Malaysia’s ruling coalition pledges basic household income as inflation bites

MALAYSIA’S ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition promised cash aid to households with monthly incomes of less than 2,208 ringgit (S$655) if it were to win this month’s election, as it seeks to address the rising cost of living that has emerged as a hot-button issue with voters.

BN said it would introduce “Assistive Basic Income,” in which household incomes that fall below the pledged minimum of 2,208 would automatically be topped up, according to the alliance’s manifesto released online on Monday (Nov 7) night.

“In addition to the various welfare initiatives and subsidy programmes, it is important that our country continues to explore additional new approaches to help reduce the burden of the rising cost of living,” BN president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said.

While Malaysia’s economy has rebounded swiftly from the pandemic, logging a near 9 per cent GDP growth in the June quarter, the nation is struggling with rising inflation and a currency that’s near a multi-decade low versus the US dollar. Latest surveys show some of the most pressing issues that need to be tackled by political parties contesting the polls include those related to the rising cost of living, economic recovery, corruption and political stability.

BN is the last party to announce its election manifesto. Rival coalitions – Anwar Ibrahim-led Pakatan Harapan and former premier Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional – released theirs last week. While BN has repeatedly said that Ismail Sabri Yaakob remains its candidate for the top job if the coalition retains power, the caretaker Prime Minister didn’t attend the manifesto launch.

Other key pledges include:

  • A 2 per cent cut in income tax for those earning between 50,000 ringgit and 100,000 ringgit annually
  • Textbook-free schools with the provision of free laptops to all students from low-income homes with an assurance of 5G Internet coverage in all schools within 18 months
  • Provide free higher education for all individuals from low-income families, as a long-term poverty-eradication plan
  • A political funding law and separating the roles and functions of the Attorney General and public prosecutor
  • Appointments of key national positions such as MACC chief commissioner and EC chairman to be screened by a special parliamentary committee
  • Scrap import permits for electric vehicles to increase access to affordable eco-friendly vehicles
  • Set limits on GLC investment and involvement in certain industries to prevent GLCs from crowding out opportunities for private companies BLOOMBERG