Thursday, February 25, 2021

Budget increase for development of Islam, Bumiputeras nothing new

The same trend was seen in the two budgets prepared by the Pakatan Harapan government.

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Allocations for Islamic development and Bumiputera upliftment makes up 3.9% of the total budget for 2021, about 0.9% more than in the previous budget.

The Perikatan Nasional (PN) government allocated RM12.5 billion for the purpose, while Pakatan Harapan (PH) allocated RM9.3 billion.

The increase for Islamic and Bumiputera programmes has been an annual trend, with such funding becoming a permanent feature of the national budget.

It also saw an increase in the two years that PH was the federal government.

In 2018, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng announced RM1.2 billion for Islamic development, RM100 million more than the allocation in Barisan Nasional’s 2018 budget, its final before its fall from power that year.

This was further increased by another RM100 million the following year, to RM1.3 billion, an allocation parked under the Prime Minister’s Department.

The recent 2021 budget by PN also saw a RM100 million increase from the previous budget, with RM1.4 billion allocated for Islamic affairs.

The figures refute claims that the current government has allocated more for the Malay-Muslim demography.

“It’s a trend that has been continued by successive administrations since Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first term in power,” a source familiar with the preparation of the yearly budgets told MalaysiaNow.

Under Mahathir, allocations for Islamic development received a boost on the back of his administration’s “Infusion of Islamic Values Policy”, a low-key Islamisation drive to beef up the religious credentials of the Umno-led government.

Mahathir had then joined hands with Anwar Ibrahim, bringing the once popular Muslim student leader into the government to counter the growing influence of PAS in the 80s and the early 90s.

During his reign, the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia, or Jakim, was established under the Prime Minister’s Department with a central role in the management and development of Islamic affairs and policies.

Since then, the department has been allocated yearly budgets, with the last few years seeing the figure passing the RM1 billion mark.

The PH government defended its decision to continue the practice of allocating a huge budget for Jakim, saying it was also to pay religious teachers and the salaries of mosque officers and imams nationwide.

Last year, then-minister in charge of Islamic affairs Mujahid Yusof Rawa scoffed at critics who questioned the huge budget for Jakim.

The 2021 budget allocates about RM3 billion more for Bumiputera upliftment programmes.

Last year, the PH administration allocated RM8 billion, the bulk of which, some RM6.6 billion, went to Majlis Amanah Rakyat or Mara, the government’s Bumiputera powerhouse.

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