Malaysia's stock market and foreign investors have been jittery since March general elections in which the opposition gained unprecedented ground, and promised to soon topple the ruling coalition.
Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, announced the Malaysian 2009 budget on Friday 29th August 2008.
Malaysia’s beleaguered federal government offered some tax cuts and perks in a 2009 budget said to be designed to restore support for the flagging administration and spur growth in the face of a global slowdown.
The budget, when it is analysed, is it seems, mainly aimed at getting the support of the overstaffed civil service, especially the police force.
PM Abdullah Badawi feebly defended his handling of the economy, which he forecast to grow by an unrealistic 5.7% this year and 5.4% in 2009, then he went on to attack the resurgent opposition led by former finance minister, and current MP Anwar Ibrahim.
The forecasts Abdullah made were much higher than those issued by institutions including the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research, which has cut its 2008 growth projection to 4.6 per cent, partly due to the domestic political turmoil
'Political rhetoric cannot contribute to the well being of Malaysians nor the economic progress of the nation,' he said in his budget speech. This is a strange thing to say, since Abdullah, Najib and all the other UMNO / BN politicians have been churning out mindless political rhetoric hour after hour, day after day, month after month, for years and years.
'Efforts by certain parties to destabilise the country by attempting to seize power through illegitimate means and without the mandate of the people, must be rejected.' Abdullah said. What is he talking about? This is just pure political rhetoric!
Anwar, who was sworn in as a MP on Thursday 28th August 2008, after winning a landslide by-election in Permatang Pauh, hopes to unseat Abdullah by 16th September 2008 though Parliamentary defections. Anwar's opposition Peoples Alliance (Pakatan Rakyat) won an unprecedented 82 of Parliament's 222 seats in March general elections, only 30 seats short of a majority.
'I will not allow disturbances to continue. I will not permit the mandate given by the people to be seized from the ruling party’, he said. What does he mean by this threat, this wild statement?
This is perhaps a clear reference to Anwar's pledge to cut retail gasoline prices if he seizes power, PM Abdullah blasted Anwar’s 'populist claims'.
If implemented, they 'would undermine the government's financial position and bequeath a bankrupt nation to the next generation,' Abdullah said.
Abdullah announced a variety of ‘measures aimed at easing the impact of rising prices of food and fuel’, these issues have triggered strong public protests and greatly diminished his own support.
Income tax is to be cut by 1% for middle and high-income earners, employees' transport allowances are to be made tax-deductible, and income tax rebates were slightly increased to remove some 100,000 very lowly paid taxpayers from the taxable income bracket.
Civil servants (who in Malaysia are generally subservient to the government and some of whom are regarded, by many members of the public, to be lazy, inefficient and non-productive) will receive a one-month salary bonus.
To try provide a better alternative to private cars, 35 billion ringgit will be spent on improving public transport over the 15 year period from 2009-14.
(The public transport in Malaysia is largely sub-standard, insufficient and often badly maintained, fatal accidents to public transport vehicles, especially express buses are all too common)
To ease the impact of rising prices on consumers, import duties on some food and household items, including microwaves and kettles as well as biscuits and fruit juice, have been reduced. Big deal, this is just flannel!
Now for the rest of the bullshit:
Abdullah said the 'caring budget' showed the government was 'responsive to the concerns of the people and has taken measures to lighten the burden of all Malaysians, particularly the lower-income group'. Bullshit.
'The Barisan Nasional government will continue to manage the economy responsibly,' he said. Bullshit.
'The opposition, on the other hand, continues to make populist claims which if implemented would undermine the government's financial position and bequeath a bankrupt nation to the next generation.' Bullshit.
Anwar, who returned to Parliament this week a decade after being sacked as deputy premier and jailed for sodomy (later overturned) and corruption, dismissed the budget as 'disappointing'.
'There are sweeteners here and there but it fails to address some fundamental flaws in the economic policies,' he told reporters.
'Our problem is competitiveness; it is the failure to attract FDI (foreign direct investment) and the failure to switch economic policies to become more resilient.'
Anwar promised to slash fuel prices if he becomes PM, after Abdullah's 41% overnight fuel price rise announced in June, which triggered widespread anger in a car-dependent nation.
Abdullah stated education, health and internal security sectors (the police) would receive extra funding in total 1.5 billion ringgit.
The police are widely regarded as being a vital support tool for BN, as they appear to be amenable to political manipulation; so allocating them more funds is beneficial to BN. Increasing the budget of the police in the past, does not seem to have helped to reduce crime in Malaysia, in fact the opposite appears to be the case.
To attempt shore up the government's flagging rural support base, 5.6 billion ringgit will be used to ‘improving food security’ over three years by trying to reduce production costs and ‘encourage higher agricultural output’. This may well be ‘pie in the sky’, and much of the money is more than likely to be siphoned off due to corrupt practices.
The Malaysian Budget 2009 will not be well received by many people, it being designed solely to try to boost support for a failing federal government. It may well do exactly the opposite. Let’s wait and see.
Read the full budget to get your own perspective, and then form your opinion about it.
To see what was written by FORBES
"Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, whose administration has been shaken by an election debacle and slowing economic growth this year, also used his annual budget speech in Parliament to mount a scathing attack on the revitalized opposition led by Anwar Ibrahim."
We are living in very interesting times.
Acclinis falsis animus meliora recusat
- The mind intent upon false appearances refuses to admit better things