Bank Negara Malaysia’s Economic and Monetary Review for 2022 projected that Malaysia’s economy is set to grow between 4% and 5% in 2023 with the support of domestic firms, despite the slowing global growth and thus external demand. Recovery across firms and sectors from the reopening of international borders was reported by the World Bank’s Business Pulse Survey (BPS) in August 2022. However, this recovery remains unequal as the poor and vulnerable are still affected by the lingering effects of the pandemic and are unable to recover adequate financial resources to meet their basic needs. The increase in the cost of food and transport exacerbates their situation.
Malaysia aspires to become a high-income nation and projections show that the transition is set to be sometime between 2024 and 2028. To ensure that we are on the right track to that goal, the short-term focus of the government in post-pandemic times should be to uplift the vulnerable and put in fiscal buffers to prepare for the future. This is presumed to have been set in motion with the Twelfth Malaysia Plan which aligns itself with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda to show Malaysia’s commitments to the 17 SDGs. The end goal is for a peaceful, just, and inclusive society. In order for no one to be left behind, Malaysia has also been taking a serious look at how poverty is considered through a multidimensional lens while revising the national Poverty Line Income (PLI) in 2019 to better reflect local realities. The result of this recalibration revealed that even though the overall rate of poverty has declined, poverty is still relatively high for vulnerable groups.
The situation has now become so dynamic, that moving forward, our model has to be based on community resilience and a whole-of-society approach. The gender-responsive approach has been one effective method that helps unpack complex issues and formulate relevant mitigation strategies and interventions. It is promising that in 2022, there was the reinstatement of gender focal points in each ministry. Also rolled out is the capacity building programme, Gender Responsive Budgeting in Practice (GRBiP) led by ENGENDER, Women’s Aid Organisation and the Gender Budget Group in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance (MOF) currently in its second year since its launch and pilot programme in 2022. Gender-responsive budgeting must be emphasised as an effective tool to advance Malaysia MADANI’s goal of good governance and shared prosperity through substantive reforms.