Comments from Consumers Association of Penang and Sahabat Alam Malaysia on the 2021 Budget

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) welcome the budget in general as overall it can be seen as a response to the challenges faced in the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn. Good that it was expressed as an expansionary and inclusive budget.

We are glad to see many proposals to help especially the B40, micro , small-and medium enterprises, elderly, disabled, orang asli communities. The budget also acknowledges and gives recognition to the frontliners who are helping deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the environment:

We are happy to see more emphasis on the environment and the emphasis for the first time on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) with a RM20 million allocation for MYSDG Trust Fund.

We also welcome the following:

< RM400 million for all states for biodiversity protection. This is a good first move as it will help states protect biodiversity and forests. It is important to ensure that this is managed well and that the states use these resources well and ensure that gazetting of these forests as protection forests and ensure permanence in their protection.

< Increased attention given in ensuring clean rivers from rubbish and waste, including for strengthening enforcement and monitoring activities. We hope that with the increased allocations for this, our rivers will be better protected and we will see less water disruption arising from water contamination.

< It was also good to see RM20 million allocated for the hiring of 500 former soldiers and police, as well as Orang Asli, to patrol forests. This is much needed to prevent illegal activities in the forests, including logging, poaching and wildlife smuggling.

< We also note that there are proposals for launching Sustainable Bonds (Bon Lestari) to support environmental activities, including the promotion of Sustainable and Responsible investment. These investments and funds should be properly managed and used in a transparent manner.

< It is good to see more emphasis on the promotion for green technologies, and energy efficiency.

< Promotion of organic farming. This is a good move.

We are disappointed that there was no special mention on addressing climate change, especially in the area of adaptation to prepare the country from the adverse impacts of climate change, with rising temperatures, and increased rainfall intensities etc. We would have liked to have seen more emphasis in this regard.

We are also disappointed that funds are being allocated for providing loans to develop plantation forests (ladang hutan). Tree plantations are not forests, and development of these plantations in the past have brought about adverse impacts to the environment and forest-dependent communities.

For consumers, we welcome the efforts for measures taken for healthier living among Malaysians. This includes freezing the issuance of import licence for cigarettes and impose an excise duty on electronic, non-electronic cigarette devices and vape liquids beginning January 2021.

We were looking forward for the introduction of unemployment benefit scheme for those who are not under the Employment Insurance System (EIS). We hope that consumers are prudent in withdrawing their EPF savings in Account 2 as the savings “are for the future”.

We welcome the efforts in promoting public transportation by providing incentives for users. We are also happy that there is a move to review the Consumer Credit Act as we have been calling for this review and it has become more relevant due to the pandemic.

As the gap between national minimum wages and cost of living is increasing, we hope that the government will look into enabling conditions for the payment of living wages by employers.

 

6 November 2020

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