Bulga horribilis?

I will only support a realistic Budget, what was tabled is frightening.  

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, fourth and seventh prime minster  

THE word budget is now being bandied about quite a lot at this time of the year.

I am fortunate that my personal budget is managed very well. The secret — I just hand over my modest income (mostly voluntarily) to my better half and she does her magic and everything runs smoothly.

Well, it is that time of the year when governments are presenting their budgets for approval.

The presentation of our national budget known officially as the Supply Bill 2021 on November 6 has been much awaited for two main reasons.

Firstly, it is of course due to the contents, that reveal the beneficiaries and impliedly those left out, be they states, departments, organisations or communities.

Secondly, many are wondering whether the budget will be approved by the MPs. If not, will the matter lead to either the dissolution of parliament (and therefore an election) or a new government, if not approved by the majority of MPs?

Anyway, on the face of it, the budget looks good, as do most national budgets at first glance. In most cases, the devil or reality is always in the details.

Since the budget proposal was announced there has been much commentary, ranging from it is “great” to it is “unfair and lopsided”.

So, which is it? This obviously depends on whether one is a beneficiary or not.

From my perspective, I would just want to highlight a few items here.

One would be that it is good to see that the community rehabilitation organisations or PDK staff have finally been allocated an increase in their allowance after 12 years. An increase of RM300 has been proposed, from RM800 to RM1,200 per month.

Being a past chairman of a PDK in Miri, rest assured this is a long-awaited, well-deserved allocation and most welcomed by the staff who teach and work with children with special needs.

Another welcome proposal from my perspective in the budget is related to the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals 2030 (SDGs) that were adopted by our government in 2015.

The RM20 million funds for a newly set up Malaysia-SDG Trust Fund or MySDG Trust Fund will go a long way towards increasing awareness and achieving the SDG 2030 goals for our nation via collaboration with the United Nations.

Additional allocations are also mentioned for environmental conservation activities and preservation of our natural resources.

These environmental allocations might not stir or exactly warm your cockles, but they are important to have a sustainable green environment.

Next without going into the financial details of proposals for support of education and businesses, there has been much discourse about its inequitable distribution.

On this aspect, I would just like to say that it is about time we started gradual phasing out schemes that promote educational and business apartheid.

Positive affirmative action schemes based on race must have time limits. They should not be open-ended, otherwise, they could be deemed as failures for not achieving their objectives over so many decades.

Such allocations should be made purely based on either merit and or on a needs basis such as B40 or M40 grouping, not racial.

Only then can we have a truly equal nation where all needing support gets it based on the same applicable criteria. 

Moving on, yesterday Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg tabled the 2021 Sarawak Budget.

Themed, “Reinvigorating the Economy towards a Resilient, Caring and Inclusive Society” the initial reactions have been positive and well received by many segments of society.

He presented a budget that is inclusive and in line with the plans for Sarawak to be a high-income economy by 2030.

More importantly, this budget caters for the immediate needs of the people here. Several necessary and effective people-centric aid schemes have been extended to mitigate the effects of the Covid19 pandemic.

All segments have been comprehensively covered. Shortfalls in the federal budget have been filled up with its own development funds.

The federal budget on the other hand is themed “Resilient As One, Together We Triumph”. It is a good theme for a unity budget. I agree we have all been “Resilient as One”.

However, can we really triumph as one or together when inequities exist in the federal budget allocation.

By the way, the column is titled “Bulga horribilis?” in Latin, meaning horrible budget? Well, it is for you to judge the federal budget — if it is passed by parliament.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.