It is refreshing that the government is mulling over delaying mega-projects to free up funds for subsidies to curb rising living costs.
For once there is an admission by the economic affairs minister that the inflation rate for May would have been 11.4% instead of 2.8% had it not been for fuel, utility and food subsidies totalling RM51bn for 2022.
So this is the conundrum – remove subsidies and force people to suffer the pain of higher inflation, or continue subsidies to ease their plight.
If subsidies are removed, people faced with higher living costs would be forced to agitate for financial relief, including demanding higher wages. The alternative is continued subsidies as a mechanism to lighten the impact of rising living costs.
Besides suspending mega-projects, the government needs to juggle its expenditure budget.
As it is, billions of ringgit have been allocated to ministries that do little to ease the economic pressures on the people. The government should re-allocate these financial resources to provide more aid to the public.
Granted, large subsidies amounting to almost RM80bn this year cannot be in place perpetually.
Still, the government needs to take stock of pressing issues related to food security. Sadly, farmers are being driven out of the land on which they have toiled to produce food for the people just so that developers can rake in profits.
And when our sea is reclaimed, ostensibly for the benefit of future generations, it destroys rich breeding grounds for marine life. This inevitably results in depleting seafood and a spike in the prices of fish like even the cheaper ikan kembung (Indian mackerel).
Our economic planners need to formulate policies that will generate revenue, including taxes, to ease the government’s cashflow position. Some have suggested taxing ultra-rich individuals and companies through wealth and capital gains taxes.
Caught between a rock and a hard place, the government has no choice but to prioritise the plight of the people.
K Veeriah is a veteran trade unionist based in Bukit Mertajam, Penang