Coming Soon: Budget 2012 (But What Happened To Budget 2011?)

25 May, 2011
By Adrian Ng
Revisiting Budget 2011 and wondering what’s happened since it was announced in October 2010.

Prime Minister Najib recently announced that Budget 2012 will be tabled on 7 October. But before we move on to discuss Budget 2012, let’s take a step back and revisit Budget 2011, which was tabled on 15 October 2010.

Budget 2011 was tabled with the intention of leading Malaysia into a developed and high-income nation which contains high profile and big ticket infrastructure projects to spearhead the Malaysian economy. The Budget 2011 was presented as a “budget by the rakyat”, incorporating key public financial concerns, amongst other employment and rising of living as well as setting the pace to make Malaysia a high-income nation.

The total amount allocated for Budget 2011 was RM212 billion, where RM162.8 billion (77% of the budget) was allocated for operating expenditure, while the balance of RM49.2billion was allocated for development expenditure.

Some favorable proposals for the ordinary man on the street from Budget 2011 includes extension of tax relief, stamp duty relief for first-time house buyers, freeze on toll increase; while the good news for civil servants include 90 day fully-paid maternity leave and increase of allowances for certain groups etc.

While there were some favorable proposals in Budget 2011, there were some that were questionable, most notably the following:

RM5 billion 100-storey Warisan Merdeka tower.
RM40 billion Mass Rapid Transit (MRT).
RM50 million for construction of shaded walkways in the KLCC-Bukit Bintang vicinity.
RM10 billion mixed development project in Sungai Buloh to be funded by EPF.
RM26 billion Kuala Lumpur International Financial District.
Construction of a 300MW Combined-Cycle Gas Power Plant in Kimanis Sabah.
RM3 billion eco-nature resort in Nexus Karambunai Sabah.
Much has been written / commented / criticised in relation to the above projects since these big and huge projects were made known during the budget speech. A barrage of questions ranging from rationale of projects, its benefits, funding process, tendering process to issues and effects of these projects were raised in various media, blogs etc. The government tried to provide additional information, or rather, countering claims on criticism of these projects; some projects have received tremendous public backlash (to the extent that a Facebook page was set up and garnered more than 295,000 supporters to date).

Explanations provided are rather vague, some contradictory to initial information that was made during the speech and some were simply explained as miscommunication, misunderstanding or misinformation etc. Suffice to say the information and explanation provided is not so informative after all i.e. it does not address the issues that were raised by various parties. Which makes one wonder how reliable all these information are if there are “mistakes”, given that it is being presented by the leader of the country and how taxpayers can trust the government to manage the country’s finances well.

There were also some big-bucks projects that were announced but up till today, there have been no news of their progress, most notably the following:

RM100 million in support of the tourism industry.
RM2.1 billion and RM696 million for upgrading of rural roads in Sabah and Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia respectively.
RM1.5 billion and RM556 million for development of rural electricity and water supply in Sabah and Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia respectively.
RM857 million for local Electrical & Electronic companies to compete at international level.
RM850 million on infrastructure support to accelerate corridor and regional development.
RM93 million for Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy.
RM133 million for Northern Corridor Economic Region.
RM178 million for East Coast Economic Region.
RM339 million for Iskandar Malaysia.
Additionally, about RM57 billion was allocated to various ministries:

RM15.86 billion for Prime Minister’s Department.
RM29.3 billion for Education Department.
RM10.2 billion for Higher Education Department.
RM1.2 billion for Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development.
RM627 million for Ministry of Human Resource.
RM111 million for Permata (Pusat Anak Permata Negara) — I still do not know what the hell is this!
There is no avenue to check how the above “allocated” money is being spent, where is it being spent, what has and what has not been delivered, what are the results of such spending, who are the service providers / contractors, whether they have been evaluated independently, what is the criteria for awarding contracts etc.

There is clearly a lack of transparency as far as it is concern and also a lack of accountability on how taxpayers’ money is being spent, as we are all in the dark of what is happening. Do you know what is happening?

Despite all these mega projects from Budget 2011, it is also not sure how the effects from these projects, if any, have trickled down to benefit Malaysian taxpayers. Has the rakyat felt the effect of the huge spending?

Not to forget, the Prime Minister recently also announced the 1Malaysia Email initiative, which again received significant backlash from the public. Again, the government resorted to firefighting with contradicting statements (again from miscommunication to the initial speech made by the Prime Minister) to changing information on Pemandu website, going on air to clarify matters and to the extent of undertaking advertorials (which was again a waste of taxpayers’ money).

And again, the explanations do not provide justification on the rationale of such a project; and this goes to show that most projects and deals are happening without knowledge of the public, provided if it is announced.

We will never be able to hold our government accountable so long as we do not receive quality information. No matter how much discussion and open debate is allowed, all these efforts will be futile and bound to fail if the government operates in secrecy. The nature and quality of public discussion would be significantly impoverished without quality information from the government.

The Budget 2012 Consultation is currently on-going. And the theme set out by the Prime Minister for the budget is again “inclusive and people-centric”, with the focus of accelerating transformation efforts towards enhancing growth and sustaining the well-being of the people.

Looking back at Budget 2011, I wonder how Budget 2012 will pan out to be. We shall wait “anxiously” this coming 7 October.

Adrian is a confused accountant who has a heart of a Care Bears, lived in the Smurf Village, while defending the Universe like a Thunder Cat. He tweets at @AdrianNCF.

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