WITH 11 months to go before his mandate expires, Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Barisan Nasional government has pledged RM3.182 billion in projects and programmes to help win the next general election.
Najib, who is also finance minister, is working on Budget 2018 to be tabled on October 27, which analysts expect to be an “election budget” before GE14 has to be called by next August.
His political foes in Pakatan Harapan have yet to offer election goodies or a proposed national budget as in previous years but have listed out some policy measures and reforms.
With surgical precision, Najib’s financial pledges target settlers in the Felda areas and retired armed forces personnel – all key voting blocs.
In July, he announced a package of six incentives for more than 110,000 settler families worth RM1.59 billion. They include debt forgiveness, grants for replanting, housing loans and a special RM5,000 payout.
Najib announced that some 80,000 non-pensionable armed forces veterans older than 60 will receive payouts under the 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) scheme.
Those who qualify for BR1M will receive RM1,200 while those who don’t will get RM600 as long as they are older than 60. The total allocation for this is RM85.8 million.
He also announced a rise of between RM300 and RM800 in pension for veterans who receive between RM500 and RM2,000.
Najib, who is gunning for his second mandate, has also earmarked RM1 billion in various programmes under the Malaysian Indian Blueprint aimed at uplifting the poorest segments of the 1.7 million-strong community.
He also announced a slew of housing projects in Langkawi, a religious school in Penang and two new hospitals in Kelantan. Penang has been under a DAP-led government for the past two elections while PAS has ruled Kelantan since 1990.
The RM3.182 billion was culled from media reports this year but does not include the controversial RM55 billion East Coast Railway Link (ECRL) from Port Klang to Kuantan and the RM43 billion Malacca Gateway Project.
Critics have challenged the price tags for the ECRL and Malacca Gateway projects and their purported benefits to Malaysians as they both involved large China companies.
In contrast, PH’s offers have not come with price tags but its concepts are meant to change how various sections of the government function.
Its most eye-catching promises have been to abolish the much-maligned goods and services tax (GST) and to abolish tolls on the North South Expressway.
The Najib administration said the GST has earned the government RM41.2 billion in 2016.
As part of its plan to embed good governance and fight graft, PH has said it will make key bodies independent of the executive. These include the judiciary, the legislature, the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
PH leaders have also promised and to start a royal commission of inquiry into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, which has seen an estimated RM39 billion being stolen or wasted through mismanagement at the state fund.
Last month, PH launched a separate manifesto for Sabah and Sarawak in which it promised among others, to appoint a separate deputy prime minister’s post for the two states.
It also vowed to increase oil royalties to Sabah from 5% to 20% and to give the region more autonomy to enact policies on education, tourism, health and transport.