More initiatives to address flagging economy


THE newly-minted Cabinet is expected to introduce initiatives that would boost the country’s economy to cushion the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, as well as the recent drastic fall in oil prices.

Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said revisions will be made to the initial RM20 billion economic stimulus package that was unveiled last month.

He said added capital could be expected that would include targeted groups — particularly low-income households — and businesses that are affected by the spread of the virus.

“We will see if there are areas which can be looked further into and maybe add new financial packages. Perhaps we can go ahead with the first round of stimulus and introduce a second one after that,” Muhyiddin told a media conference after his first official meeting with Cabinet ministers yesterday.

He said the task would be led by Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abd Aziz.

“But what is important is we do not prolong this. We have just started, so we will take some time, but not too long. I know people outside are waiting. We will act as soon as possible,” Muhyiddin said.

The formation of an Economic Action Council (EAC), chaired by Muhyiddin, was also announced.

Members of the EAC include Tengku Zafrul, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, Minister in the PM’s Dept for Economy Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and Bank Negara Malaysia governor Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus, among others.

The council is scheduled to meet every week with its first meeting set for March 16.

The collapse of oil prices, which plunged to a four-year low of US$35 (RM148.30) per barrel recently, has prompted many economic observers to push the government to consider expanding its revenue stream. This includes prospects of reintroducing the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Muhyiddin said the government will take stock and consider all options to boost federal income and prevent an economic fallout.

“We will look into all options including the GST and the Sales and Services Tax (SST) because we need to find something that will strike a good balance that will not be too burdensome, but will help the government in terms of its revenue collection.”

The PM has also assigned the Finance Ministry to review the federal budget and propose suggestions as to whether a recalibration is needed. Budget 2020 announced in October last year was drawn based on the anticipation of oil prices averaging at US$62 per barrel.

On the country’s RM1 trillion debt, Muhyiddin said it is a legacy issue that the current administration must accept. “We will try to find the best way to manage this situation.”

Muhyiddin also reiterated his team’s commitment to uphold integrity in governance and has instructed his entire Cabinet members to declare their assets within a month.

“All leaders were asked to commit to this under the ‘Aku Janji’ to ensure a high level of integrity. Secondly, I have also told ministers to declare their assets in the forms that will be distributed, and submit them to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency within a month.”