Researcher: Don’t sideline areas with few voters

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KUALA LUMPUR: The Federal Government’s 2017 budget is an election budget that caters to everybody, according to a think-tank chief, Ng Yeen Seen.

“From the old, the poor, the civil servants to women’s sectors and even entrepreneurs, there is something for everybody. I personally feel strongly that this is an election budget,” Ng said at a forum organised by the Gerakan last night.

However, she felt that the “biggest winners” in the budget were the low-income group and the civil servants, whom she described as “traditional voters” of the Barisan Nasional.

Ng, who is chief operating officer of Asli (the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute), also advised the government and Malaysians alike not to ignore the development of rural areas especially in Sabah and Sarawak.

“We cannot have the mindset of giving up on small towns just because there are only 50 people or voters. The government must invest in developing infrastructure in rural areas, such as building hospitals, schools, roads and bridges.

“Malaysians in the urban areas such as Kuala Lumpur cannot say that ‘this is not my problem’ because eventually it will be everybody’s burden. It will affect the country as a whole.”

Another speaker, Abdul Aziz Abu Bakar, head of the Malaysian Association of Tax Accountants, conceded that Malaysians were not fond of paying taxes such as the GST, but said there was no other way to generate government revenue.

“The total tax contribution makes up 82 per cent of the government’s revenue. Any country in the world needs taxes to contribute to its revenue, there is no other way,” he said.

Firdaos Rosli, of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, agreed with Abdul Aziz, adding that the government’s priorities lie in “preventing chaos” in the country that could be caused by external factors such as Britain’s exit from the European Union and the slowdown of China’s economy.

“Everything that happens outside the country will affect us. Foreign policies, foreign investments. It is the government’s job to make sure that whatever happens outside the country, we have the space to do what we need to do,” said Firdaos.

The Federal Government seeks parliamentary approval to spend RM260.8 billion next year. Among the measures included in the budget were an increase in BR1M aid, better housing loans for civil servants, and RM60 million set aside for the welfare of taxi drivers.