But Is It A Healthy Budget?

Posted on September 10, 2007

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A quick glance through the Malaysian media and one gets the feeling the Malaysian Government has scored a world first by presenting a budget that totally fulfils every citizen’s expectations. If the New Straits Times is taken as a reliable indicator of the Malaysian psyche, you could casually ask the average Ali, Ah Chong or Muthu and the response is one of overwhelming joy and gratitude. We at kampunghouse came up with three possible reasons for this: 1) We are endowed with a brilliant Government, 2) Malaysians are an easily satisfied lot, 3) There’s something not quite right with the Malaysian media. We suspect it’s a little bit of each.

Malaysia is one of the few countries that are never reluctant to put in more money into education. We all understand that education is the most concrete solution in eradicating poverty and building a successful nation. However, planting more money into the education system will not achieve much if the system itself is flawed. Education in Malaysia needs a serious overhaul, one that incorporates the world’s best practice and geared towards creating a balanced individual, not just a student who can memorize whole text books.

The allocations towards Housing would indeed be welcome by most, if not all Malaysians. Having a comfortable home increases quality of life and acts as a psychological blanket. We suspect the generous attention given to Housing is a clever, although less-than-subtle attempt to revitalize (or just vitalize?) the local property market, which is somewhat undervalued despite its great potential. One area which we feel is not given the emphasis it deserves is Health. We applaud the government for its bold move to fully subsidise education, and we feel it should place similar attention in making health care accessible to all Malaysians. Contrary to popular opinion, socialized medicine is not the exclusive domain of wealthy industrialised nations. In fact, it is precisely because we are a developing country that health care, which is otherwise expensive and burdensome, needs to be made affordable to every Malaysian. In addition, more needs to be done to nip the dual problem of obesity and cigarette smoking in the bud.

It’s not enough to have a Katakan Tak Nak campaign and expect people to give up smoking the next day. If it was that easy we wouldn’t be having nicotine patches and one failed New Year’s resolution after another. The campaign needs to be on-going and consistent. Developed countries such as Australia is winning the war against tobacco by continuously showing graphic ads on television and cigarette packs, banning smoking in all public areas – including bars and nightclubs – and reversing the ‘cool’ image associated with lighting up. There, smoking is now perceived as socially unattractive and a waste of money. The same attitude has not been developed in Malaysia, and until it does, many more school children will be lighting up in the hope of being seen as ‘happening’.