Wednesday, November 18, 2020

A teacher’s worries about Budget 2021

Civil servants will suffer tremendously if the budget is voted down.

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I am a teacher at a government secondary school in Seremban. I read with trepidation news that Budget 2021 may not see a smooth passage in the Dewan Rakyat.

This news is deeply worrying to me, as it is to the over 1.7 million civil servants in Malaysia. Let me explain why.

Although it’s true that we civil servants did not suffer pay cuts and were not retrenched during this economically troubling time, our plight is no less troubling.

Take myself for example. My husband was retrenched in June with a negligible severance package after his haulage company experienced a severe drop in business. Whatever retrenchment benefit he received has been wiped out and we are now digging into our savings. He is in his mid-40s and it will be difficult for him to find a job given the current downturn.

Prior to the MCO, I held tuition classes at my house after working hours to supplement my income. After travel restrictions were imposed, I stopped because it went against MCO SOPs and put the health of my family at risk. Tuition classes used to make up around 20% of my total income. Now they are no more.

I have three school-going kids, aged eight to 13. As any parent can attest to, raising kids these days is not cheap. And now the burden of providing for the family falls solely on me until my husband lands a job which, by the looks of things, will take a while.

My elderly parents who run a sundry shop in Rantau are also finding it hard to make ends meet. Their business has dropped by some 45% since MCO and they are having trouble covering their overheads and paying suppliers due to cashflow problems. As a daughter, I am duty-bound to help tide them over financially during such troubling times.

Let’s not get started on my younger brother who is in his final year of studies in Bristol. He used to work part-time as a waiter at a restaurant near his campus before the pandemic to help pay the cost of his studies. Now, jobs are few and far in between there. At this rate, it will only be a matter of time before he sends out an SOS to keep him afloat.

For me personally, my economic “lifeline” now is the salary I draw as a teacher, which is not much to begin with. Unlike those in the private sector who may have made more savings during good times, I do not have such a privilege with my meagre government salary.

And now, I am told that if Budget 2021 is voted down, there will be a government shutdown and the salaries of government servants will not be paid from January. God knows how long it’d take for the government to retable a new budget and have it approved in Parliament.

Leaving aside the politics, I just hope that Budget 2021 is approved. We civil servants will suffer tremendously and unfairly if the budget is voted down.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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