Think of nation’s financial capability before deciding on expenditure, says minister

|     Azlan Othman     |

MINISTER at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah said that the nation’s financial capability must be taken into consideration before deciding on the expenditure.

“This effort is far from easy; based on past experience, our expenditure is more than what has been tabled and approved. As for this financial year, we try to fit in as much as possible and at the same time, work with all government agencies so that they would not request for supplementary budgets,” he said.

The minister was responding to a query from Legislative Council (LegCo) member Yang Berhormat Siti Rozaimeriyanty binti Dato Seri Laila Jasa Awang Haji Abdul Rahman on supplementary budgets on the third day of LegCo meeting yesterday, which focussed on the deliberation of the proposed budget for financial year of 2019/2020.

“For the financial year of 2019/2020, our budget has increased by over BND5 million, taking into account the requirement budget for the government to carry out its respective obligations in every ministry,” he said.

Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew also called for the nation to practise prudent spending. “Our budget deliberation carries the theme, ‘Investing in our Future’, whereby any form of expenditure should be spent towards reaping benefits and producing something for our future,” he said.

Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah. – PHOTOS: BAHYIAH BAKIR
Legislative Council member Yang Berhormat Siti Rozaimeriyanty binti Dato Seri Laila Jasa Haji Abdul Rahman

Last Saturday, the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) announced a proposed government budget of BND5.86 billion for the 2019/2020 fiscal year, while forecasting another wave of budget deficit of BND1.5 billion for the new fiscal year, on the back of sluggish gross domestic product (GDP) growth, due to falling revenues in the dominant oil and gas sector over the last few years.

A BND2.2 billion deficit was recorded in the last fiscal year of 2017/2018, while the country is expected to record another deficit for the current fiscal year of 2018/2019, despite recovering global oil prices now averaging USD62.70 per barrel, which is higher in comparison to the prices of previous years.

The proposed budget for 2019-2020 sees a BND5.6 million increase from last fiscal year’s approved budget of BND5.3 billion, as the country continues to record positive growth in the non-oil and gas sectors.

Yang Berhormat Siti Rozaimeriyanty prefaced her question by stating, “For the financial year of 2017/2018, the nation recorded a deficit of BND2.2 billion, while for 2018/2019, the deficit is BND2.1 billion and the revenue BND5.038 billion. As for 2019/2020, the revenue is BND4.3 billion and deficit stands at BND1.5 billion.”

She also pointed out, “There would be a supplementary budget for ministries every year. And the government has cut the budget drastically for the past five years since 2014/2015, and such budget cuts incur more losses than benefits.

“Five supplementary budgets have been requested for the 2017/2018 financial year, amounting to BND394,094,409.25, while six supplementary budgets have been requested for 2016/2017, amounting to BND410,527,358.47.

“What is the purpose of discussing or approving the budget when the ministries would ask for an additional budget after the Legislative Council session? Perhaps we did not plan the expenditure in a sensible manner, or ask for an additional budget to pay claims or dues.”

Yang Berhormat Siti Rozaimeriyanty added that the obligation for ministries to pay contractors can sometimes take years and give rise to complaints, due to the late payments.

“The ‘No Budget’ excuses to an extent damaged the government assets further, and we would not want such ‘habits’ to continue to our future generation,” she said.