ALHAMDULILLAH all praises to the Almighty for His blessings. The Kedah 2018 Budget was passed during the state legislative assembly last week.
It was the second time I tabled the budget and I am grateful to my state executive councillors, state officials and all government agencies at the state and federal levels for their hardwork in preparing the budget.
Themed “Continuing Development, Realising Dreams” the budget is a reflection of the state government’s response to the feedback from the people.
The main strategies of the budget are to improve social justice and the people’s wellbeing, to diversify the state economic base and to achieve sustainable and high yield development.
With the welfare of Kedahans at the top of the agenda, my administration will continue to improve and expand the social security net for the poor and needy.
Among the highlights of the budget is the free water for domestic consumers whose monthly water usage is below 20 cubic metres or RM10 beginning next year.
A sum of RM18 million is allocated for this initiative, which will benefit some 221,000 households. Besides helping to ease the burden of small families and parents who are living alone, the move also promotes awareness on water conservation.
My administration will do its best to address the water woes in several parts of the state, which was among the pledges in the Barisan Nasional manifesto for the 13th General Election in 2013.
This is reflected by the RM1 billion project to upgrade five water treatment facilities to improve water supply to rural areas, after the successful completion of RM60 million Santap water plant, which will resolve water supply issues in Pokok Sena and some parts of Pendang.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak visited the plant during his working visit to Kedah earlier this month.
I must point out that solving Kedah water woes, which were unresolved by the previous Pas-led administration, requires billions of ringgit of budget allocation.
Besides building and upgrading existing water treatment plants, the state government is also carrying out a RM1 billion “Jeniang Transfer” project to improve the state’s water reserve capacity.
We are fortunate that the Federal Government is supportive of the state government’s resolve to end the water issues in stages and God willing, all Kedahans will be able to enjoy uninterrupted water supply by 2020.
To complement the Federal Government’s initiatives to ease the burden of the people, especially the needy, the state government will implement several measures next year. Among them:
INCREASING monthly allowance for the hardcore poor, single mothers and disabled persons to RM200 from the previous RM150;
INTRODUCING the RM100 “Dana Warisan Pendidikan Anak Kedah” for children entering Year One next year in the form of National Education Savings Scheme (SSPN-i);
EASING the burden of flood victims by increasing the RM100 one-off cash aid announced earlier to RM200;
ALLOCATING RM18 million for flood mitigation and flood risk-reduction projects, on top of the ongoing flood mitigation projects being carried out by the Federal Government;
UPGRADING stage buses plying between Alor Star and Sungai Petani, which will benefit some 90,000 people;
ALLOCATING RM2.6 million for a one-off RM600 bonus for religious (KAFA) teachers;
CONTINUING the RM500 cash aid for each Haj pilgrim in the state, which was introduced this year, with a RM2.82 allocation next year;
ALLOCATING RM20 million for the construction of the “Asnaf Complex” to provide hands-on training for the poor and needy to earn an income and other assistance;
ALLOCATING RM6.5 million for mosques’ upgrading and refurbishment, and RM3 million for Barakah programmes at mosques;
AN increase of between 47 per cent and 50 per cent in monthly allowances for mosque committee members — imam, bilal and siak; and,
ALLOCATING RM9.1 million for projects to improve the livelihood of the poor and needy; RM5 million to repair their houses; and, RM1 million to upgrade houses of worship.
The state government will strive to continue trimming the budget deficit through prudent spending.
Of course, the opposition has branded this budget as a carrot for the people, with the impending 14th General Election, which is not surprising.
They criticise us for allegedly neglecting the people’s welfare, but when we make efforts to better care for the people, they accuse us of trying to “buy” them over. If our thoughts are only about winning the general election, we would have rolled out an unrealistic budget for popularity’s sake.
But, that is not the case — this is a realistic budget which balances Kedah’s growth, providing for the people’s welfare and prudent expenditure.
It is almost similar to what we have achieved this year, without having to ask for a supplementary budget, as was the practice in previous years.
The writer is Kedah menteri besar