“POPULIST BUDGET” TO WOO FENCE SITTERS: ANALYSTS
Mr Hafidzi Razali, a senior analyst with strategic advisory firm Bower Group Asia told CNA that the 2023 budget may be described as a “populist budget” as it involves cash handouts and reducing taxes to a large portion of the voters.
“It will bring a lot of advantages to people who might be at the receiving front … including the voters who are typically UMNO (United Malays National Organisation) supporters and this can solidify support for Ismail (Sabri),” said Mr Hafidzi.
He cited how subsidies for agro entrepreneurs, for example, fishermen and rice farmers, could be enticing, as many of the population in the Malay heartlands are dependent on this for sustenance.
A total of RM1.8 billion will be allocated for the various subsidies and incentives for rice farmers, fishermen and smallholders, which include RM800 financial assistance for rubber smallholders and RM600 for paddy farmers.
According to Mr Hafidzi, the increase in social assistance and subsidies could potentially address ground concerns over rising costs of living.
“The basic consideration here is that everyone is in survival mode, especially the B40 (bottom 40 per cent of Malaysian household income).
“With this assistance, many voters would probably think – I’ll be able to cope with my costs of living slightly better, I will probably have more disposable income for the challenges ahead, especially with a global recession possibly happening soon,” he said.
Political analyst Dr Sivamurugan Pandian of University Sains Malaysia (USM) said that the 2023 budget clearly looks like an election manifesto under the leadership of Mr Ismail Sabri.
“It is clear that it will be one of the documents that will be used during the elections to convince the people that this is what they would do if they are given a chance to form the government,” Dr Pandian told CNA.
He believes that the budget might be aiming to woo the fence-sitters to lean towards Barisan Nasional (BN) instead of the opposition. As for BN’s loyal supporters, they would vote for them in any case.
“We are looking at a post-pandemic situation now and with the rise of economic and inflationary issues, they would want to say that they would be able to address these issues,” he said.
On Monday, Mr Ismail Sabri announced that parliament has been dissolved, paving the way for national elections to be held before the end of the year.
Speaking during a televised national address, Mr Ismail Sabri said he sought consent from the king at noon on Sunday to dissolve parliament and his request was accepted.
On Sep 30, the UMNO supreme council decided that parliament must be dissolved soon so that GE15 can be held this year, even though the five-year mandate of the current government will only expire in July 2023.
UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is facing 47 charges of criminal breach of trust, corruption and money laundering, has been very vocal in pushing for snap polls, ostensibly to seek a fresh mandate from the people.
UMNO’s call for an early GE15 has been criticised by the opposition and Mr Ismail Sabri’s own Cabinet members as Malaysia’s Meteorological Department has warned of floods during the north-east monsoon season, which typically starts in November and ends in March.