Saturday 21 May 2011

Tighten own belts first, Khairy tells Putrajaya

KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 — Khairy Jamaluddin has called on the government to slash funding to ineffective programmes such as National Service before asking the public to accept subsidy cuts the Najib administration has hinted at recently.

The Umno Youth chief called for a federal government expenditure review to rein in spending on these programmes which could free up funds to maintain subsidies that are crucial to softening the impact of rising prices.

He said the National Service programme is estimated to cost RM560 million this year while the Students Integration Programme for Solidarity (RIMUP) was only allocated RM2.4 million.

“I’m not saying National Service should be culled but at least debated. We spend RM560 million to send some of our 18-year-olds for just a three-month camp but RIMUP runs for all six years of primary school to integrate students from various streams.

“Don’t ask people to tighten their belts before you take a red pen and razor knife to your own shopping bill,” the Rembau MP told The Malaysian Insider today.

Khairy also took aim at ‘well-intentioned” government campaigns such as those promoting recycling, use of information technology and the RM100 million “Tak Nak” anti-smoking campaign launched in 2005, during which time the number of female smokers doubled.

He also questioned the value of a RM500 million Islamic administrative complex in Putrajaya announced on Wednesday to house 13 Islamic-related agencies under one roof.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said earlier this week that the government expects the subsidy burden to double from RM10.32 billion to RM20.58 billion this year.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak also said fuel subsidies were “like opium” to the Malaysian economy and would have to be gradually slashed as the initial bill of RM11 billion had soared to RM18 billion for this year due to escalating crude oil prices.

The consumer price index also rose by three per cent in March — the fastest rate in nearly two years — with the price of non-alcoholic foodstuff surging by 4.7 per cent.

Analysts and politicians believe that economic woes will be the biggest problem for the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration as the country moves towards a general election expected within the year.

According to a Bloomberg report last month, rising fuel prices and unhappiness over the implementation of race-based policies contributed to the ruling BN coalition losing control of five states to Pakatan Rakyat in Election 2008, where it also ceded a record 82 out of 222 seats in Parliament.

Khairy said today that an independent review committee should be allowed to look at various programmes to measure their effectiveness so that the prime minister “can say you should just get this and cut that” when it came time to discuss budget allocations with his Cabinet.

He said that currently there was no time for a proper legislative review and many programmes “slipped through Parliament” while the Public Accounts Committee and Auditor-General should concentrate on contracts and abuse of power.

“There should be no politicians involved as it becomes about scoring political points,” he said, adding that the panel should be made up of accountants, economists, field experts and NGOs familiar with the ministry being reviewed.

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