BY UMSU PRESS
Followed by the release of Finance Bill 2020, YB Dato’ Sri Tengku Zafrul Aziz, the Minister of Finance has tabled the Budget 2021, which is the largest in the country's history, at RM322.5 billion. It is hard to see how there is anything in this budget for ordinary people such as students, M40 or the unemployed though. Why is it said so?
During the tabling of Budget 2021, RM14.4 billion will be allocated to the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE). From this figure, RM100 million will be provided to finance the BSN MyRinggit-i COMSIS scheme, a.k.a the laptop loan scheme. Overall, the allocation for MOHE this year has not much of a difference from a regular government budget. Therefore, should the government review the MOHE allocation for IPT students, especially the B40 group such as one-off assistance, internet assistance, tuition fee loan and book vouchers? Apart from that, the allocation for Private Higher Educational Institutions (IPTS) is also not stated. Does that imply IPTS students are not eligible for the allocation? What was in it for them, if anything?
In this budget proposal, it allows 600,000 affected contributors to withdraw their savings from Employees Provident Fund (EPF) Account 1. The withdrawal facility will be done on a targeted basis of RM500 a month, or a total of RM6,000 over a 12-month period. So, why is the withdrawal available only to the targeted groups? In fact, RM500 per month might not be enough to lighten the financial burden of those who have lost their jobs. On the other hand, is it a good idea to allow the withdrawal of the already meagre retirement savings of the low-and middle-income groups? It seems a little unprecedented and most of them already lack a sufficient savings for their retirement.
Meanwhile, RM 85.5 million will be allocated to the Special Affairs Department (JASA) when only RM24 million will be allocated for mental health issues. Pondering the purpose of JASA in this pandemic crisis, if JASA is taking over the role of Jabatan Penerangan (Information Department) since these two entities have the same purpose, which is to monitor social media with the sole aim of identifying dissent among the people. Wouldn’t that money be wasted? Shouldn’t the RM 85.5 million allocation be slashed and channelled to other more crucial sectors?
While for the squeezed middle (M40), it seems that no specific provision has been made for them in Budget 2021. Are Malaysians in the M40 group marginalized from receiving benefits while they are still affected by the current pandemic, for the most part, sources of income?
The Budget 2021 has only allocated RM29 million for maintenance and upgrading of Islamic education and tahfiz institutions, compared with RM100 million the year before while the Pakatan Harapan was taking the office. Also, allocations for certain groups such as small traders, food and grocery deliveries, taxi and e-hailing drivers, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or businesses (SMBs) and youth are not addressed as comprehensive as it is. It seems that they have been undervalued, underpaid and obviously forgettable. Does the current budget too, fail to take our circumstances into consideration?
So, which part do the Government not get? Shouldn't the Budget 2021 be inclusive for all Malaysians? How far would the Budget 2021 benefit Malaysian? What do you think?