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Monday, February 27, 2023

Stop hiding operational expenses, Johari tells govt


Titiwangsa MP Johari Ghani said RM300 billion, which ought to be treated as operational expenditure, had been hidden as development expenditure.

KUALA LUMPUR: The government must be more transparent about its spending and stop the “illegal practice” of camouflaging operational expenditure in its finances, Titiwangsa MP Johari Ghani said today.

He said the Financial Procedure Act provided that operational expenditure be paid only from government revenue, while development expenditure is paid for using borrowings.

However, the government had borrowed up to RM300 billion during the Covid-19 pandemic, in part to procure vaccines, which ought to be treated as an operational expenditure.

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However, this amount had been hidden as development expenditure, he said.

“Our (financial) reports have not been transparent. If so, how can we claim to be governing with transparency? Why did we hide the cost of vaccine procurement as a development expenditure when the definition of the term (in the Act) is so clear?” he asked during the budget debate in the Dewan Rakyat.

“Let’s deal with our deficit without hiding our operational expenditure using the ‘off-balance sheet’ system,” he said.

Need to reform subsidy system

Separately, Johari called for more targeted subsidies, citing the example of oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which reformed its subsidy system in 2016 by slashing blanket subsidies that only benefited the rich.

The reform helped save money for the Saudi government, and allowed it to give cash aid directly to the poor.

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Petronas earns billions annually, but a lot of this money ends up being used on blanket subsidies, said Johari.

“Petronas paid the government RM50 billion in dividends in 2022, but we have used all of it up to pay for subsidies,” he said, adding that the money could have been used to build up the country’s reserves instead.

Last year, the government spent RM77.7 billion on subsidies.

Johari said that between 1974 and 2022, Petronas contributed some RM1.3 trillion to the government’s coffers, yet the National Trust Fund (KWAN) currently only boasts RM16 billion. - FMT

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