The Malaysian government will reissue tenders for six flood mitigation projects that had been announced in an earlier iteration of the country’s 2023 budget, a move that is expected to help the country save RM2 billion (US$450 million), said prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.
“I have stressed that direct procurements done in haste without proper scrutiny will only waste the rakyat’s money, especially in relation to the flood mitigation projects,” said Anwar, who is also the finance minister, in his 2023 budget speech on Friday (24 February). ‘Rakyat’ is malay for citizen.
The revised budget follows Anwar’s appointment as Prime Minister last November, after a political deadlock after the country’s general elections. The previous budget had been tabled weeks before the country went to the polls in October by then-finance minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz, who currently serves as Anwar’s minister for international trade and industry.
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“The reckless approval by the past government has been [reversed] and is currently under the investigation and action of the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and Attorney General Chamber,” Anwar said in his speech.
He added that the RM2 billion , which the government expects to save from a previous allocation of RM15 billion (US$3.36 billion) for flood mitigation works, will result from the cancellation of approvals granted via direct negotiations instead of the tender process. These had been announced in the October tabling of the 2023 budget under the leadership of former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
The six projects that will be re-tendered by June this year include the flood mitigation plan at Sungai Johor, the construction of dual-function reservoirs that aim to mitigate flood and store raw water at Sungai Rasau and Sungai Klang, as well as phase three of the Sungai Golok Integrated River Basin Management Project in Kelantan, the prime minister said in his speech.
In December last year, Anwar said that flood mitigation projects worth RM7 billion (US$1.56 billion) were being reviewed, hinting that regulations were not observed in the approval of funds.
Malaysia was hit in late 2021 by one of the worst floods it had expereinced in decades. The 2022 general elections which saw Anwar coming into power had been marred by fears over a repeat of deadly flooding.
To improve flood preparation efforts, the revised budget allocated RM150 million (US$33.62 million) to the National Disaster Management Agency, as well as RM50 million (US$11.16 million) to the armed forces, firefighters and paramilitary civil volunteer corps RELA.
It also maintained previously announced measures including the establishment of a RM10 million ringgit (US$2.23 million) national disaster relief fund and RM20 million (US$4.47 million) grant for local community associations in efforts to face natural disasters.
Measures for biodiversity protection green technology
While there was no mention of climate change in the revised budget, the prime minister called for a balanced relationship between humans and nature in his address.
“Unbridled greed that plunders the earth’s riches and unchecked logging are among the main culprits leading to major natural disasters,” Anwar said.
Other “green” measures that were carried over from the initial version of the 2023 budget include a RM2 billion (US$450 million) financing facility from the central bank Bank Negara Malaysia to support sustainable technology startups and help small and medium enterprises implement low-carbon practices, as well as an increased in allocation of funds for the Ecological Fiscal Transfer for Biodiversity Conservation initiative to state governments.
Meanwhile, sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional will allocate 150 million ringgit (USD33.62 million) to spur the development of environmentally-friendly projects, which includes supporting the carbon market and reforestation efforts.
The revised budget was Malaysia’s largest ever at RM386.14 billion (US$86.23 billion), up almost 4 per cent from the original RM372.3 billion (US$83.13 billion) budget proposed for this year.