In Maiden Budget, PH Plans to Turn Country Around in Three Years

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The Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration has pledged to return Malaysia to its former glory in the next three years of its term, starting with its Budget 2019 tabled in Parliament today.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng told the media in a briefing yesterday that the focus of the Budget is to nurse the country back to “fiscal health” using three main thrusts: restoring trust in the government, creating an entrepreneurial state, and ensuring the well-being of the public.

“The inaugural Budget of the new administration paves the way towards fulfilling the aspiration for a New Malaysia,” said Economic Outlook 2019 report released by Lim’s ministry today.

“Despite domestic and external challenges, the government will leverage the strong fundamentals of the economy to prosper and return the country to its glory days within the first three years of the administration.”

Restoring trust in the government

The PH administration has blamed the nation’s depleting coffers entirely on the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) regime, and Lim said yesterday there is a need to “clean the books” and avoid a repeat of scandals like that of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

Despite that, he assured the public that Budget 2019 will not be an “austerity budget”, and most ongoing projects will proceed after cost rationalisations that include retendering any unfinalised contracts.

To address the trust deficit in the government, Putrajaya will focus on addressing all policy and structural issues by, among others, adopting the principles of competency, accountability, and transparency across all levels.

The public can also expect the realignment of government-linked companies’ (GLCs) roles and the streamlining of ministries and agencies to avoid redundancies.

Promoting an entrepreneurial state

Putrajaya will aim to support entrepreneurs in its bid to grow the economy in a sustainable manner, with attention on “new economy” such as the shift from manufacturing to services, and “digital economy” that relies on, among others, cloud computing and big data analytics.

Lim said Putrajaya will also stay out of and not crowd out the business sector. Instead, it will encourage private sector independence via incentives and investments in critical sectors.

Prospering the people

Eagerly awaited by every section of society, especially low-income earners, Budget 2019 will likely not offer any gratuitous “goodies” that had been the mainstay of BN’s previous Budgets, with Putrajaya moving towards targeted subsidies this time.

In the outlook report, Putrajaya said Budget 2019 will adopt a two-pronged approach to improve the wellbeing of Malaysians: easing their living cost burden, and enhancing income opportunities.

For the first, the PH administration will mostly continue initiatives started by the previous government but with enhancements such as the Cost of Living Aid, of which RM6.8 billion had been allocated for 7.2 million households.

It will also expand the People Housing Programme, People Housing Rent-to-Own Programme, and Integrated People Housing Programme, in addition to encouraging more housing loans and programmes to tackle the affordable housing issue.

Putrajaya also said it plans to improve the quality of education, channel funds to preventative health programmes, and intensify efforts to provide public transport beyond Klang Valley and urban areas.

For the second prong, it said it will work to open up job opportunities across the country and strengthen gender equality. More environmentally-friendly efforts, including the promotion of renewable energy, can also be expected. – Malay Mail