In describing the campaign as unprecedented and likely the first of its kind in the world, former finance ministry deputy secretary-general Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said while most might support the cause out of patriotism, the move might set a bad precedent in managing the country’s finances.
Today, the government announced the setting up of Tabung Harapan Malaysia, a voluntary donation drive to help ease the country’s debts.
“While it is a laudable initiative, it does not seem fair for the people to bail out the government.
“It’s embarrassing for the rakyat (people) to be expected to bail out the government debt. After all, (the country’s finances) it is not that desperately serious yet, nor are we so very strained in the budget so far.
“This is naturally a bad precedent because it might encourage the government to be lax in debt management and expect the people to bail them out,” the former Transparency International president said to journalist Predeep Nambiar of the Free Malaysia Today online news portal.
“I would rather the government do more to reduce corruption and wastage and raise competition and productivity in the economy.”
Ramon said if the fund was pursued, the donations should be used to help the poor, especially for the low-income group.
“I doubt they will raise much money. But if they do, there is plenty of scope to help the Bottom 40 group,” he said.
He thinks tax exemptions could attract bigger donors from corporations.
Currently, the official government debt is at RM686.8 billion, which is 50.8% of the Gross Domestic Product.
The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) recently said the debt situation in Malaysia was manageable.
IDEAS chief executive Ali Salman considered the country’s annual budget very adequate to repay debts, with 11% of the budget allocated. The only time to worry, he remarked, would be if 30% of the budget went towards loan repayment.