Malaysia Dateline

Budget 2021: Cooperation between govt and opposition crucial

The Perikatan National (PN) government must face up to the fact that the unemployment rate has worsened, seriously reflect on and correct the flaws in the Pelan Jana Semula Ekonomi (PENJANA), and prioritise salvaging the economy and assisting young people to return to the job market. These series of measures will help prevent the country from falling into a vicious circle of worsening unemployment and economic recession.

Based on the statistics released by the PERKESO, as of mid-October, the number of unemployed has nearly reached 90,000. In other words, there are nearly 10,000 unemployed citizens per month in average. The PERKESO also predicted that the number of unemployed will exceed 100,000 by year end, with a surge of 278% compared with the same period last year.

This set of data does not include cases that have not been reported to the PERKESO. In view of the significant increase in the number of mobile hawkers and non-standard employment (including temporary employment, short-term contracts and outsourcing), I believe that the real unemployment situation is more severe than presented in the PERKESO’s data.

In the face of rising unemployment and more upcoming layoffs, the PN government should stop bragging about its PENJANA, including putting a halt to unnecessary spending on advertising via various media that was not helpful to the ordinary people at all.

Also, the government must reflect on some superficial assistance programmes, for instance by improving and rectifying the Wage Subsidy Program (PSU) that has attracted very little attention, reducing unemployment, as well as assisting the unemployed to return to work and get jobs.

Besides that, the youth unemployment rate in Malaysia has always been about three times the national unemployment rate and hovering around 10%. If the unemployment rate continues to worsen, our youth will inevitably bear the brunt.

When many young people are facing long-term unemployment as they struggle to get jobs, the repercussions would be severe. Not only will their costly investment in schools and education be lost, such a situation will even spiral and deteriorate even further, thus creating social instability and new social conflicts.

Our society generally view that youth unemployment is mainly due to a lack of skills and knowledge required for employment.

Therefore, the main strategy employed by the government thus far is to improve training courses for young people in order to elevate the human capital of young people and meet the needs of the labour market.

Nevertheless, by studying local or foreign practical experience, it can be seen that these courses mainly focus on improving the supply of manpower in the market, but are rather ineffective in improving the employment rate and wages of young people.

If the labour market does not have enough positions to absorb young people who are trained in the courses, providing such trainings will only be futile in the end. Therefore, it is imperative to increase the demand for young people in the labour market at the same time to fundamentally solve the problem of youth unemployment.

Malaysia is a relatively young country in terms of the composition of population. As drastic times call for drastic measures, our country can definitely turn the tide as long as the government is willing to adopt more active and reformative measures.

After creating severe governance failure in the past few months, the PN government should now realise its weaknesses and flaws. I therefore call on the government to immediately include the opposition in the budget discussions before tabling the Budget 2021 next Friday.

Setting aside political differences and formulating together a budget that is in line with the interest and well-being of the people is the country’s only way forward.