PETALING JAYA,Nov 9: Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has called on Putrajaya to modify the 2021 budget proposals to make it “more realistic”, saying the expectations for economic recovery are too optimistic.
In a blog post, he said he did not need to be “bribed” to lend his support for the budget.
“What is a fact is that most people are not happy. That is shown by their reactions. I hope this budget would be modified to make it more realistic. Then we can support it. We need not be bribed for our support. We do not want to precipitate a crisis,” he said.
Mahathir also expressed amazement at the “behemoth” RM322.5 billion budget, questioning if Malaysia could afford to finance it.
While the rubber glove industry had done particularly well during the pandemic, he said, Petronas and the tourism industry had performed very badly, adding that these two industries were the biggest contributors to government revenue.
“All other industries have suffered badly. I don’t think income and corporate tax would amount to even two-thirds of the normal figures during normal times.
“Don’t expect restarting or launching of new industries to begin on Jan 1. The rosy picture of immediate recovery once the Covid-19 pandemic is overcome is not going to happen. The pandemic would not end on New Year’s Day.”
He said there was still room to prune the operational and development costs in the budget, pointing out that ministers and MPs were given numerous allowances.
Mahathir also said the poor had been badly hit by the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns, with many having no income or jobs.
He suggested that high-earners in the government and private sectors forgo 10% of their monthly salaries, which could then be used to provide food and supplies to those who were unemployed or without any form of income.
“Shafie Apdal (the former Sabah chief minister) had suggested that ministers should have their pay cut by 30%. That is a big figure. I think people earning high salaries in the government or private sectors should forgo 10% of their salaries.
“It is a sacrifice but I don’t think it would hurt them if there is a reasonable cut-off point, say RM20,000 per month,” he said.