Both the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Daim had gone on public record to say that the 2000 Budget which was presented in the last Parliament on Oct. 29, 1999, but which was not passed because of dissolution of Parliament for the tenth general election to be held, would again be presented in the new Parliament.
This is most unsatisfactory and would point to the lack of flexibility in the national economic policy management to take into account the events of the past four months.
The new 2000 Budget to be presented to Parliament on Feb. 25 should take into consideration the need to review the government’s economic strategy following the release of latest data showing that Malaysia’s manufacturing investments slipped for the third consecutive year in 1999.
Total new investment applications were down 26 per cent to RM14 billion last year, while the level of foreign applications fell some 30 per cent to RM9 billion from RM12.6 billion previously.
Malaysia's new investment applications dropped 19 per cent in 1997 to RM34.2 billion, and another 45 per cent to RM19 billion in 1998. In US dollar terms, the drop has been even sharper, given that the ringgit exchange, pegged at RM3.80 to US$1 now, was around RM2.5 to US$1 before the recession.
The government should also use the new 2000 Budget on Feb. 25 to announce the introduction of a five-day 40-hour workweek as well as raising the retirement age for civil servants from 55 to 60 years.
Yesterday, the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) President, Datuk Dr Mokhzani Abdul Rahim said that more than 50 per cent of employers in the private sector do not mind an extension of the 55-year compulsory retirement age for workers.
He said that a survey by MEF, which has about 3,300 members who collectively employ 1.3 million workers, showed that most felt that a 60-year limit was better, while some even suggested 65 years.
He said 427 companies or 59 per cent of those surveyed were in favour of extending the retirement age while 244 employers (34 per cent) were against it.
The main reason cited by the majority of the respondents for an increase in the retirement age was to enable employers to retain skilled senior employees. A higehr life expectancy would also enable workers to continue to contribute productively.
A new 2000 Budget for Parliament next month should also be the occasion to approve the application by the Malaysian Armed Forces for a revision of 37 allowances paid to military personnel in line with prevailing conditions.
Some of the allowances were introduced since the 60's and were still applicable today and therefore were outdated and should be revised.
Before Daim presented his 2000 Budget in Parliament on Oct. 29, 1999, the Barisan Alternative presented an Alternative Budget 2000 for recovery, development and justice, which was used as a reference by the first Finance Minister from where he picked up the proposal for the abolition of television licences.
The Barisan Alternative leadership council will discuss as to whether the Barisan Alternative should present additional budgetary proposals which should be in the new 2000 Budget when it is presented to Parliament on February 25, 2000.