This is the third budget that PMX aka DSAI aka Anwar Ibrahim has delivered. The general view is:  his administration is headed in the right direction but at a snail’s pace. Focusing on helping the growing B40 community (B40 refers to the bottom 40% of income earners in Malaysia), we will look at Budget 2024 and its effects on the B40 who often face financial challenges and struggle to meet basic needs, such as housing, healthcare, education, and adequate nutrition. Government budgets play a crucial role in addressing the needs of this vulnerable population by allocating resources and implementing policies that can improve their quality of life.

Here are some key areas to consider when assessing how a budget may affect the B40 community.

  1. Social Assistance Programs

Government budgets typically allocate funds for social assistance programs aimed at helping low-income individuals and families. These programs includes cash transfers, food subsidies, and housing assistance. More than RM2.4bil has been allocated to the Social Welfare Department (JKM), which would benefit over 450,000 people.

  1. Healthcare

Access to affordable healthcare is a critical issue for the B40 community. A budget that prioritizes healthcare might allocate funds to expand the coverage of public healthcare services, reduce the cost of essential medications, and invest in healthcare infrastructure. The Health Ministry’s budget allocation rose by 13.5% to RM41.2bil, the largest increase of allocation among ministries. Kudos to the Madani government for listening to the people especially after the young doctor’s strike against low wages and the lack of availability of housemanship positions.

  1. Education

Investing in education is a key strategy for breaking the cycle of poverty, hence the education ministry received the biggest slice of the budget of RM58.7bil. This will involve provisions to enhance the quality of education in public schools, provide scholarships or grants for B40 students, and support skills development programs that can improve their employability. 

  1. Housing

Affordable and safe housing is a fundamental need. A budget might allocate resources to increase the number of affordable housing projects or provide housing subsidies to the B40 community. This can help address issues of homelessness and inadequate living conditions. RM2.47bil has been allocated for public housing projects (PPRs), out of which RM546mil is allocated to sustain 36 PPRs.

  1. Employment and Income Opportunities

Creating jobs and improving income opportunities is crucial for the B40 community. This budget emphasizes on workforce upskilling by providing 1.7mil training places for skill improvement with a RM1.6bil allocation for the Ministry of Human Resource.

  1. Infrastructure and Transportation

Improvements in public infrastructure and transportation can have a direct impact on the B40 community. These investments can reduce the cost of living, improve access to economic opportunities, and enhance the overall quality of life for this group. Budget 2024 however emphasized on using public funds to finance an extension of the North-South Highway (PLUS) running from Sedenak to Simpang Renggam. Separately, RM10bil has been earmarked for the Penang LRT.

  1. Cost of Living Measures

The Budgets included measures to mitigate the rising cost of living, such as subsidies for essential goods, public transportation fare reductions, or price controls on key commodities. These measures can ease the financial burden on the B40 community by: 

  • increasing cash handouts to RM10bil from RM8bil via Sumbangan Tunai Rahmah, benefitting 9mil recipients. 
  • PTPTN Higher Education Fund Corporation discounts of 10-15% until March 2024
  • RM200mil for Payung Rahmah for the 700,000 hardcore poor who will get RM100 every month using their MyKad to buy necessities.
  • Electricity bill rebate at RM40 per month for hardcore poor continues
  • Free 100,000 motorbike helmets for needy families
  • Free driving tests for motorcycle, e-hailing, taxi licenses for 40,000 needy youths
  • RM100mil for Skim Perubatan Madani at free healthcare at private clinics for 7,000,000 B40 community
  • Increase in tax exemption on childcare allowances to RM3,000 to RM2,400
  1. Financial Inclusion

Promoting financial inclusion is another important aspect of budget planning. Initiatives to provide access to affordable financial services, like banking and microcredit, can help the B40 community manage their finances more effectively. The government will allocate:

  • RM44bil to make loans and financing guarantees available for the Micro SMEs 
  • RM2.4bil will be provided to small loan facilities for micro entrepreneurs and small traders
  • RM1.6bil worth of loan facilities and guarantees will be specifically for bumiputera Micro SME entrepreneurs.
  • RM50mil allocated to microentrepenuers who are disabled
  • Government guarantee schemes to assist more than 100,000 SMEs with a total approved value of more than RM75bil

  1. Digital Inclusion

In today’s increasingly digital world, access to the internet and digital literacy is vital. A budget may allocate resources for expanding broadband access and digital skills training to ensure that the B40 community can fully participate in the digital economy. The government will allocate 

  • RM100mil for digitalisation grants (capped at RM5,000 each) to be used for upgrading sales, inventory and digital accounting systems
  • RM25mil for Digital Economy Centres in each state constituency to support small entrepreneurs who sell their products online

This budget is surely on the right track in assisting the B40 community and shows that the Mandani government is listening to civil society organizations, advocacy groups, and community representatives delivering on its promises to uplift marginalized communities, effect inclusivity and be more equitable all.

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