The after-subuh lecture on 25 October at Masjid At-Taqwa, TTDI by Ustaz Dr Ahmad Faisal Abdul Hamid gave me the inspiration to write this article. He gave a fresh perspective on the meaning of Muharram. And he does so on many other matters.
You may ask what is the connection between the three things?
Budget is a statement of the financial position of an administration for a definite period of time based on estimates of expenditures during the period and proposals for financing them. Forecast is to predict or estimate (a future event or trend) while Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar.
What do people normally think of when it comes to a new year? It is the resolve to do better during the 12 months ahead. Resolutions made right can make a huge difference in boosting happiness and morale. Surely, when a government draws up the yearly budget, it would also include questions like what would make the rakyat happier; what concrete actions would bring change and how will it hold itself accountable? All these will include forecasting and planning.
Now let us look at Malaysia’s 2016 budget the theme of which is "Prospering the Rakyat"
My appreciation to those involved in putting it in place especially the civil servants.
In the last few days we have heard lots from both sides, ranging from thumbs up and also a dichotomy where this is the first budget to transform Malaysia into a high-income advanced economy but the planned GDP growth does not reconcile.
I would like to touch on a few items only due to space constraints.
A word of thanks to the PM for giving emphasis on vocational and education training to enhance employees' income.
All in all, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) will receive around RM5b allocated to 545 TVET institutions. The industrial skills committee has a gargantuan task and I believe they have given due consideration on both VET and dual VET. In a study, it is said in a world of perpetual technological change, a dual VET system is expected to be less prone to problems of educational mismatch early in the career.
Points to consider for systematic elements of success include relevance of curricula; close contact to the labor market; high level of training quality especially experienced teaching staff; incentivize training providers and the competences and qualifications acquired should be made comparable to those acquired in the academic path.
The rakyat look forward to another initiative that will spend lots of money to be successful.
China, it seems is building vocational parks or “education factories”.
For obvious reasons, goodies are promised to the 1.6 million civil servants with starting pay to be fixed at RM1,200. There will also be salary adjustment, improving 252 schemes of service and a special assistance of RM500 to all. Pensioners will get a minimum pension rate at RM950 a month while all 700,000 pensioners to receive a special payment of RM250.
The total costs of emoluments and supplies and services as a percentage of total operating expenditure will increase to 50% (2015: 46%).
I guess with this jump, the rest of the rakyat would expect corresponding increase in productivity.
Next, the government has targeted an annual labour productivity growth of 3.7%.
There was an article - Microsoft has come up with Office 365 which is their answer to reinventing productivity. It will revolutionise the information technology business, specifically mobility and cloud.
This will increase the possibility of people working remotely and help not only in reducing costs but also a host of other things including town planning.
It is also hoped instances where budget allocated in a year has to be finished irrespective, lest allocation will be cut in the coming year, is non-existent.
It will be good if the government could start a ‘think outside the box’ campaign for civil servants. It may be worth the while to incentivise and encourage ideas to optimise all activities.
Pity me and the rest of the private sector retirees - no idea on the total number. Not only we do not get goodies, we are faced with the GST and other multiple increases with the latest being the toll charges.
I am still asking myself, are there any problems with my citizenship since I am not included in this "Prospering the Rakyat" category? A lot more people like me are on the losing side and feels like we will just wither away without anyone noticing.
I am also wondering, is there equitable distribution of wealth among the rakyat?
That leads to the how are we going to get the government to hold itself accountable? The very least is to show yearly, the actual amount spent against the budget as is done in commercial organisations. Additionally, to show whether the objectives for the expenditure were met.
For the sake of unity, I was attracted to the statement, “... we need to achieve an inclusive and sustainable growth as well as build a competitive, progressive and a morally strong nation, with a society that is united. ... ultimately the success of the nation depends on our ability to remain united.
On that score, I do feel there is no need to use the phrases api di dalam sekam and gunting dalam lipatan to make a point. Wasn’t the budget speech started with the words ‘In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful’? Can we not follow?
For the records, Islam does not forbid forecasting unless for sinful purposes e.g. gambling.