the M40 group, the worst affected is the M10 or the group that is in the lowest rung,” he said, noting that the T20 or top income group continued to have a good life although their income and wealth was slightly affected.
He said the Finance Ministry’s Economic Stimulus Implementation & Coordination Unit Between National Agencies (Laksana) has data from 53 agencies and ministries when it implemented the past four economic stimulus packages, and that this was the first time the government gave more focus to the use and analysis of data.
In the preparation of Budget 2021, Tengku Zafrul said that both he and his deputies have met with all chief ministers as well as companies and industries, and that he has also asked each minister what is required for their ministries.
“Certainly, we also ask for views from all quarters. I will meet with other parties such as Parti Warisan Sabah, the Muda party, Pakatan Harapan and Umno. I have also already met with all MPs. What’s important, what has to be agreed for the public is more important,” he said.
Tengku Zafrul expressed hope that all MPs across the political divide would act rationally and fairly when deciding on the vote for Budget 2021, hoping that they would support the Budget if they find it helps Malaysians and the country’s economy.
“As I mentioned, if there is a need for more allocation or new ideas or if we face new challenges next year, we will always make improvements. This is what we have to do for now as the government and the country have to be together to fight Covid-19,” he was quoted as saying by Sinar Harian.