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Insight - Subsidies in place of mega projects?

admin2022-08-254

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The government has to consider current trends and undertake due diligence for the maximum benefits, said Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd chief economist Afzanizam Mohamed Rashid.

IN times of rising inflation, funding the hefty RM77.3bil subsidy bill has become so important that mega projects which carry substantial spin-off effects, may be delayed to make way for the subsidies.

Would it be a big loss if we postpone some of these mega projects which may be delayed, anyway, by rising costs of building materials and labour shortages?

Is it a sustainable solution – just shelving some big projects to channel the money to subsidies?

This may also be a time to review the feasibility of some of the big projects, especially considering current trends such as flexible working arrangements which already involve less travelling.

For instance, between public transport and Internet connectivity, which should we prioritise?

The government has to weigh its options as:

> Infrastructure investment can facilitate growth, improve living standards and generate higher income opportunities.

> Subsidies will immediately help to alleviate the financial burden of the rakyat but do not have recurring benefits.

It is a delicate balancing act.

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The largest contributor to rising inflation – food prices – had posted the biggest increase since 2011, at 5.3% year-on-year in May, 2022.

The government has to consider current trends and undertake due diligence for the maximum benefits, said Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd chief economist Afzanizam Mohamed Rashid.

Besides delaying spending on mega projects, some allocation could be diverted from the sizeable allocation of RM75.6bil for development expenditure, compared to the average of RM48bil since 2010.

A core area to note is that the growth rate of government spending especially on salaries and emoluments, has greatly outstripped government revenue from all sources.

All eyes are on how the government proposes to bring the growth rate of spending on salaries and emoluments, under some semblance of control.

Managing inflation is necessary from a social and economic context, as protests can erupt over rising inflation and food prices.

The largest contributor to rising inflation – food prices – had posted the biggest increase since 2011, at 5.3% year-on-year in May, 2022.

From this perspective, it would justify diverting more funds towards subsidies when cost pressures are exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict and supply disruptions, said United Overseas Bank (M) Bhd senior economist Julia Goh.

Even with subsidies, inflation is already rising; the government estimates that without the subsidies, inflation could be much higher at above 11%.

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