Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng tabling the Pakatan Harapan government’s maiden budget in Parliament on Friday. PIC BY MOHD YUSNI ARIFFIN

YOU can’t please everybody. There will always be sections of people who dispute everything that is offered to them. Some would choose to see only the bad, ignoring the good in the process. Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng must surely realise this.

Presenting the budget on Friday for the first time as the federal bean counter and money dispenser, Guan Eng did well to outline the new government’s holistic plan to put the country’s economy back on track.

Or, as a businessman friend described it — to take control of the country’s finances and put them to proper use, that is, to help reduce the people’s burden, and at the same time, oil the economy and make it thrive again.

The nation’s coffers have never seen such stress before, and it is the new government’s task now to fill back the coffers and spend prudently to enable the country to regain its status as an Asian tiger. Mind you, this won’t be easy.

Everyone knows that the government has to keep its obligations to clear its debts, which has gone into a trillion. Earning money only to see it go towards debt servicing and repayments would make Guan Eng’s jet black hair turn grey soon.

But that’s the sad fact he, and the country, is facing. It’s a challenge that he cannot afford to fail to meet. The splitting of hairs happens again and fault-finders are busy discrediting Pakatan Harapan’s first national budget as the coalition helms the Federal Government for the first time ever.

Details of the budget have been extensively reported in this newspaper. But one line from his speech, which went on for more than two hours, caught my attention: “As long as we are clean, people-centric and focused on carrying out institutional reforms, we can restore Malaysia back to fiscal health in three years.”

It is important to note another key point in his speech, which was probably one of the factors that contributed to the dire straits the country is in now.

He said: “We intend to table a new Government Procurement Act next year to govern procurement processes to ensure transparency and competition, while punishing abuse of power, negligence and corruption.”

Guan Eng has put himself up against a high peak to climb. Perhaps his success as the former chief minister of Penang would be replicated this time at the federal level.

The writer is the chairman of Yayasan Salam Malaysia

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