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PETALING JAYA: The removal of blanket fuel subsidy and the trimming of cash handouts are a must, if the government is serious about bringing Malaysia’s fiscal position under control, says economist Manokaran Mottain.
He also called for the review of all subsidies in the country, pointing out that some subsidies benefit the “undeserved”.
“We can channel the money saved to help those in the bottom 40% (B40) income group,” he said in an interview with StarBiz.
Manokaran recently ended his nine-year stint as the chief economist of Alliance Bank.
Instead of a blanket fuel subsidy, Manokaran suggested a tiered subsidy model for those in need.
“For example, for the first 100 litres, an individual can qualify for a RM50 subsidy. For the next 100 to 200 litres, maybe they can qualify for a RM70 subsidy,” he said.
Earlier in June, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz (pic below) said the government is expected to cover subsidies of up to RM8bil in 2021, which is RM4.22bil more than what was allocated.Tengku Zafrul interview
Manokaran said the government should step up in boosting the economic growth, which has been slowing down over the past 20 years.
“As the growth picks up, with more job opportunities being created, I don’t think the rakyat will need cash handouts (in the same quantum),” he added.
At the current momentum as Covid-19 becomes endemic, Malaysia’s future average economic growth over a period of five years could be about 4%, according to Manokaran.
In comparison, the government targets an average of 4.5% to 5.5% for the 12th Malaysia Plan period of 2021 to 2025.
“We need new infrastructure projects to boost the economy further,” he said, adding that the projects can be financed via public-private partnership or private-finance initiative models.
He acknowledged the government’s limited fiscal spending ability amid a rising debt position.
“The government needs to look at reforming the fiscal deficit. If it continues to go on an expansionary budget, it can never bring down the fiscal deficit to under 3% by 2025,” he said.
Looking ahead, Manokaran said the future of Malaysia’s economy highly depends on political stability and the ability to attract foreign investments.
He urged politicians from both sides of the political divide to work together, get proper policies in place and focus on the people’s development.
“The anti-hopping law for elected representatives must come in – if you jump ship, you will lose your position. This is to create political stability.
“At one time, we had a very good political system and foreign investors liked Malaysia, compared to places like Thailand and Indonesia.