PETALING JAYA: Ismail Sabri Yaakob has poured cold water over the initiatives announced by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in tabling the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) mid-term review on Monday.
Ismail said he welcomed the government’s commitment in raising the allocation ceiling by RM15 billion, bringing the total to RM415 billion to meet the needs of the people, especially in terms of initiatives and infrastructure, Utusan Malaysia reported.
“However, it was not explained in detail where this additional allocation of RM15 billion would come from,” the former prime minister was quoted as saying.
He questioned if the government intended to introduce new forms of taxes to increase its revenue in order to top up the RM15 billion.
“Will taxes such as the goods and services tax (GST) be introduced (again), as was done by the previous Barisan Nasional administration but rejected by the opposition then?” he said.
He added that the government today had also set a fiscal deficit of 3.5% despite raising the 12MP expenditure ceiling. “Does this mean the government will not incur any further debt?”
Ismail also cast doubt over the government’s move to bring forward the target to eradicate hardcore poverty by the end of this year from the “more realistic” end of 2025.
He asked, with only several months left to the year, what are the programmes to be implemented to bring 114,000 families out of hardcore poverty.
“Eradicating hardcore poverty involves balanced development among different regions to ensure that economic distribution can be enjoyed by all parties,” he said.
Ismail added that under his administration, the 12MP had set 50% of the ceiling allocation for six states, namely Sarawak, Sabah, Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu.
“However, this matter was not discussed in detail during the tabling of the 12MP mid-term review. Will the 50% allocation for these states continue?” he said.
Ismail also urged economy minister Rafizi Ramli to reconsider his proposal to reduce import permits for food, saying otherwise it would lead to monopolies, which would increase the price of goods.
“In such challenging times, we need a short term plan to ensure the price of food such as rice does not surge,” he said, adding that the government must also come up with long-term strategies.
The government must focus on ensuring the country’s self-sufficiency level (SSL) is healthy, so as to not be dependent on food imports, which are easily influenced by various global factors, he said.