KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 20 — Former Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming has urged the government today to acknowledge the current economic challenges rather than solely blaming past administrations — especially on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal — for the depreciation of the ringgit.

In a statement, he said such blame-shifting to past governments could negatively depict Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s government as ineffective.

“The government should acknowledge the challenges it is facing in managing the economy and stop blaming the past governments on everything including 1MDB causing the slide in the ringgit.

“This makes the current government seem ineffective to the public and also brings attention away from some of the positive government policies which have been announced such as the National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR) and the New Industrial Master Plan 2030 which will take some time to actualise,” he said.

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Ong further said that the federal government should be consistent in its policies which would allow families and businesses to plan for potential challenges such as the gradual withdrawal of subsidies leading to increased diesel and petrol prices.

As of now, he said there is a lack of specific timelines for the withdrawal of subsidies and uncertainty about the amount and eligibility criteria for the targeted subsidies intended to replace them.

He then called on the government to announce rollout plans for the important initiatives that were in Budget 2024 including funding details for the New Industrial Master Plan 2030, National Energy Transition Roadmap- related funding schemes, tax incentives for Global Business Centers, among others.

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“The longer these are delayed, the less confidence the public will have in the implementation agenda under this unity government,” he said.

Adding more, Ong said the government is encouraged to unveil and implement initiatives associated with crucial economic catalysts that possess substantial multiplier effects.

He said these initiatives encompass the introduction of new Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) categories, particularly influential for the property, tourism, and education sectors, as well as the announcement of the MRT3 Line 3 Project, which holds significance for the construction industry.

He further added that it is imperative for the government to enhance its strategic and well-coordinated communication plans to avoid inadvertently undermining its own efforts.

Citing the recent statement by Chair of the Food and Cost of Living Committee and Bukit Gantang MP Datuk Syed Abu Hussin Hafiz Syed Abdul Fasal regarding the introduction of a singular category of Madani Rice priced at RM30/kg, he said such amateur mistakes in public policy only confirm the view that the unity government is not skilled in managing the economy.

"It's not too late to save the economic narrative for this unity government and for it to prove to the people on the street that their livelihood will be better under the Madani government. But time is slowly but surely running out,” he said.

Finance Minister II Datuk Seri Amir Hamzah Azizan said yesterday he expects the ringgit to strengthen against the US dollar this year as the US Federal Open Market Committee has signalled the end of interest rate hikes after raising the benchmark interest rates 11 times since March 2022 to the current rate of 5.25 to 5.50 per cent.

The ringgit traded higher against major currencies but was marginally lower against the US dollar at the opening today, easing slightly to 4.7870/7930 against the greenback compared with yesterday’s close of 4.7850/7890.