It’s certainly a change to see the government side taking pains to describe Budget 2018 as an “election budget”.
This was the same phrase used by opposition leaders as a form of insult, to show that it’s all about winning an election and not ensuring the country’s fiscal and economic well-being.
It’s just months before the general election, and naturally, many had expected the budget proposals to be packed with goodies to shake undecided Malaysians into returning Barisan Nasional to power.
But suddenly, “election budget” is meant to be a compliment, and Barisan Nasional leaders wasted no time using the phrase with pride.
“This is the budget we will carry on till we declare the elections,” said one.
“Everyone knows we need to win,” said another.
An election budget is called such because it announces goodies, maybe even plucks out money from out of nowhere.
An election budget shapes public opinion in a couple of hours, and essentially blasts this from the opening line: “Here’s why you should vote for us.”
Yes, an election budget is a strategy to win. But was Prime Minister Najib Razak’s speech, which went on for more than two hours, an announcement of an election budget?
If the goal of an election budget is to win an election, then the speech was anything but.
At best, it was an election speech, only that it was presented against a backdrop of well-polished benches made of expensive wood. Change the setting to an open field, and Najib’s budget speech would suit just fine, maybe even better.
The speech started with a prayer, it was egged on with jokes, and it was spiced throughout with quotes from philosophers and men of God. It ended with a good few minutes of punching the air and mocking the other side.
Unlike last year, the opposition MPs did not walk out in the middle of the budget speech. Sanity and good sense already did that for them, leaving Najib’s budget a cheap stunt that reinforces the Malaysian parliament’s reputation as a mad house.
Abdar Rahman Koya is Editor-in Chief at FMT.