Question all Malaysians asking about 2013 Budget tomorrow is whether it would more than double RM500 and benefit more people

The single question all Malaysians are asking about the 2013 Budget to be presented by the Prime Minister-cum-Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak in Parliament tomorrow is not whether there will be a second payment of BR1M (1Malaysia People’s Aid) but whether the second BR1M will be more than double the first BR1M of RM500.

Furthermore, whether the second BR1M payment would benefit more people than just the 4.2 million households earning less than RM3,000 a month as provided for under Budget 2012 . i.e. households earning up to RM4,000 or RM5,000 a month.

The Barisan Nasional government, through their representatives at various levels in the country, have led Malaysians to expect these second BR1M benefits from Budget 2013 tomorrow, and if the second BR1M payment is not more than double the first BR1M payout of RM500 or does not benefit more than the 4.2 million households earning less than RM3,000 a month, Najib and the Umno/BN government should expect an adverse backlash from the Malaysian people.

Najib has himself to blame that the country’s annual budget presentation in Parliament has become an annual Santa Claus occasion, all because of Najib’s indecisiveness and obsessive fear of the 13th General Elections, causing him to transform his 42-month premiership into an prolonged and unending electioneering campaign.

When Najib presented his 2012 Budget on 7th October last year with the RM2.1 billion allocation for the first BRIM payment of RM500 per household, his sole consideration was to use it as his primary weapon to win votes and a thumping mandate for his premiership in the 13th General Elections.

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, “Man proposes, God disposes”, and Najib’s plans went awry following the breakout of the RM250 million “cow/condominium” scandal after the presentation of 2012 Budget.

Najib’s new rescheduled timetable for the 13th General Elections in June/July this year also went kaput after the disastrous government/police mishandling of the Bersih 3.0 rally on April 28.

Instead, Malaysians see Najib’s desperation when the Umno/BN government had to hijack the 55th Merdeka Day/49th Malaysia Day celebrations by imposing the BN election theme of “Janji Ditepati” for the two national celebrations – which further provoked negative backlash among independent-minded and discerning Malaysians.

The recent survey by Universiti Malaya Center for Democracy and Elections (UMCEDEL) which found a three per cent drop in the people’s support towards the Prime Minister five months between early April and early September bears out a slide, though slight, of Najib’s popularity.

The survey also found a decline in confidence that a Najib-led BN would retain Putrajaya following the 13th general election.

The earlier survey done found 49 percent were confident that BN would defend Putrajaya, while the latest survey found that figure had dropped to 44 percent.

In the meantime, the people's confidence that Pakatan Rakyat would win Putrajaya has increased from 21 percent in March to 30 percent in its survey ending Sept 15, while the number of those uncertain has declined by 26 percent.

The survey further noted a decline in support for the PM's transformation programmes focusing on three key reforms - the RM500 given to families (BR1M) who have less than RM3,000 in wages, the Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M) and also the 1Malaysia clinics.

For example, for the BR1M program, there was a decline in support by five per cent from 66 percent, while KR1M, which recorded a 68 percent support in the previous survey, dropped to 56 percent. The 1Malaysia clinic also recorded a decline in support to 65 percent from 74 previously.

Can a second payment of BR1M which more than double the first BR1M of RM500 and benefiting more than 4.2 million households, as well as a cornucopia of other goodies to various sectors in the 2013 Budget, restore Najib’s popularity and the electoral fortunes for Umno/BN for the 13th general elections?

Only the results of the next general elections, whether held at the end of the year or early next year, can provide the answers.

It is undoubtedly a major setback for good governance in Malaysian when the primary question that is asked about the annual budget is not how the country could become more competitive and better positioned to achieve the goal of a developed and high-income nation but what is the best formula to fortify UMNO and Barisan Nasional’s position in the next general elections to save Najib’s premiership!

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timur