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Saturday, October 30, 2021

Ramasamy: Deliver equal citizenship rights instead of lopsided budget

Penang deputy chief minister P Ramasamy is unhappy with Budget 2022 as presented in Parliament yesterday, saying while there were cosmetic improvements, the contents were lacking and symbolised the racial nature of the existing administration.

"The budget is better at cosmetics than earlier budgets, thanks to the MOU," he said, referring to the memorandum of understanding signed between the government and Pakatan Harapan.

"Slight financial increases here and there don’t tell us much about the usefulness of the budget.

"It might be the biggest budget, but then its contents leave much to be desired.

"Like other budgets in the past, it is still based on the interests of the majoritarian community - the bumiputera," he claimed.

He said while Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob's administration signed an MOU for reforms with the opposition, the federal government is still dominated by race and religion-centric parties.

"The ethnic communities that have contributed to the development and well-being of the country are treated as an appendage to the system.

"Token recognition in the form of contributions to vernacular schools and some marginalised ethnic communities are hardly sufficient to address their grievances.

"The fundamental problem is not so much about the budget per se but the political and economic system that directs policies," he added, claiming that non-bumiputera communities have been repeatedly let down by race and religious centred budgets.

Ramasamy, a third-term state assemblyperson of Perai, said what is important is not dishing out a few million to non-bumiputera communities, but restoring their democratic rights as full-fledged citizens of the country.

Such a move, he said, will be regarded as more significant rather than giving reduced financial assistance to them.

He pointed out that while the budget failed to improve minimum wage, it managed to find room to earmark RM1.5 billion for the management and development of Islamic affairs under the Prime Minister’s Department.

Meanwhile, a total of RM11.4 billion will be set aside under Budget 2022 for the bumiputera agenda supposedly aimed at reducing the economic disparity, but without any attempt at calling to account the wealthy elite such as those named in the Pandora Papers exposé, said Ramasamy.

He said that it was instead a budget meant to entrench the powers-that-be and not something to address the social and economic grievances of the people, immaterial of their background.

"Transformation and political stability are not reflected in the budget. It appears that the MOU is seen as benefiting the government more than the opposition.

"I would have thought given the establishment of various committees and a good working relationship between the government and the opposition, the budget should have reflected the spirit and substance of the MOU.

"To the utter disappointment and dismay to many in the country, this was not to be so," said Ramasamy.

"Just like the 12th Malaysia Plan, or 12MP, nothing could be expected from the 2022 budget in so far as the majority of the population is concerned, principally the working class.

"Meanwhile, economic experts and others are jumping into the fray to talk about the merits of the budget without talking about the corruption pandemic in the country and how thieves and robbers are once again walking the corridors of power," he said. - Mkini

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