Is this pro-PN academician only trying to sow discord or offering constructive criticism about Budget 2024?

A PRO-Perikatan Nasional (PN) academician has raised concern over a potential rift within the Special Advisory Body to the Finance Minister following a ‘dissenting view’ expressed by a member of the advisory body for failure to incorporate his proposal in Budget 2024 which was tabled last Friday (Oct 13).

This comes about as University Malaya’s economics professor Distinguished Prof Datuk Dr Rajah Rasiah (main pic, inset) has made an open statement stating that the fiscal policy strategy presented in Budget 2024 is feared to be unable to help the unity government achieve the fiscal deficit target of 3.2% by 2025.

Former senior lecturer at the Faculty of Creative Technology & Heritage of University Malaysia Kelantan Dr Mukhtaruddin Musa wondered if the very fact that a distinguished member of the Finance Minister’s advisory body having ‘lashed out’ at proposals outlined in Budget 2024 is itself a tell-tale sign that “Budget 2024 is a bad budget”.

“The only honourable and dignified move that Prof Rajah should take if he is treated like a stump and that his advice as a special advisory body to the Finance Minister is not heeded by the Finance Minister himself is to resign,” Mukhtaruddin penned his view in HarakahDaily.

“As for Anwar as the Finance Minister – if he has the right governance in place – he should do his utmost best to resolve this matter and fire Prof Rajah from the special advisory body for daring to criticise him.”

For context, three days before the tabling of Budget 2024 (Oct 10), Prof Rajah was reported to have openly suggested to the Finance Minister to emphasise debt reduction in Budget 2024.

This, he said, is necessary because the operating expenses incurred exceeded the income from taxes. Therefore, there is a need to cut unnecessary expenses and explore new taxes to create new income.

Towards this end, Prof Rajah even proposed that the Finance Minister re-introduce the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Budget 2024 to enable the government to assist ‘B60’ households more effectively.

‘Kitchen cabinet’

Recall that Anwar who is also the Prime Minister had on Feb 7 this year appointed former PETRONAS president and CEO Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Marican as head of the Special Advisory Body to the Finance Minister.

Apart from Hassan, the advisory body which renders its service on a pro-bono basis are made up of Prof Rajah, FVSB Sdn Bhd executive chairman Datuk Ahmad Fuad Md Ali, Sunway University’s economics professor Prof Dr Yeah Kim Leng and Sarawak Energy Bhd chairman Datuk Amar Abdul Hamed Sepawi.

Given the latest chain of events, Mukhtaruddin took a further swipe at the Madani economy by raising the following four questions:

  • What is the function and role of the special advisory body assigned to assist the Finance Minister if its advice to the Finance Minister is not utilised?
  • Is this special advisory body intended only to show as if the Finance Minister is referring to financial experts when the fact is that he is not?
  • If the Finance Minister does not use the advice of a special advisory body, whose advice does he rely upon? That of his so-called ‘kitchen cabinet’?
  • If the Finance Minister uses advice from his ‘kitchen cabinet’, who then are members of this ‘kitchen cabinet’ and can their advice be held accountable? – Oct 16, 2023

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