KUALA LUMPUR: Economic affairs minister Rafizi Ramli tonight compared fixing the country’s economy to that of an overweight person trying to shed some pounds.
He said while the government knew what needed to be done to improve the situation, carrying out those changes was the biggest challenge.
“It is like an overweight person. You know your ideal weight and you constantly remind yourself that you are getting worse,” he said at a forum titled “Resetting the Malaysian economy” organised by Parliament.
“The solution is simple. You need to eat less. If you want to eat a lot, you need to run more. Doctors, gyms will tell you that. Most struggle despite the diagnosis.
“That’s where we are as a country. With the current fiscal trajectory, things will get worse. It takes a lot of courage, political will and cohesion with all stakeholders (to carry out changes).”
Rafizi said several measures should be taken to ensure the economy remains stable and growing.
Among them are rationalising subsidies, managing the public’s expectation on prices, and broadening the country’s revenue stream.
He noted that subsidies have taken up a significant portion of the government’s operating budget and this will only make the fiscal position “thinner”.
“What started as a small subsidy now takes up 30% to 40% of our operating budget every year if we are not careful,” he said.
Rafizi said the government has to start rationalising subsidies and managing the public’s expectation on prices, instead of getting addicted to keeping prices “artificially low”.
“The first few steps are the hardest. Once we get the cogs moving, we will feel different about the economic situation in the next two to three years,” he said.
Also taking part in the panel discussion were former deputy prime minister Musa Hitam and Dewan Negara president Rais Yatim.