Subsidies expected to surpass RM81bil this year

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim says cutting subsidies is not an option, so the government must rationalise them instead.

(FMT) – Subsidies, including on electricity, fuel and food, are expected to exceed RM81 billion this year, says Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

He said even though the figure was high, reducing the total subsidy without looking at the needs of the people was not an option for the government.

Therefore, he said the rationalisation of subsidies was important to ensure the people were given assistance while the country’s economy remained strong.

“Subsidies for chicken and eggs amounted to RM3.8 billion but reducing the subsidies would not be an option because it will raise the cost of living.

“With such a (high) volume of subsidies, no country can survive,” he said at an event at the Sabah International Convention Centre here tonight.

Anwar said through the rationalisation measure, the electricity subsidy for 1% of the wealthiest group had been cancelled but 99% of the people were not affected.

The prime minister said he recently asked Tabung Haji (TH) to review haj subsidies for the wealthy, which could be used by more needy Muslims.

“I requested this rationalisation from the Muslim community, that the richest are not given subsidies, to help other pilgrims, it was well received. There are 400 pilgrims who are eligible for the subsidy (haj) but turned down the subsidy to help others,” he said.

Anwar said the government was sincere in helping the people, such as giving the subsidy for oil, and there was no need for the matter to be politicised.

He also said that the government’s move to provide a subsidy of RM950 per tonne of imported white rice (BPI) to Sabah and Sarawak was important to help the people, especially the poor.

“We will not allow the poor people of Sabah to be burdened by the soaring price of rice. There are places where the price of rice is RM45, RM41, RM39 (for a 10kg pack), so with this subsidy we can lower the price to RM31 and reduce the burden on the people,” he said.

He said that for the interior of Sabah and Sarawak, a mechanism to ensure the price of rice would not increase because of transport costs would be discussed to help the people in those areas.