MY TAKE on the 2021 Budget after digesting it a while. It is incomplete, just “the highlights” so as not to take too long.
Preview: The most compelling announcement – JanaKerja
1. Budget size: RM322.5 billion.
Largest in Malaysian history. Reflects the need for the Government to further steer the economy as well as the willingness to accept higher deficits. This does not mean that all spending is automatically good, but roughly the increase in spending is good.
2. “Transfer payments” or cash transfer (assistance) from the Government to the people.
Increased from RM5 billion to RM6.5 billion. It reflects the BN approach that started the concept of cash transition through BR1M, affective assistance, farmers’ and fishermen allowances assistance, religious allowance, and so on.
The details can be checked as it gets on their way but implementation will be a real challenge. However, fundamentally, the amount of cash aid is hike up as compared with the previous Budget. Nice.
3. The ones getting less attention but is very important are MySTEP and JanaKerja.
The basic economic issues of the people are job and income. In any economy and for any individual, there is no substitute that can match the situation where our economy has many jobs with high incomes. That is also the aspiration of BN in the past – there were projects to increase income opportunities, there were aspirations to achieve a high-income economy but in addition there were also BR1M and others.
In this case, Budget 2021 has MySTEP (50,000 short-term contract jobs) including temporary teachers, nurses, community welfare officers and that of the GLCs. This is not a bank’s job that I totally hope for but at least there is a willingness to provide employment and not just give incentives to the private sector to hire employees.
JanaKerja, on the other hand, GIVES a BRIGHT LIGHT OF HOPE. About 500,000 job opportunities including skills upgrading and retraining. RM3.7 billion. In simple calculation, each person will be getting about RM7,000.
I am not sure if this 3.7 billion include the salary paid by the Government? Probably yes. It is not yet clear what work nature will be offered. Is it in the green energy and community sectors that bring well-being and quality of life to the community? It is not yet clear whether this training scheme will be combined with job opportunities and not just training then re-exposed to the dim job market? Perhaps yes, for it must be accompanied by a job offer.
If my assumptions are true, this may be the beginning of a new culture in which the government becomes an active participant in the job market by filling the private sector gap and moving towards zero unemployment aspirations – a very welcome culture. Every Budget after this should be additions and improvements because I dream of wanting RM20-30 billion for this scheme, not just 3.7 billion.
In any case, JanaKerja should be among the main focus of the implementation of Budget 2021. Of the 300+ billion Budget, RM3.7 billion and income for 500 thousand people can be the determinant of whether the Budget is successful or not.
4. Wage subsidy.
Everyone is already aware of this concept that I started emphasizing in March. It must be continued in addition to other efforts to increase and maintain existing employment opportunities.
1. National Employment Council.
It is not clear what the scope of this Council is. If it acts actively and focuses on the details of MySTEP implementation, flexible and dynamic, then it will be okay if it has a monthly KPI on reducing unemployment. If it is only for the good news of “we have a working council” and without KPIs, it is not OK. We give them a little time and husnuzon.
2. Withdrawal of EPF Account 1 .
OK, but as I said earlier, it is better for the Government to give money and not for the people to risk their own savings.
Yes, morally it is “our money”. So it is up to each and every of them to decide what is best – and the Government has allowed the withdrawal of RM500 monthly from their Account 2.
Just worried because during the day I asked how much is actually EPF Account 1 savings for people in need. Today we are shocked by the news that 32% of depositors have less than RM1,000 and 10% have RM1,000- RM5,000 (meaning almost half less than RM5,000).
How low our salaries have been over the years, and how many contributors have gone in and out of work (serially unemployed) and how many of them have retired but without any significant amount to spend.
Summary? I think you already know: Focus on jobs and salaries.
3. Health Budget.
There are those who tried to describe spending on health cuts. Read the Finance Minister’s FB post to get the real picture – in fact there are no cuts.
I am not an expert in the details of what the MoH needs, so there is no high confidence to comment, but for me thank God there is no reduction. It’s just that there is hope for increased mental health spending – not to mention all the social and economic challenges we face right now.
1. Green Technology.
The global economic downturn today opens up opportunities for restructuring. As a complement to Job Bank or job security, Malaysia should open a new chapter in green technology to create employment opportunities as well as contribute to the solution of climate crisis.
There is no specific mentioning of it in the Budget this time, apart from helping Sarawak in its public bus program using hydrogen fuel cells.
The university has introduced an online learning system since the opening of the new semester. The government has not announced measures to help students such as for laptops to purchase electronic devices or other assistance such as Student Caring cards, for example. Should be reviewed.
The budget of more than RM80 million has become a dispute among many parties. It is difficult to justify it. Information and communication to the people based on programs and community involvement is indeed a function, especially in rural areas. Many JASA officers had previously performed the task before being dismissed so abruptly. But the amount of 80 million seems far too large and there is an argument why not just empowered or added officers for the Information Department.
In addition, if someone says it is to carry out party political work, it is not possible to use Government money. No citizen can accept this. This is the reality of today where championing the principles of democracy and transparency is an obligation.
Nothing is perfect. Implementation becomes a test field. I hope all feedback from all parties is reviewed by the Government and any amendments are carried out so that our main goal of this phase is to call a political ceasefire, pass the Budget as well as uphold the SPB YDPA order, all for the sake of the people.
UMNO Information Chief