Mahathir says 2020 budget indicates strong financial position, but opposition criticises lack of innovation
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s budget for 2020 has demonstrated that the country’s economy is still strong, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Friday (Oct 11), while opposition politicians say there is a lack of innovation in fiscal policy.
Touting the budget as having something for everyone, Dr Mahathir said it debunked the common perception that Pakatan Harapan (PH) could not govern well.
"Many are of the opinion that PH is inexperienced and cannot possibly administer the country well, but additional allocations have been given to all parties.
"The financial position is still strong. We also do not have non-performing loans."
The budget, tabled by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng at the parliament, is PH's second financial plan for the country since taking over Putrajaya in May last year.
The budget is anchored on the theme of "Shared Prosperity", a roadmap launched by Dr Mahathir to guide the country towards a sustainable growth and a fair and inclusive distribution of economy by 2030.
In his two-and-half-hour-long budget speech, Mr Lim unveiled a smaller budget for next year and revised the fiscal deficit from an initial target of 3 per cent to 3.2 per cent.
The government budgeted 297.02 billion ringgit (US$70.85 billion) in spending, a 6 per cent reduction compared to the 316 billion ringgit allocated for this year.
Economic growth is expected to be 4.8 per cent next year, slightly higher than this year's projection of 4.7 per cent.
Speaking to reporters at the parliament lobby, former prime minister Najib Razak articulated a pessimistic view of the newly-unveiled budget.
He said the budget would not elevate the country's economic growth, citing the 3.2 per cent fiscal deficit as example.
"If Barisan Nasional (BN) was still ruling the country, the deficit would have been 2.8 per cent. We had anticipated a balanced budget by 2022," he said.
"A SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY": NAJIB
Najib said PH might get caught in a "self-fulfilling prophecy" when it continuously harps on a RM1 trillion national debt.
PH has blamed the mammoth debt and liabilities on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad corruption scandal, and Najib - accused of playing a key role in the affair - is on trial for corruption and money laundering.
"Based on what they have tabled, their debts are going to keep increasing. At this rate, their debts alone will reach RM1 trillion in the next five years. That is excluding their government-guaranteed debts and bonds.
"This is merely a self-fulfilling prophecy based on their yearly debt," Najib said.
The Pekan Member of Parliament (MP) added that PH was recycling the financial aid programmes rolled out by BN in its previous budgets - but at a reduced sum.
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Similarly, Ayer Hitam MP Wee Ka Siong said PH used to chide BN for bribing the people with financial assistance, but it is now doing the same.
"And it is giving lesser," he said, referring to the cash handouts for the needy.
Dr Wee, who is the president of Malaysian Chinese Association, said the budget did not address the needs of low and middle income earners.
"There is no personal tax relief, which I think would have been beneficial for the low income group, but nothing on all that," he said.
"This is not shared prosperity," he added.