PETALING JAYA: The RM17.4 billion budget allocation for the defence ministry is hardly enough to acquire new military equipment deemed crucial in the challenging geopolitical situation in Southeast Asia, says a defence expert.
Salawati Mat Basir, a lecturer at the National Defence Education Centre, said the allocation was only sufficient to maintain the existing equipment.
“National security is in dire need of new assets. The threats do not only come from within but also from outside, especially on the waters, but the problem is we don’t have enough ships,” she told FMT.
The 2023 budget tabled today provides RM18.3 billion for the home ministry and RM17.4 billion for the defence ministry, of which RM4 billion would be for the purchase and maintenance of assets.
Former deputy defence minister Liew Chin Tong said the overall figure for the ministry is acceptable but he wants to see the ministry outline how the RM4 billion would be utilised.
“We would like to see a pledge from the government to ensure all defence spending is done with the highest adherence to integrity,” he said.
However, he commended the 2023 budget for allocating funds of RM485 million to repair ships for Malaysia’s coastguard, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.
But he expressed disappointment with the lack of fresh ideas to help the military veterans.
The Malaysian Armed Forces Veterans’ Association’s president Sharuddin Omar, also vented his disappointment with the lack of allocations for veterans, as well as the announcement of a discount on public transport.
The 21,000 army and police pensioners are to be provided a 50% discount on public transport in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Pahang, and Penang on transport services run by Prasarana.
“We have 300,000 army veterans in the country, less than 10% of them will be able to enjoy that privilege,” he said.
He was disappointed with the lack of aid for ex-servicemen who left before the pension age. While retirees get RM350 in financial aid, there’s no such assistance for non-retired veterans.
“After this, I want to find out why the government was not responsive to our pleas,” he said.
The police veterans’ welfare association’s president Hussin Awang Ngah also couldn’t hide his frustration with the lack of incentives for the veterans.
“It’s so disappointing. It’s as if the government doesn’t appreciate the veterans. They should have thought of something better than giving the discount for public transport,” he said.