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In a mixed govt, who stands to benefit the most from election budget?

The current government comprises three main groups: Barisan Nasional, Perikatan Nasional and Gabungan Parti Sarawak.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli & Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
3 minute read
The flags of Barisan Nasional and Perikatan Nasional fly in the breeze at Pantai Puteri, ahead of the Melaka state election last November.
The flags of Barisan Nasional and Perikatan Nasional fly in the breeze at Pantai Puteri, ahead of the Melaka state election last November.

Budget 2023, to be presented in Parliament on Oct 7, will be the final budget before the general election which must be called by July next year. 

Given its proximity to the polls, the programmes and cash aid expected as part of the package have taken on the appearance of sweeteners, to persuade as many voters as possible to support the government of the day. 

And, with that government comprising a mixture of political coalitions – Barisan Nasional (BN), Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) – the question remains as to which group would benefit the most from any favourable public perception linked to the budget. 

Political analyst Mujibu Abd Muis said Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob would receive the credit for the budget despite the fact that he leads a mixed government. 

"If Budget 2023 comes loaded with election goodies, Ismail will benefit, alongside Umno and BN," Mujibu, of Universiti Teknologi Mara, said. 

Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya agreed that BN would benefit the most from the budget. However, he said this did not mean that PN and GPS would not profit at all. 

"PN would be second in line as the minister of economic affairs and the chairman of the National Recovery Council – considered among the main planners of the budget – are from Bersatu," he said. 

And while GPS appeared to be more of a receiver, he said, allocations for Sarawak would help boost the coalition's image. 

Mujibu meanwhile said that GPS was linked more with issues in Sarawak and would not be affected by the budget presentation.

"PN might have more on the line," he added. 

"How that can balance out Ismail's government and whether the Covid-19 budget and the assistance given during the pandemic can help PN prove its authority and boost voters' confidence in the pact is the question," he said, referring to the leadership of Muhyiddin Yassin who was prime minister at the height of the pandemic.

At that point, a slew of initiatives and programmes were announced to help the people cope with their loss of jobs and the economic shutdown due to the movement control order. 

Economist Madeline Berma from the Academy of Sciences Malaysia said the budget presentation would appear to focus on three main elements, regardless of its status in favouring any particular party or coalition government. 

Firstly, she said, it would focus on the country's economic recovery as it continues to transition towards the endemic phase. 

Here, she said, the government would need to create jobs, prioritising economic growth through the boosting of employment. 

"There are two main thrusts to achieving that goal: the creation of productive jobs and increased productivity," she told MalaysiaNow. 

She said the budget would also have to address the increase in cost of living, with the government expected to implement targeted subsidies to help people cope.

And thirdly, she said, the budget presentation could be expected to emphasise public well-being by pushing a more inclusive and dynamic form of social protection. 

"The government is expected to extend social protection to workers in the informal and self-employed sectors," she said. 

"Hopefully this will also include those in the agricultural sector, as well as migrant and domestic workers." 

Berma added that any emphasis on the people's well-being would need to continue through their entire life cycle, from infancy to old age. 

"Malaysia needs to have social protection to protect individuals from multi-dimensional risks and threats at every stage of life," she said.