Budget 2021 must be for all, not just certain groups, says economist Ramon Navaratnam

Budget 2021 is an opportunity for Malaysia to introduce basic structural changes with a health and political crisis plaguing the country.

Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute’s (Asli) Centre for Public Policy Studies chairman Tan Sri Dr Ramon Navaratnam said the people are at war with Covid-19, politics and recession, but Budget 2021 offers a chance for the powers-that-be to offer equal opportunities for Malaysians to move forward.

“Covid-19 has almost changed the whole capitalistic system worldwide. The private sector must be encouraged to play its full potential and there should be a review, modification and relaxation of policies that only favour one race,” he said, referring to policies introduced under the decades-old New Economic Policy.

“We must have courage and conviction to recognise the weakness in the economy. We don’t lack resources or people. What we are facing is the lack of will to give everyone an equal chance to develop Malaysia to its full potential,” he said.

The former deputy secretary-general of the Treasury said policies which did not offer a level playing field would make foreign investors moving elsewhere.

“Domestic investors will also say they can’t get land or sponsorship and they too will leave,” he added.

Having written many budget speeches over the years, Navaratnam said the problem was also due to the lack of continuity and frequent play of racial and religious politics.

“When it comes to education, we need to give everyone the right training so that we won’t have unemployed graduates. There has been so much talk about TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training), the importance of English language and scholarships based on merit but what has been done?

“The entire civil service is dominated by one race, how can there be cross-pollination of ideas to ensure unity,” Navaratnam added.

“Although there are limitations, we should spend more on the poor in Budget 2021 … the B40 and M40 groups. But we must help all regardless of their race and we must not lose money through corruption and leakages as this will erode the people’s confidence.”

On possible dissent on his suggestions for Budget 2021, he said: “This is the most important way out for the country. Doing anything else will be superficial and almost irrelevant.”

Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz said Budget 2021 that will be tabled on Nov 6 will build on the momentum of economic recovery that began in May through all the economic stimulus packages – Prihatin Rakyat Economic Stimulus Package (Prihatin), Additional Prihatin SME Economic Stimulus Package (Prihatin SME+), National Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) and Prihatin Supplementary Initiative Package (Kita Prihatin).

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