PETALING JAYA: Claims by the Opposition that the government had cut allocations towards the uplifting of Bumiputera and rural communities are false, according to Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.
He said rural development was a top priority for the government as stated in Budget 2019.
Lim also denied that the government will cut Mara’s allocation by RM2 billion to RM1.3 billion
“It only appeared so because the agency’s scholarship and student loans of RM2 billion were now classified as development spending and Mara’s operating budget remains at RM3.7 billion,“ he said.
He noted that there are several parties that are attempting to confuse the public by claiming that the Rural and Regional Development Ministry will receive a reduction of more than RM1.1 billion in its funding next year.
He said this was because several agencies such as Risda, Felcra and the Department of Orang Asli Development (JAKOA) were no longer under the ministry’s purview.
“Funds for agencies dealing with rural development had been increased, Yayasan Peneraju Pendidikan Bumiputera’s (Peneraju) had seen its allocation more than double from RM90 million to RM210 million next year.
“Felda will receive an additional RM100 million for development for a total of RM260 million in 2019,“ Lim said in a statement.
He added that the previous administration had awarded mega projects through direct negotiations and this resulted in high costs and financial irregularities that hurt the country’s finances.
In contrast the Pakatan Harapan government has moved towards implementing an open tender system but the government has maintained the 30% quota for Bumiputera firms in terms of annual work value.
He said contracts below RM200,000 will be reserved for G1 class Bumiputera contractors (previously known as Class F) and implemented using quotations.
The minister said if the federal government could save 10% through the open tender system, it would result in annual savings of billions of ringgit for the government.
He reiterated that the government is committed to helping the agriculture sector as it is a strategic economic sector and it contributes to the country’s economic growth and food security.
Lim said the government will continue to help genuine smallholders, farmers, and fishermen but it will be in the form of targeted subsidies to avoid abuse and leakages.