THE 2020 Budget was perhaps one of the most important tests for the government—it was tabled as Malaysia was finding its new definition on the global stage.
The main challenge was to balance the bread-and-butter issues and the allocation for efforts to elevate Malaysians from the income traps they are in.
On top of that, the pressures of rapid global innovation forced some out-of-the-box thinking. The technologist in me will of course look at the 2020 Budget from a technological standpoint.
The first step in accelerating progress is to address the structure at the bottom of the economic ladder.
For me, the advances in this budget are primarily the apparent shifts seen in administrative mindset — which in all honestly, boldly challenges norms and current sentiment in order to do the necessary.
Firstly, the fuel subsidy rationalisation took a rather big change as reallocation was provided to the B40 (Bottom 40 per cent household group), who needs it the most.
This is perhaps a significant paradigm shift for a country that is used to subsidies.
However, perhaps it is time we ease into the idea of fuel efficiency — after all, public transportation in the Klang Valley is going through a major transformation, and fuel efficiency has been a key agenda for more than half a decade now.
However, while the austerity debate goes on, a highly applaudable allocation is a continued increase of allocation for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), which stand at RM5.9 billion.
The increased allocation adds a new dimension to social upward mobility as the human capital development aspect is essential for a sustainable techno logical ecosystem and runs hand-in hand with financial considerations towards the adoption of smart automation within the industry and reduce our dependence on foreign labour.
Most importantly, the cliche is true — an investment in education is an investment in the future. Today, education and skills are viable routes to help Malaysians climb the socio-economic ladder.
Next, which I believe deserved more attention, is the allocation for technological advancements among Malaysian businesses.
It is the right step in spurring smart manufacturing, particularly in incentivising the adoption of automation technology to boost productivity and quality.
The announced extension for Accelerated Capital Allowances (ACA) as well as matching grants for 2,000 manufacturing and services companies is a welcome move — particularly as investment decisions in automation are a key consideration for businesses, especially small and medium enterprises within the automotive and mobility sectors.
Since the National Policy on Industry 4.0 (Industry4WRD) was announced last year, the International Trade and Industry Ministry has held numerous programmes to help local companies embrace automation through the development of technology strategies in their business plans.
The 2020 Budget would definitely make this adoption process easier as financial barriers can be lowered.
More importantly, it boosts business confidence in automation investments as the budget demonstrates the government’s stronger commitment to developing Industry 4.0 technology within the local ecosystem.
Overall, I feel the 2020 Budget is a realistic, yet forward-looking budget that is in line with the common senses of technological progress.
While it looks at key opportunities of economic progression through adoption of technology, it also addresses basic access to livelihood — after all, nobody thinks about progress if they are busy searching for basic necessities.
As we enter the final quarter of this decade, our mindsets have changed — Malaysians are now debating progressive issues that move us forward and starting to leave pure sentiment behind.
This budget laid the specifics to achieve such progress.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii).