By Hakim Mahari
As the year 2021 was about to end, everyone from the general public to foreign investors, analysts, and the entire nation eagerly awaited and anticipated what were to come out from the 2022 budget.
Budget allocations provide information on both the efficiency of its operations and the potential to stimulate economic growth. After two years faced with the pandemic, the 2022 budget is regarded a focal point for many to emerge from the gloom.
The 2022 budget on the theme “Keluarga Malaysia, Makmur Sejahtera” that supports three main axes, namely Strengthening Recovery, Building Resilience and Catalysts Reformation, was tabled by Finance Minister, Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz, in parliament on 29 October 2021.
The nation’s economic recovery and transition beyond COVID-19 is predicated on inclusivity as a crucial success element, hence this budget is constructed on that concept.
Speaking in an interview with Bloomberg, the Finance Minister said Malaysia is on track to revive its economy in 2022 through an expansionary budget.
A significant deal of public trust may be built by the government in showing confidence in its attempts to restore the nation’s economy. After all, citizens are looking for better living conditions that have been traumatised by the economic catastrophe which hit Malaysia since March 2020.
When the 2022 budget was unveiled, all eyes were on the government. Earlier in June 2021, the government launched its National Recovery Plan which is the standardised system to control the COVID-19 pandemic while reopening the economy progressively towards new norms.
Additionally, with booster shots that are being administered, all the more reason for everyone to look forward to a much safer and a better economic growth in 2022.
Following the previous two years of the lockdown and pandemic, we have witnessed thousands of businesses, mostly small and medium-sized, forced to close down resulting in hundreds of thousands suffering losses of jobs and income.
Many people have had their wages slashed and their lives turned upside down. This was not limited to those in the private sector and small time businesses but it had in fact affected the entire nation.
In countries which are considered welfare states, losing jobs may not be as painful as it is in Malaysia’s situation, where people really have to make a living to stay afloat.
As there is always sunshine after the rain, so goes the 2022 budget that promised for better economic growth with the largest total allocation of RM332.1 billion.
Of that amount, RM233.5 billion is designated for operation, RM75.6 billion for development, and RM23 billion for the COVID-19 fund, with RM2 billion set aside for contingency.
However, how does this year’s massive budget, coupled with a comprehensive National Recovery Plan, benefit the country as a whole?
Assistant sub-editor of an online newspaper Free Malaysia Today, Najmi Syahiran Mamat shared his views on the concepts underlying the 2022 budget from a media practitioner’s perspective.
“The significant point in this 2022 budget that needs to be highlighted is the plasticity idea of being inclusive; by putting aside the differences, the government has done a great job to further assist the vulnerable groups who are affected by the pandemic.
“The approach taken by the government should be welcomed as it is not using a one-fit-all approach, rather it introduced a plan that is more inclusive where all parties are able to enjoy the benefit,” Najmi said.
As laid out in the current year’s budget, education received RM52.6 billion, a clear indication that the government values human capital development above all else, especially when it comes to providing students in rural areas with enough educational resources and facilities.
Interestingly, this budget also showed good signs with the second largest allocation goes to the Ministry of Health (MoH).
Putting an emphasis on health care will help the country’s health system not only in dealing with the current outbreak, but also in preparing for urgent needs to increase hospital’s capacity, resources and expertise.
While there is always room for improvement, Najmi stated that the 2022 budget cannot be too optimistic because this is not the only remedy or antidote to solve the problem. Aside from that, the 2022 budget is more of a short-term measure to help spur economic growth, Najmi added.
It does not stop there as Dr. Anthony Dass, chief economist and researcher of AmBank, told Berita Harian that the 2022 budget remained useful to citizens and businesses focusing on short-term recovery measures and ensuring growth amidst uncertain environment.
In order to bring Malaysia back to rise to a competitive level with other countries, it is important for everyone to support efforts and measures taken by the government in ensuring the country continues to make recovery to improve the well-being of the people.***
(This is part 1 of a three-part series on special reports pair assignment on the theme “National Recovery Plan” for Feature Writing class)
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