“Budget 2024 needs to prioritise cost of living issues through pro-active measures”

BUDGET 2024 presents the government with a good opportunity to get a good grasp of the issues burdening the people, who had voted for a more pro-active administration to bring about radical changes in diverse sectors.

The number one priority should be to ease the hardships of the B40 and to a certain extent the M40 as well. It is not only subsidies that will reduce the cost of living but also greater productivity in the agricultural sector that will help reduce prices. Prices of vegetables, fish, fruits, meats and other daily essentials have spiralled due to dependency on imports and lower local agricultural productivity. 

The government needs to give the agro-sector a big boost with new measures and allocations. Large areas need to be opened up for agriculture and related activities. With millions of foreign workers around, agriculture must be prioritised to reduce the price hikes with higher production of a wide range of perishables and essentials. 

The Klang Valley, which includes Kl and Selangor, has a quarter of the nation’s population and it is here that the cost of living is the highest. 

Most of the vegetables need just 1–3 months for harvest. As for fruits like bananas and papayas, they need less than a year for harvesting. The people will start using equally good substitutes and spiralling prices can be kept in check. Malaysia is an ideal agricultural country with huge potential. 

Moreover, senior citizens have had a tough time since the pandemic and they need to be considered in the budget. A one-off cash handout of at least RM 500 to seniors, single parents, the disabled and other deprived groups will be beneficial apart from the usual BSH/ Rahmah annual allocation.

When it comes to providing assistance to senior citizens, Malaysia is one of the worst in the world due to its miserly attitude towards the elderly. 

An insurance scheme especially for seniors can be initiated to help them cope with medication, surgery and poverty. Certain categories of security guard employment can be reserved for senior citizens. A large number of them are poor, without any savings and are forced to work as long as they can.

Malaysia needs to start formulating plans for an ageing population before it becomes a critical issue. 

Introduce a subsidy card for B40 and M40 to buy essentials at government-controlled prices 

The government needs to consider the Indian Ration Card system for implementing controlled prices. Although the benefits of this system are as clear as daylight, governments past and present have stubbornly refused it and instead implemented fuel and other subsidies that are prone to abuse.

There is nothing infra-dig about the subsidy card system, as it is targeted to help the poor to tide off the current pressing socio-economic circumstances. Rural poverty has now morphed into urban poverty.

Malaysia was supposed to be a developed country by now but due to financial scandals and bailouts, pervasive corruption, an ineffective taxation system, mismanagement of finances, the COVID-19 pandemic, waste and leakages, a misaligned education system, white elephant projects, poor management of GLCs (government-linked companies) and an abused and misused NEP (new economic policy), all of which have cumulatively brought the country to its knees with a RM1.5 tril debt.

Malaysians will have to live in poverty for the next decade.

There is not a ghost of a chance of an overnight transformation no matter who is in government. Urban poverty is crushing the people. The abuse, mismanagement and neglect in many sectors over the decades have now boomeranged with fearful results. 

Furthermore, SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises), especially the smaller ones, need to be given tax incentives or lower taxes to help them tide over the current slowdowns. 

Taxes can be raised for larger firms and multinationals to offset the loss. The smaller SMEs can be asked to offer as a condition, most of the employment opportunities to Malaysians and lessen the need for foreigners.

There are too many foreigners in sectors where Malaysians can easily take over.

Besides, the taxation system needs an overhaul as one of the reasons for the widening rich-poor gap is due to an ineffective taxation system. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer or maintaining the status quo.

The Federal government needs to provide a higher allocation for non-Muslim houses of worship due to the pandemic and its aftermath contributions, subscriptions and donations have dried up. Many of the needy houses of worship are in a state of disrepair and look forward to financial assistance from the government. – Oct 12, 2023 


 V.Thomas is a Focus Malaysia viewer.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.


Main photo credit: The Sunday Guardian

Subscribe and get top news delivered to your Inbox everyday for FREE