As finance minister as well as Prime Minister, this week I will deliver one of the great set-pieces of any democratic society, our budget plans for the year ahead.
The decision-making process for the budget reflects Malaysia’s economic complexity and diversity. There is no straightforward, one-size-fits-all answer. At the core, we have a sound economy with continued strong growth, and this positive growth comes with its set of challenges: expectations and aspirations are high in our country and people want to be able to plan ahead with confidence.
This is Malaysia, a society in transition. We are experiencing, among others, longer life expectancy, growing urbanisation, and an increase in the quality of and access to education. These socioeconomic changes are in turn cultivating a new Malaysia, filled with ambition and aspirations.
This is what I call a good problem, one that points us all onwards and upwards, daring us to test our limits and scale new heights. It is what our forefathers had envisioned and strived for tirelessly, before bestowing the task upon us to build upon. This is what I hope to do, with all of you, together.
1Malaysia seeks to build on the inheritance of the founders of our independence and nationhood by accelerating the pace of change and transformation.
Yet as we continue onwards and upwards, so must we constantly assess our progress from time to time, and recalibrate our strategies to suit the present environment. The tools, materials, and technique that were right in the time of our forefathers may no longer be relevant today. Just as we need to adopt a new and appropriate policy on terrorism and security, including replacing the ISA with legislation better suited to today’s threats and issues, so too do we need an economic approach based on the realities of Malaysia’s growth towards the world’s first rank of economic powers, set in the 21st century.
All over the world, the economic downturn is bringing nations to their knees. We have not escaped the impact of soaring global commodity prices and short-sighted policies of some economies. The rising cost of living had become a serious issue that recently the Government introduced a seventh NKRA to address this problem.
And I am fully aware that the hardest hit among Malaysians are also some of the hardest working.
I have made it a priority to get out and meet as many Malaysians as possible. Over the past two years and seven months I have listened to the stories of so many ordinary Malaysians. They have told me how difficult it is to save up to buy a home, or to provide their children with a good education, or to support their family and elders on their salary. These stories are told to me by different people, and serve only to strengthen my resolve to make the right decision for the Rakyat, as is my duty.
One thing must be made clear: these problems will not be resolved quickly, and neither will they disappear completely. I cannot make such a promise that is not humanly possible to fulfil. Some people may lead you to think otherwise, but they will not be able to tell you what it will ultimately cost you.
It is the responsibility of a leader to make decisions that are in the best interest of the people. Many times these decisions forgo immediate short-term relief for long-term prosperity.
I will not promise an overnight solution, but I will work to get the policy basics right to ensure we keep our economic growth – which is a level many in richer countries can only dream of – to create the conditions for jobs growth, and to ensure we have employment policies that recognise the changing reality of Malaysia, especially increased life expectancy.
I have stated this in my travels to meet with ordinary Malaysians like you, and they understand. They also understand that I will do my best to serve the Rakyat with integrity and uphold the principles of 1Malaysia as I do so. They understand that throughout this journey, they are encouraged to connect with me directly and tell me how my policies are affecting them. They understand, as do you.
As part of our budget preparations we asked people to contact the Government with their proposals for the budget. We received hundreds of suggestions from ordinary Malaysians and representative organisations and I am pleased about that, even though we had to consider every one. 1Malaysia, People First, Performance Now is not a slogan, it is about values, including valuing the input people make.
Following the budget this Friday, the Government will continue to take measures to explain these decisions to all of you and what it means for all Malaysians. In addition, I will be writing a follow up to this blog about the budget.
I hope you will want to come back to read, share and provide feedback, whether here on my website, on Facebook, or Twitter. This is our opportunity to play a part in shaping our nation’s economy, collectively as 1Malaysia.