“S’wak Budget 2021 shows balance between economic and public health concerns”

Datuk Dr Madeline Berma

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By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, Nov 12: Akademi Sains Malaysia fellow Datuk Dr Madeline Berma describes the Sarawak 2021 Budget as expansionary, holistic and people-centric, as it focuses on the people’s main concerns but balances it with the need to flatten the Covid-19 curve and the economic contraction curve.

She said, the budget is four-pronged, namely: development-biased budget; rural-biased budget; paving the way for economic recovery; and to improve sustainable living.

“The RM9.8 billion budget for 2021 is appropriate with current priorities of the state, in order to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic; the welfare of the vulnerable groups; the wellbeing of the rakyat; business continuity; economic recovery, resilience, and revitalization; inclusiveness, and sustainability,” Madeline told DayakDaily today.

She added that the budget reflected the state government’s emphasis on “Balanced Development” by focusing not just on agriculture, manufacturing and digitalisation, but also on developing “social industries” such as monetary, social and environmental issues.

“This is to spur socio-economic development, create employment, improve the sustainability of the environment and provide services for a balanced life among Sarawakians,” she emphasised.

However she noted, the budget did not detail concrete long-term strategies to address unemployment and under-employment, particularly among youths.

“The budget needs to address the education of our children and youths which has been disrupted by school/college/university closures, and an increase in online learning,” she said.

She also proposed that the Sarawak government to heavily invest in students and youth to prevent a “lost learning generation”.

“Huge budget allocations must be channelled for learning technology, including low-tech or no-tech (television and radios); focus on the most vulnerable groups; teachers’ motivation (incentives) and cross-sectoral solutions, and not just by Ministry of Education.

“Additionally, there is also a need to help parents and the community at large to manage the home-learning environment,” she added.

Madeline was commenting on the 2021 state budget which was tabled by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg on Nov 9.

Under the proposed budget, RM9.8 billion was set aside as expenditure, out of which, RM3.8 billion is for operating expenditure while RM6 billion is for development purposes. — DayakDaily