KUALA LUMPUR (SIN CHEW DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The 2021 Budget to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat this Friday (Nov 6) has drawn tremendous concerns among Malaysians.
Given the facts the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government only commands a razor-thin majority in the Parliament and earlier reports there are MPs out to bring down PM Muhyiddin, it remains to be seen whether next year's Budget will get sufficient support from the lawmakers.
To prevent the crash of the Budget, the finance minister has met MPs from the opposition in hope of reaching a consensus on the upcoming Budget.
Under the menace of the coronavirus, the country's economy has been badly bruised while the physical health and safety of Malaysians are threatened.
Life has become increasingly hard for ordinary citizens and it is therefore imperative that lawmakers on both sides of the political divide will lay down their differences and prioritize the needs of the rakyat (people) as the government seeks the most effective solutions to relieve the financial burden of the people and boost economic development.
According to surveys conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the livelihood of urban low-income families were adversely affected during the first stage of MCO.
Given their reduced incomes, these families had to tighten their belts in order to meet their most fundamental household expenses.
This shows that the people, in particular those in the lower income bracket, are struggling under tremendous financial stress and urgently need government help.
Additionally, many local companies are also struggling to stay afloat because of the pandemic. If these companies are eventually forced to wind up their operations, many will go out of work and this will further impact the country's economy.
Against such a backdrop, it is a positive move for parties on both sides of the divide to sit down and talk about the Budget.
On the political front, such a gesture will help cool down the already high political temperatures and reduce the possibility of the Budget being vetoed by the opposition.
That said, it is utterly important that both sides will show some sincerity to work together for the well-being of the rakyat in preparing a Budget that will help mitigate their woes.
The country is currently confronting an unprecedented challenge that requires us to balance between reviving the national economy and containing the virus.
This is not easy at all, and because of this, the government must take the initiative to hold constructive and meaningful interactions and brainstorming sessions while accepting the views from all quarters.
So far, political leaders from both the ruling and opposition camps have voiced out their views on the 2021 Budget, including a proposal to allow withdrawals between RM5,000 ($1,635) and RM10,000 from the contributors' EPF Account 1 for emergency needs.
The objective of EPF is to protect the members' retirement. Their old age savings will be compromised if they keep making early withdrawals of their hard-earned savings.
As such, it is imperative that the government carefully weigh all the pros and cons before making a decision while considering the proposals from various parties.
Do bear in mind that the 2021 Budget is not a panacea for all our woes due to its constraints. It is impossible to look to the Budget to completely solve all our problems.
The government still needs to introduce other measures to help relieve the people's burden and inject a new lease of life into our ailing economy.
Sin Chew Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media organisations.