Opposition's Alternative Budget 'Too Sweet' And Unrealistic, Say Analysts
KUALA LUMPUR, (Bernama) -- While the Federal Government's Budget 2016 focuses on strengthening the economy and safeguarding the well-being of the people and reducing their cost of living, the opposition coalition's alternative budget's main emphasis is on financial governance.
The newly-formed Pakatan Harapan's Alternative Budget 2016 has 10 highlights, ranging from abolising the Goods and Services Tax (GST) to improving the livelihood of farmers.
The coalition - comprising DAP, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) - rejected the Federal Government's Budget 2016, which was tabled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in the Dewan Rakyat on Oct 23, but the opposition MPs failed to vote it down.
Debate on the Supply Bill 2016 at the policy stage ended on Monday and when it was put to the vote, there were 128 "ayes" and 74 "nays".
ALTERNATIVE BUDGET'S TEN HIGHLIGHTS
The 10 highlights of the opposition's alternative budget are: putting 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) into administration; separating the portfolios of the Prime Minister and Finance Minister; supporting the extension of Bank Negara Malaysia Governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz's tenure by another two years; abolishing GST by zero-rating all items to mitigate inflation; setting up a petroleum endowment fund for the people of Sabah and Sarawak; reallocating the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail budget for the building of railways in Sabah and Sarawak; incurring savings of RM30 billion from anti-corruption measures; reducing Petroleum Nasional Bhd's dividend to RM20 billion; revamping cash transfers to be conditional on employment and school attendance; and improving the livelihood of farmers by reorganising subsidies.
When asked for his comments, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) lecturer Dr Amini Amir Abdullah dismissed the alternative budget as "unrealistic".
"It's nothing but a reflective budget and was merely drawn up as a rival for the Federal Government's budget. It's obvious the opposition is daydreaming and trying to sweet-talk the rakyat into supporting them," Amini Amir, who is attached to the Faculty of Human Ecology, told Bernama.
Another UPM lecturer Asso Prof Mohd Izani Mohd Zain, who is attached to the Department of Government and Civilisation Studies, said it appeared as if the opposition's budget was drawn up to specifically respond to current issues like 1MDB and GST.
Any national budget, he said, should be drafted in a comprehensive manner, with emphasis on every aspect of development.
"It's a populist budget because it was designed to attract the attention of the people... however, the basis of the budget is not that clear," he said.
LACK OF MANAGEMENT EXPERIENCE
According to Amini Amir, Pakatan Harapan had neither the necessary experience nor expertise to put together a good budget to run the country although the coalition was in charge of the Selangor and Penang state governments.
He said the opposition's inability to handle challenges effectively was not a very good benchmark of its ruling capabilities. Among the issues the Selangor government had faced were the lack of treated water supply, the establishment of Darul Ehsan Investment Group and lack of consensus among the three parties - PAS, PKR and DAP - which formed the state government.
PAS members, who were part of the State Executive Council, made matters more complicated when they left the party to join Amanah. Even Penang faced similar challenges before Pakatan Harapan was formed.
Shah Alam MP Khalid Abdul Samad, who is now a member of Amanah, had on Nov 9 urged the Selangor government to clarify its status so it would not be seen as a government "made up of coalitions which do not acknowledge each other". Penang had identified itself as a Pakatan Harapan government following the formation of the new pact on Sept 22, some three months after Pakatan Rakyat was dissolved due to disputes between DAP and PAS.
Amini Amir also pointed out to the opposition's inexperience in budget management, in comparison with the Barisan Nasional (BN).
"They (opposition) are merely out to fish for votes. Like the sky and earth, there's a vast difference between the BN government's budget and the one proposed by the opposition. The question is, just how far can the alternative budget safeguard the well-being of the people," he said.
Mohd Izani said the opposition was beginning to realise that in times of economic uncertainties, the government could not offer free services to the people.
"The Selangor government is now reviewing its free water supply scheme. We are also no longer hearing about the opposition's pledge to offer free education because they have probably realised its financial implication and burden on the government," he said.
BUDGET NOT COMPREHENSIVE ENOUGH
Does the opposition pact's alternative budget meet the aspirations of all Malaysians or did they draw it up merely to compete with the Federal Government? Or did they draft one because it was the norm for opposition parties in other countries to come up with alternative budgets?
Commenting on this, Amini Amir said the proposals outlined in Pakatan Harapan's budget did not have the people's interests at heart and reflected the insincerity of the opposition parties.
The budget was not comprehensive enough and did not cover the needs of people in various segments of society, he claimed.
"While, it's easy to criticise, it's certaintly not easy to do what the Federal Government has been doing. The opposition has to be more thorough and sensitive to the needs of the people when drafting their budget.
"There are a lot of other matters they have to pay attention to in order to ensure the well-being of every segment of society. They also have to be more realistic as there's no point in drafting a budget as a cosmetic exercise or which is populist in nature," he said.
Mohd Izani said it was usual for opposition parties in other countries to offer alternative budgets, and he cited the Singapore Democratic Party's shadow budget as an example.
The Federal Government's Budget 2016 has an allocation of RM267.2 billion, an increase from the revised allocation of 260.7 billion for 2015.
Of this amount, RM215.2 billion is for operating expenditure and RM52 billion for development expenditure.