OCTOBER 13 — The 2020 national budget has been unveiled and Malaysians across the board are abuzz with their take on the reallocation of funds and slew of new measures introduced by the government.
It’s true,Pakatan Harapan’s tackling of the new budget was no easy task, especially faced with a divided nation and a budget deficit for the upcoming year that is far wider than expected.
While some Malaysian’s received the national budget with smiles on their faces, I, as well as many others, have not been swept up in the propaganda of elation and have deemed the 2020 budget as yet another Malay-centric move by the PH government.
There is no denying that the budget definitely has positive aspects: it focusses on improving conditions for working women such as wage incentives and extended maternity leaves. It introduced a new income tax band of 30 per cent for those earning more than RM2 million a year, a stab at sharing the wealth more evenly. It introduces a special financing scheme to encourage Malaysians looking to become homeowners.
However, while the government certainly tried to squeeze as much together with what they had.... they may have missed the mark. Many are asking- where are the structural changes? Where are the drastic shake-ups promised by the PH government? And mostly- why are there so many race-based, Malay-centric initiatives?
First, there is the outcry from the Indian poor. While headlines shout about how this budget is beneficial to all, there is a different atmosphere on the ground. The B75 Indian poor are less than encouraged. Quoting an opinion piece published in Malaysiakini, there is a feeling that the “Budget 2020 again appears to be an almost wholly Malay-centric affair in excluding the B75 from sharing the “Malaysia Baru” prosperity.”
Despite the pre-election Harapan Indian manifesto which promised an allocation of RM400 million per year, B75 have only been allocated RM100 million, of which 80 prevent is set aside for “political exposure”, rather than the money being used for integrating lasting solutions. The Malaysian Indian allocation seems especiallysparse when compared to the RM8 billion for the Bumiputera agenda, RM2 billion for Mara student loans, another RM1.3 billion for Mara, RM1.3 billion for Bumiputera government contract jobs, and RM1.3 billion for Islamic Development Department.
Another group who has pointed out the inequality and race-based allotments of the national budget are the leaders of the state of Sarawak. The minister of State Local Government and Housing, Dr Sim Kui Hian claimed that out of the total allocation of RM56 billion going to development, Sabah and Sarawak received a measly 17.1 per cent.
Sarawak is a state in dire need of government assistance. There is an abundance of dilapidated schools, the hospital facilities are less than ideal, there is a major shortage of medical specialists, and the roads are falling apart. Let’s not forget the state has been squeezed of its oil and gas resources, earning Putrajaya billions, with hardly anything in return. The least they deserve is a fair piece of the budget pie.
It is clear that the minority ethnicities in Malaysia are not as elated with the national budget as the news headlines might suggest. One good read through of the budget shows that, while Mahathir and his PH government may have tried hard, they neglected to make the vital move from race-based policies, to need based.
A structural shakeup is vital, one where all Malaysians are equally considered. Not only for the country’s economic future, but for a future of the united and fair Malaysia we all truly desire.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.